Monday, June 07, 2010

The crucified life

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Galatians 2:1-21

TO CHEW ON: "I 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

If you have lived your whole life striving to be accepted on the basis of your performance, it's hard to switch that mind-set off. That shift in thinking was what God required of the early church. Peter and Paul were in the vanguard of those who taught that being right with God no longer involved trying to keep the Jewish laws. This radical paradigm shift involved growing pains.

Our reading today tells of some of them. Legalists, called Judaizers, had infiltrated some of the churches in Galatia (north-central Asia Minor which included the towns of Iconium, Lystra and Derbe). Their teaching that keeping certain Old Testament laws were still binding on Christ-followers and necessary for earning salvation was opposite to what Paul taught: that salvation was by grace through faith.

In his famous "I have been crucified with Christ passage, we have the climax of Paul's teaching. He is saying, I appropriate Jesus' death for myself. He perfectly fulfilled the law in my stead. He took the punishment of my inability to do so -- death -- for me. Now I am assured of salvation ("live") not by trying to fulfill the law's requirements but believing that what Jesus did is enough.

The struggle with legalism was not only a New Testament problem. Still today we find ourselves making judgments about people's spiritual states by what they do and don't do. It's comfortable to have cut-and-dried standards and boundaries.

Though a balance here is necessary (even Paul, the champion of salvation by grace through faith, taught church discipline), I'd rather err on the side of extending grace to others. Let God be their judge. Meanwhile I ponder what the salvation-by-grace-through-faith life, the "crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" life looks like for me. As the focus shifts from whether or not I am allowed to have a glass of wine with a meal or sit in church without a head covering to the invisible but stubborn aspects of my self-life, I can start confronting real issues. Things like forgiving someone who has slighted me, loving someone who irritates me, and figuring out why I get irritated in the first place.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to leave the judging of others to You. Help me to live the crucified life, not as a way to earn salvation, but in love, gratefulness and allegiance to You. Amen.

MORE: Food for thought:

"Important in any community of faith is an ever-renewed expectation in what God is doing with our brothers and sisters in the faith. We refuse to label the others as one thing or another. We refuse to predict our brother's behavior, our sister's growth. Each person in the community is unique; each is specially loved and particularly led by the Spirit of God. How can I presume to make conclusions about anyone? How can I pretend to know your worth or place." Eugene Peterson A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p. 182.

Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.

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