October 26, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Galatians 5)

Submitted by Kelly L. from Gracepoint Davis Church

Galatians 5:7-12 (ESV)

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! 

Reflect on the picture painted here of what happened to the Galatians, and the warnings relevant for me.

The picture of what happened to the Galatians is that though they first started off right with their faith, they began to stray and began to follow a different message.  The Galatians started off with understanding and recognizing that it was by faith alone that they were saved.  They had no credentials to point to and no works to point to that could give them some merit for salvation.  They knew clearly when they became saved that it was purely due to grace.  Despite starting off this way, they moved away from this gospel message and began to turn to circumcision as a criterion for salvation because of some Jews who came into the picture to say that circumcision was needed for salvation.

The warning that is relevant for me is that I need to be vigilant about following the right gospel message.  Just like the Galatians, at the point of salvation it was very clear that salvation was purely an act of grace but this truth is something that I can so easily stray from.  Just because I start off correctly doesn’t mean that I will continue following the right message.  As I live my Christian life, there will come many persuasions that are not from God that I need to be alert to and not follow.  I know that salvation is by grace but I look back at my life and there are so many incidences where I live not according to this truth.  I have lived according to the truths instead of having to be a Christian who had to be “progressing” in certain areas of my life, someone who was a “good” leader, someone who was reliable and faithful with tasks and things, someone who didn’t have as many sin issues to work through, etc. These things being the things that I lived based on led to a lot of misery and bondage.  I felt so unfree because I felt like I just couldn’t get “better” as a Christian.  There were so many lies that I lived according to instead of this foundational and simple truth that it is purely by grace alone that I am saved.  Though through the years, a lot of my thinking has been straightened out and the gospel message has become more of my reality, still it is a daily battle for me to live base upon this the truth that it is by grace alone that I am saved.  There are still times when I see old patterns of sin that come up that cause me to feel down and enslaved.  I get into that cycle of thinking things like “I should be over this by now” or “Why am I still like this?  God can’t use someone like me to minister.”  Or there are still times that I think that if I was more “together,” “wiser with people,” “able to rally people together more,” etc. that somehow I am more acceptable before God.  These are all wrong ways of thinking and are contrary to the gospel message of grace that I need to battle daily.

What is the “offense of the cross” in v. 11?  (i.e., given that Apostle Paul’s main persecutors were Jews, and pseudo-Christian Jews, what is it about the cross that they found so offensive from within their understanding of God?)

The “offense of the cross” referred to by Paul in v. 11 is that there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to bring them into right standing before God and that Christ’s death alone can accomplish that.  The Jews were people who had many religious rules and regulations that they followed and thought would bring them into right standing before God if they followed them.  So for many generations, they believed that as long as they followed the rules and regulations then they were people who were in right standing before God.  Therefore, when Jesus came to them to bring this gospel message that we were so far gone as a human race and that nothing but Jesus dying on the cross could bring us into right standing before God, it was something that was utterly offensive to them.  To accept the cross meant that all their “acts of righteousness” meant absolutely nothing.  This is something that is so offense to mankind as we are such proud beings.  We want to be able to contribute and be able to say that because I did this and that, and thereby prove that there is some redeemable aspect of myself.  But the cross tells me that I have nothing to bring, nothing to offer, nothing that I could point to of my own effort that would allow me to be in right standing before God.  If I did or there was any hope of this happening, then Jesus did not need to die on that cross for me.  The cross tells me that I am not redeemable through my own efforts and acts of righteousness.

I remember how for many years though I started off with my salvation decision being based upon grace alone, I got to a point where I thought the cross was offensive to me.  I wanted to say that now that I have been a Christian for so many years that it should amount to something and that I should be getting “better.”  Though I started with grace, I moved to thinking that there should now be some redeemable quality in me and as I did that, the cross became an “offense” to me.  My wrong understanding of the gospel led me to think that after being a Christian for so long, I should become someone less sinful and there would be increased redeemability of my life.  I’m so thankful however that through God’s word, through His people who continued to point me in the right direction and correct my wrong notions, through prayers, etc. that God helped me to see my wrong ideas and understanding of what it meant to be in right standing before God.

Reflect on the intensity of these words, and some of the harsh language employed by Apostle Paul and what this reveals about his heart and the nature of ministry, and how this applies to me.

Personal Prayer

Dear Lord,

Thank you for this warning and reminder that I must protect and guard this foundational truth that salvation is not by any sort of works but by your grace and mercy alone.  I see how ingrained it is in me to try to earn things for myself, to want to point to areas of my own effort and say that there are redeemable aspects of myself.  But this is not the gospel message and trying to earn anything for myself will lead to enslavement and misery.  Please help me to daily have that childlike faith that believes and trusts in the cross and doesn’t turn to my own effort or works.  Help me to guard this precious, life giving gospel message in my own life first and then to help others also to cling to this truth.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.


Submitted by Phil C. from Gracepoint Davis Church

Galatians 5:7-12

Reflect on the picture painted here of what happened to the Galatians, and the warnings relevant for me.

The Galatians received the Gospel through faith at one point. And they were so open and humble before Paul when he first shared the Gospel with them.  In chapter 4, he says they received him “as an angel of God.”  And for Apostle Paul to say that they were “running well,” it seems like they were spiritually growing and maturing. But somewhere along the way, they started to buy into the false gospel of circumcision, and ideas of legalism and traditional rituals crept into their way of thinking. And that was what baffled Apostle Paul so much – “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”

This is very relevant for me as well. Like the Galatians, I am susceptible to false gospels of the world because there are so many competing thoughts and worldviews bombarding me daily. There is the false gospel of success and ambition, where the world says you need to make something of your life: “Look at your peers and what they are doing in their careers!” There is the false gospel of comfort and settling down, something I feel even more strongly now with a child and family. There is the false gospel of what Christian living should be like: “Do you really need to sacrifice so much? Is it really worth it?” These thoughts and more are the same kind of false gospels that can cause me to “not run well.” It’s easy to start well, to feel convinced in my mind during a message or a talk with a leader, etc. but I need to guard myself against times when I’m by myself, at work, talking with family or friends, and these voices come at me trying to whisper something other than God’s truth. So how can I guard myself from this? I need God’s Word daily. I need to be faithful with my DTs so that I can regularly press God’s truth into my heart so that these lies of the world don’t gain much traction in my heart. I need to surround myself with community and like-minded followers of Christ so that I am spurred to love and good deeds, and not just alone in my warped thoughts. I need accountability from leaders who can point out when I’m going astray. I’m so thankful for these “boundaries” that God has placed in my life to help me stay on the narrow path, and I need to humble embrace them so that I can run my Christian life well.

What is the “offense of the cross” in v. 11?  (i.e., given that Apostle Paul’s main persecutors were Jews, and pseudo-Christian Jews, what is it about the cross that they found so offensive from within their understanding of God?)

The Jews had a wrong understanding of God. They could not fathom how God could die such a horrible death. Their view of the Messiah was a person who was powerful and victorious, not humble and servant-like, and certainly not one who would die on the cross. They found the message of the cross offensive because they viewed God as someone who was pleased with them because they followed religious rules. They could not accept the message that they are sinners, that they need to be reborn, and that they need forgiveness and a new heart. They were simply too proud for such a message.

I see this even in today’s culture. I remember talking to someone who used to go to church, but somewhere along the way he stopped going. For him, the message of the cross is foolish. He doesn’t think he’s that bad of a guy, and he feels like the Bible is “too much” when it declares all of us hopelessly lost before God. His view of God is that God ought to accept him because he’s better than most people. As I talk to others like him, it really burdens me because their pride prevents them from seeing the truth. They try to maintain this image that they are good people, and yet they forfeit what they really need, which is forgiveness and restoration with God. However, they take offense when they are labeled as sinners, and because of their high view of themselves, the cross isn’t good news to them but something offensive, foreign and impersonal. And yet this is the reality of the spiritual battle that we have to fight on our campus. We have to be true to our message; most people will reject it, but there will be some who receive the Gospel as good news, and it’s for the hope that some might be saved that I want to commit to faithfully preaching the Gospel, regardless of how offensive it might be, and pray that people’s hearts would open to the truth.

Reflect on the intensity of these words, and some of the harsh language employed by Apostle Paul and what this reveals about his heart and the nature of ministry, and how this applies to me.

Clearly Apostle Paul takes this message and the people under his care very seriously. He uses harsh words, and even strong sarcasm to get his point across. I think this shows a lot about his heart for the Galatian church. He could have avoided the issue, downplayed it, or just sugarcoated his correction in order to not rock the boat relationally. But he didn’t do any of that. In fact, he wore his heart on sleeve by showing all of his emotions, the frustration, anger, bewilderment, etc. And I realize that this is the heart of a shepherd. Ministry is about dealing with people, and when you truly love someone, emotions are raw and real. For me, I remember in the past how I couldn’t understand why my leaders took thing so seriously. But now, as a leader myself with interns under me, and also as a father, I understand the heart of a shepherd a lot more. If I have to deal with someone harshly, it’s because I love him so much. I have vision for the kind of man he can become, his character, love for others, and it genuinely causes me to feel deeply about the things he does. And it’s never easy because there is always that risk that they will take it badly or make you out to be a villain.  It’s hard, and it takes a lot of prayer.  Personally, I am so thankful for the harsh words my leaders sometimes had to use when dealing with my sin because I know it was hard for them, and they approached it with a lot of thought, prayers, and hope and vision that God would turn me around. And looking back those are some of the fondest memories I have because it showed how much they loved me. And I realize now that I am in the same position, I need to be faithful to the truth and loving toward my sheep by speaking the truth in love So it is my prayer that as a leader I would share that same heart for the people under me.

Submitted by Kit N. from Gracepoint Davis Church

Galatians 5:7-12 (ESV)

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! 

  • Reflect on the picture painted here of what happened to the Galatians, and the warnings relevant for me.??

The context of the Galatians was that they were running the race well but their thinking took a wrong turn (Galatians 1:6, Galatians 3:1-4). They started out by placing their faith in what Jesus did on the cross and trusted in the justification that was given to them. They endured through all the hardships and persecutions to be Christians. Maybe they were concretely living out the Acts 2 church in Galatia.  But now they thought that they could earn that same justification by working and fulfilling the law.  They went from being a community marked by love and grace to now one marked by legalism and maybe even pride.  That’s why Paul had to ask, “You all were running well, what happened?”

And based on this text, it would be people who by their words had persuaded the Galatians to change their approach towards God.  I think for me it is this regard of persuasive people that this text warns me about.  There were times when likewise I was in the midst of much spiritual high, being humbled by how God used me to do His work, witnessing His hands at work in my and others’ lives, and amazed at God’s redemptive power.  Yet it didn’t take much, just a conversation with coworkers, realizing how my coworkers and classmates are advancing in their career, or some setbacks in my life beyond my control would get me to start spiraling down, wondering and doubting if sacrificing my time and energy to do ministry is worth it.  It sometimes didn’t take much more than my coworkers lifting their eyebrows at my involvement at church to cause me to wonder if I was doing too much, or my relatives asking if I were spending too much time at church and not enough on life, career or family.

Therefore as I thought about the question in v.7, these are the voices I had to contend with.  The “who” might not be atheists or critics who are obviously antagonistic, or people whose theology is so different from mine; these would send a clear red flag for me to guard against.  Rather the “who” usually are people whom I least expect, who might have good intentions but come from a different worldview.  Verse 8 warns and reminds me that regardless of the source of these voices, they are not from God who calls me.  That should be the criteria for me to discern whether the voices I hear are going to be a hinderance or not.  Furthermore v.9 warns me that just a bit of these doubting voices or thoughts, if remained undealt, would work through my life until one day I realize that I don’t want to and cannot obey the truth anymore.  These verses warn me to heed the “Pauls” in my life, namely my spiritual leaders and spiritual peers who share the same vision, who would wake me up to the hinderance that all these sources are throwing at me and pointing me to the Gospel once again.

  • What is the “offense of the cross” in v.11?  (i.e. given that Apostle Paul’s main persecutors were Jews, and pesudo-Christian Jews, what is it about the cross that they found so offensive from within their understanding of God?)??

The “offense of the cross” is my utter helplessness in the face of sin and my inability to obey the law even if I agree that it is good.  It is offensive because it tells me that I am a sinner who is in no position to help myself, and if not for Christ I would have been separated from God for all eternity.  This message would obviously be offensive to Apostle Paul’s main persecutors because they thought they had what it took to obey the law.  They were proud in their ability to discipline themselves and maintain self-control even in the face of temptation.  They prized themselves in able to live and have been living a moral life by their own effort.  In short, they didn’t think that they needed help.  Therefore for Paul to come and speak the truth to their self-delusion would be offensive to them.

I thought about how this “offense of the cross” is not that much different now.  As I interact with people, they love the God of love or how Christians are into helping others.  But they stopped short of accepting Christ because they took offense at being called a sinner, helpless in dealing with their sin problems.  They didn’t see themselves as that “bad” of sinners, or they felt that they could manage their sins, or they could discipline themselves to stop sinning.  And thus whether it was back then or now, Jews or non-Jews, the cross is just as offensive.

  • Reflect on the intensity of these words, and some of the harsh language employed by Apostle Paul and what this reveals about his heart and the nature of ministry, and how this applies to me.

In this short six verses I see Paul’s emotions coming through.  He was angry at whoever had been bewildering them with going back to justification by work and thus hindering them from obeying the Gospel of grace.  He was bewildered that they would not understand why he was persecuted because of his strong stance at the necessity of the cross that render no further work necessary.  I see Paul holding onto the hope that they may still return.  And finally Paul didn’t mince his words against those who are stumbling them.  This reminds me of the divine jealousy that Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:2.  The only reason why he had such strong emotions against the detractors was because he cared for the Galatians deeply.  I suppose had he not care for them, then Paul wouldn’t have such strong reaction and might be more “calm” and “reserved” in his letter.

Seen in this light, the takeaway for me is that ministry is not about getting things done.  When I ministered to people, sometimes I had this weird notion that I had to be level-headed and to not express my emotions just in case it turned people off.  Paul was nothing like that.  He thought through the issues at hand clearly, and he leveraged his emotions to convey to the Galatians how much he cared and concerned for them.  As I reflected about my experiences and how my spiritual leaders helped me deal with my sins, it was when they got emotional did I get a sense that they truly cared and loved me.  It was then when I saw how ugly and hurtful my sins are that got me to start the process of repenting.

Ultimately, I realize that to be a minister is to have parental heart towards those under my care.  I am not a dad yet but I have been around parents enough to realize that there was nothing calm or reserved when it came to stop a child from touching a hot stove or running out onto the street.  When they were clearly going to majorly hurt themselves, what parents would not let their emotion loose to convey the seriousness?  What caring parents would still worry about turning their children off at those dire situations?  But why is it that a parents’ heart towards protecting their children don’t carry over to those entrusted to me in ministry?  Is it because I don’t see sin as harmful as a hot stove, or do I not want to care about them as much?  The recent “Pause” series of sermons reminded me how important it is for me to not hold back when it was time to protect my charges.  I know I want to care for others just as I was cared for, and therefore the take home message from this text for me is to really guard my charges with that same divine jealousy and emotion as Paul did here.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for reminding me through this text that there were all these voices that could hinder me from obeying You.  No matter what good intentions these voices might be coming from, I need to discern if they are Biblical or not.  Please give me wisdom to do so and please forgive me for so easily taking them in before really thinking them through.  I also thank you for the leaders You have placed in my life who guard my life with the same divine jealousy as Paul was towards the Galatians.  If not for God using them to warn me, I would still be bound in my sins, would have went down the wrong path, or believed the hindering voices.  I pray that as I am the recipient of such care and love, I would likewise do the same to those entrusted to me and to guard and protect them as well.  Please give me the emotional strength and wisdom to do so.  In Jesus’ name I pray.

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