Restoring the Fallen – Galatians 6:1-2

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:1-2 NIV

What is my response when a Christian brother or sister falls into sin? It might be that I condemn them for their failure. Or I might go the other way and overlook it; after all, I am not my brother’s keeper (Gen. 4:9). And it is possible that I might decide that what they are doing is not so bad after all. But the one thing missing is all of these alternatives is confronting that person with their sin. A confrontation done with the hope of restoring the fallen, bringing them back to their walk with the Spirit.

Paul’s instruction is for those who have some spiritual maturity to gently work at restoring the fallen. Confronting a member of your fellowship who has sinned is hard, but necessary; not only for their restoration, but also to protect the fellowship from following their example. In John 13:34 Jesus gives his disciples a new command, that they love one another. This love is not just something to practice when things are well. But also when there is brokenness. Love your brother or sister enough to seek their restoration; carrying each other’s burdens.

But this instruction comes with a warning. Don’t get caught up in their sin, or even be tempted by it. Love that brother or sister, but hate the sin (Jude 1:23) that has entangled them (2 Pet. 2:20). And be careful lest you fall yourself (1 Cor. 10:12).

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The Fruit of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

I wonder how many self-help books have been written about character development. Books that teach us to be loving, joyful and at peace with ourselves. While certainly not everyone in the world sees these attributes as desirable, most people seem to. Or at least they want to see them in the people they are surrounded by. I suppose that some of these self-help books can give helpful advice. But anytime we focus on our own efforts to develop into loving, joyful, peaceful people, we produce something that is only an imitation of the real thing.

The only sure way to success is to walk with the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 18). When I walk with him, allowing him to work on my life, the results of his efforts, the fruit of the Spirit, will be obvious: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. They will not come into full bloom instantly. But as we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, these virtues will grow and mature. The Holy Spirit within will be reflected through me for all to see.

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Faith Expressing Itself Through Love – Galatians 5:6

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. – Galatians 5:6 NIV

Circumcision is generally not a religious issue among Christians today. But in Paul’s day it was very contentious. Circumcision represented keeping the Old Testament Law, something that many Jewish Christians were very concerned about. To them, the Law remained very important, and was something that they felt every believer should follow. But Paul, although keeping the Law himself, argued against forcing the Gentile believers to observe it. The issue was one of legalism; is there anything I must do to be saved apart from faith? And Paul’s response throughout this letter to the Galatian churches is a resounding no.

But does that mean that as a believer I am free to do what I want? I don’t believe so. In the second half of this verse Paul may have had in mind the words of Jesus when he identified the greatest commandments (Matt. 22:37-39); to love God with all you are, and to love others as yourself. What Paul tells us is that what counts in not obeying the Law, it is faith that expresses itself through love; love for God and love for others. A faith that does not express itself in love is dead and worthless (Jam. 2:14-26). To be clear, I am not saved because of the expressions of love in my life. But I am saved through a faith that does make that expression. A faith that is only intellectual acknowledgement has no value. Seek for a living and active faith.

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When the Time Is Right – Galatians 4:4-5

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Galatians 4:4-5 NIV

Waiting can be hard. The culture I am in is, more and more, one that promotes instant gratification. Fast food, drive thru banking, instant credit, express service, speed dating, and so on. We are impatient and don’t like waiting.

But God is not like us. He is willing to wait until the time is right. When the time was right, he called Abraham to follow him, he called Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, he sent Israel off into exile, and then brought them back. And, when the time was right, he sent his Son to us. A Son who was born under the same conditions that each of us are. His purpose in coming was to redeem us from the law, from the empty way of life we had (1 Pet. 1:18), and to make us sons of God.

I don’t know why God chose the time he did for each step in redemptions story. I have a very limited view of history. And even less so of the future. But God is not limited in either his knowledge, or his ability to accomplish his purpose in creation. In my impatience I often want him to act now. But, just maybe, I should trust him to act in his own time. He knows what he is doing, and so my best course of action is simply to come alongside him and let him lead. Trusting him to do what is best, and to act when the time is right.

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All One in Christ – Galatians 3:26-28

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:26-28 NIV

In this chapter Paul has been contrasting the Old Testament Law with faith. The Law was good and served a purpose, but it could never bring life. In contrast to that is faith. It is through faith that we have life in Christ and become children of God.

When I respond to God in faith, he does something pretty dramatic. My location changes from ‘in the world’ to ‘in Christ’. I am baptized (immersed) into Christ, and my reality becomes tightly connected with his. We are clothed with Christ when we are immersed into him. Salvation is not just a matter of pledging allegiance to God. It is taking on the identify of Christ. Not to say that we become Christ. But we are wrapped up in him, and he is our all.

A significant consequence of this is how it changes my relationship with other people. It is not just me that has been immersed into Christ. But many others have as well. Together, we are all one in Christ. And the differences that have previously divided us should do so no longer. In Christ there is no male or female; no white, black or brown; no American; Mexican, or any other nationality; no Republican, Democrat, or Independent; or anything else that divides us in the world. We are all one in him, and should live that way.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

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Crucified with Christ – Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20 NIV

As Christians, how should we live during our brief sojourn here on earth? For many the options seem to be to enjoy it, or to endure it. And while we should have joy in our life in Christ, that joy is not found in the pleasures of this world. And while we should endure in our faithfulness to him, that is much more than just getting by day after day.

This verse really sums up Paul’s life as a believer. He saw himself as crucified on the cross with Christ; he had died and this world no longer held any attraction to him. And now he lived, not for himself, but for Christ. Paul had given himself over completely to the one who had given himself for Paul. Christ had saved him, and Paul now had a life debt, owed to Christ.

Is this way of life unique to Paul, and maybe a few other especially called people? Or should it be true of all believers? I believe this aligns well with Romans 12:1-2 were we are all called to be living sacrifices, not conformed to the world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds. We should all see ourselves as crucified with Christ, and living our lives now by faith, serving the one who loved us and gave himself for us.

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Teaching a Different Gospel – Galatians 1:7-8

Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! – Galatians 1:7b-8 NIV

It is tempting to read this passage and apply it to many of the strange variations of the gospel that are being proclaimed today. And indeed, Paul would likely include many of them as being under God’s curse. But Paul’s warning was not just to others who might be perverting the gospel. There is also a very personal component to this warning as well.

I am a teacher. And I need to be very careful as I teach and write. Am I being faithful to the Scriptures? Or have I perverted the message, allowing my own thoughts, or those of others, to change the message? All of us who are Bible teachers have a serious responsibility, and should not take it lightly. Ultimately we will be held accountable for what we teach or preach. And we will also have to give answer for any that we have led astray. It is a serious responsibility that should not be taken lightly.

Lord, may the words that I speak, as well as the words that I write, be acceptable and pleasing to you. I pray that you would be glorified and your church strengthened by them. Help me to be faithful to you and your word and not be guilty of teaching a different gospel.

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Rebuilt from the Ground Up! – Galatians 2:20

In an earlier life I was a computer programmer.  And I remember well one web site that a group of us put together.  The customer was very demanding, the requirements changed frequently and the deadlines were short.  And as a result the code behind the web site was hurriedly thrown together, patched, tweaked and modified until it was becoming a nightmare to work with.  While we managed to produce the site the customer wanted, it was pretty ugly behind the curtain, and hard to change.

Once the site was launched and the pressure was off, we were faced with a decision.  We could leave the code the way it was and struggle to make changes to it when needed.  Or we could throw out the old code and rewrite it from scratch now that we had a complete set of requirements from the customer, as well as the needed time.  Fortunately we opted for the second.  Fortunate because that site changed a lot over the next few years, and the clean code base made that much easier.  Without that, it would likely have been impossible to keep updating the site.

I find this process to be very similar to the approach many take when coming to Christ.  We have been busy with building our own lives, and are comfortable with where we are, even though our lives may be a mess with all the pieces cobbled together.  And when Christ comes we are tempted just to add in a few new features (like periodic Bible reading, occasional prayer, worship attendance, and maybe putting money in the offering plate if I have any extra) into the old existing code base.  And the result is not very satisfying.

The alternative is what Paul describes in the passage below, throwing out the old me, and allowing the master programmer to rebuild me into something that would be useful to him.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 

Galatians 2:20 NIV

Crucified with Christ and no longer alive.  This sounds pretty drastic.  But it is what is needed if I am going to experience the life God has prepared for me.  Trying to hold on to my life with just a few upgrades just will not cut it.  Throw it all out and start over again.

Where once Paul was at the center of his life, now Christ occupies that position.  Talk about an upgrade.

Faith Expressed Through Love – Galatians 5:6

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Galatians 5:6b NIV

In the letter to the churches of Galatia, Paul deals extensively with those who are struggling with what is required to be saved.  Is it necessary to be circumcised, or to follow any other Jewish ritual.  Must one be baptized, join a church or tithe?  Do I have to do anything besides believe?Paul’s answer to all of that is a resounding “No”.  God has done it all, and nothing I can add to what he has done will improve my standing with him.  Paul goes so far as to say that anything I do that is intended to secure my salvation will only be a detriment to it.  What is required on my part is simply to believe, to have faith.

But belief, or faith, needs to be more that merely intellectual acknowledgement.  Many people believe that God exists, that Jesus is God in human form, that Jesus rose from the dead, that life continues past the death of the body.  Included in those who believe is Satan and his followers, for all the good it does them.  Believing that God exists will get you nowhere, if it is only a mental exercise.

What counts is a faith that expresses itself through love.  A faith that changes who I am.  A faith that leads me to go beyond simple acknowledgement and into trust.  Trust that God has a purpose for me, and then seeking to live out that purpose.

My motivation for serving God should not be to win his favor.  Rather it should be out of love for what he has done for me.  I can never be worthy of his love, or adequately reward him for choosing me.  But I can surrender myself to him.

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