October 10, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Galatians 1)

Submitted by John L. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Galatians 1:13-19

  • What might be the purpose of Apostle Paul’s review of his own advanced standing in Judaism?

Apostle Paul might have presented a review of his own advanced standing in Judaism to build his case in arguing against the Judaizers. By establishing his own testimony as a faithful and zealous follower of Judaism before his salvation, Apostle Paul strengthens his position in arguing down these people who tried to bring in the additional elements into the gospel message.

  • Reflect on the words “advancing,” and “extremely zealous.”  Contrast Apostle Paul to people of our generation.  What causes many people of our generation to be apathetic and passive?  What can I do to fight this within myself?

Apostle Paul was man of deep convictions who was determined to grow and mature in his faith. Before his salvation, he was a man of zeal and he brought that same zeal in his defense of the gospel message. So when he was confronted by the heretical message of the Judaizers, he was just as zealous in arguing against their message and defending the gospel. On the other hand, many of our generation are often characterized by apathy and passivity. I think this is partly caused by our many distractions and the demands of everyday life, trivialities such as entertainment, and even by the comforts of our lives. When we are pushed to the edge by some deadline or necessity, we’re all amazed at the focus and the result we experience. One area where I think we all experience this is during final exam season. Personally, this is a truth I experienced during all of my college days, where I experienced the focus and ability to go through immense amounts of material for hours on end, and walked away from it thinking if I had studied like that throughout the semester, I would have aced all my classes. In this example, the pending doom of finals was a great source of motivation and gave me the mission mindset that allowed me to be set aside my comforts, distractions, and trivialities.

But in the course of everyday life, I am easily distracted and lack this mission mindset that enables me to be zealous for the things that really matter to me. I think this is particularly true in my spiritual walk. Even though I want to prioritize and develop my spiritual disciplines, it’s so easy to be overcome by the demands of everyday life and succumbing to distractions like plain old laziness. Some of the steps I can take to fight this within my life are the very things I learned as a young believer – prioritize studying the Word, prayer regularly, set boundaries that I promise not to cross. It’s so easy to neglect these spiritual disciplines as I face the deluge of daily pressures and responsibilities that I have. That is why I must not compromise in my times of studying the Word of God, to be faithful to the mid-day prayer walks I committed to do, and to open my eyes to the great mission I have as a minister on my campus. Like starting each morning with my devotions times, and not letting the busyness of my workday hinder me to taking my much needed midday prayer walks. I know I have to foster the clear sense of mission that I have been given and I cannot compromise in bringing my mind and heart back to the presence of God and aligning my heart to His.

  • For Apostle Paul, it was very evident that he was not riding on the coattails of the other apostles’ faith and convictions.  To what extent are my convictions regarding the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ my own?  How can I strengthen my personal convictions?

One of the clearest ways that I can see how my personal convictions regarding the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ have grown through the years is by looking back at my life over the years and seeing the reality that I am a sinner to the core and unless for the message of grace through the gospel, I have no other hope. The gospel message have only gotten sweeter over the years as I realize just how hopeless I am and how the same sins such as pride, selfishness, desire for recognition and accomplishment come up again and again. Yet despite my failure, or rather through my failures, I have come to a much deeper understanding of how the gospel is my hope.

I can strengthen my personal convictions in the gospel in loving others and pushing through my fears. I see how I fall short in loving the very people I have committed to love, and at the same time, experiencing how God continues to love me and calls me his son in spite of who I am. I can strengthen my personal convictions as I continue to commit myself to growing in my love for others and in living a life of faithfulness before God. Also, I see how I fail again and again when I give into my fears and desire for self-preservation, and it’s when I push through my fears and my comfort zone that my personal convictions are strengthened. And there is no shortage of opportunities for me apply this as I continue serving as a minister on our campus and push myself to love others.

Galatians 1:22-24

  • It is remarkable that Apostle Paul, a man zealous and accomplished in Judaism and a persecutor of the Gospel, had turned into a preacher of the faith he once tried to destroy.  The result was that people “glorified God because of me.”  In what ways does my personal testimony of conversion reveal a reversal, or turn-around of some sort, even if much less dramatic than Apostle Paul’s?

Apostle Paul’s conversion from a persecutor of the Gospel into a preacher of the faith is indeed a dramatic reversal and powerful testimony. My own testimony is less dramatic than his, yet my own testimony shares this story of reversal that I am so thankful for. I was an angry young man who came into college blaming God for the unhappiness and deep insecurities I felt inside. I saw God as a kill-joy who sought to limit my life and perhaps make me choose some excruciatingly painful path in life like becoming a missionary to a third world country in Africa. I also felt this deep sense of resignation that set before me were laws that were impossible to abide by and angered by the sense that I was always a failure. I was someone who belittled God’s name with a hypocritical life that sought to give God a small portion of my life on Sunday mornings but did all I could to keep the rest for myself.  Yet like the returned prodigal son through my conversion, I became a man who can confidently share how I know that God has always been for me, not against me. I know now that out of His love, God set these boundaries so that I can thrive and experience the fullness and joy of life – just as I set boundaries for my son so that he doesn’t harm himself and thrive as he matures. I can testify to how I went from a man who saw himself as a victim into a man who now knows that I was the one who was the villain but is restored and shown undeserved grace by a God who had been so patient and loving throughout my life. I also can testify how I found true and meaningful purpose as a minister of the gospel and I can faithfully go where He leads me and not stick to my own narrow perception of what I desire to do with my life.

  • In the words of one commentator, Apostle Paul’s transformation is an example of God’s “act of seizing us and empowering us for tasks we never could have imagined.” [Richard B. Hays, “The Letter to the Galatians,” The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XI (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2000) 220.] For what task has God seized me and empowered me?  

When I look back at my younger days, the life that I dreamed for myself was such a small and selfish life that would touch nobody except the few at the nucleus of my life. I desired to achieve the successes that would shield me from the uncertainties of life and essentially create a small kingdom where I could feel secure in. In today’s terms, this was earning enough money to live a comfortable life and having enough social leverage to be respected in society around me. On the other hand, God has seized me and empowered me to be a minister of his gospel, living my life for the purpose of sharing his good news and using my life to share the love that I received from those who loved me and showed me tangibly the love of God. When I look at my life, it is mind boggling that at the cusp of turning 40, I get to interact with college students through meals and sports so that I share the gospel with the students just as my spiritual older brothers did with me was when I was a college student. I have the God given mission to be his evangelist and minister on our campus so that I can do my part in raising up younger brothers in the faith and leading those who, like me when I was their age, are walking in the wrong way back to the path towards God.

Personal Prayer

Father, I am reminded through today’s passage of how I was once a lost young man with such warped perception of who you are and sought to dictate my own path. Yet you sought after me, rescued me, and showed me the most meaningful way to live my life. Please help me to continue fostering the mission mindset and grow in my commitment as a minister on our campus. Thank you again for reminding me of how you seized me and now empowered me to be your servant on the U of M campus, and may I commit once again to be singularly focused on the ultimate mission of sharing your gospel and loving the many guys you have brought into my life. Amen.

Submitted by John V. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Galatians 1:13-19

  • What might be the purpose of Apostle Paul’s review of his own advanced standing in Judaism?

Apostle Paul might have mentioned it as further evidence to the Galatians that only God could’ve caused the drastic change in the priorities of his life, and not the teachings of men. While he was a preeminent student in Judaism, but God stopped him dead in his tracks, and now he was committed to preaching Christ among the gentiles.  So, if the Galatians were still doubting his motivations, perhaps showing them how much he’s changed would convince them otherwise.

  • Reflect on the words “advancing,” and “extremely zealous.”  Contrast Apostle Paul to people of our generation.  What causes many people of our generation to be apathetic and passive?  What can I do to fight this within myself?

Apostle Paul was not a person content to simply believe.  That he was advancing in his belief, albeit in Judaism, shows that he valued being a person of integrity, someone who was clear on what he believed.  And it shows in that in order to have been “advancing” he had to have invested a lot of effort into studying, understanding and applying what he believed.  That he was “extremely zealous” shows that he was a man who was moved to action by his convictions.  Contrasting that to people of our generation, it’s clear that so many are now so afraid to take a stand on any one belief, except the belief that it is best to be “open” to and tolerant of all beliefs.  To put it plainly, people of our generation simply aren’t willing to put in the time and effort to find out what they believe in.  Especially when it comes to topic of religion, the meaning of life, God and etc., many are apathetic and passive because they are afraid of the implications the truths about such things might have on their lives.  They’d much rather have the “freedom” to just live life according to their own plans.  Personally, even as a Christian, I can’t deny that at times I experience the same desires to just do what I want for a change.  Always when I allow myself to be vulnerable, the temptation to live for my comforts and fleshly desires are always there.  I don’t think it’s anything that ever goes away.  But, as I’ve committed my life to Jesus as my Lord and savior, I am reminded that I am called to live a life full of zeal and spiritual fervor.  So I have to persevere.  I commit myself to the people of the church that God uses to keep me accountable, people who challenge me to keep at it through their words of encouragement and correction, people who I can also lean on.  Also, I commit myself to the work that God’s given me in ministry.  It is a precious gift and privilege that I have to affirm truths about the gospel in my life as I strive to minister to others.

  • For Apostle Paul, it was very evident that he was not riding on the coattails of the other apostles’ faith and convictions.  To what extent are my convictions regarding the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ my own?  How can I strengthen my personal convictions?

This is how I know that my convictions about the truth of the gospel of Christ are my own:  I know well enough the many ways that I am sinner, perhaps not every way in which I sin, but enough to convince me that I am helpless to it.  Not only that, I just look into my past and the feelings of shame and regret well up over many sins that I’ve committed.  But at the same time there is gratitude – gratitude over the fact that God so loved me still and that he gave Jesus to die for my sins so that I can now have salvation.  Because of that I owe my life to him.   I commit my life to Christ as my Lord and savior, and I find nothing else in life more worthwhile than to please God.  One thing that I can do to strengthen my personal conviction is to spend time in regular journaling and honest reflection.  When I’ve been able to take even just a few undistracted minutes to think and reflect about my day–the interactions that I had, the ways I might have responded in a particular situation, the thoughts and feelings that characterized my attitude for the day and etc.–it helps to prepare my heart to be addressed by God when I turn to his word.  More often than not, honest reflection will reveal to me the ways that I remain a helpless sinner and convicts me that I need to repent and ask for God’s grace every day.  It keeps me humble and dependent upon God.

Galatians 1:22-24

  • It is remarkable that Apostle Paul, a man zealous and accomplished in Judaism and a persecutor of the Gospel, had turned into a preacher of the faith he once tried to destroy.  The result was that people “glorified God because of me.”  In what ways does my personal testimony of conversion reveal a reversal, or turn-around of some sort, even if much less dramatic than Apostle Paul’s?

One way in which my personal testimony of conversion revealed a reversal was in my view on what I thought would be a meaningful life.  Before becoming a Christian, my life was barreling down the course to personal glorification through career achievement.  I thought that if I could achieve my goal my life would be set, everything else would simply fall into place.  People would respect me.  I would be happy and I would be doing something meaningful.  In the process, I remained a person who was bent on having things done my own way.  It led me to be a very selfish and rebellious person, as well angry and embittered, because things often didn’t work out the way I wanted them to.   In the process of becoming a Christian I realized that the sense of meaning and significance that I’d place on career success was nothing less than idolatry.  As the truths of the gospel–my sin, its effect on my relationship with God, that Jesus died for my sin–revealed to me that I simply could not put something as trivial career ambitions before God.  In the end, it was merely a career decision that I made.  And I’ve experienced the selfishness, anger and bitterness in my life changed to joy and gratitude as I strive to live a life pleasing to God.

  • In the words of one commentator, Apostle Paul’s transformation is an example of God’s “act of seizing us and empowering us for tasks we never could have imagined.” [Richard B. Hays, “The Letter to the Galatians,” The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XI (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2000) 220.]  For what task has God seized me and empowered me? 

When I think about where I am now, outreaching and ministering to college students on the University of Minnesota campus, I’m simply amazed that I’m even here.  Indeed, I’ve been seized by God to do something that just a couple of years ago I would’ve never imagined myself doing.  But as it is, I find myself here, somehow.  And, it is a testament to God’s grace and goodness that I’ve been giving this privilege to do ministry, to be able to share the gospel with others, and in the process deepen my relationship with God as I learn to trust in him.  Always I feel like I’m not cut out for the task as I am called to do things far out of my own comforts, whether it be denying my body its fleshly comforts or mustering up the energy to approach yet another stranger, but as I strive to obey, I see that God is always in control.  In the two and a half years we’ve been here, we have been trying to do the best that we can. In that time God has been able to do amazing things in the lives of many of the people we’ve met, including bringing many of them to salvation.

Personal Prayer

God, I thank you for your grace and mercy towards me.  Thank you for the gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I once had my own plan as to how I would live my life, but you chose to intervene and you rescued me from an idolatrous course of life that was only self-serving and ultimately meaningless.  Instead, I’ve come to find the greatest purpose and meaning in living my life to please you, to share in your heart by preaching the gospel.  Still, God, often my sin, my fleshliness and selfishness still gets the best of me, but have mercy on me Lord and give me the strength to persevere.  Help to be faithful to the gospel, my convictions and the commitment that I’ve made that you are and will be my savior and Lord.  Amen.

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