October 23, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Galatians 4)

Submitted by Kevin H. from Gracepoint Davis Church

Galatians 4:12-16

  •  Think about the words in v. 16: “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?”  Somehow, Apostle Paul’s opposition to the teachings of the Judaizers made some in the Galatian church think of him as their enemy.  Reflect on my own response to people who tell me things I do not want to hear.  How am I in terms of being able to receive truth that I do not want to hear, and also welcoming the one who brings it? 

When I think back on my life as a Christian, many of the biggest spiritual breakthroughs or times of refreshing through repentance over deeply entrenched sins had resulted from someone speaking the Biblical truth to me.  Experientially speaking, many of those incidents were devastating to my ego and pride.  They were never easy to swallow.  But by God’s mercy when I did end up accepting them, the truth also opened my eyes to the grace of God available for me and changed me for the better.  I remember the first time this one older brother at church pulled me aside and pointed out how what had I said in front of many people at a large gathering was inappropriate.  I remember my face burning up and my heart tightening up almost into a panic.  My immediate reaction was complete denial.  I had no idea that what I said was inappropriate and it felt as if someone threw a bucket of cold water on my face.  More than anything else, I didn’t want to believe that I could have done such thing.  There was another time when I had fallen into living my life in self-pity, feeling like no one really cared about me.  But the fact was that many people had invested their time and energy in mentoring me and teaching me, often in one-on-one conversations.  I was so blind to all the attention that I was given and all the prayers. It took my leader to sit me down one night and lay all the facts down for me to see the reality that God had richly blessed me all along.  Again that felt like my eyes opening up for the first time but it was devastating to see that I had been so wrong.  I thought what I observed, what I thought, what I felt were the reality.  It was hard to see that I was wrong. However, seeing just how spoiled and selfish I had been freed me up to finally repent before God for the way I had been living ungrateful and demanding everyone around me to be there to please me.  I was able to see just how much I was in need of forgiveness, and the fact that Jesus died for me to be forgiven became so real to me.  I was able to transition from being gripped with self-pity to a heart that actually felt thankful to be alive.

In almost all cases, my initial reaction to someone speaking the ugly truth about me was defensiveness.  Often, my reaction had been to discredit the person speaking to me by quickly thinking of all the faults that I found in him/her and to dismiss what that person was saying about me.  It was that childish game of “what about you,” or “who are you to say…”.  By focusing on the person, I tried to dismiss what they were saying.  Secondly, I would counteract the “accusation” by quickly thinking up all the examples that I could think of that would prove otherwise.  I would think that I’m usually not like that, that whatever wrong I had done was out of the ordinary, a one time incident caused by extraordinary circumstances.  It was not about who I was, but what made me do it.  Even if I were to be cornered to face the facts and the truth, I would often fall into self-pity, demanding others to pity me and excuse my wrongs.  In all these ways my ego and pride fought against anything that exposed my wrong doing or my weaknesses.

One of the things that I feel most blessed about being part of God’s church, is that God has surrounded me with many trustworthy and loving brothers and sisters who spoke the truth to me over the years.  Over the years I had to come to see that I am a sinner, and that there are many particular ways in which I am a sinner–self-centered, lazy, unloving, passive, etc.  But the greater news has always been the fact that God desires to forgive me and sanctify me, and being able to see the truth about me has been a great blessing.  Another way to look at that is that I have people who actually take me seriously, that my Christian identity means something.  Even though my ego would like to doubt the intentions of the truth speakers in my life, I have come to learn that God has loved me a great deal by speaking the truth about me through many who were willing to go through the discomfort of talking to me about my wrongdoings.

Galatians 4:19-20

  • What are some pains I might have to endure if I am to mature as a minister of the gospel?

I think the biggest source of pain is the relational hurt that ministering to others often involves.  I am called to be a brother who goes beyond just being concerned about my own affair but to see to it that those around me do not end up with an unbelieving heart falling away from the living God (Hebrews 3:12).  At times, that means having to talk to those that I am ministering to about their actions or character or things about their lives that are not in line with what the Bible says.  There is always that fear of rejection, and the sense of personal inadequacy.  There’s the fear of what if that person gets hurt by what I am saying, walks away from me angry, accusing me of wrong motivation, or calling me a hypocrite.  On one hand, I do find that these fears drive me to pray more and have a clear conscience before God about my motivation in talking to the person–that it’s not driven by my annoyance or pride or haughty attitude, but to really wish for that person to repent and be right before God.  Even though I may have the best of the intentions in telling the truth, there’s the risk of being misunderstood.

In ministry, I am called to invest a lot in other people.  What that means for me is to put in my time in meeting with them, spending time to prepare some word of God to share, to pray for them, to spend the emotional energy in keeping them in my mind, taking interest in their lives, what’s going on and what they are going through.  Especially after having in put in that kind of effort and time, it’s really hurtful to see that person walking away from the relationship for various of reasons. At times, it’s because of wanting to go back to sinful pleasures of their past, something that they do not want to surrender to God, not wanting to be part of the church for the sake of wanting comfort and entertainment, etc.  It’s really hard at times to see that person making a wrong decision after doing what I could be reason with them and plead.  But I am reminded that loving others is not meant to be easy and that it involves personal sacrifices.  When I see Jesus, what it took him to love others, I am humbled.  I expect somehow that ministry and loving others be fulfilling to me, be enjoyable and comfortable, and all be done at my own convenience at no risk.  But I am also constantly reminded of many leaders in my life who ministered to me even though most of the times I had failed to be grateful, demonstrating Christ’s love in my life. I think I’m beginning to see more and more, that to love means to be willing to go through the pain involved.

Galatians 4:21-31

  • The Galatians’ insistence on keeping ceremonial law, especially the rite of circumcision, derived from the need to bear proof in the flesh that they were indeed descended from Abraham.  What kind of attitude toward God and others would this type of “assurance” foster?  How does this run contrary to the very core of the Gospel message?

I think the temptation to bear some kind of proof in the flesh comes from my pride that wants some kind of equal bargaining with God.  I am so used to the system of this world, where if I want something I should earn the right to have it by doing something of merit.  Personally, I hate being in debt, owing someone a favor or be under their generosity.  Even in small things, I want to pay back or figure out some way of thinking that says he owes me or I deserve it.  This kind of attitude, this way of thinking, is really motivated by my pride, wanting to feel good about myself.  If I were to want to do something to assure myself of my relationship with God, I am moving away from the core of the gospel because as a sinner, my standing with God is entirely based on his own good will and by the merits of what he has done.  From A to Z, there is nothing that I have done that I can point to and say that I deserve this.  I cannot obligate God to offer me salvation.  It’s rather humbling to face the fact, that I am utterly helpless, that as a sinner I am completely at the mercy of God’s love.  On one hand, it’s hard to really embrace the truth that such unconditional love exists.  It almost sounds too good to be true.  On the other hand, it’s hard to believe that I am that undeserving.  It could either be so very freeing, or it could also be very insulting and oppressive.  I think it goes back to how I see myself – either a hopeless sinner for whom any act of generosity and kindness is such a great news, or a prideful person that wants to see some kind of good in myself.

When I think about all the facts about myself, the inner thoughts, what I have done, etc., when I am honest with myself, I am faced with the fact that I am a broken sinner.  The good that I want to do I do not do, but evil is what I do (Romans 7:19).  When I think about just all the blessings that God has given me–forgiveness of sins, loving brothers and sisters around me, true meaningful purpose for my life, the eternal security I have in God, I am left to wonder just how it is that I could ever earn any of it.  So it’s the magnitude of God’s grace that overwhelms me.  To want to claim any of it as earned, would be an insult to God.

Submitted by Gina H. from Gracepoint Davis Church

Galatians 4:12-16

  • Think about the words in v. 16: “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?”  Somehow, Apostle Paul’s opposition to the teachings of the Judaizers made some in the Galatian church think of him as their enemy.  Reflect on my own response to people who tell me things I do not want to hear.  How am I in terms of being able to receive truth that I do not want to hear, and also welcoming the one who brings it? 

In verse 15 right before this, Apostle Paul writes, “What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.” But all of a sudden, verse 16 implies that although his relationship with the Galatians had been one of love and affection because of the Gospel, he was soon considered their enemy by telling them the truth. So sad that they were willing to revise their history and relationship with Apostle Paul based on the discomfort of not wanting to deal with the truth that they were being confronted with. I think for a very long time, when people told me things I did not want to hear about myself, from my sisters growing up in childhood, to even my husband today, my reaction has often been one of a default defensiveness, where in my mind I just automatically switch to self protection mode whenever the words come at me. I received them as arrows, and I needed to put up that shield to block the arrows. I perceived it as a threat to my well being and my sense of who I was. But now with the benefit of years of relationship with people I have been with at church for almost 20 years, who have only always wanted the best for me, who have been through thick and thin with me, who have been with me in the darkest times of spiritual struggle or family tragedy, who have celebrated the joyous times with me, who have raised me in the faith and showed me what it looks like to live a life of love and joy and perseverance in serving God, God used the safety of those years of covenantal relationship of undeserved grace and committed relationships to bring home the fact that I am just loved and accepted. In the safety and context of the church, I feel like I am finally at a point of learning to just accept the truth about myself, that I am just a sinner. The times I need that mirror held up to me again and still, of what I’ve done, or the kind of sinner that I am, it still hurts my pride, hurts in the sense that I am grieved at the effects that I’ve had on people and how I’ve hurt them, how I’ve grieved God by the ways that I have been unfaithful and disobedient to Him. But by now, I just know that I’m still safe in my identity as a beloved child of God–and so, when the painful truth comes at me, though there is that kind of grieving pain at my sin, I no longer need to give into that urge to just put up the defensive shield, but can let down my guard, and just let the truth bring me to the cross again for forgiveness and grace. Then the people who bring that truth to me, are the source of allowing me to go through that process of coming back to God, and that’s always a good thing.  I can now welcome and embrace the sources of truth in my life, and be thankful that I have such people, who would be willing to be the bearers of truth to me.

Galatians 4:19-20

  • Am I willing to go through “the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed” in people that I am spiritually nurturing?  

As I think about all of the ways that I have been loved, through which the Gospel came to me–it took the labor of love on the part of many people, who could have easily given up on me at any point but who stuck it through with me, through my years of rebelliousness, struggles with worldliness and ambition, greed, selfishness. They really were that embodiment of this verse to me, the people who were willing to go through “the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed” in me. As I now have the privilege to pass down this same love that I’ve received, how can I not be willing to do the same for those God brings into my life? Luke 12:48 says, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” I just know that I have been given so much, and have been entrusted with much, even just in the sense of all that I’ve been given in terms of spiritual blessings. There are people in my life right now who are struggling with spiritual strongholds from their past, people whom I need to reach with warm relationship, people whom I can work with in ministry to help raise as faithful workers for the kingdom. What else would I be doing with my life, if not giving myself fully to them? Although at times the burdens of ministry are difficult, and I feel perplexed or just plain tired – yet, honestly, what else would I rather be doing with my life, than affecting souls for eternity? I’ve found the greatest life of joining God in His work of seeing Christ formed in people. When I think of the joys of my own children, I don’t even remember the pains of childbirth, because of the depth of my love for them, and the joy that I have in relating with them. In the same way, the joys of seeing Christ formed in people make me willing to go through the pains of what that takes.

  • What are some pains I might have to endure if I am to mature as a minister of the gospel?

These days I’ve been thinking a lot about the new students I’ve been meeting. One dominant emotion that I’ve been feeling so far this academic year is burdened. I see them living out their quarter, and many of them are falling into sin and temptation. There are the pains of thinking about their lives and the pathway they are headed down, and feeling that burden and living my life with that constant sense of responsibility towards them, to show them Christ’s love as that alternative. I think of my older students, whom I feel burdened to raise up more into the image of Christ, to help battle through their spiritual issues, so that they could experience deeper grace of God. This all requires the daily sacrifices of my own leisure time, of my sense of a climate controlled life with zero interruptions – that just goes out the window when dealing with unpredictable, sinful people who have so many different needs, and when being pushed to deal with my own sins that I constantly bump up against as I strive to love others. I may need to endure the daily pains of not being appreciated by people who mistrust my motives as a friend or minister of the Gospel, and reject me. But I have the chance to live that life that is just lifted up to God to use to bring the Gospel to people, despite the results. A mom will just selflessly provide for her kids day in and day out for years, every day, just being faithful, simply out of her love for them. In the same way, I have the privilege of just practicing the daily faithfulness of dying to my own preferences and comfort and leisure, for the sake of seeing Christ formed in those I am called to love.

Galatians 4:21-31

  • The Galatians’ insistence on keeping ceremonial law, especially the rite of circumcision, derived from the need to bear proof in the flesh that they were indeed descended from Abraham.  What kind of attitude toward God and others would this type of “assurance” foster?  How does this run contrary to the very core of the Gospel message?

This type of assurance in works of the flesh would foster a puffed up pride in one’s own abilities and performance, causing a person to have the attitude towards others that either he was better than others, or when finding someone else more accomplished, would lead to a deep insecurity about his own value and worth. In terms of this person’s view of God, it could lead to a sense of independence from God, that he didn’t need God, that he was able to accomplish things on his own. The core of the Gospel message is that I am a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness and mercy in my life, to save me, that I can’t save myself. By going back to this insistence on keeping ceremonial law, the Galatians were going back to this mentality that they needed to prove that they were more than sinners, and that they were able to live sufficiently apart from God based on outward merit, as the source of their significance and identity. They had strayed from the confession of the sinner in need of God to save them, and were singing the tune of their own ability to save themselves. I think I go through this process several times a day, maybe even more unconsciously, where I want to just perform my duties well, even Christian duties, and I feel that need to bear proof that I am valuable and worthy because of my performance. It’s in those moments that I find myself needing to go back to God again and again, in this basic confession that I am just a sinner in need of His grace again. I go back to the cross again and again, where I am shown that I am a royal mess-up, but that even as a sinner, Christ died for me, simply out of His love for me. That is the true worth that I am told again that I have, simply because of my faith in Christ, not in any works that can be taken away.

  • Why would the Judaizers be interested in continuing their religion of achievable, tangible actions rather than receiving and relying on the promises of God in Christ?  

It’s more dignified; it’s more respectable. It would have made them feel more hope in themselves and their abilities, instead of causing them to embrace the fact that they were hopeless broken sinners just in need of grace and salvation, in need of Jesus. I know people, myself included, who would rather just respond to my weaknesses by working harder, doing more, dulling my mind by not thinking about who I am, what my weaknesses show about me, and just wanting to make myself feel good through competence in tasks and achievements. That way, I don’t really need to face my weaknesses and what they say about me, who I am. But that way, I also shortchange myself, and I don’t experience the new life and hope given to me again and again by Jesus when I come to Him in weakness, asking for and receiving forgiveness, grace, and strength.

Personal Prayer

Dear Lord, please forgive me for so often falling back into the worldly mentality of law versus grace, and nullifying the work of the cross. The cross is the most precious thing, telling me that although I am only a hopeless sinner, yet your love for me runs deeper still. Thank you that I don’t need to find my worth in the fleeting performance trap of the world, but that I can find my unending security in the promises of Christ.

Submitted by Megan A. from Gracepoint Davis Church

Galatians 4:12-31 (ESV)

  • Think about the words in v. 16: “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?”  Somehow, Apostle Paul’s opposition to the teachings of the Judaizers made some in the Galatian church think of him as their enemy.  Reflect on my own response to people who tell me things I do not want to hear.  How am I in terms of being able to receive truth that I do not want to hear, and also welcoming the one who brings it? 

Apostle Paul must have felt grieved after all his care and love for the Galatians and their receiving him well initially when he entreats them to become as he is for he became as they are, and how they did him no wrong and would have gouged out their eyes to give them to him. But because he spoke the truth to them, he asks them, “Have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?”  More than grief, he must have anguished over them not receiving the truth.

When I reflect on my own response to people who tell me things I do not want to hear, I may appear as agreeing on the outside first to my parents when as a child and now to others like my husband because I don’t object, but inwardly I rebel or disagree–I don’t do it and ultimately disobey and mistrust them and God.  So outwardly I don’t object to the person speaking the truth to me, but because I don’t obey what I am told, I am not trusting and connecting with the person over the truth about me that I don’t want to accept.

However, I have grown in terms of being able to receive truth that I do not want to hear with each year and also in welcoming the one who brings it as I have come to really appreciate my spiritual leaders who are committed to me to the extent that they are willing to risk speaking the truth that is painful for me to hear about myself.  I know that this truth, specific examples of my selfishness or laziness, is hard for me to hear because it devastates my ego and my self-image that I want to keep up, even to myself.  But I receive the truth that is spoken to me because I know I need it and I know others would not speak this truth to me out of love like this.  I am thankful for having those who are more mature in the faith, who can help me grow spiritually, and help me even with the practical areas of my life.

Galatians 4:19-20  

  • Am I willing to go through “the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed” in people that I am spiritually nurturing? 

When I think of the unbearable pains of childbirth that I endured to give birth to my two daughters, I wouldn’t chose to go through it except for the blessings of these two precious lives that came out of the pain then but bring me so much love and joy now.  So when I think about whether I am willing to go through the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in people that I am spiritually nurturing, I wouldn’t chose to go through it except for the fact that I know what miserable and captive state that they are in because of their sin and the repentance process and final glorious purpose that Christ wants to form in them.  This reality makes me willing to go through the pains of burden, anguishing in prayers, the hard talks and the aftermath of those conversations and persisting in prayers.  I know that it’s not something I like and hesitate at times, but I am also willing because I have been the recipient of such pains of childbirth that my spiritual leaders have and are still willing to go through until Christ is formed in me.  How can I not go through the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in people that I am spiritually nurturing after all that I have received in Christ and in all the people committed to love me in this same way because of Christ?  I know that my spiritual leaders have gone through the pains for me to speak the truth to me and praying for me through the years, which humbles me being on the other end as the spiritual leader willing to go through the same pains for the people God has entrusted me to spiritually nurture.

  • What are some pains I might have to endure if I am to mature as a minister of the gospel?

Some pains that I might have to endure if I am to mature as a minister of the gospel are going out of my emotional comfort to push myself to speak the truth and accepting and welcoming interruptions to my day or week.  And being willing to risk the emotional discomfort of their negative response.  And accept being misunderstood of my heart and intentions behind speaking the truth to them, when they doubt and not want to believe the truth about themselves, because I know I’ve done this myself. And to not take rejection of what I say as personal but as a rejection of truth that God wants to work in their life.  And to anguish and persevere in prayers for each person I have been entrusted to minister to.

Galatians 4:21-31  

  • The Galatians’ insistence on keeping ceremonial law, especially the rite of circumcision, derived from the need to bear proof in the flesh that they were indeed descended from Abraham.  What kind of attitude toward God and others would this type of “assurance” foster?  How does this run contrary to the very core of the Gospel message?

The kind of attitude toward God and others this type of “assurance” fosters is essentially appeasing God by their outward obedience to God while feeling more favored as chosen and accepted by God for keeping his ceremonial law of circumcision.  This gave them a false sense of security in their acceptance and belonging to God and their feeling superior over others who they viewed as not chosen and not accepted by God.  This runs contrary to the very core of the Gospel message that tells us we are all dead in our transgressions and an enemy of God but the good news is that Jesus died for our sins in our place, while we were still sinners.  The very core of the Gospel message is that we are sinners who can’t do anything about our sins and we are saved purely because of God’s grace that no one can merit.  We are all forgiven and reconciled to God for all who chose to believe and put their faith in Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross for our sin against Him personally.  The assurance of the Gospel is that no one deserves God’s mercy yet he gives it to all, no one is exempt or too far from his reach to be forgiven and reconciled back to him.  The field of comparison and competition is leveled at the foot of the cross so no one can boast and no one is exempt and the only assurance is in the saving grace of Jesus on the cross.

  • Why would the Judaizers be interested in continuing their religion of achievable, tangible actions rather than receiving and relying on the promises of God in Christ? 

The Judaizers would be interested in continuing their religion of achievable, tangible actions rather than receiving and relying on the promises of God in Christ because it was something they could do to hang onto their pride and sense of dignity, that there’s something redeemable in them instead of having to painfully own up to how they are sinners before a Holy God whom they need forgiveness from and relying on the promises of God in what Christ did on the cross for them personally who have violated his laws.  They refused to believe in the truth that Christ says about them because they want to hold onto even an ounce of their false religiosity and chose to foolishly believe this will save them when it goes directly against what the promises of God in Christ.

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