October 19, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Galatians 3)

Submitted by Eunice K. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

Galatians 3:26-29

26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

·       Reflect on what this passage says about my eternal security.

This passage says that I am now in Christ Jesus.  My old perspective of life was that I felt like I was alone, and I had to go out there and navigate through life and try to find security and happiness for myself.  But that old reality died when I was baptized into Christ, and now I’ve been raised into a new life.  I am now a daughter of God, with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that come with this.  This new reality is not something that I achieved on my own, and can lose by some mistake or failure.  My standing is not something that I have to fight to maintain and fear falling out of favor somehow.  It is purely by grace that as a hopeless sinner I can now be in Christ Jesus, and I am forever united with Him.  The text says, if we belong to Christ, then we are heirs according to promise.  God is the one Person in this universe who can and will keep His promise, regardless of what else happens.  Among sinful and frail humans, a promise is not all that reassuring.  But for God, His promise can be trusted to be infallible and eternal, because that is simply the truth of who He is.  The reality of my life has changed; I am eternally found in Christ.  Christian life is about growing to have my daily perspective, my reactions to different situations, my instinctual fears and motives, the way I operate in everyday life–having all of this catch up with and start to match this reality.

·       Reflect on how God’s grace redefines human relationships, and the categories by which man distinguishes himself from others.  To what extent have I embraced this uniquely Christian understanding of humanity, and my own identity vis-à-vis others?

Individuals who have received God’s grace are each in Christ, and we are all one in Christ Jesus.  This reality of being in Christ is so far greater, so much deeper and more significant than any of the other characteristics that are true of us – ethnic background, social status, gender, talents, appearance, etc.  The fact of being united in Jesus just far outstrips the importance of any other contrast or similarity there can be among individuals.  One way that I learned about this new understanding of people was through being part of our church over the years, and witnessing how people of different backgrounds, temperaments, and seasons of life can experience such unity when it comes to serving God together.  When the whole church mobilizes to welcome new students to campus in the Fall, or to have Sunday services at various convalescent homes, for the youth at the Interhigh churches, for the Joyland kids, the middle school and high school kids, to have Impact for the kids in Oakland, and all else that happens on a given Sunday at our various Gracepoint churches – it’s a picture of how God’s grace truly redefines the way we see people.  You could find someone who holds a graduate degree and a high paying job who is sitting with and ministering to an elderly convalescent home resident, or a mom with small kids of her own who is spending time building relationship with a bunch of middle school kids and helping them reach out to their friends at school.  We are so used to this at our church, but when I stop to think about it, it’s really amazing and beautiful to see a picture of how our identity in Christ trumps all these other differences among us, and unites us in doing God’s work.  Of course, many times my thoughts turn to how I measure up to others in terms of abilities or character traits, and I am tempted to go back to my old ways of envy, pride, and insecurity.  Sometimes I feel these college students I’m trying to minister to must think I am so far removed from them and I feel inadequate to minister to all the varied challenges and burdens of each person.  But without fail, I am reminded through the word of God that the most gigantic fact about me that I share in common with each person is that I am a sinner, desperately in need of God’s grace.  And because I have received the gospel, I have so much to share with each person, and I have so much in common with my brothers and sisters who share in this same identity and mission God has given us.  It’s no longer about how I measure up to others or what I can offer others in and of myself.  Sometimes I look at some of these sisters I have known for many years, and I just marvel at how the insecure, or prickly, or self-absorbed freshmen that I first knew them as has changed so much.  Somehow they received God’s grace and salvation, and God led them to build a relationship with Him, as well as deep relationships of truth and love with others, and they are now ministering to many people under their care.  Thank God for the way he can transform our lives!

Personal Prayer

Dear God, thank you so much for the cross of Jesus and for your salvation.  Because I am in Christ, and because I am your child forever, everything has changed for me.  I thank you that I no longer have to live as an orphan, facing life alone, but I am eternally united with you and united with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Please help me to daily learn to live in this reality, and to let it define the way I face the challenges, burdens, and temptations of today, and the way I relate to the people you have placed in my life.

Submitted by Abe Yang from Gracepoint Riverside Church

  • Reflect on what this passage says about my eternal security.

Through faith in Christ Jesus, we have been guaranteed this eternal security. If we are in Christ, then we are “heirs according to promise.” And, as stated in vv.15–18, nothing in this world – not anybody, not anything – is able to cause God to rescind this promise. This promise that He has given to Abraham – it’s as good as done. As it says in Romans 8, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

This sounds really great, especially when everything is going well. However, there have been enough times in my Christian walk that I certainly don’t feel this way. During times when I’m struggling over particular sins, during times when I’m really dealing with deep-seated sins and repenting over them, those are the times that I really have to take God’s promise by faith. It’s those moments that it’s so clear that I’m not just a sinner, but that I’m such a rotten sinner deserving of nothing but death – those are the times when verses like these hit me in a new way.

Really, nothing can separate me from Christ? Really, there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus? Really, nothing can cause God to rescind this promise for us, not even the full extent of my sins?

It’s during these times, as I continue to dwell on the gravity of my sins, that I begin to see – to really see – why grace is so amazing. And it’s not like it’s this one big sin that happened to me way back during freshman year. No, as I continue to grow and mature, I’ve come to realize more about myself, more baggage harbored from the past, more character flaws, more sins coming out – sins that I’ve tried to keep hidden and locked for so long. Each time this happens, and each time I allow God’s Word to shine into my life, the greater I appreciate this eternal security that I have in him. But the process is more or less the same – it starts with bewilderment (how in the world can God allow someone like me to come into his presence?), then with acceptance by faith (I still can’t believe it, but if God says so, then it must be true), then awe (I really can’t believe it!). When I was younger, I was a bit saddened to hear that being accepted by God has nothing to do with my merits. But now that I know myself a bit more, it’s actually Good News, because I now know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that what’s inside of me is so hideous, so atrocious, that apart from God’s invitation, there is no way I can achieve holiness and righteousness for myself. Praise be to God, who has not only given us this great promise, but that nothing in this world can separate us from Him!

  • Reflect on how God’s grace redefines human relationships, and the categories by which man distinguishes himself from others. To what extent have I embraced this uniquely Christian understanding of humanity, and my own identity vis-à-vis others?

Through God’s grace, we are all heirs according to the promise; we are “all one in Christ Jesus.” All the distinctions that we try to set before ourselves and others – all the artificial and superficial boundaries that we put up – are all dissolved before Christ.

There are a few implications to all this. First, I need to be aware of myself in that I’m not setting up artificial boundaries between myself and others. As a Christ follower, I am on the same boat as everyone else: I am steeped in sin, and only the grace of God can rescue me. That’s the only thing I should really focus on. Thus, when I try to separate myself by thinking that I’m smarter, more athletic, better at XYZ, I’m breaking up this unity that Christ has set up before us. In my heart, I’m harboring up unmerited pride (I suppose all pride is unmerited), which pushes me away from others, rather than allowing myself to be drawn closer to them. This is true regardless of whether I’m doing ministry, meeting people on the street, or relating with my coworkers. I need to come back to the basics, time and time again, that we are all fellow sinners who have fallen short, and it is through God’s grace alone that has brought us back to Him.

The second implication is that I cannot just settle by mere external appearances. Simply by living in this world, we have become very good at polishing our image (though some are better at it than others). Thus, for those around me, I cannot and must not assume that just because they appear fine and dandy on the outside that this is indeed the case. I mean, it could be the case, but I cannot just assume so. Along the same vein, there is that desire within me to just huddle around myself those who seem to be doing fine, those who aren’t so bogged down by sin. This is so un-Christ-like; Christ came for the sinners, not saints. But the main fallacy is that no one is a saint – by surrounding me with people who appear that way is only a facade, a fake – they’re either just putting up a front, or they’re deluded and don’t really know themselves. If I were to transpose this verse into my context, there are neither saints nor sinners – there is no category of “saints” in which only a certain set of the population belongs into, and another category called “sinners” in which everyone else belongs to. We are all on the same boat, and this is something I need to fully accept – and to expect from others.

Submitted by John C. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

·       Reflect on what this passage says about my eternal security.

In Christ Jesus, I have become a son of God, and not through anything I’ve done but rather through faith. It says in verse 29, “if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” That means I’m also a part of God’s people not by any kind of merit, but by God’s grace through Jesus and God’s promise. The Judaizers were trying to bring merit based salvation back into the mix, preaching a message of salvation by works and following the Mosaic law. Paul’s emphatic message is that salvation, their new relational reality of being sons of God comes strictly through faith, not by merit.

My eternal security does not depend on me and what I can do. Instead, I have God’s promise to fall back on. With a merit based approach to God and salvation, there is the illusion of control and entitlement. It feels good to have earned something because you feel like you deserve it. At the same time, however, there is inescapable reality of my own sinfulness that makes a merit based approach to God and Christian life really burdensome. There are times when I’m tempted to feel proud because I’m serving God and doing all of these things for ministry, but even in the midst of serving God I still experience things like my pride and jealousy coming out. There is no security when I begin to put my confidence in my ability to live righteously. Thank God that my status as a child of God does not depend on me, but rather I can be sure of my eternal security because of God’s promise. God’s promise is solid and sure, something I can lean on again and again. Though I am a sinner who is often fickle and inconstant, God’s promises are not.

·       Reflect on how God’s grace redefines human relationships, and the categories by which man distinguishes himself from others.  To what extent have I embraced this uniquely Christian understanding of humanity, and my own identity vis-à-vis others?

So much of people’s strivings in life is to distinguish themselves from others in some way. People try to get into professional school and advance in their careers so that they can be part of a distinguished elite. The message of the Gospel, however, is that man’s greatest problem is his sin, that he has been separated from God. This fact trumps all other categories of distinction and comparison. The only way to salvation is through forgiveness, and because of that fact the ground is level at the foot of the cross as all come as sinners before God and are saved only through God’s grace. Before Christ other people were objects of competition and comparison, people who I was competing against for a spot in the more distinguished strata of the world. Now, people are fellow sinners who have been saved by the grace of God. We’re all in the same boat. Our biggest problem is sin, and that has been solved. All these other categories of distinction are shallow and surface level. As I grow in my appreciation for the Gospel and for my own salvation, these categories of distinction that once caused both pride and insecurity in me no longer have the kind of grip they once had. I remember how doing well in school was such a big deal because I was fearful of being labeled a loser in the world’s eyes. Now that’s not such a big deal anymore because the much bigger reality is that I have been saved from my sins, and have been reconciled to God. This trumps any shallow and artificial category that the world makes a big deal out of.

Last night I was talking to a couple of students and they were surprised that we graduated from Berkeley and came down to Riverside. “Why would you guys come to Riverside when you graduated from Berkeley?” one student exclaimed. I was able to share with them honestly that for me, having gone to Berkeley is not such a big deal, and that I’m so happy to have the chance to be in Riverside helping start a church and sharing the Gospel with people. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined being on a church plant in a place like Riverside, yet I am here because the Gospel has saved me into a new reality where being a part of that distinguished elite is no longer the main battle of my life.

Yet I know that even with this new reality I find it so instinctive to go back to the worldly way of relating to people around me who I spend the most time with, namely the other staff at our church. I find myself still trying to distinguish myself from others around me by performing well in ministry and trying to gain recognition in different ways. This way of relating to other is something deeply ingrained in me, and when I experience that desire to distinguish myself in some way it means that I’ve lost touch with my own sinfulness. If I am in touch with my sinfulness, I would know that my sin is the most significant thing that defines who I am much more than any other worldly categories of distinction or comparison. Yet these are also opportunities for me to realign myself with reality once again and to be reminded that I am a sinner forgiven by grace.

Personal Prayer

God, you have saved me not by anything I have done. I can claim nothing of worth in me other than the cross and your mercy and forgiveness. I am your son, considered a part of your household and people not because of anything I have done to earn it but by your mercy and grace. Thank you for your promise of salvation and the solid assurance I have in my eternal security—that it doesn’t depend on anything I do. Your Gospel has saved me and has rescued me from the endless and pointless fight to distinguish myself in some way. I pray that this new reality would permeate the way that I view myself, and the way that I relate to others around me.

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