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A Little Leaven {Themes from Galatians 5}

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A Little Leaven (Audio)

 

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

“A little leaven leavens the whole lump”

To some this may be a phrase simply about baking bread and that would definitely apply.

However, in the churches I grew up in, this verse was used quite frequently to remind people of the dangers of even a little bit of sin in a believers life (wrong music, lustful eye, etc…). It is very true that sin is dangerous. We are taught that Satan seeks his prey like a lion who looks for the weak and unexpecting.

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I feel like this interpretation of Galatians 5:9 might fall short of Paul’s main intent. When read in context with the surrounding verses the leaven Paul is referring to is actually the sin of self-sufficiency. This false teachers have convinced them that they need to add the bondage of outward works to their salvation {see last week’s post}. This undermines the sacrifice Christ made on the cross to ultimately and completely earn our freedom! This pull to “go back” to slavery is a daily battle and one for which the gospel is the only answer!

We learn time and time again throughout all of Scripture that we are not sufficient in ourselves. It was for that exact inadequacy that Christ had to live and die perfectly.

Here’s an example…..
Envy is a sin (it even makes Paul’s list later in Chapter 5).
The tiniest bit of envy can snowball into a life characterized by jealousy and resentment toward God and others.
Envy is not the leaven. Self-sufficiency is. 

 

In other words, when the Holy Spirit points to the propensity toward jealousy in my life, it is the sin of pride that thinks I can keep it under control. I’m confident in my own abilities to replace envy with kindness and conquer grudges with gratefulness. It is my self-dependence that leavens the lump of my life.

 

It is only through crucifying my fleshly desires with Christ and boasting only in His accomplishments that I can overcome the constant pull of sin in my life.
By acknowledging my weaknesses, I am inviting the Holy Spirit’s power to conquer the temptations in my path.

 

Praise God for his glorious sufficiency in the most feeble of hearts!

 

 

>>>>>Thank you so much for spending some time in Galatians with me over the last few weeks! If you missed a part, you can catch up by reading OR listening HERE.

Lookin’ Good {themes from Galatians 4-5}

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Lookin’ Good (Audio)

 

Read Part 1, Part, 2, Part 3.

Time for some honest reflection.

My best friend and I were addicted to Cover Girl powder and Aquanet hairspray back in high school. We used almost every break between classes to make sure our noses weren’t the least bit shiny and that our giant bangs hadn’t started to wilt.

I realize that the root of that addiction went deeper than covering a teenage complexion. We wanted to look good so we would be accepted. If we could get our outsides perfect, maybe we could fool others to think that we were the same way inside.

 

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As we uncover more highlights from the book of Galatians, we notice that this church seemed to be preoccupied with their appearance as well. In verse 10 of chapter 4, we read that the Galatians felt righteous by celebrating certain days and seasons when in fact, these God-ordained festivals had become empty and weak substitutes for a relationship with Christ.

At the beginning of chapter 5 we learn that the Galatians were also seeing justification in the act of circumcision. At first, this physical sign doesn’t seem to apply to our modern lives, but when we look at it in more general terms as an outward expression to gain acceptance and approval, we realize that we all have the temptation to replace grace with more spiritual hairspray.

 

I absolutely love verse 6:
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.
 The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

 

Is it wrong to be circumcised? No.
Is it wrong to observe certain holidays and festivals? Of course not.
Is it wrong to attend church regularly? I’m a pastor’s wife. I would encourage it!
Is it wrong to strive to read my Bible consistently? Not a problem.

 

The issue isn’t with the actions themselves, but with the motivation behind them.

 

When we do anything simply to look righteous to God or others, it is as empty as another layer of pressed powder on our nose.

 

Our lives as wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters, must be centered-on and fueled by faith in the fact that Christ has abolished the formal rituals of sacrifice and penance.  When I am overcome with the love He gave, I am motivated to outward actions that are infused with that same love.

 

As we are reminded in 2 Corinthians 5:14, it is the love of Christ (not self) that motivates and compels us to live justly. We no longer ask, What do others think of me? Instead we seek to show others more and more of Christ living IN me!


Join me next week for the last post in our Galatians series! Let me know your thoughts in the comments or reply to your subscriber email!

Geometry Proof {themes from Galatians 3}

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Read Part 1 and Part 2
I remember my first high school geometry class vividly.
I sat in the front row and eagerly listened to the teacher’s opening lesson. “See this basketball? It takes up space!”
Got it!

“Now when I take the ball away, the volume of the space it was occupying is still there even though the basketball isn’t!”
What?
I was lost already and thus began a difficult year of math. My mind struggled to comprehend the abstract concepts needed to process geometric proofs and solutions.

Imagine my surprise, when I began studying Galatians 3 and found a treatise from Paul that reminded me of one of those geometry calculations.

Feel free to stop and read Galatians 3:15-29 here, but here is Paul’s basic argument:

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*In the Old Testament, God made a promise, a covenant with Abraham in which he promises an inheritance to both Abraham and his offspring.
*Christ is the complete and perfect Offspring.
*430 years later, the Law was given to Moses and the people of Israel, but it did not nullify the previous promise to Abraham.  Paul notes that the inheritance was still to come through a Promise and the law was to “save a seat” for the fulfillment of the promise.
*We were born under the law but through faith have put on Christ’s righteousness. Therefore, we are “in Christ”.
*If we are in Christ, then we are also sons of Abraham and heirs to that promise from long ago!

 

Wow! We who were once enemies of God and slaves to sins are now recipients of the promise given to Abraham thousands of years ago.

 

Heirs. Sons. Daughters.

 

How often throughout the chaos and calamities of life, do we forget our eternal position? We live as though we are still in bondage to the despair and destruction of sin. We try to wear the rags of iniquity when Christ has purchased robes of righteousness for us.
Because of the riches we have in Jesus already contrasted with the sinful, broken world and bodies we still live in everyday, we may feel some conflict with our title as “heir”.
We are forgetful people. That’s why the Holy Spirit was given the job of testifying with our hearts each day reminding us of our place as God’s children. (Romans 8:16)

 

In some ways, I’m left with the same feeling as when the bell rang at the end of that first geometry class. I don’t get it. My mind simply can’t comprehend it.

The author of Ephesians sums up this enigma,

“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

 

It’s a beautiful mystery and it’s perplexity brings a reverence for the mind and heart of my God. One day the fog will be lifted and we will see the fullness of His promise.
Until then, I’m want to know my co-heir more each day. As Charles Spurgeon once preached,

 

This joint heirship binds us faster to Jesus, since we are nothing and have nothing apart from him.”

 

Join me next week for Part 4 of Galatians: No Other Gospel. As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or reply to your subscription email.

 

Playing favorites {themes from Galatians 1-2}

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Playing Favorites (Audio)

 

Read Part 1

The high school lunch table — This infamous symbol represents much more than mac ‘n cheese and food fights. Somehow a simple table and chairs personifies an ongoing quest for popularity and approval. Have you ever noticed that almost every movie involving school age kids also includes a lunch room scene? (I have no scientific evidence to back up that claim).

The pursuit for approval from our peers is never ending. Look at the mommy wars.  We love to sit at the table with those who agree with us, and fling insults across the lunchroom to the moms who have different opinions. We crave the confirmation that we are in the “right crowd”.

 

As we move on in our study of the themes of Galatians, I find it so interesting that even the apostles weren’t immune to this craving for approval. Throughout the end of chapter 1 and through the beginning of chapter 2, Paul shares his beginnings as a gospel peddler. He was careful to protect the pillars of the good news and did so by having church leaders approve of his message. Their support was vital to his new ministry because they were seeking to preserve the purity of the gospel message.

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A few verses later, though, we see a different side to the approval coin. Paul points out a discrepancy in Peter’s behavior. It seems as if Peter was regularly eating and fellowshipping with the Gentile Christians until James shows up with his Jewish friends. All of a sudden, Peter changes “tables” and sits only with the Jews hypocritically ignoring his new friends. This consequence was much confusion about the new relationship between the Jews and non-Jews.

I find it so interesting that it was James himself who takes an entire section of his epistle to address the sin of partiality. Treating others differently based on their outward appearance or family origin shows a misunderstanding of the gospel message itself.
James says, “Listen my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?”
Paul simply had to call out the duplicity in his fellow brother in Christ when he saw that his conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel. (Again we see that he doesn’t find his authority in his own opinions, but in the reconciliation Christ accomplished for believers).

 

Peter was acting differently with the hopes of gaining approval from James and his crew.

If I’m honest, I use the same tactic as Peter in my interactions with others. I use exterior characteristics to judge some and attempt to gain approval from others. The gospel frees us from this game of hypocrisy. As we read in Galatians 2:20, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…”

 

My embarrassing sins and constant shortcomings have been placed under the death and resurrection of Christ on my behalf. When God looks at me, he sees a righteous woman in perfect standing with Him. Because Christ lives in me, I can bestow that same gift of impartiality to others. I can live in light of God’s approval by not living for man’s.

 

In other words, the lunch table I sit at doesn’t really matter. I don’t have to be or do something to find value in someone else’s eyes. My worthiness was established by Christ’s obedience on the cross. Someday, those of us who rest in Jesus’ work for us will experience the ultimate approval when we sit down at supper with the Lamb for all eternity.



Join me next week for Part 3 of our study in Galatians. Catch up on Part 1.
I’d love to hear what you’re learning as you read this truth packed book. Share in the comments or reply to your subscription email.

 

Who do you think you are? {themes from Galatians 1}

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Who Do You Think You Are? Audio

 

She crossed her chubby arms and tapped her tiny foot impatiently.

“Who do you think you are?”
She pointed to the handmade sign. “Can’t you see it says ‘No boys allowed’? Only girls can come into this clubhouse! Now, go away!”
It doesn’t take long for us as humans to start questioning and challenging our identity and authority as it relates to others. Some abuse that authority and others feel like they can never gain any. We all struggle to find our true identity.
As we begin looking at some of the major themes in the book of Galatians, these two root issues are so important. Let’s take a look at them separately.

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AUTHORITY IN CHRIST (Galatians 1:4)

Paul is writing the book of Galatians to a church who has lost its direction and focus as believers in Christ. He sees an urgent and dangerous problem that needs to be addressed immediately. Before he explains the issue and suggests solutions he establishes his authority not in himself, but in Jesus Christ. We find references to Christ’s resurrection even in the first verse of this book. In fact, throughout this letter, Paul rarely strays far from the anchor of the gospel. His advice and input carries weight to the hearers not because of Paul’s greatness, but  because of Christ’s.

 

There are times when we are also called to share truth with others. As moms, one of our primary responsibilities is to impart wisdom and instruction to the little ones in our home. It’s so easy to revert to the “Because I said so” mentality when in fact our authority really rests in the “Because He says so” of Scripture.
When we have an intimidating conversation with a coworker or friend, it brings much relief to realize that our words don’t hold weight because of our eloquence, but because of the power of God’s words and working in their life.
We share gospel truths not because we are qualified, but because He is!

IDENTITY IN CHRIST {Galatians 1:6-10}
So what exactly is the main issue with this body of believers? We soon learn that the Galatian church had forgotten their new identity in Christ and were actively turning to things other than Him for their security and rescue. They were attempting to fill a gospel-shaped hole in their spirits with things other than the work of Jesus.
This wasn’t a new idea to Paul. Later on in this first chapter he reminds them that he was growing steadily in his popularity among the Jews. His persecution of Christians and advancement of Judaism was applauded. When he was literally stopped in his tracks on the road to Damascus, he was given not only a new name, but a new identity and mission. He bluntly tells his readers that if he was seeking validation from his peers he wouldn’t be preaching Christ (v.10).


It’s easy to shake our heads at the Galatians and wonder how they could so easily turn to replacements for the good news they already received through Christ. Honestly examining our own hearts reveals that we have some identity issues too.
Here are a few of my identities:

–Good wife: This identity includes consistent dishwashing, crisp ironing, and squeaky clean floors. It requires immediate submission to all decisions and calm responses to heated discussions. If perfection is not attained in all aspects, this identity is deemed a failure.

–Wonderful mom: This identity includes gourmet PB&J making skills, organization of all superhero costumes, and creative bedtime storytelling. Negotiation is a requirement for this position. If perfection is not attained in all aspects, this identity is deemed a failure. 

–Church leader: This identity includes a cheerful disposition at all times, memory of church members names and current spiritual/physical needs, and an ability to explain any passage of Scripture a moment’s notice. If perfection is not attained in all aspects, this identity is deemed a failure. 

Obviously these identities are completely unattainable, but they bring pride and despair on a regular basis depending on my current level of success in each area. Can you relate?

Maybe you find your identity in your number of friends, advice giving opportunities, or creative ability. The possibilities are endless.
That’s why we can’t skim over the first part of Galatians. Our identity IS important and if we are in Christ our identity has been perfectly sealed. We are His!

Practically, this means that I can crash and burn in any area of my existence, but my validation doesn’t come from those faulty identities.

This makes the question of our authority and identity a simple one to answer. Both are found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Straying from this answer leads us down a dangerous path and resting in it brings us confidence and peace in the face of the world’s many “gospels”.

As you head into the chaos that is life, ask yourself not “Who am I?” but “Whose am I?”. Those two letters make all the difference.

Join me next week for Part 2 of our study in Galatians. I’d love to hear what you’re learning as you read this truth packed book. Share in the comments or reply to your subscription email.