Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Don't slip back into legalism

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TODAY'S SPECIAL: Galatians 2:15-3:5

TO CHEW ON: "'For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.'" Galatians 2:18

It's easy for us to slip back into legalistic ways if we have been brought up under a legalistic system. Our reading today is Paul's reasoning against that.

In the first part, Paul repeats to the Galatians what he said to Peter and other apostles (Galatians 2:14-21). It is the argument he made in Jerusalem for justification (appearing pure before God—"just as if I had never sinned") by faith, not by keeping the law (Galatians 2:16).

Then he addresses the Galatians directly about their tendency to do the same thing: "O foolish Galatians! … Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Galatians 2:1,2).

I love how Leslyn Musch sums up this principle in the "Truth-In-Action Through Galatians" article in my Bible. Under the title "The Walk of Faith" she writes:
"Faith accepts God's testimony in a trusting, childlike manner and salvation as a free gift. The Law was given to lead us to Christ; thus any use of the Law as a means of earning our salvation is a distortion. By nature mankind presumes to seek salvation by works. It seems offensive to the flesh to believe we cannot. But God's word says it is an offense to Him to believe we can" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1641.

And so Paul would say to us, who feel in our heart of hearts that God loves us more and accepts us on the basis of what we do and how we live—No.
 "Tell me this one thing: did you receive God's Spirit by doing what the Law requires or by hearing the gospel and believing it? How can you be so foolish! You began by God's Spirit; do you now want to finish by your own power? " - Galatians 3:2,3 (GNT).

Let's not rebuild for ourselves and others the legalistic structures of our time—church attendance, financial giving, time spent in fasting and prayer, amount of serving and ministry we do, etc.,—as ways to gauge how well we and they are living the Christian life and how much we're pleasing God and earning His love. For it's all a gift:

"Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing" - Ephesians 2:8-10 (MSG) emphasis added.  

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for paying the complete price for my salvation. Help that my motivation for living in ways You condone arises from my love for You and the realization that Your ways are designed for my best present and future. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked GNT are from the Good News Translation® (Today’s English Version, Second Edition). Copyright © 1992 American Bible Society. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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