October 12, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Galatians 2)

Submitted by Mia C. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Galatians 2:11-15

  • What can I learn from Apostle Paul openly opposing Cephas (i.e., Apostle Peter)?  Why was this necessary?

Verse 14 says that Apostle Paul spoke up when he saw that “their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel.”

Their conduct described in vs. 12-13 was that Apostle Peter used to eat with the Gentiles but after certain men came from James or the Jerusalem church, he drew back and separated himself out of fear of the circumcision party. And not only was it Apostle Peter, all the other Jews followed suit.

Apostle Paul, knowing and being convicted of the gospel truth, recognized this as hypocrisy. He recognized that their actions were not in step with the gospel truth and he recognized Peter’s motivation which was fear of certain men.

I think right away I can see that Apostle Paul did not share the same fear. He did not fear what these men would say or what they would think of him, a Pharisee turned apostle to the Gentiles, because he firmly believed that in Christ, all were one, and he had committed wholeheartedly to living by the truths of the gospel. When a person is that rooted, that committed to truth, fear has no hold on that person. Apostle Paul did not fear those men and was able to live his life consistently by the truth AND he wasn’t afraid to confront those who blatantly denied the truth even if that person was Apostle Peter.

The lesson for me, as I experience various fears, is simply that I need to be rooted in truth and growing in my conviction of the truth if I am to recognize hypocrisy whether in myself or others and have the courage to speak up about it. It’s not just an issue of personal integrity but the health of the church, the purity of the church is also dependent on it.

Ultimately Apostle Paul did not remain silent because hypocrisy is blemishing God’s honor. The church was supposed to be where the gospel truths were lived out and embodied. All men are equally wretched sinners before God regardless of any externalities. The church was where redeemed sinners experienced acceptance and grace. And here was a church leader and believers who were saying they believed all this but lived completely denying this and it was causing division in God’s church. From Apostle Paul’s response, I can see that he could not stay silent because God’s honor was of utmost importance to him, more than his standing and acceptance from these men, from Apostle Peter and the Jewish Christians. Apostle Paul lived before God’s gaze and he knew that God was displeased by this denial and rejection of what Christ had accomplished through the Cross.

The truth is that when there are hypocritical Christians, God’s honor takes a hit. For me, as a spiritual leader and staff at our church, I need to take my personal holiness seriously. Not just because others are watching, but because I live before a holy God and because I recognize the grace of God in my life. To disregard God and live to please other is to take God’s grace in vain and to minimize the cost of the Cross.

  • What effect did Peter’s fear have on others?  What are some fears that can lead to hypocrisy in my life, and what effect can this have on others?

Peter was afraid of what these men would think of him, a disciple of Jesus, a Jew, a leader of the church. He felt pressure to maintain an image with these men and in giving in to his fears, he not only compromised himself but led others to do the same. His action gave the other Jewish believers who had the same insecurity or questions regarding the old law and traditions permission to cave as well.

In the same way, there are a lot of fears in my life that I feel pressured to cave to.  One fear is the fear of rejection. This fear stems ultimately from my need and desire to be loved and accepted. This fear takes my focus from pleasing God to pleasing people and makes me extremely people conscious, always trying to gauge their reaction or response to me. It causes me to do what I think people expect of me, which then causes me to focus on tasks and performance rather than doing things as an expression of gratitude to God. It leads me to maintain silence about my mistakes, failures, weaknesses, and struggles lest others think less of me. What I end up doing would be to wear a mask and deny the fundamental truth of the gospel that I am by nature a sinner, broken beyond repair, and portray an image of myself that was a lie. What’s worse, I would be telling others that there is freedom in Christ and preaching the unconditional love of Christ when I myself live as though these things were not true.

Another fear is that if I am generous, I may not have enough for me. It’s a fear of suffering and a fear of lack that directly opposes the view of God as good, generous, able and willing to provide. Mostly this fear takes form regarding money and personal finances. When I give in to this fear, I find myself justifying my lack of generosity. I have to pay for this or I’ve already paid for that not remembering how God provided for me throughout my life and how much I actually receive from others and am a beneficiary of others generosity and sacrifice. I lose sight of what is important, the people in my life. I forget that as a Christian and as a member of God’s family I am called to love my brothers and sisters and provide for their needs. Because Christ took care of my greatest need, forgiveness of my sins, I can afford to be generous with not just my money but my entire life. But when I give in to this fear and start to hold back, I start to deny all of this truth and live as though the gospel is just head knowledge and limited to just some areas of my life.

The result of me giving into my fears on others is that they could think that all of this is OK to do in the church. It’s OK to be a people pleaser. It’s OK to be competitive. It’s OK to be stingy. It’s OK to watch out for yourself first and give only when it’s comfortable or you think you can afford it. The net effect would be a cooling in commitment and the church being full of people looking out for themselves and the church would be empty of power and God’s presence.

  • Peter began to “draw back” and “separate” himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.  Name some circumstances in which people change their views or practices regarding their faith because of fear of disapproval from certain people. 

One circumstance in which people change their views or practices regarding their faith is when they give in to the fear of human disapproval whether that comes from peers, coworkers, family, or friends. I think one common one is fear of disapproval from family especially as conflicts come up regarding priorities and values stemming from their Christian faith and the values they were raised with. Something as simple as how you spend your time, where you go after work, what you do after work or the weekends can become a huge source of conflict. The temptation to avoid conflict by giving in to family demands or expectations can be great and it could result in compromising faith.

Another common circumstance is when standing by your faith means you have to take an unpopular stance and incur the dislike or persecution of peer groups whether at school, work or any social setting. The temptation would be to just go along with everyone else, cutting corners, cheating, telling small lies, exaggerating the truth, etc. so that you are accepted.

Galatians 2:20

  • How is this verse true in my life?  In what ways is it the case that “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”?

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This verse is true in that it describes what happened on the Cross, when I made my salvation decision and what is now true of my life as I live my Christian life.

Scriptures tell me that when Jesus died on the Cross all those centuries ago, he took on the sins of the world. At that time, my sinful self was crucified with him. When I made my decision to put my faith in Jesus Christ and chose to believe that what happened on the Cross was the only payment sufficient to cover over my sins, I became alive in Christ.

Prior to becoming Christian, I lived in whatever way I wanted, following the desires of my heart. I lived for myself. Looking back, it was a very poor life. I was always full of anxiety about making some kind of mark on the world, achieving some semblance of success and winning approval and respect from others. It was lonely, tiring and endless. Now that I am a Christian, I am continually experiencing freedom as I see just how wretched of a sinner I am but was loved by God so much so that he died for my sins to redeem me.  Not only that, I now care about and pursue things that are possible only because Christ lives in me (growing in my relationship with God, sharing the gospel with others, learning to and investing in relationships with people, desiring truth).

I see how even in the values I hold regarding people, success, money, time, etc. it’s no longer what I want or think is right, it’s what the Scriptures say about these things. And because I am still a sinner to the core, my sinful nature often comes into direct conflict with Christ. And while there is a lot of struggle because of this, I also experience God’s help through the Word of God and the church.

Because what happened on the Cross with regard to my sin and the new life I have in Christ, the life I live in the body, I live by faith, trusting in this truth. The reality of my life is that pre-Christianity and post-Christianity, I am still the same old sinner. I wasn’t magically transformed and the struggle with my sin, my character flaws is ongoing and there are times when I can become discouraged that I will ever change. Despite my continual struggle with sin, Scriptures tell me that Christ lives in me and the struggle I experience is a result of that. Not only that, God started and is at work in me, through His Word and His people, to turn me into the likeness of Christ. But for now, while on earth, as I struggle, I remember Christ’s ultimate sacrifice in giving his very life so that I might live and I hold on to the promise of heaven that gives me hope and encouragement to persevere.

Personal Prayer 

Father God, thank you for your word today. God you are holy and you call me to live a life of truth and integrity. Yet there are so many times I have given into fears and compromised the truth in search of lesser things like human approval and personal comfort. Lord, please forgive me for the ways that I have lived a hypocritical life, confessing faith in the gospel yet pursuing such things. Father, forgive me for denying the truth of the gospel and setting wrong examples.

I thank you for your mercy through the Cross. Thank you that my sins are taken care of and I can freely come before you in confession and know that I am forgiven. Lord, please help me to be anchored in your truth, through times I come before you through your Word and prayer and as I live among your people. God, I pray that my conviction of the gospel would grow as I experience its power as I trust and obey you so that like Apostle Paul I can be a person who lives only before you and stands as a watchman over your church. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Submitted by Susan I. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Galatians 2:11-15

  • What can I learn from Apostle Paul openly opposing Cephas (i.e., Apostle Peter)?  Why was this necessary?

From Apostle Paul openly opposing Cephas, I can learn that it’s important to be true to reality, no matter how awkward the situation, no matter the position or title of the person you are dealing with. Apostle Paul wasn’t one of “the Twelve” and he hadn’t been an apostle as long as Peter had, and it could have been awkward for him to oppose Peter, especially opposing him to his face, before the entire congregation. But, by choosing to oppose Cephas, he was choosing to not ignore the truth.

I can also learn that the more visible you are and the greater the responsibility you have as a leader, the more influence you have on people. It’s more serious when you make a bad decision, when you pull back from your convictions, when you act hypocritically and lead others astray. One decision on your part affects and influences more people and influences them to a greater degree because of your position and because of the level of responsibility you have.

It was necessary that Apostle Paul oppose Cephas because Cephas was contradicting his beliefs with his actions, and not only that, he was leading others astray. Apostle Paul had to challenge Cephas to help him see his hypocrisy. Cephas was being influenced by the men who came from James, and he separated himself from the Gentiles out of his fear of the circumcision party. Apostle Paul saw that Peter was giving in to pressure from other people even though, before they came, he was eating with the Gentiles. And because of Peter’s position and level of influence as one of the pillars of the church, Apostle Paul opposed him openly to make it clear what the issues were and where Peter went wrong. Apostle Paul had to confront him openly for the sake of those who were being led astray, and for the sake of the Gentiles who were being excluded by the actions of Apostle Peter and the other Jews who acted hypocritically along with him. 

  • What effect did Peter’s fear have on others?  What are some fears that can lead to hypocrisy in my life, and what effect can this have on others?

Peter’s fear affected others by leading them astray so that they acted hypocritically along with him. They saw Peter draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles, so they did too. Maybe they had the same fears of how they appeared before the other Jewish-Christians, or because of Peter’s actions they were confused into thinking that this was the right thing to do. And because Peter gave in to his fears, the Gentiles might have felt dismissed, relegated to second-class citizen status within the church. Peter had been eating with them before, but when certain men came from James, Peter withdrew and separated himself from them. This could have led to a feeling of alienation for them, or affected their trust towards the church leadership.

Some fears that can lead to hypocrisy in my life are being afraid of what others think of me and changing my behavior because of that. This can affect others because I can end up mis-representing Christianity or God to others. And my actions can lead to confusing or stumbling other brothers and sisters.

Another fear that can lead to hypocrisy in my life is the fear of confessing my sin and fear of letting others know the truth about what is going on in my life. When I give in to this fear, this leads to deceit and hiding, and it leads to hypocrisy because I’m living as if everything is okay in my life when it’s not, but I still carry on doing ministry, being part of praise band, leading Course 101 discussion, etc. The hypocrisy is not known or apparent to others, but it affects people as I relate with them, as I try to do “ministry” but my heart isn’t right with God. There’s going to be a dullness in my own heart, so my words won’t have spiritual power. I might communicate a mindset of rule-keeping or image-keeping because I don’t fully understand the gospel, or I’m not fully living it out, so I won’t know how to share about it, how to explain it, or how to help others live it out. Hypocrisy of this nature can also affect people when the deceit is found out. It will cause people to question or wonder about things that I have said or done. It might cause people to wonder if the gospel is true if someone who talked about it ended up being a hypocrite.

  • Peter began to “draw back” and “separate” himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.  Name some circumstances in which people change their views or practices regarding their faith because of fear of disapproval from certain people. 

Some circumstances in which people change their views or practices regarding their faith because of fear of disapproval from certain people are when they are in a different setting–with their “school” friends vs. their “church” friends, or when they’re at their workplace, or when they’re with non-Christian family members who are very vocal about their criticism of Christianity. For example, maybe with “school” friends vs. “church” friends, you don’t want to stand out because of your values or your faith, and so you choose to not talk about your faith, or you compromise some of your values or commitments because you don’t want to seem weird, old-fashioned, uptight and overly regimented. Or when you’re at your workplace, you don’t want to disclose that you’re a Christian, because you’re afraid of standing out, or afraid of being looked down on for your faith, or afraid of what kinds of questions or comments your co-workers might make. And then with family members who are critical of Christianity, sometimes you don’t want to deal with the fuss and bother, you don’t want to have to discuss and defend your stance, you want to avoid family tension. Or because your family has known you your whole life, there’s a fear that they won’t take you seriously or laugh at you.  

Galatians 2:20

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

  • How is this verse true in my life?  In what ways is it the case that “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”?

This verse is true in my life as my old self–my sin, my pride, my selfishness–has been crucified with Christ. This doesn’t mean that I am set free from my old self–the daily struggle is still there. But I have a hope and a confidence that comes from knowing that my sin is done away with on the Cross. This is a spiritual reality that is true of my life and it’s something I need to grow in, something I need to grow into. In the early days of my Christian life, I didn’t understand what it meant that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” At times, my old self seemed too strong. At other times, I was so used to giving in to my old self and listening to my pride and ego rather than to Christ. But over the years, I have grown in my sense of need for the Cross as I have grown in my sense of awareness of my sin and the twistedness of my heart. I can’t do anything about my sin–I can only bring it to God and ask for forgiveness. I can’t find confidence or security in myself, but can only find confidence in God’s love and his sacrifice for me that my sins are forgiven and they don’t have the last word in my life.

Some ways in which I have experienced that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” are when I humble myself and am honest about things I’ve done or things that are going on in my heart. Before I became a Christian, the aspect about Christianity that almost made me turn away from God was the fact that the Bible says that I am a hopeless sinner. Even though I was reaping the consequences of my sin, even though I felt helpless to change, because of my pride, I couldn’t accept it and didn’t want to admit that it was true. But I finally came to the end of my rope and I came to God asking for forgiveness and mercy, and recognizing that my sin was not just bad things I did but they were acts of rebellion, rejection towards God. So, each time I come to God and honestly confess, each time I confess to my leaders and ask for help, each time I share honestly during DT sharing, I am no longer driven by my pride to pretend or to hide, but Christ in me brings me to the light, and brings me to a point of humility and honesty before God and before others.

Another way I have experienced this is in the way God has opened my heart and stretched my heart to take in people. My entire life, I sowed to myself—meaning I sowed to a life of selfishness and a comfortable life. People were not in the picture for me because relationships took work, relating with people showed me how much I lacked love and patience and graciousness, and people took up my time and resources. Over the years, as I have made commitments to God to surrender my life to Him, to allow him to be Lord, to love as I have been loved, God has allowed me to take small steps of obedience to Him. I was given opportunities to serve in ministry and to go on missions. I was given second and third chances with people in my life whom I had formerly ignored or taken for granted. And over time, as I have become more aware and more thankful for the love I have received from God and from the people of God, I have grown in my heart and struggled to fight my selfish, lazy heart and to try to love people, to share my life with them, to make myself vulnerable to them. I no longer want my selfishness to rule me, but want to be ruled, controlled by Christ to love people, to care for people as I have been loved and cared for.

Personal Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me and giving yourself for me. Thank you for taking my sin upon yourself and dying the death that I deserved. Thank you for giving me new life where I can live life in you, no longer ruled or controlled by my sinful self and old nature. Thank you for your grace so that even when I fail, sin or fall, I can come before you in honest confession and ask for forgiveness. Please help me to remember and to live by the gospel each day. I admit that I have different fears regarding how people see me, regarding how I will appear to people if I am honest about who I am. But I have also experienced the darkness and hypocrisy that is a result of hiding, a result of changing or trying to appear a certain way before others. Thank you for saving me from that kind of darkness and hypocrisy, and please help me to “live by faith in the Son of God” so that I can relate with you honestly and be real and authentic before others.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Submitted by Jon F. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

 Galatians 2:11-15

  • What can I learn from Apostle Paul openly opposing Cephas (i.e., Apostle Peter)?  Why was this necessary?

Apostle Paul was calling out Peter for his hypocritical behavior in not eating with the Gentiles after the men from James came. Seeing his previous interactions with the Gentiles compared to this act, and seeing the influence he had on others around him, Apostle Paul saw the need to openly oppose Peter’s behavior. Even though Peter was an apostle as well, and even if some may have potentially viewed as Apostle Paul as someone who was power-hungry, that did not deter him from saying what needed to be said. His convictions preceded his self-consciousness. Even then, he made it clear his heart behind what he said. It was not to try and one-up other people for the sake of showing superiority, but it was out of a genuine heart of care that he said what needed to be said.

This is a direct challenge to me because I often struggle with wanting to always be the nice guy. Because of that, if there is something that requires me to say something uncomfortable or difficult, I try and let it go by the wayside in hopes that it will just go away. I’d rather spare myself the awkwardness than say what needs to be said. But in thinking that I am doing this for the sake of others, really I am doing so out of a selfish heart. I just don’t want to deal with difficult situations, and I am doing this to basically make sure that I stay comfortable. I think I am doing the caring thing by not saying anything to my brother, but the reality is that the most caring thing to do is to help out my brother as much as I can. Looking at it through that lens, we see how much Apostle Paul values the Galatians as well as Apostle Peter through this incident.

  • What effect did Peter’s fear have on others?  What are some fears that can lead to hypocrisy in my life, and what effect can this have on others?

Peter’s fear had a very contagious effect. I am reminded of that scene in the Human Planet where the reindeers had to cross the water. The owner’s job was to make sure that none of the reindeers turned around to swim back to shore, because what would happen is that all of the other reindeers would follow suit and all head back. So anytime a reindeer turned around, the owner quickly redirected it. Otherwise it would become increasingly difficult for them to make it to the other side of the water. The most striking part of that scene was that it wasn’t even necessarily the lead reindeer, but any reindeer can have that effect on the whole group.

Some traps that could lead to hypocrisy that I face daily is just being in the grad school environment. With many of my classmates being non-Christian, there is a strong temptation to want to make compromises for the sake of “fitting in” with them. Especially with so few in our department, it’s very easy for me to feel like the odd one out or the weird one in the group for not being able to relate with them as easily. But at the same time, this is just another area in which I need to show strength in restraint and simply fighting through my own self-consciousness. To be confident in the fact that I am doing the right thing, that it is better to be seen by others as weird than to sacrifice my convictions and values.

  • Peter began to “draw back” and “separate” himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.  Name some circumstances in which people change their views or practices regarding their faith because of fear of disapproval from certain people. 

This is a battle that any student faces every day in their classrooms. Especially being on such a liberal campus, you enter a classroom of hundreds of people, and you know that the majority of them are disapproving of Christianity and our faith as a whole. Even the curriculum is often skewed to put Christianity in a negative light. Here, the temptation is strong to not stand out and being seen as the “weird one.” It is much easier to just try and blend in with the crowd. However, that could easily lead to compromises of our faith and our convictions, all for the sake of avoiding disapproval or judgments from others. And it is not limited to just the college campus, but those same temptations for compromise happen in the workplace with coworkers. Some may be Christians, but some may also not be, and especially in a smaller setting when you are only surrounded by a few people for the majority if your day, it is difficult to not “draw back” on certain things.

Galatians 2:20

  • How is this verse true in my life?  In what ways is it the case that “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”?

The day I made the decision to cross the line of faith was the day that I said good-bye to my old self. I understood that I no longer wanted to continue to live the way that I have been living, and to use the term in this verse, I “died” to that version of myself. That life of living in self-absorption, rebellion, and being driven by my pride and sinful desires was over, and I was beginning a new life in Christ. A life where I was no longer at the helm and driving myself through my own selfish desires, but rather I was giving God full control.

Even though I grew up in the church, it wasn’t until college when I realized the true definition of having Christ live in me. In high school, I did the church thing by showing up every Sunday, being a part of praise band, and even being a leader in youth group, yet lived a double life the rest of the week. That was the extent of my Christian life, but if you asked me then, I would have told you that I am living my life for God. Looking back now, I read these words “Christ who lives in me” and see that to truly claim that, there needs to be personal conviction. That every fiber of my being believes this, and through that, it will dictate my actions and how I choose to live each and every day.

What this verse also makes clear is that this decision is not a walk in the park. This does not come easy, because there are going to be times and seasons of life where things may get difficult. It is easy to trust God when things are going well, but life is not always going to be trending upward, and that is nothing unique to Christians, but simply just a reality of life. What we are saying when we give our lives to Christ is that even during the difficult times, we will continue to have faith in God that he has a plan for us and that he knows what is best for us. And that faith comes from the confidence and conviction of knowing that Christ gave his life for us on the cross. It is this truth that served as the foundation for Apostle Paul that allowed him to do all that he did and continue to press on in his ministry. For myself too, I must have this as my foundation to continue in ministry.

This is something that while it seems so obvious was very difficult for me to grasp. Especially in my first few years serving in college ministry, what kept me going throughout the year was just being excited by all that was happening in our ministries. Hearing what happened at other church plants, hearing good news here, or preparing for big events like New Student Welcome Night was what got me excited to do ministry. I went about my business in hopes that this energy and adrenaline would carry me until the next exciting thing, in which I would “refill” myself and keep myself going. But as I continue to experience ministry, there are times where it does get tough, where being a spiritual leader is tough, or where I am just drained. It is during these times where I realized I can’t just rely on my own self-generated excitement to sustain me, but that I needed something a lot more concrete. That is where going back to this verse, revisiting my own salvation testimony, and just turning to the Word of God has become the best source of refreshment and revitalization as I continue to do ministry.

Personal Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

I thank you for your Words that ground me each day, and remind me of what it truly means to have died to my old self so that I may live in you. It has been 6 years since I made that decision, and I thank you for your continued faithfulness in my life guiding me each day. I pray that you will continue to help me to trust in your Word. It is often easy to have short-term memory when it comes to this, especially when life gets hard. The growing temptation is to seek that life of comfort and to fall back to me being in the driver’s seat of my own life, foolishly thinking that I know what is best. But it is even during those difficult times that you have my best interest in mind. As evident in Galatians 2:20, and as evident in my salvation testimony of how you led me to where I am today. I pray that I would continually ground myself in your Word each day through DT and through prayer. That I may be strengthened by you and only you. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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