Ah, good morning! I am having a morning where God woke me up bright and early, breakfast down the hatch, now I am sitting at my dining table listening to the birds sing, the water flow, and have a little cello playing in the background. I would LOVE it if every morning could start in the same manner. However, it doesn’t and I appreciate the time I do have. I am so excited! I am excited to be summarizing the devotions of Galatians over the past week. Let me tell you, I have been astounded at what has been opened up to me. It literally has been like reading it for the first time, but I know I haven’t. It has also been refreshing, convicting, and life changing.
Last weekend I posted some Scripture for the July 4th holiday, related to FREEDOM. I read and re-read those words several times over the vacation weekend. Galatians 5:13-14 stuck out to me, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." That last line is one I have always held onto, and this results from a study had me go on five your six years ago, when I rededicated my life to Him. He solidified just how important true love is in our relationship with Him.
Come Monday, I continued to be drawn to this verse and then decided to read the whole book of Galatians. Tidbits were popping out, as they usually do, and prayers were being answered. I have several atheist friends, who are very public about their views. Several, along with other like-minded individuals make comments regarding how ridiculous it is to follow an old, outdated book, written by men, and who have laws on what one should eat, what one should wear, tons of laws on sacrifices and so on. There are actually 613 laws in total, from what I gather, but interestingly enough – I never see the exhortation to love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind. This one is huge. Jesus addressed it while here, and in Galatians Paul was addressing it with the believers of that time.
Yes believers. Paul was not addressing the “lost”, those who had not yet dedicated their lives to the Lord by having faith in Jesus Christ. He was addressing those who had already become Christians. The epistle was for them, which means it can be applicable to me today. The epistle came out of a place of desperation for the believers to resist the urge to return to following laws, rules, regulations, being legalistic – all the like.
In Galatians 1:10 Paul basically says that if we are trying to please man, rather than god, we would not be considered a servant of Christ. This caused me to ask the question: Who are you trying to please? I asked myself this question, and maybe compel others to ask it of themselves. I would love to say that I live to please the Lord, and in my heart I know that is my strongest desire. However, I know my mind and thoughts from time to time. I know I have attempted to live according to rules, in hopes of “getting it right”, because I was actually taught to do that when I was younger. I also struggle with wanting to live for myself. But honestly, as God continues to reveal His Word to me and reveal those things about my past that had a hand in developing those propensities, the desire to live for myself continues to fade away. The key take away: Our lives were intended to be pleasing to the Lord, rather be pleasing to people or try to obtain their approval.
Galatians 2:21 moved me to ask the question: Do I treat the grace of God as meaningless? This chapter reinforces the truth that the law (remember the 613 or so mentioned earlier) does not bring righteousness in the life of a believer, if it did, there was no need for Christ to die for us. Paul is a great person to be sharing this revelation. He was actually so religious and attempted to lean on the law (no person can uphold all the law), he persecuted many Christians. Once he had an encounter with Jesus, he realized it was not good for him to hold onto all those precepts and began to follow and rely on the leading of the Lord’s Holy Spirit. This is exactly what Paul is calling believers to do. This is what I ask of myself, am I allowing Christ to lead me, so I am not counting His life and death as useless in my life.
Galatians 3 continued on the truth that it is through FAITH the righteous have LIFE. Paul is really driving home the fact that the law was unable to bring life to Christians. That the only way to have true life in Christ was to have faith and believe. Believe what? Believe in Christ. Believe His Holy Spirit lives within. Believe those whispers of the heart to reach out to someone, say your sorry, stuff down pride, or refrain from a thing – is all coming from God, by His Holy Spirit. To have faith that by responding to those whispers from God, it is making you right with Him, which is life giving.
Galatians 4 followed up the chapter on having LIFE in Christ, with having FREEDOM because of Christ. Thankfully this chapter helped define why the law was established in the first place and why it is now unnecessary to try to adhere to it once accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Essentially it helps people to see their need for Christ, because it is impossible to uphold everything. Impossible. Once an individual moves from religion, or attempting to uphold rules and regulations in their own strength, and into relationship, the believer is governed by the law of God’s Spirit. This brings freedom.
So if the law isn’t necessary, and people are now free to be led by the Spirit of God, what keeps someone from doing bad things and claiming “God told me to do it”. This has happened a lot throughout history, and continues today. It is one big reason why I traveled a different path for many years. I couldn’t understand it. Galatians 5 sets some things straight. FAITH (or being led by the Spirit) is to be expressed in LOVE. I would say my inner hippy loves this, but really, I know it is my Spirit identifying with the truth God is sharing with me. Believers are not called to go from one ditch of legalism and land in the ditch of licentiousness (doing whatever pleases, under the guise of grace). Believers are to live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. It is possible to discern or witness those living by the Spirit and one who is not. Galatians 5:19-21 depicts the latter, and Galatians 5:22-23 the former.
What is a person to do if they witness someone NOT living with the fruits of the Spirit in their life, and rather have prominent “sin” exposed? I am SO grateful for Galatians 6! It says we are to GENTLY and HUMBLY help the person back onto the right path. Gently and humbly. Again, this has been a point of contention in my life, with regard to those with religious tendencies. I have witnessed Christians tearing other Christians down for their sin. I have witnessed shunning by people appalled with another believer falling, or wrestling with a particular sin in their life. I have witnessed so many sad things taking place in organized religion, it almost completely turned me off. I walked away because of it. But God didn’t walk away from me. In fact, He placed people in my life who understood this principle and He lovingly drew me back, because of other people’s faith being expressed in love! We never know when we may fall and need to be gently and humbly led back onto the right path, which is why we are exhorted to do the same for others, rather than judge, reject, or worse.
Finally, we are called to do good to everyone! Everyone. Not just a select few. Not just those in our circle of influence. Not just those who agree with us. EVERYONE. Attempting to adhere to the law, rules and regulations really causes one to be imprisoned by them and may explain why folks feel justified judging others rather than humbly and gently helping them, or being good to them. We are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This will lead us into a place of prayer and seeking God’s presence and will in our lives, which will lead to being blessed with the wisdom and understanding needed to interact with anyone who comes into our lives, every day. Praise God.