The Seed of the Church

12 Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ (Galatians).

Part of the motivation of the Judaizers in Paul’s day was to keep themselves off the radar of Roman rule, which posed itself at best benevolent and at least ambivalent toward Judaism, yet increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity. Thus, it was safer to be identified with the acknowledged religion called Judaism through the rite of circumcision, than to be identified with this new religion whose devotees might pose a threat the Roman empire. “If we’re going to call ourselves Christians, for safety’s sake let’s at least make it look like just another branch of Judaism.”

Persecution is the great winnower, separating the devout from the debunked. For true faith will always face persecution rather than flee from it—and the church will grow from it. Indeed, it is just as Tertullian, one of the second century Church Fathers, said: “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

Lord, help us This Day to face any persecution that comes our way. Amen.

A Personal Touch

11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand (Galatians 6).

It is very possible Paul’s ailment had something to do with his eyes because: 1) he had a “bodily illness” when he first came to them (4:13); 2) he felt the Galatians “would have plucked out [their] eyes and given them to [him]” (4:15); and 3) this verse here concerning “large letters”—how someone would write if they could not see well. 

Most letters were actually hand-written by an amanuensis who wrote as he was dictated to. Yet here, Paul evidently retrieved the pen and wrote down at least this one sentence himself. Why? To get their attention by adding a personal touch. Perhaps the one reading the letter to others there would turn the scroll around at this point for his hearers to see for themselves the handwriting of the great Apostle Paul who first delivered the Gospel to them. Perhaps they would have even felt a sense of his presence in their midst. 

This is a good reminder that without a personal touch in our ministry to others, we will lose them to others who vie for their attention.

Lord, help us This Day to have a personal touch with those to whom we minister in Christ’s name. Amen.

Loving the Messenger

6 The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him. 7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith (Galatians 6).

To another group Paul wrote essentially the same thing, yet a bit more pointed: 11 If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? 14 So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9).

To those Corinthians he was emphasizing the teacher’s right to receive material benefits from preaching and teaching the gospel. Here it appears Paul is emphasizing the students’ responsibility to financially support their teachers. The less they esteem them (“share all good things … sow to the Spirit … do good”),  the fewer spiritual blessings they will reap. The idea is, we show our esteem for God’s Word through the generous support of those who preach and teach it. We cannot love God’s message if we are not also loving His messenger.

Lord, help us This Day to show our esteem for Your Word by showing esteem to those who teach it. Amen.

Load Bearers

5 For each one will bear his own load (Galatians 6).

Wait a minute. Paul has just told us to “bear one another’s burdens” and now he says “each one will bear his own load.” What is the difference? Well, the difference is in the words used—even in our English. We are to bear one another’s “baros” (“burdens” as in: “heaviness” or “weight”), yet bear our own “phortion” (“load” or “freight” or “lading of a ship”). It is the difference between the weight of something and that something itself. Thus, we bear one another’s heaviness of heart which sin causes, yet the consequence of sin itself is borne only by the one to whom it belongs. I am not responsible for another’s sin, but I must indeed show responsibility with it by helping my brother or sister bear it.

But at the same time, our sins are our sins, and as much as we might like to, we cannot and should not blame anything or anyone but ourselves for them. Neither our circumstances, nor the gene pool we fall in, nor the lack of certain parenting skills of our mother and father, are enough to negate our own responsibility. On Judgment Day the words “Oh, it’s not your fault.” will not be heard.

Lord, help us This Day to own up to the responsibility for our own sins. Amen.

The Real Standard

3 For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another (Galatians 6).

One of the reasons I love to play golf is that my foe is not the person riding along in my golf cart and playing the round with me—my foe is the golf course itself. That is, I don’t measure how well I am doing by whether or not my score is lower than a “competitor” riding with me—I measure my game by the game itself.

Pardon the use of such an old cliche, but this is exactly the same situation in which we find ourselves in “The Game of Life”: we don’t measure our holiness by the holiness of others—we measure it by holiness itself. We don’t compare our lives with each other—we compare our lives with the only Standard that matters: Jesus Christ. In that regard, we are always “nothing” and never really “something.” 

Lord, help us This Day to look on any of our good deeds in light of Yours, and not in light of the deeds of others. Amen.

Burden Bearers

Sunday, June 17, 2018

1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6).

The first goal we should ever have when confronted with the sins of another believer is to “restore” them “in a spirit of gentleness”—not condemn them or rebuke them or ridicule them or discipline them. We should be as “gentle” with them as we would want them to be with us, should the shoe be on the other foot.

All of us carry the same “burdens” of sins, but here’s the thing: we do not have to carry them alone! The glorious wonder about being a part of the family of God is that we are called to “fulfill the law of Christ” as we “bear one another’s” sins—just as Christ bore ours and did not condemn us. 

Lord, help us This Day to be good burden bearers. Amen.

Kilter

26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another (Galatians 5).

Of all the things Paul emphasizes after writing about the Fruit of the Spirit (vs. 22-23) and crucifying our passions and desires (vs. 24), and walking in the Spirit (vs. 25), he ends with a plea for not treating others badly. He moves from our vertical relationship with God to our horizontal relationship with one another.

A life that moves poorly from the vertical to the horizontal is a skewed, unbalanced life. Indeed, it shows the vertical life to be faulty to begin with. For if we cannot get along with one another, we are probably not getting along very well with God either. In the end, the the quality of our horizontal lives will always reveal the true quality of our vertical lives.

Lord, help us This Day not to be spiritually out of kilter. Amen.

Spiritual Dancing

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5).

Years and years ago on the eve of a national championship game, the head coach of one of the teams was asked what his strategy was to win. He replied: “We’re gonna dance with the one who brung us.” In other words, they were going to use the same strategy in the big game that helped them win all the previous games to get them there.

Just so, since it is the Spirit who gave us spiritual life at our salvation, it is that same Spirit who will continue to give us life if we will only walk with Him. Just as we trusted in Christ for our initial salvation, we must trust in the Holy Spirit to complete it. And, praise God, we know He will! “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). 

Lord, help us This Day to dance with the One who brung us. Amen.

Both Fact and Choice

24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5).

“The flesh” is described here as consisting of “passions and desires.” The word for “desires” here has a narrow meaning to include those things particularly which lure us into forbidden actions. “Passions” are those things that drive us with an uncontrollable longing, causing us to run headlong after them with no thought of the consequences. We do not have hold of them—they have hold of us, and will destroy us if we allow them constant foothold. 

The only way to conquer our passions and desires is to allow the cross to have hold of them for us. Yes, it is a fact that believers have already been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), but it is also no less true that we must choose each day to “carry our crosses” (Luke 9:23) in obedience to our Savior and “crucify the flesh.” Our crucifixion happened once in the past as fact, but must continue to happen in the present by choice.

Lord, help us This Day to climb up on the cross—and stay there all day. Amen.

Fruit in the Fire

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5).

There was never a time when our Lord, who completely fulfilled the “law,” did not also completely exhibit this “fruit of the Spirit” in His life—except for maybe two instances. What, you say? Well if the Bible says: “being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44)—do you think He was experiencing much “peace” then? Or, was there “peace” in His heart when He cried out: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me” (Matthew 27:46)? Or, how about when the Bible says: “for the joy set before Him He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2)? Doesn’t that mean His “joy” was in the future and not in the present? Surely there can be no joy in the midst of God’s wrath, can there?

As amazing as this is, perhaps what is more amazing is that all the other aspects of this fruit of the Spirit remained perfectly displayed during the entire Passion of the Christ. Indeed, I am sure His “love …. patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, [and] self-control” were put on their greatest display—even as the wrath of the Father fell on Him for the sins of man. 

So, could it just be, that when times are the hardest and the fires are the hottest, that the Fruit of the Spirit can shine the brightest?

Lord, help us This Day to walk in Your Spirit, come what may, so that we might display the Fruit of Your Spirit. Amen.