Boasting in the Cross of Christ (Galatians 6:11-18)

WW2015-wk12What do you boast in? Is it some skill you have or knowledge you have obtained? Is it some kind of service you participate in or a job you excel at? Where is your boasting going? It is fitting that Paul brings up this subject as he finishes his letter to the Galatian church. Having rebuked them for being deceived into another “gospel”, Paul has pointed them again and again to the gospel of grace. No works, whether circumcision, the law, or anything, can save. It is only by grace through faith that one can be made right with God. Jesus Christ is the One who saves. It is because God’s mercy and justice met on the cross we can receive salvation. So, where is your boasting? Our boasting must not be of ourselves; our boasting must be only in the cross of Christ. Be warned: a good showing of the flesh, a works-salvation, is a no-show in the Spirit. The Judaizers boasted in the flesh and were trying to bring the church of Galatia along with them, saying circumcision was necessary for salvation. They were trying to make these Christians compromise with circumcision. Notice verse 12, that they were trying to force Christians to be circumcised “only in order that they not be persecuted for the cross of Christ” (v. 12). If they did compromise, they would be essentially saying they were ashamed of the cross of Christ and would be boasting in the flesh. How so? Because, by being circumcised, they were relaying works were needed for salvation. But Paul sets the record straight: “For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh…For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (verses 13, 15). Simply changing the outside does not change the inside. Where true salvation takes place is in heart transformation. By God’s grace, we become new creations. God gives us new hearts. With these new hearts, we no longer can truthfully boast in the flesh. Rather, the only thing we can boast in is the cross of Christ (verse 14). It is only because of God’s grace and mercy through Jesus Christ that we can have peace. Once we understand the gospel and respond in repentance and faith, we will see not to boast in anything except the cross of Christ. May we bear on our bodies and lives the marks of Jesus (verse 17). Let us boast in Him!

Reflection Question:

  • In what do you boast in—your abilities, skills, knowledge, etc.? How does boasting in the cross of Christ and knowing God change all that?

The Fruitful Community (Galatians 6:1-10)

WW2015-wk11What you sow is what you will reap. This is quite the true statement and one we find laid out in Galatians 6:7-8. Coming right off of Galatians 5:16-26, where Paul has described the war between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit, we see the results of both sides, what one will find if he gives into the flesh or if he rests in the Spirit. To think we can sow in one to receive the harvest of the other is deception and foolishness (v. 7). Satisfaction in the flesh will result in death and corruption while the fruit of the Spirit gives life (v. 8). Yet, this life is not lived out in isolation. No, if we desire to delight in the fruit of the Spirit, we are called to be in community with others. This is important to understand, because when we do, we will see the essential reality of the church. To walk in the fruit of the Spirit means to be in relationship with other Christ-followers. Consider this: how can a Christian walk in the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, and so on if they are not in relationship with others? The truth is they cannot! For Christians to abide in this fruit, they must be part of a fruitful community, namely the church. They need to be doing life-on-life with other believers. What exactly does life-on-life look like? Paul gives us a few examples in Galatians 6: to restore one another in a spirit of gentleness (v. 1), to bear one another’s burdens (v. 2), to share all good things with your teachers (v. 6), and to do good with one another, especially your brothers and sisters in Christ (v. 10). That said, God does not expect us to live the Christian life alone. He has not set it up where your walk with Him is simply “just me and Jesus”. He has given us a community of believers and the authority of church leadership to spur us on to forsake sin and look to Jesus. May we be a fruitful community, one who sows the gospel in the Spirit and awaits for that to be reaped.

Reflection Time:

  • How have you neglected your commitment to God’s gift of the church? How will you reap in the Spirit through your commitment with a local church?

Walking The Walk (Galatians 5:16-26)

WW2015-wk10Have you ever heard the phrase, “He can talk the talk but can he walk the walk?” Surely, many of us have heard this phrase more than once in our lives. There are a number of people who can talk a good game, but do they actually practice what they preach? In other words, can they walk the walk? This is the question we want to address as we look to Galatians 5:16-26. Within this passage, Paul essential gives us two options, one resulting in death and the other resulting in life. Before doing so, though, Paul reminds the Galatians, and us, of this foundational truth: walking the walk is a war (vv. 16-18). There is a constant battle going on in the spiritual realm (see Ephesians 6:10-20). The desire of the Spirit and the desires of the flesh are in opposition to one another and are fighting against one another. The war rages on. Understanding that, we now set sail to see the two options, the two roads, we can take. The first of the two is the works of the flesh (vv. 19-21). In the examples given, we see sexual and relationship sins that have distorted God’s good design. Moreover, warning is given about these works: those who practice them will not inherit the kingdom of God (v. 21). To state it another way, these works, this option, leads to death. Our response, then, should be to “walk away”. Yet, we cannot do this in our own strength. Indeed, it is only by God’s power in the Holy Spirit we can “walk away” and “walk in” what gives life. And what gives life is the fruit of the Spirit (vv. 22-23). Love binds all and displays itself through sacrifice, service, and sanctification, spiritual growth. Joy is delight in God’s will in the midst of varying and many circumstances because we have the peace of a reconciled friendship with God. Patience calls us to trust in the Lord’s timing and show grace to others in kindness by caring for others and doing good for their sake. Faithfulness reminds us of God’s commitment to us and moves us to commit to Him and obey His Word. Gentleness does a work in our hearts so that when we need to strengthen and rebuke others, we do so in a compassionate manner (Galatians 6:1). With this all, self-control as enabled by the Holy Spirit, will help us overcome the flesh, and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. Resting in the grace of the gospel, the Holy Spirit does a work in our lives to “walk away” from the works of the flesh and to “walk in” the fruit of the Spirit. Therefore, if you are in Christ, you have the ability to live by the Spirit as you walk by the Spirit (vv. 25-26). So, don’t only talk the talk; walk the walk.

Reflection Questions:

  • Read Galatians 5:16-26; have you been giving into the works of the flesh? Pray for God to enable you to “walk away” from those desires and to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit.
  • Which area in the fruit of the Spirit is God really working in your life now?

Freedom Through Christ (Galatians 5:1-15)

WW2015-wk9For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do no submit again to the yoke of slavery.”

The idea of freedom bears in it the concept of a release from an oppressor. Some examples of this idea are the following: We as Americans will almost automatically think of the freedom we won through the Revolutionary War from the oppression of England. In the Old Testament, a Hebrew person would have automatically thought of the release that God had given them through the Exodus from the oppression of Egypt. Christ accomplished a release from oppression very similar to these examples, but in a much greater sense. But how did Christ accomplish this?

He accomplished this by defeating sin. Christ conquered sin in three different ways. The first way that Christ conquered sin was through being sinless. Jesus Christ was actively obedient to the law of God, causing the sacrifice of himself to be satisfying to the wrath of God. John talks about this in 1 John 3:3:

And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as He is pure.”

Jesus, who is pure, became sin for believers so that we might be declared righteous before God. Are you savoring the righteous robes that have been wrapped around you today? The second way Christ conquered sin was through His death. Christ’s death was only part of the work, but it was a significant work because it is only by the shedding of perfect, sinless, and unblemished blood that there can be forgiveness of sins. Jesus went to the cross as a sacrificial substitute so that he could be given life. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 15:55-56:

“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Christ has conquered sin by His death, and he has given us his victorious rewards, namely freedom from sin. Are you living in that freedom? The last and most important way Christ conquered sin was by resurrecting from the grave. Paul exclaims that Jesus is indeed resurrected in 1 Corinthians 15:20-21:

 “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

By conquering sin through his resurrection, Christ accomplished an ETERNAL release from the result of sin, death. Similar to, but greater than the examples in the first paragraph, spiritual death was the oppressor, and Christ was the releaser. He fought and won release from the grip of eternal death, so that as you live the rest of your life, you can live free from the slavery to sin.

Reflection Time:

  • Is there sin in your life that you are willfully submitting to? Have you realized yet that you do not have to live in slavery to that sin? Repent, trust in Jesus, and revel in the freedom the gospel has provided everyday.

This week’s devotional was written by Kasey Clark. Kasey is an aspiring pastor and currently serves as a church planting intern at New Circle Church in Downtown Indianapolis. He loves digging deeper into theology and helping his church family do the same.

Fulfillment in Christ (Galatians 4:21-31)

WW2015-wk8Paul is dealing with a church in Galatia that is struggling with holding on to the old ways of Jewish life, of keeping the Law of Moses or turning to the new way of life and a follower of Christ Jesus. They were trying to combine the practicing of the Law with the freedom Christ gave by His atoning, fully acceptable sacrifice to God for our sins. The religious leaders of the day were even demanding circumcision for new believers as evidence of their faith.

The Apostle is quite adamant about this issue because they were many who were teaching the old traditions to the new converts; they simply did not understand the way of Christ that fulfilled the Law. We are prone to do the same thing as these brothers from the first century church.

We live in a society that is results driven; one must perform for rewards in order to succeed.  I am certain every new convert struggles (as do those who are older in the faith) with keeping the “list of do’s and don’ts” in order to please God. As we mature in Christ, we learn He has done the work of salvation. Our duty of service to Him is the outcome of a thankful heart out of love, not the checklist in order to be accepted by God.

Do we trust in the finished work of Christ for our salvation? Are we walking in a way with Him that pleases Him in obedience without looking to our obedience for our own salvation? Brothers and sisters, we must grow in faith and trust in Christ and in He alone. We can never measure up to the standards of God on our own. The Law was to give guidelines and commands for God’s people and to draw and keep them near to Him because He alone is the only One who gives salvation.

When He came down in the flesh as the Christ, He made the way for the believer to be reconciled to God without animal sacrifice and keeping the letter of the Law. Let us put aside what the religious leaders of Jesus’ day and the early Galatian church were doing; let us keep the spirit of the Law. Jesus describes this as the most important commandments which the Law and the Prophets rest upon, “Love your Lord, your God with all of your heart, mind, body, and soul”, and secondly, “Love your neighbor as yourself“ (Matt 22:40).

As we go forward in our day, and the days to follow, let’s begin with an intentionality that shows the love of Christ in us for Him and His glory as to not make our Christian walk about us and our salvation, but Jesus Christ and the building of His kingdom. Rest in Him and be free to love and the peace of God will rest upon us.

This week’s devotional was written by Nelson Poynter. He is a graduate of Crossroads Bible College and has a heart for God and for His people.

How Can You Turn Back? (Galatians 4:8-20)

WW2015-wk7Have you ever had such an amazing experience that you said you were never going to go back to the way things were before? Maybe it was when you met that special someone and knew your life would be forever changed. Maybe it was something else. Nevertheless, the point is you could not imagine turning back to the old way of doing things. This thought process should be ours in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, the false gods of our lives and the legalistic practices turn us back to the old way (vv. 8-11). The Galatian believers, who now knew God and were known by Him, fell into this same trap. They listened to false teachers and were back to following the pattern of life they practiced before they knew God in relationship. The people who were sons of God by the work and person of the Son of God (4:1-7) had went back to the slavery of sin. They were enslaved by the “weak and worthless elementary principles of the world” (v. 9). This caused Paul great heartache and concern for the Galatians (vv. 11, 19-20). He was afraid the gospel labor he had preached to them had been in vain. But this heartache and concern is what caused him to implore the Galatians repent and turn back to the gospel. The worldliness, the legalistic stipulations, and the works-based “salvation” does not having any transforming power at all. The gospel Paul has received from the Lord and the gospel Paul has preached is what has the transforming power and is the only real salvation. Indeed, Paul is writing to the Galatians to tell them and remind them of the truth (v. 16). He wants to bring them back to the place where they were both Christians of conviction and compassion (v. 15). In sum, Paul says that turning back from the gospel will be of no good purpose. In contrast, turning to the gospel will be of much good purpose, as Christ will be formed in them. If this is true, that the gospel is only by the grace of Jesus Christ, then we must ask ourselves the same question Paul addresses to the Galatians, “How can we turn back?”

Reflection Time:

  • Have you ever turned back to the enslavement of sin only to realize the need to repent and turn back to the gospel of Jesus Christ? What did you learn through that experience?

The Son of God and sons of God (Galatians 4:1-7)

WW2015-wk6“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.” +C. S. Lewis

Read this quote again.  How do these words grip you?  Beloved philosopher C.S. Lewis wrote these powerful words to clarify the gospel message.  This will serve as a perfect blueprint for understanding our passage for this week. Our architect, the Apostle Paul, was all too familiar with suffering.  He served much time in chains, treated as a slave and eventually murdered for his faith. Prior to prison, he wrote to the churches in Galatia who were under the trap of a false gospel.  He writes of the one, true gospel in Galatians 4:1-7.  Using a real life illustration, he likens the believer first to an heir (vv. 1-2), then to a slave (v. 3) and finally to a son (vv. 4-7).  In Jewish culture, the heir, as a child, had no individual rights or inheritance until he was of age, being no different from a slave. Both were chained to their masters.  Paul then makes the point that we, apart from Christ, are all “enslaved to the elementary principles of the world” (v. 3).  To the Galatian believers, this meant false teaching including Jewish legalism and pagan idol worship, false gospels and demonic lies.  Essentially, this was anything opposed to the true gospel. Satan, the father of lies, has deceived the world by creating false gospels that ultimately condemn.  Apart from Christ, sinners are dead in their sins, children of God’s wrath and enslaved to Satan and his deception (Eph. 2:1-3). This is the bad news.

Enter the good news. In one of the most powerful verses in all of Scripture, God takes initiative to set captives free.  According to His perfect plan, God “sent forth his Son” to redeem and rescue those under the curse of the law and false religion (vv. 4-5). Not only did Christ pay the price for sinners, He made a way for us to “receive adoption as sons” (v. 5). Our loving Father sent his only Son to bring us into His divine family. Essentially, Christ came to make slaves to sin sons of God. Furthermore, our Father sends “the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,” the Holy Spirit, to be with us forever (v. 6). Finally, the last verse sums up Paul’s powerful and gracious message: The believer is no longer a slave, but a son and “if a son, then an heir through God” (v. 7). The entirety of God’s riches, grace and blessings, we have in Christ. Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation from sin and union with God. This is the only, true gospel message.  All others condemn to hell and must be rejected! We must preach this message to ourselves every day:  Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 15:3-4). We must renew our affections for Christ, the one who paid it all for our salvation.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you preached the Gospel to yourself today?
  • What sins are stealing your joy in Christ?
  • Is Christ central in your life and everything to you?

This week’s devotional was written by Steve Sering. He leads worship with Circle City Canvas Church in Indianapolis and is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The Law and The Promise (Galatians 3:15-29)

WW2015-wk5One of the most astounding things about the Christian life is salvation by grace through faith. Yet, this may very well be one of the most controversial things for those who are not in Christ. What is even more tragic, though, is to be deceived as a believer on how one is saved by God and receives the Spirit. This is what we have seen in Galatians. The believers in Galatia had been taught by teachers, the Judaizers, who were commanding them to obey customs and laws in order to be justified before God. They were preaching a salvation by works. In other words, they were preaching another gospel. Calling them out, Paul rebukes the Galatians for believing this false message and points them again to the truth of salvation by grace through faith. Helping them get back on track, he gives an example to show the exact relationship between the law and the promise. He starts with the covenant made with Abraham and displays how the God’s promise to him looks forward to Christ as He is the “offspring” (vv. 15-16). Furthermore, the covenant with Abraham, the promise, came before the law through Moses (vv. 17-18). The question, then, naturally arises: Why the law? While there are a few possibilities, a likely one in this context is the law reveals humanity’s sinfulness, thereby needing a perfect Savior for redemption and salvation. This ultimate revelation would come through God alone (v. 20). Jesus Christ came to fulfill the promises of God for salvation so that those who believe and place their faith in His Person and His work would be saved. To say it succinctly, the relationship between the law and the promise is the fact that this law is what points us to the promise. As we understand we cannot live up to the law and be justified before God by our works, we realize we need a Savior, someone who can live a perfect life. That is what Jesus did. If we trust in the God-man, Jesus Christ, in the gospel, we become the sons and daughters of God (v. 26). Not only can Jews place their faith in Christ and be saved but, praise God, all peoples can come to God for salvation by grace through faith!

Reflection Time:

  • Have you tried to obtain God’s salvation by works and not by grace through faith? How does understanding the relationship between the law and promise help you in realizing your need for Jesus?

Grace Under Fire (Galatians 3:1-14)

WW2015-wk4“Pride is the mother hen under which all other sins are hatched.” -C. S. Lewis

As we dive into God’s Word, specifically Galatians 3:1-14, Paul begins our reading with a very stern appeal to his brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul is being very blunt here as he opens up with calling the Galatians “foolish”.  Following up this statement, Paul pleads with them in trying to solve the “why”. They have become so spell-blinded by the Judaizers. Paul is clearly frustrated with the Galatians and tries to reiterate to them in a form of rhetorical questions in verses 2-5.  It is clear to him they have been deceived by those who wish to undo his teachings in Christ.  As Paul pleads with them as to why would they need to follow a law that has been fulfilled by the blood of the one true living God? It is abundantly clear that the Galatians have traded their teachings for what I could only consider is a “get righteous scam”.  They are so eager to give up on what has already been done, yet to only replacing it with “what I can do”.  How much of the same are we who have done the very same thing, yet with our own lives?  How much different are we than these Galatians?  How is dealing with grace, given freely, so easy to obtain yet we cloud up the waters with thinking that we must have more control ourselves in trying to obtain God’s favor in our salvation?! It’s almost as if we are trying to redefine the wheel, which clearly needs no redefining at all! As Paul explains to them yet again that Abraham was granted righteousness with God clearly because of his faith in God (Genesis 15:6). The same righteousness is clearly given to the Gentiles in the same manner it was given to Abraham (v. 8 cited from Gen. 12:3). For the law cannot justify. It can only bring judgment.  Therefore, grace is superior to the law (Max Anders)! Paul goes on to quote Habakkuk 2:4 to further demonstrate his case that “the righteous will live by faith”. This very truth exists so that we may know that we are justified by faith in God and not by any obedience to the law. If we are to truly take heed to God’s word and accept the fact that we have truly been redeemed by the only one who would redeem us, then we must also be willing to live by His grace. Christ redeemed us on the cross for two purposes. First, He redeemed us so that the blessing given to Abraham of salvation through faith might come to the Gentiles. Secondly, He redeemed us by faith so that the promise of the Holy Spirit could be given to all who believe (Anders 1999). We must be willing to accept the fact we are all sinners, and that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). This short coming should only cause us to seek repentance and to live by faith that God, not us, is in control. Salvation comes from Him, so we must allow the Spirit to do its work in us.  This week I want you to consider this as you focus on your life.

  1. Who is the author of Salvation?
  2. How can I grow in this free grace?

This week’s devotional was written by JR Rouse. His heart is in the pastorate and is attending Capital Seminary and Graduate School to pursue a Master of Divinity in Pastoral Studies.

In Line with the Gospel (Galatians 2:11-21)

WW2015-wk3So far in Galatians we have seen there is no other gospel than the one Paul preached (1:1-2:10). Paul had the authority to preach such a message because God had called him to it and had given him such a responsibility. We see this come up again in 2:11-21. Paul has been addressing the fact there is not many gospel messages but one. There may be many false gospels out there but only one has the genuine mark by God. It is this gospel Paul loves, meditates, and acts on. He does first so by calling Peter out in his sin (verse 14). Peter had acted hypocritically by separating himself from Gentiles and congregating with the Jews because of his fear of the Jews. Moreover, Peter’s example led Barnabas astray in hypocrisy as well (verse 13). Two things are worth noting here. Peter was neglecting the Gentiles due to the fear of man. Rather than line up with the truth of the gospel that God saves peoples from all nations and tribes, he functionally sided with the Jews. Paul then exclaims, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (verse 14). What Paul does next is he goes into the truth of the gospel. Peter, Paul, and even we are not saved by works of the law. We cannot. What we are saved by is through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no works we can do to be right with God. If we think we can, we are just proving ourselves to be sinners and transgressors (verse 18). Therefore, if we have placed faith in Christ and have repented of our transgressions, then we have been crucified with Christ. We lose our lives so that Christ may live in us (verse 20). Christ came to live, die on the cross, and rise again so He could save us and live in us by His Spirit. We are saved and justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). That is what it means to live in line with the gospel. To believe in any other way or in any other gospel is to believe Christ died for no purpose (verse 21). But praise God for His grace!

Reflection Time:

  • Have you been speaking the truth of Christ and showing the love of Christ in a way that is in line with the gospel? Intentionally share the message of by grace alone through faith alone in Christ and do so indiscriminately.