Category Archives: Christian Life

Galatians 3:2 – Receiving the Spirit.

The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? (Galatians 3:2 NRSV)
 

Asking questions is powerful! Here Paul challenges the Galatians on a central point of their faith. He wants to know how they received the Holy Spirit – was it by works or by faith.

This is such a pivotal question, and it is also a rhetorical question, Paul knows that the Galatians really know the answer already, they have just forgotten it!

If we received the Holy Spirit by our own works in fulfilling the law, then Jesus’ death is worth nothing. The Holy Spirit could not indwell us as we could not be filled with him if we still had unclean hearts, and we would not live in the power of the Spirit as all works would continue to be done in our own strength alone.

If we received the Holy Spirit by faith, then Jesus’ death on the cross was effective at cancelling sin. He was also physically resurrected from the dead and ascended into heaven from where he sent the Holy Spirit who played a vital part in our accepting Jesus as Saviour. When we were baptized in the Holy Spirit we were empowered to live for God and serve him, and to perform the good works that he had prepared in advance for us to do.

It is not by doing good works that we receive the Holy Spirit, but by receiving the Holy Spirit that we are able to do good works!

Lord Jesus, thank you that baptize us in the Holy Spirit whom we can only receive through faith and believing in your promises. Amen.

Galatians 3:1 – Declaring Christ Crucified.

It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified.(Galatians 3:1 NRSV)

This verse is a challenge! Do we publicly exhibit Jesus Christ as crucified? Or do we try to get around and avoid the insult and scandal of the cross?

At the cross there is peace between men and God, and between men and men. At the cross is forgiveness of sin. At the cross the price for sin was paid.

Do we publicly declare and display that Jesus was crucified or do we hide away?

 Lord Jesus, help me to declare you as crucified publicly and openly. So that others may see you for who you are and for what you have done. Amen!!!

Galatians 3:1 – Wake Up!!!

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? (Galatians 3:1 NRSV)

Paul sounds exasperated here! Verbally he is picking them up by the scuff of the neck and shaking them to wake them up.

How much we all need this at times!

Do I need to be shaken and woken up? Or do I need to shake and wake up someone else?

Lord, help us to see things as they really are not as we may want them to be! Amen!

Galatians 2:19-21 – By Faith in Christ Alone.

For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who lives, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law then Christ died for nothing. (Galatians 2:19-21 NRSV)

No one is justified through fulfilling the law, because none of us are capable of fulfilling the law. Jesus fulfilled the law on all counts so did not deserve to die, but he did to break the hold of sin on everyone else.

Each of us was crucified with Christ, not because by doing so makes his death more effective, but because all our sinful nature must die so we can truly live our lives with Jesus, or more correctly so he can now live his life in and through each one of us.

Our whole lives should be lived ‘by faith’ in Jesus who died as a substitutionary sacrifice in our place. If we think, live or act as if anything we do can justify us then we are living hypocritical lives and saying that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was worth nothing and has no power. But this is not true, Christ’s death is totally efficacious in every way and is powerful as here the hold of sin on each of us was broken if we only accept the finished work of the cross in our lives.

We are justified by faith in Christ alone!

Also if we live as if we are justified by our own efforts then we make the gospel of no effect and will not be able to proclaim it with power and authority, if we proclaim it at all!

Heavenly Father, help me always to remember that we are only saved by faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross, and by that alone. Help me never to fall into legalism, the hypocrisy that goes with it and so cheapen your work on the cross. In your name, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Galatians 1:8-9 – Preachers Beware!

But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accused! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed! (Galatians 1:8-9 NRSV)

Preaching or proclaiming the gospel is a great responsibility. What we preach is important, especially if we proclaim the gospel publically. As Paul says elsewhere we are to watch out life and our doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16). It all needs to stack up, what we preach and how we live. This is not because of what man may think of us, but because of what God thinks of us.

  1. We are each responsible and that holds for people and for angelic beings.
  2. We must expect that God will judge our workmanship and measure it by his standards.
  3. If we are found wanting then we shall not know eternal salvation, but eternal damnation.

Preachers and teachers beware! You may fool men, but you cannot fool God!

Galatians 1:1 – Commissioned.

Paul an apostle – sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. (Galatians 1:1 NRSV)

Who has sent you? Who has commissioned you? Is it God, or is it man? If it is Christ who has commissioned you then, like Paul, you can be confident in your call. If you only have been sent by men then you have no real basis for spiritual authority. As spiritual authority comes from God alone.

I have been commissioned by Jesus himself in a vision to ‘Go!’, I can be secure in his call and can move in his authority. You may say, ‘I haven’t been commissioned like that!’, that may be true, but we have all been commissioned to go in Jesus’ power and authority.

‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:18-20 NRSV)

Lord Jesus, help us to take your commission seriously, and to go in your power and authority, whether it be to the one or to the many. Help us also to know your calling on our lives so we can glorify you in all we do. Amen!

Matthew 5:13 – Salt

Over Christmas I cooked a few gammon joints, and also enjoyed eating them, as I am sure many others of you have.  To cook and eat a ham or gammon joint is a little ritual many do over Christmastime that they may not do any other time of year.  If you are like me then you will always soak your gammon or ham before you cook it.  I do this as I do not like things too salty, so by soaking it before I cook it I can get rid of excess salt and I personally think they taste far better as well as being far healthier as soaking greatly reduces the salt content and as we know too much salt is not good for your blood pressure among other things.

It got me thinking today about salt and water in the Bible. I shall look at salt in this post and water in the next post, as it is too long for just one post.

 ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.’ (Matthew 5:13 NRSV)

In Biblical times salt was precious, it was costly. Salt has always had two primary culinary uses, both in antiquity and in the present day.

  • The first as a condiment, to improve the flavour of your food during cooking and on your plate when you are eating it, used in this way you use relatively small amounts.  Salt used as a flavouring does not alter the nature of what it is adding flavour to, its nature remains the same.  It may taste better but will still go bad if you don’t eat it within a short space of time.
  • The second is as a preservative of fish and meat, this takes much larger quantities to have the desired effect.  Salting meat or fish changes the very nature and permanently changes the flavour of that meat or fish, it means that it can be kept for a long period of time and will no longer bad if you don’t eat it within a short space of time.

Now here’s a question for you.  Do you want to just add a little flavour to the society, or do you want to change its very nature?

 Jesus wants us to change our society.  If we look at how he and his disciples modelled ministry, they spoke with spiritual authority and moved in the power of the Holy Spirit, this had a radical effect on the society they lived in.

If all we settle for is just to flavour society, then we are selling ourselves short and missing the point.  We may make society seem a bit ‘nicer’, but we will not change it.  This is why prohibition failed in America and it strengthened criminals and corruption, it did not deal with the root causes it just tried to deal with symptoms.

But what if we are to be a preservative in the society we live in, what does it really mean? What does a preservative do? Here are a few things:

  • It changes the nature of the thing being preserved so it will last for longer so that it will not start decaying. This is what the gospel does to our lives, like the meat or fish to be preserved we are already dead, but we will just decay even further if our nature is not changed. The gospel doesn’t just flavour our lives, it radically changes them. We go from being dead to being alive when we accept the gospel and make Jesus our Lord and Saviour, we are born again to the abundant life God has for us. Can people see that life in us? Or are we just like them so that we blend in.
  • It ‘stops the rot’! It is best to start preserving something before it starts rotting, but if you left it a bit late and things were already starting to rot you don’t need to worry, just cut out the worst bits and preserve it anyway, it will stop rotting, and you will even be able to eat bits that had just started rotting as they are altered by the preserving nature of the salt or salts used. (This is not recommended these days, but in the past people were used to more bugs in their food than we are these days!) We live a very perverted society these days, where sex sells anything and everything, alcoholism is on the ascendency once again in this country and drug use is considered acceptable, I never smelled cannabis until I was at university, but these days I smell it in the street at least once a week, generally more. We have to stop the rot and restore things to how they should be, this will only work if we are a preservative!

So we are to be salt as a preservative, people changed by Jesus who stop the rot in society.

 We are also to be salt as a seasoning, but must never let our being salt just be reduced to this. Paul said ‘Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.’ Colossians 4:6 NRSV. From this we can understand what the salt is, it is truth, God’s truth. It is his truth and the out-working of it in our lives that enables us to see changed lives in others as our lives themselves have been changed and to bring radical change to the society in which we live, and to touch the lives of others through our conversation.

 The salt Jesus refers to is truth, and this is how we lose our saltiness, by reducing God’s truth so it fit in with truth as defined by the society in which we live. If we either actively rebel against God’s truth, or just try to blend in then we will not see lives changed or stop the cycle of decline in society. What then? Well all we will be useful for is to be thrown on the ground to clear the snow, for people to walk on! If we lack God’s truth in our lives then we will be mocked by men, I would rather be mocked for standing boldly for Jesus, and walking lovingly in Spirit and in truth than be mocked for standing for a powerless Christianity that stands for nothing at all!

 Heavenly Father, help us to be salt as you have called us to be, people who’s lives have been so changed by Jesus that we speak the truth by our actions as well as our words and lead others to Jesus to change their lives too. Help us not to be so bothered about fitting in society that we lose our saltiness so we are worth nothing but being thrown out and walked on, then we will see lives changed, society changed and you glorified. In Jesus’ name, Amen.