Tagged: Galatians

New Life 101

Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” ~ Galatians 3:3

The foundation of the new life is this: Jesus has sent His Spirit to live inside the believer.

In Galatians, Paul was arguing against teachers who instructed believers that the ability to “live right” lay within the powers of their human selves.

The revolutionary nature of the gospel is not the launching of a “biblical” self-improvement program, but the complete abandonment of doing life in my own strength.

God is not calling you and me to keep trying harder to live better. He is calling us to an entirely new way to live. And that is GOOD news!

In the new life, the Holy Spirit changes a person from the inside out. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control. These are not “rules” kept, but expressions of an inner life (where Jesus is known and loved and followed).

The new life is an all-consuming, personal relationship with Jesus mediated by His Spirit. Paul calls it “walking in the Spirit.” Jesus calls it “abiding” in Him.

The new life is a supernatural life, initiated and sustained by the Spirit of God.

Wenceslas, Stephen, Boxing Day, and Gift Returns

What do a Czech duke from the 10th century, the first Christian martyr, a British public holiday, and a crazy rush to return unwanted gifts to the store… have in common?

They all happen on the day after Christmas!

  • Known for his unusual charitable lifestyle as a wealthy man, “Good King” Wenceslas went outside on an unbearably cold day to bless a poor man on December 26… at least that’s what the Christmas carol reports!
  • Stephen was the first Christ-follower to lose his life for preaching the gospel of salvation. Celebrated in many countries and church traditions with a variety of customs, the feast of St. Stephen falls on December 26.
  • Boxing Day in the United Kingdom is a public holiday with roots in the 17th century. Servants and tradesmen required to work on Christmas for nobility were given the day off on December 26, often with a “Christmas box” of cash and small gifts.
  • And then December 26 is that day when America heads to the stores (or the Post Office) to return or exchange gifts… unwanted or duplicated Christmas gifts! With thousands headed out to stand in long lines, the retail success of the day hinges on how early the store opens and how deeply the after-Christmas sales slash prices.

Four streams of tradition flowing on one day, together drawing attention to the capacity of the human heart to give and to receive… to sacrifice or to be self-absorbed. What makes the difference?

Or better, WHO makes the difference?

That man or woman who hears about Jesus, then meets Jesus, and then follows Jesus by faith… that one has a different heart… a heart that beats in union with His heart.

December 26 is no ordinary day… but it should be. There’s nothing wrong with returning a gift. But as you make contact with others today, thank God you have a gift to return… and gifts still to give.

  • The gift of a smile.
  • The gift of a kind word.
  • The gift of a patient manner.
  • The gift of encouragement to a harried worker, who has to serve you today.

It may be the day after Christmas, but His birth was not the end of His mission. It was just the beginning. He not only came to inhabit our world.

He came to inhabit you.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. . . If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” ~ Galatians 5:22-23, 25

Day 21: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

21But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.Galatians 4:4-5

I was born with the name Donovan Donnelly. Following my parents’ divorce, my mother did her best to raise me as a single parent in the 1960’s. I recall with fondness Mom’s bedtime stories, the rich aroma of my grandfather (he liked cigars), my day care center friends, and long, endless summers… I think I was a happy child. But then things got serious: I started the first grade. As you can see from the image of my “Social Characteristics” (X = Needs to Improve), I was easily distracted, impulsive, and quite talkative!

I21a was surrounded by supportive influences. My mother and my grandfather were gentle, nurturing fixtures in my little world. Living in a mobile home park on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas, I spent most of my time outside, running around with neighborhood buddies and creating a vast array of childhood “adventures.” But deep down, I felt a little “different” from the other kids. I wasn’t different. I just felt different.

Then my mother began dating a young Air Force pilot. I liked him. He was like a Dad to me. Then they married… and my step-father became my father: he adopted me as his son. My young mind easily embraced all of the changes. My new name was Donovan Pucik. I really liked that. I didn’t feel “different” anymore. I had a Dad and a Mom now.

When he signed the adoption papers:

  • he gave me his name;
  • he assumed complete responsibility for me as his son;
  • he gave me all of the rights and privileges of a son;
  • he became my father; and
  • he chose to do it — he chose me.

The baby born in Bethlehem was the Son of God. But God seeks others to become part of His family. He seeks you and me. When a person trusts in the Person and work of the Son (click here to learn what that means), God the Father adopts him or her into His family.

What does it mean to be “adopted” by God? For me it means…

  • I was not always a son, but now I will always be His son. “But when the fullness of the time had come
  • I have a new Father or authority in my life. I am not alone in this world. “God sent forth His Son
  • I have a Father who paid a great price to make me His son. The life of Jesus is the “value” He placed on my life. “to redeem those who were under the law
  • I have a Father who wants to be intimate with me. “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts

For this believer in Christ, my true relationship with God is that of an adopted child… He chose me through the Christmas Revolution!

Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.

Day 16: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

16I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.Galatians 2:20

Although 40 percent of Americans report attending a Christian church on any given weekend in the United States, the actual attendance is less than 17 percent. And that number grows smaller each year. It’s no wonder that when we speak collectively to our culture about anything, no one is listening. Churches appear to have all of the same problems as society. Molestations, embezzlements, adulterous affairs, lawsuits, and internet porn wreak as much havoc in the church as anywhere else. We are powerless in the face of sin… and we are not reflecting the life of Christ to anyone.

Our greatest need is to know Him and His life.

Paul writes that Christ “loved me and gave himself up for me.” We preach and teach this, with the result that the best church members will try to be good and worthy of His sacrifice, focused on asking forgiveness when they fail. However, most believers never go past this point. The “good Christian life” becomes all about human efforts and His approval (or disapproval) of me: I do my best and He applauds (or frowns), forgiving me when I fall short. But the message of forgiveness and the eradication of my offenses is only part of the gospel; we need to know how to live now.

Paul’s assertion is stunning: “I have been crucified with Christ.” Christ not only died for me, but I also died with Him. The word crucified describes an event occurring in the past that is complete, but with consequences flowing into the present. For the person who has been born again (John 3:3, 5, 16), trusting in Christ to rescue them from the penalty and the power of sin, Paul is saying that salvation is intensely personal. You were saved, not by a transaction of new life in exchange for your trust in the Gospel, but through a  union of His Spirit with your spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17). Christ lives in you and you are one with Him (Colossians 1:27). Writing about this in his 1907 Systematic Theology, seminary professor A.H. Strong declared,

“Christ and the believer have the same life. They are not separate persons linked together by some temporary bond of friendship,–– they are united by a tie as close and indissoluble as if the same blood ran in their veins.”

Consequently, what is true of Christ’s relationship to sin, the Law, and the Father has become true of every believer. Sin is no longer your master (Romans 6:6). He is. This truth fuels a new ability to resist temptation, knowing that your spirit is no longer enslaved by sin, but the core of who you are has changed. He is with you. He is your life.

You will never consistently overcome sin habits and addictions in your life by trying to keep the “rules”, but through a moment-by-moment, dependent relationship with the One who rules over all things! Your new life unfolds through an internal conversation and love affair fueled by the presence of the Holy Spirit within you. He speaks. He directs and guides. He strengthens. He unveils His wisdom and releases His power… to you, in you, and through you.

God’s Word (the Bible) becomes alive for the person who has been united with Christ. As the believer reads, reflects, and responds to the God-breathed text (2 Timothy 3:16), the Spirit applies the truth to the believer’s heart, contributing to an ongoing internal transformation into the likeness of Christ. As we look at Him in the Scriptures, we come to know Him, and we become like Him. Our thoughts change. We begin to care about the people and things He cares about. We begin to act like He acts.

But it’s more than the imitation of Christ. It’s the life of Christ being formed and released through the human heart.

Paul puts it like this, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.”

So, since I trusted Christ to save me in 1978, it’s no longer about me. My short earthly life ended then. I died with Christ. My spirit is united with Christ and hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:1-2). In the realm of the Spirit, my spirit is alive in the Presence of God. The change in my heart cannot be undone (Romans 8:1-4). All of my sins remain forgiven (Hebrews 10:10-13). On this side of heaven, I will still have good days and bad days (and I do), but my union with Christ never changes. His work within me is incessant and will not fail. Not only will He one day express His rule throughout all creation, but He seeks to rule the deepest recesses of my heart. And whatever He starts, He finishes (Philippians 1:6)!

So, my life as a Christ-follower will be misguided and mishapen if I am consumed with me correcting me, or me straightening me out, or me trying to make something out of me. It’s not about me trying to be right or achieve a right standing before God. It’s not about “how am I producing for God?” Jesus produced everything necessary to give me full and eternal acceptance before a holy God — that never changes. I am out of the “production” business for God.

I am called to live simply by “faith in the Son of God.” The One born in Bethlehem launched the Christmas Revolution… in my life! And He is ready to do the same for you.

Source for church attendance in the United States: David T. Olson, The American Church in Crisis: Groundbreaking Research Based on a National Database of Over 200,000 Churches (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 28-30.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.

Follow Him in Every Decision

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…
John 16:12-13

Some time ago, my wife and I drove separately to a retreat center in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Because I was preaching a Sunday night service 200 miles away, my wife decided to leave home early and make her way to the hotel. She had some difficulty finding her way, but eventually she made it there safely.

Several hours later, I drove into town and experienced the same difficulties she had in finding the hotel. I called her on my cell phone and she guided me through town, directing me at each turn and intersection. Step-by-step, she helped me find my way to the hotel. She was my guide.

In verse 13 of this passage, the Holy Spirit is called our guide. The Holy Spirit is assigned the task of communicating truth and insight that we need from Jesus every day – but not all at once.

Jesus understands that we are weak and limited in our ability to process and apply truth. As the Holy Spirit continues the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, He guides us incrementally – step by step. The Apostle Paul would later caution us to walk with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) in this way: by keeping in step with Him on a moment-by-moment basis (Galatians 5:25).

100% Messed Up

Galatians 6:1-2 “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

During a high school football game a play was called that I could not remember. As a lineman I knew my job was to drive my opponent out of the way for the ball carrier — but which way? When the ball was put in motion, I hesitated — then drove my opponent into the path of the man running the ball! Oops!

Well, Saturday mornings were special times for the team: we reviewed the game film from the night before! When my play came up, the coach caught my hesitation on film, played it back a couple of times, sighed heavily and in front of the team said, “Pucik, if you’re going to make a mistake, do it 100%!”

Not very encouraging, but it was a lesson I never forgot.

Paul points out for us that in church we will encounter believers who have blown it spiritually — 100% messed up. They already feel bad — beaten up on the inside by the sin they have committed. What can we do for them?

  1. Line my life up with the Spirit — Paul describes the helping brother as “spiritual” – a person deeply involved with the Spirit of God. It is impossible to provide support and encouragement when my own life is marked by sin’s control.
  2. Be sure my purpose is to “restore” — Paul uses a medical term for “setting a broken bone or dislocated joint”. Don’t beat up the beaten soul!
  3. Cloak my words and manner with “gentleness” — approach with care and with not intent to cause harm.

Paul describes this process as bearing “one another’s burdens” — loads that we cannot carry alone. When we have blown it, how very much we need encouragement and gracious words. Most of the erring souls we deal with are knee-deep in self-condemnation and a consciousness of personal failure.

Are we going to add to the burden today? Or make it lighter with a word of encouragement and simple redirection?

Pure Provocation

Galatians 5:25-26 “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Hebrews 10:24 “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”

Advice to a young man starting his first job: “You’re likely to be nervous at first, but don’t let it upset you. I, too, was frustrated, bewildered and subdued. It works like this, so don’t worry: The first year you’re on the staff, you will ask yourself what am I doing here? After a while you will have another question: What are the rest of ’em doing here?”

Paul warns us in his letter to the Galatians of one of the dangers of spiritual development over time: conceit. After encouraging us to walk in the Spirit (under His control, guidance and prompting), Paul directs us to avoid sliding into an empty pursuit of attention and respect from others. It makes us easily irritated and jealous of others in the family of God when we do not receive the praise when something good happens.

A Spirit-focused walk will provoke our spiritual family members to love and service. Rather than creating ill-feeling in others, we will cause those around us to desire another level — a higher place — a purer devotion — in their walk with God.

The writer of Hebrews suggests that we have to think about how to do this. Irritating others requires little effort or forethought. Challenging others to love more… requires deep reflection and openness to the Spirit of God.

Do you consistently rub people the wrong way — or the right way?