November 2, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Galatians 6)

Submitted by Sharon K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Galatians 6:11-18 (ESV)

Galatians 6:12-16

  • Why does it follow that those who want to avoid being “persecuted for the cross of Christ” will focus on “[making] a good showing in the flesh?”

People who want to avoid being “persecuted for the cross of Christ” hope that there is another way to gain or earn salvation. They think that there is still a lot of hope and potential in the world and in themselves. So they focus on “making a good showing in the flesh” so that they can somehow feel secure about their standing before God through something visible.

People who are proud and have things to boast about themselves do not want to be associated with the cross of Christ as they don’t want to be viewed as helpless sinners who don’t have anything to offer but are in need of grace. They want to continue feel proud about their achievements or competences and naturally will focus on “making a good showing in the flesh.”

  • What would a person who boasts “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” look like, especially in his relationship with the world?

The person who boasts “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” will no longer have the need to prove himself in the world. As he sees his sins and his need for the cross, he comes to experience that everything in the world is rubbish compared to the glory of the cross and he will find joy in boasting in the cross. As he experiences the cross, he sees that all the fleshly things he boasted about in the past really don’t amount to much and his need to prove himself in the world, his need to find things to boast about himself will seem foolish to him.

The person who boasts “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” will not have much hope in the world. He recognizes that everything in the world will ultimately come to an end and it will come under God’s judgment. He sees that the world’s promises of happiness are false, that they cannot deliver anything lasting, or anything substantial. He is disappointed with all the temptations and lures of the world and he looks at the cross as the only source of hope and salvation for his life. He sees that whatever gains or achievements he can earn in the world, pursuing a career, money, or anything that the world sees as valuable, are not worth anything before the cross. He does not invest his time or resources into the world knowing its ultimate destiny.

  • How had the world been crucified to Apostle Paul?  What are some of the worldly values and standards that need to be crucified to me?

The world had been crucified to Apostle Paul through his change in his value system. Philippians 3:7-9 “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” Before becoming Christian, the world with its accomplishments and competences were valuable and meant something significant for Apostle Paul. But after knowing Christ, he counted all of these highly-valued and regarded things in the world as loss, counted them as rubbish for the sake of Christ and to gain Christ.

Some worldly values and standards that need to be crucified to me are the standards of “you should be this kind of person doing this or that at this age.” The strong voices of the world try to ensnare me to a certain kind of living where I am achieving academic and financial successes at different junctures in my life. And depending on my achievements, it feels like the world gives me a grade, a good grade for doing well (graduating from a good college, getting a certain kind of job, owning a house by certain age, having a certain amount of income, getting married by certain age, being at a certain level of status in career, having kids who are good academically, and the list goes on.) And it feels like the world gives me a bad grade if I am not doing well in these areas. But the truth of the matter is that this is just all rubbish. These are empty things that only enslave me to do the next thing, to strive for something else again and again and my whole life can be wasted trying to chase something that will not last.

Galatians 6:17

  • Apostle Paul can confidently point to the “marks of Jesus” that he bears—which were most likely the actual scars of the years of physical persecution and suffering he endured. How have I grown in welcoming and bearing the “marks of Jesus”? In what ways can I commit to bearing the “marks of Jesus”?

Apostle Paul was able to embrace persecution and suffering because he trusted that Christ will give him competence and sufficiency to carry out the mission of sharing the gospel with the Gentiles. In the same way, I can welcome and bear the “marks of Jesus” through trusting that God will give me competence and sufficiency to love the people God has called me to love. I can welcome interruptions, I can welcome heartaches, I can welcome inconveniences, anxieties and stress that comes with trying to love people and being a body together.

Submitted by Hank X. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Galatians 6:12-16

· Why does it follow that those who want to avoid being “persecuted for the cross of Christ” will focus on “[making] a good showing in the flesh?” 

Those who want to avoid being “persecuted for the cross of Christ” will focus on “[making] a good showing in the flesh” because to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ means to avoid talking about the cross, which means to avoid the meaning and significance of the cross—the acknowledgement of man’s sinfulness and the denial and death of human pride and effort. To avoid such humiliation and to preserve one’s pride and self-dignity, one has to double up his efforts in showing off his own ability, his own competence in keeping the law, so that he can feel good and confident about himself, and suppress any confrontation with his own sinfulness and helplessness that are implicated by the cross of Christ. Ultimately, it is a struggle between one’s pride and the implications of the cross. A prideful person will almost definitely not wanting to choose the way of the cross, because that would mean accepting a complete crush of his pride. The only other option is to boast about and show off his flesh.

In the same way, if we avoid suffering for the cross, if we don’t want the humiliation and demands implicated by the cross, we will end up focusing on making a good showing in our flesh. We can appear to be following God, going about and doing things just like everyone else in the church, yet our focus could be completely off the cross and solely onto ourselves. How good am I performing in the things that I do? How good am I appearing before others? Are people respecting me for my title and what I do? If we find that the answers to these questions are an unsatisfactory “no,” then we try harder. Or we feel frustrated, we feel bitter. Another indication would be we feel devastated when we get corrected over our mistakes or failures, because that’s humiliation, a big blow to our “[making] a good showing in the flesh.” All these are exactly the opposite of what the cross gives us: humility, acknowledgement of our sins and failures, and freedom and joy in God’s grace.

· What would a person who boasts “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” look like, especially in his relationship with the world?

A person who boasts “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” is one who has a deep conviction about his sinfulness, and understands that by himself it is hopeless to change his fallen condition. Therefore, such a person is humble before God and before others. At the same time, he understands God’s amazing grace demonstrated through the cross of Christ Jesus in the context of the gravity of his sin, thus he is deeply grateful to Jesus for saving him from the penalty of sin. He sees that the world boasts about power, wealth, status, comfort and pleasures, all of which are to elevate oneself and to satisfy one’s pride and flesh, and he sees how temporary, how trivial, how unworthy these things are compared to the eternal and glorious things that God has promised, and how vain it is to boast about such things valued by the world. Just like the song, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus,” this person’s eyes are turned upon Jesus Christ, and see and experience the wonderful things in him, the things of this world will grow strangely dim, as the glory of Christ and in Christ outweighs them all. In a close relationship with Christ and the cross, one experiences God’s grace, love, faithfulness, provision, his transforming power, and the privilege and thrill of serving him through sharing the gospel and loving others. In Apostle Paul’s words, the things that this world values are like rubbish to him, and he considered them loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.

· How had the world been crucified to Apostle Paul?  What are some of the worldly values and standards that need to be crucified to me?

Apostle Paul’s sole focus was now the cross of Christ. Nothing valued by the world occupied his mind any more, even though as a former Pharisee he had achieved many of the things the world praises. All he strived for now was to preach Christ and Him crucified. Like Apostle Paul, we used to value things as the world value them, and some of them became deeply engrained in us. After being Christian for many years, we may still find worldly values that are either strongholds that we have to constantly battle with, or they linger around and resurface under certain circumstances. Career ambition, wealth, comfort, pleasures, etc.—the desires for these are easy enough to see and detect in our hearts. The more subtle ones are the desires for status and human recognition, which could be harder to detect. That’s why we have to be ever vigilant in checking our own hearts when dark emotions arise, and make deliberate efforts to turn to God and God’s truth so that the light of God’s truth could again help us to see things in the right perspective and make the efforts to again and again put these worldly values and standards to death and refocus on God.

Galatians 6:17

· Apostle Paul can confidently point to the “marks of Jesus” that he bears—which were most likely the actual scars of the years of physical persecution and suffering he endured.  How have I grown in welcoming and bearing the “marks of Jesus”?  In what ways can I commit to bearing the “marks of Jesus”?  

I thank God for the opportunities our ministries have provided me to bear the “marks of Jesus”. Through all these years since I became a Christian and graduated from college, I was given the opportunities to serve in different ministries including International Graduate Student Ministry, CSU-East Bay, Visiting Scholars Ministry and Elderly Care Ministry, as well as the opportunities to help out with all the other ministries in our church through different events. At first it was hard to adjust to such service due to my immaturity and my old nature. Yet over the years, not only have I gotten more used to it, but I have learned and seen the value of such service to God and others, as my heart grows less self-centered and more other-centered, as I understand more of the human condition and people’s suffering from sin and their need for God, as I come to see what positive change my little effort has brought to the people I try to serve and love, as I experience genuine fellowship and shared joy and pain with my fellow brothers and sisters who labor for God together. I have come to appreciate how good and precious the gospel is, and I have witnessed God’s power in changing lives of others and changing my own. Yes, there was physical and emotional suffering that came with ministry, but looking back, it was all worth it because it helped me to know God more. God has helped my heart and capacity to grow through such “marks of Jesus.” But with pain comes joy. With more responsibilities and entrustment of people given to me, in ministering to the elderly, in ministering to younger brothers, in ministering to just the people in my lives, I understand there will be more setbacks, rejections, or discouragement, not only from people but also from myself. I commit to being faithful and persevering, not shrinking back from these but rather using them to draw closer to God and depend on him more, and I am looking forward to what God will reveal about himself to me through the “marks of Jesus” he will give me in the upcoming years.

Personal Prayer

Dear God, I thank you for the cross.  I thank you for the marks that you have born for me. I acknowledge I am utterly sinful and utterly helpless with my sins. So remind me this and help me to be humble, and help me boast not in my flesh but your grace and the transforming power of the cross. Help me to daily turn to you instead of being distracted by the world, so that I could see reality as it is, so that the things of this world are temporary and vain in my eyes as they really are, and the things of God are eternal and glorious as they really are. Help me to fix my eyes on you and follow you, not to shrink back from all the “marks of Jesus” along the way, but to welcome them, so that this journey with you will lead to a grander and clearer picture of who you are.

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