More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:8 NRSV)
How much does the Lord Jesus Christ mean to me? Can I say, like Paul says, that ‘everything’ else is a ‘loss’ and give the reason for that being ‘because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’?
If you truly know the Lord Jesus then you will have all your eggs in his basket. It is to be all or nothing or it is worthless. Paul knew that nothing else was worth the ‘value’ of a personal relationship with Jesus. It is that personal, experiential ‘knowing’ that is unique to true Christianity.
The ‘value’ of that is way beyond what we can get with our own righteousness. All that can give us is filthy rags rather than the relationship that Jesus, God’s Anointed One and our Lord gave us.
Now you, my friends, are children of the promise, like Isaac. (Galatians 4:28 NRSV)
In this section Paul uses the allegory of Abraham having children by the slave woman, Hagar, and the free woman, Sarah, for the two covenants – the first, the law given on Mount Sinai and the second, corresponding to the covenant from Jerusalem above, given through Jesus.
Were we born into slavery or freedom? Through an act of the flesh, or through faith in God’s promise?
We are all, like Isaac, ‘children of the promise’, born through faith and into freedom.
Paul had known the weight of the Law, he had lived as a very strict Pharisee, but now he had tasted freedom in Christ he could not imagine choosing to be enslaved once again by the law that leads to death. It is no wonder that Paul’s pleas in this letter are so heartfelt and genuine. His pleas touch your spirit, as you touch his heart while reading his letter.
Were we set free to remain free or so that we could choose to go back into slavery? As Paul says, ‘For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.’ (Galatians 5:1 NRSV). Are we going to be firm and remain living in the victory that Jesus won for us on the cross or are we going to act as if Jesus never died and rose again and return back to slavery?
Heavenly Father, Thank you that I am a child of the promise, and as such I choose to remain in the freedom that Jesus won for me. Help me never to go back voluntarily into a slavery to a system that can condemn me but never save me. Amen.
Posted in Devotions, Galatians, Thoughts On...
Tagged Abraham, cross, faith, flesh, freedom, Galatians, God, Isaac, Jerusalem, Jesus, law, Mount Sinai, Paul, slavery
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods. Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits? How can you want to be enslaved to them again? You are observing special days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid that my work for you may have been wasted. (Galatians 4:8-11 NRSV)
Before we became Christians we were slaves to false gods who were in fact no gods at all. One person’s god might have been alcohol, another’s could be evolution, and someone else’s the false gods of Hinduism or some other religion. On the surface these gods give freedom, but in reality all they bring is slavery, but a slavery that those enslaved cannot see.
Once we have become a Christian we now know God and more importantly, he now knows us. This is as real a relationship as any physical relationship – if anything more real – as we are now spiritually alive and our spirit and the rest of us is now known by the Living God. This is true life and freedom.
Knowing this it is no wonder that Paul is shocked and incredulous that they are turning back to legalism, slavery and bondage instead of living in the permanent Sabbath and Jubilee that is in Christ Jesus.
The spiritual eyes of the Galatians seem to be closed, and so they seem to be back to living solely by natural sight. It is no wonder that Paul is shaking his head in frustration.
It is no wonder that about 10 years later when Paul writes to the Ephesian Christians that he says how he is praying, ‘that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.’ (Ephesians 1:18-19 NIB) It is so important that we pray for spiritual light, life and growth for each other so we don’t turn our back on the great salvation that we have in Jesus!
Heavenly Father, open our eyes to see if we have slipped back into bondage and slavery in our lives, or if we are living in the fullness of all that you have for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Posted in Devotions, Galatians, Thoughts On...
Tagged bondage, Christian, Ephesians, false gods, freedom, Galatians, God, inheritance, Jesus, Jubilee, legalism, Paul, sabbath, slavery
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.
… they only heard it said, ‘The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified God because of me. (Galatians 1:23-24 NRSV)
People who were once like Saul, and most adamantly against Christ, when they come to know the Lord, and some of his most powerful proclaimers.
This is the future for Richard Dawkins. God is after him as he was after Paul. If I look back at my own life I can see a time when God was pursuing me even though I resisted him. Eventually all I could do was run to the one I had once run away from.
If you are reading this then please stand with me and others around the country who are praying for Richard Dawkins to be saved.
Lord Jesus, give Richard Dawkins a Damascus road conversion experience, where you break in and shine your light on him and open his spiritual eyes as you opened Paul’s. Amen.
(The Apostle Paul was known as Saul before his conversion. It is quite possible that Paul was one of the three names he would have had as a Roman citizen. It was possibly taken as a name by his father (or forefather) when he was freed from slavery or sponsored for citizenship and was part of their former owner’s or sponsors name.)