Category Archives: Galatians

The lenses of life

As my wife and I lead Marriage Re-builders and as I lead some men’s ministries, I am always interested in the “lens” in which people view God, other people, and themselves. For example, do you ever see a God that will smile? Do you trust that sinful people can ever love you the way you want?  Do you see yourself as “fearfully and wonderfully made” or “less than” or “worthless”?  Another way of saying this is how fatalistically do you view God, yourself and others.  Do you see just a judgmental God ready to strike lightning when you mess up?  Do you distrust others and can never take any risks emotionally?  Do you see yourself as “less than” or “worthless”?

Many people have a fatalistic view of others and themselves.   This is often called an insecure attachment style.  Psychologists believe this secure or insecure attachment often comes from the early stages of our families of origin.  This attachment style can range from a full blown insecurity or maybe it is just a partial insecurity for specific areas of your life.   It taints how people view  themselves and others and it taints how  people see the world.  This often causes people to live their Christian lives like an Anxious Amy or a Fearful Freddy. Christians living like this have a presentation of truth and life that is less motivated by loving others and more motivated with the reduction of their own anxiety and fear!  This insecurity often causes a striving to be “perfect” in some areas of life for the affection of others as a way of reducing this fear and insecurity?

If we struggle with an incorrect lens of how we view ourself and others, no matter how much truth is poured into us we may never understand that truth because it is passing through the filter of our experiences and past.  No matter how much we see a loving God that came to sinners we still see a God that says “yeah, but .. don’t forget that other thing you did”.  You will always see strings attached to this loving God.  We might  understand Gods truth intellectually but our filters and lenses cause us  to miss the mark as it penetrates our heart!

There is also a religious dimension to the lenses of life that I have noticed over the years.  Many years ago I had a Pastor that did a study on denominational differences.  He compared the various denominations and placed them on a “calvinistic grid” where he showed where they fell on the Calvinistic/Arminian spectrum.  Then side by side he showed where our Lutheran congregation fell.  I found this very interesting.  The Lutherans tend to angle more  toward Calvinism but they also have some Arminian points and believe Gods graces is universal.  I remember my Pastor saying that both the calvinist and the arminian use “human reason” to interpret truth in different ways.  The Lutheran tradition believes some truths are paradoxical and just allow scripture to stand on their own.     Well  out of this Sunday bible study I made a decision. Since my Lutheran viewpoint tended toward Calvinism I decided to read the Arminian viewpoint as if was true and real (although I disagreed with it) before I made my final decision as to what was truth or not.  This led me to read many books and most specifically it led me to read Greg Boyd.  I found him insightful and caring and even presenting the Gospel very well.

As I read Greg Boyds books and listened to his sermons I came to understand the primary “lens” in which Greg viewed the world and scripture.  Greg’s number one lens in which he viewed the world was a lens that God was a loving God and this was the main reason he held to an Arminian view point.  Also Greg was always theologically siding against and debating calvinists because he believed they painted a picture of an unloving God that wanted to strike down sinners and predestine some to Hell.  One of Greg’s books is even titled “Repenting of Religion.”  He wrote this book because Greg believes a lot a damage done in how people view God has been done by Christians that want to discuss sin in unloving ways.  One of Greg’s friends, Rob Bell, that has preached at Greg’s Church wrote a book called “Love wins” and Greg wholeheartedly supports that book

I agree with Rob and Greg that Christians with unloving hearts are very damaging to the Christian faith.  I also agree that God is a God of love.  (John 3).    I have also been to many unsavory Calvinistic churches that want to speak of sin and seldom mention Gods love.  Many churches have grown often because condemnation draws a crowd and they misuse “truth” in ways Jesus Christ never would have.

How we use or abuse “truth” from our specific lens is very important.  Do we use truth in ways Jesus Christ never would have?  Do we view the world in black and white/all or nothing ways with our specific brand of truth (liberal or conservative).  Do we not see our own  sin as we view truth?… or do we just see the sin of others?

I adhere to a lens in how I view God and scripture that is different from both Greg Boyd and Rob Bell.  I see a Gospel that tells me:

We are more sinful and weak than we ever dared to admit and (why Jesus had to die for me)     (Part 1)…

AND
We are more loved and accepted than we ever dared to hope (why Jesus was glad to die for me) (Part 2).

Truth can not be abused since I have more in common with other sinners than I have differences.

If the Gospel is applied correctly then truth points MORE at me and LESS at others!

Often the lens in which we view God either angles more toward part 1 or more toward part 2.  If we adhere exclusively to part 2 we might be good at reassuring each other of Gods love and how God will work things out.  However, this does not give the dynamics required for spiritual or emotional growth.  Love is unattached to truth!   If we adhere exclusively to part 1, then we discuss sin but we are not drawn to a loving God that came to us while we are still sinners. Truth is stoically detached from love!    Both of these angles by themselves leave us stuck and unchanged.

Only with  a FULL presentation of the Gospel are the dynamics in place for a change in the motivation and the desire to be a new creation in Jesus Christ.  A full presentation of the Gospel makes Jesus “electric” and changes the desires and motivations of the heart from the inside-out.

So as I leave this BLOG topic partially incomplete I leave you with more questions than answers.  What is the lens in which you view yourself and others?  Do you feel security in your relationships and yourself even though we can all sin and mess up?  Are you striving to be something so perfect for the affection of others because of this fear and insecurity?  Or do you see yourself as fearfully and wonderfully made?  Do you have a lens that only sees a loving God or do you only see a God that exposes our sin?  The lens in which you view yourself, others, and God makes a huge difference as we embrace Romans 12:1-2 as an act of worship and try to make our bodies living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God.

A Living Sacrifice

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

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Freedom…. What is it good for?

Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭13-14‬ ESV

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.””

See it at Bible.com:

http://bible.com/59/gal.5.13-14.esv

Last night we discussed the idea of Freedom in my men’s group and we discussed Galatians 5.

For me freedom takes on some deep thoughts.  Freedom, to me,  means freedom from any forms of righteousness the world places on me.   It means spiritual, emotional, and psychological freedom!  However, those are pretty big words.

Some might be looking for Freedom from sin.  But freedom FROM anything is not really freedom in my opinion.  How do we put hands and feet on the idea of freedom and what it means to you?  Is anyone bold enough to make comments on what Freedom means for them?

Freedom… what does it mean for you?  Any takers on making comments?

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Brett Favre: Hero or Zero

Brett Favre (Brett Farve) has been a sports hero of mine.  He has been a guy that is playing a game at the age of 40 and still has fun playing it. As many of y0u know he has recently had lawsuits against him for making illicit sexual comments to massage therapists. Granted this is all conjecture at this point because the lawsuits have just been started and   I realize this country always presumes innocence and I do to… but since I want to use this as a teaching moment lets pretend Brett is guilty.

What do you think of this?

Does this move Brett from hero to zero in your mind?

I don’t think so.  He is still my sports hero.  Here is a guy that in his 40’s has now come face to face with his humanity and his humanity (may have)  won!  His status  of being a sports hero is gone for many.  I am sure he will try with all of his passion and energy to hang on to his sports idol status!

However, Brett Favre also has the greatest opportunity of his life. I hope he does not waste this opportunity!  He now has an opportunity to be a real life hero…. not just a sports hero!

2 Cor 12:9-10 tells us

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in  weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that  Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I call this verse the pain to power principal.  This scripture tells us as we embrace our fallen human nature (our pain, sin, and suffering) we see Christs power that was shown on the cross for us.  This verse allows us to get “real” with who we are (fallen and broken) and to get real with who Jesus is and too see how great Gods glory of the cross was!!

Brett has a fantastic opportunityHe has an opportunity to get honest and transparent in ways with himself, his wife,  and children in ways he has never been before. He can either make the best of this opportunity or he can waste it.   I hope Brett becomes a real life hero (in humble ways) and embraces the pain to power principal!

The Proper Application of the Gospel

As I read Galatians I saw how Paul was “astonished” and livid at the Galatians attempt to PERVERT and misuse  the Gospel.   Christ + anything else is a perversion of the Gospel.   Anything we add the to the Gospel to make someone else acceptable before God is exactly why Paul did not mix words to start getting to his point in Gal 1:1-9.  He offered to the Galatians the proper application of the Gospel!!!  Keep in mind he was doing this to already saved people!   Normally a person when asked what does being a Christian mean to you would answer “I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ”.  Paul in Gal 1:1-9 does not say this to already saved people at the Church of Galatia…. what Paul says is “Christ rescues us”.

This application of the Gospel in how we live our lives Paul goes into great details with in the coming chapters of Galatians.  In the case of Galatians the proper application of the Gospel is the method Paul offers to remedy how the Jews (and Peter)  are dealing with the gentiles in their racial and social pride. Galatians is a good book to show how the Gospel “works” in the lives of men as we apply it properly and “act in line with the truth of the Gospel” in how we live our lives.  We will never be perfect at it but it gives us a compass and shows us “true north” to act as our guide in life.

Christ + the addition of any levetical law to make a person further acceptable to God is a perversion of the Gospel!   The laws primary purpose is to point us to our DEEP need for a savior. All of the law was fulfilled by what Christ did for us!  Christ + anythng else denies the all sufficiency of Christs sacrifice!  The difference between the Gospel and normal religious thinking is the Gospel says your accepted therefore I want to obey…. most religious thinking (mans default mode of thinking)   says if you obey you are accepted.  The two ways of thinking have radically different motives! One is motivated out of Gods mercy for us on the cross and the other is motivated by self and self- comparison!

Quite a few years back I was not allowed to have an accountability  lunch with a friend when he was having some difficulties in his life.   If I could not offer some guidance I could, at least, grieve along side him over his sin and be there for that.  However, as in the case where people, willingly or unwillingly, have been vulnerable about our own sins in their lives, our sins can be used against us to make us acceptable to other people.  Since his wife knew about some of the stuff I struggled with I was no longer acceptable to meet with him!  Over 20 years of knowing her we always knew she was legalistic and self righteous in how she, like the Galatians, perverted the Gospel making it hard to get close to her.

This is an exact mirror image of what was going in Galatia.  I have lived this!  This is why I proclaim the Gospel so clearly and feel that I can preach the power of the Gospel, as a person that has engaged in worldly sins to self righteouss pharisees.  The Gospel is the solution to understanding God’s righteouss plan for us  and it is the solution to how we deal with other people and other Christians.

Keep in mind that Christ plus anything is a perversion of the Gospel. Unfortunately the plus does not come in the form of FULL BLOWN LEGALISM.   Its subtle as it is in the case of the Galatians (ie the apostle Peter was blind to it).  As Steve Martin (theoldadam) once said “the devil is in the details” in seeing any perversion of the Gospel and we must be on the look out for it all the time!

I recommend you read this post!

https://centralityofthegospel.wordpress.com/2009/09/30/the-power-of-the-gospel-of-jesus-christ/

The Gospel and Law

Our efforts to please God by obedience to that law have shown us that we must go beyond the law for a system of salvation. Thus we learned the lesson the law sought to teach us as tutor/guardian. Does this mean we no longer have to obey it? No. As we saw above, the law was our “supervisor” until we found Christ, and was thus like a guardian over a child until he or she reaches maturity. But let’s draw out the analogy. Is it the design of child-rearing that when the child grows to maturity he or she then casts off all the values of the parent or guardian and lives in a totally different way?  No. If all goes well the adult child no longer is coerced into obedience as before, but now has internalized the basic values and lives in a like manner because he or she wants to. So Paul is indicating not that we no longer have any relation to the values of God’s law, but it no longer is a system of salvation. It no longer forces obedience through coercion and fear. The gospel means that we no longer obey the law out of fear of rejection and hope of salvation-by-performance. But when we grasp salvation-by-promise, our hearts are filled with gratitude and a desire to please and be like our Savior. The only way to do that is through obeying the law. But once we come to it with this new motivation, we now are better in our obedience than ever.

Why?
A) If we think that the law-obedience will save us, we become emotionally incapable of admitting just how searching and demanding it is. For example, Jesus says that to resent or disdain anyone is a form of murder in Matt. 5:21ff. Only if you know that you cannot fulfill it completely, and that Christ did it for you, will you be able to admit just how broad and deep this command is.

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The power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Paul is showing us in the entire book of  Galatians  that bringing the gospel truth to bear on every area of life is the way to be changed by the power of God. The gospel is described in the Bible in the most astounding terms. Angels long to look into it all the time. (I Peter 1:12). It does not simply bring us power, but it is the power of God itself, for Paul says “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation” (Rom.1:16). It is also the blessing of God with benefits, which accrue to anyone who comes near (I Cor.9:23). It is even called the very light of the glory of God itself–“they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…for God…has made his light shine into our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (II Cor.4:4,6)
It has the life of God. Paul said to the Corinthians, “I gave you birth through the
gospel”! And then, after it has regenerated us, it is the instrument of all continual growth and spiritual progress after we are converted. “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.” (Col. 1:6). Here we learn: 1) That the gospel is a living thing (cf. Romans 1:16) which is like a seed or a tree that brings more and more new life–bearing fruit and growing. 2) That the gospel is only “planted” in us so as to bear fruit as we understand its greatness and implications deeply–understood God’s grace in all its truth. 3) That the gospel continues to grow in us and renew us throughout our lives–as it has been doing since the day you heard it. This text helps us avoid either an exclusively rationalistic or mystical approach to renewal. On the one hand, the gospel has a content–it is profound doctrine. It is truth, and specifically, it is the truth about God’s grace. But on the other hand, this truth is a living power that continually expands its influence in our lives, just as a crop or a tree would grow and spread and dominate more and more of an area with roots and fruit.

Pauls admonishment of Peter: The Preservation of the Gospel: Acting in Line with the Truth of the Gospel

In Galatians 2:14, Paul lays down a powerful principle. He deals with Peter’s racial pride and cowardice by declaring that he was not living “in line with the truth of the gospel”. From this we see that the Christian life is a process of renewing every dimension of our life– spiritual, psychological, corporate, social–by thinking, hoping, and living out the “lines” or ramifications of the gospel. The gospel is to be applied to every area of thinking, feeling, relating, working, and behaving. The implications and applications of Galatians 2:14 are vast.

I sincerely believe, All problems, personal or social come from a failure to use the gospel in a radical way, to get “in line with the truth of the gospel” (Gal.2:14). All pathologies in the church and all its ineffectiveness comes from a failure to use the gospel in a radical way. I believe that if the gospel is expounded and applied in its fullness in any church and in your life, that church and your life will look very unique. People will find both moral conviction yet compassion and flexibility. For example, the cultural elites of either liberal or conservative sides are alike in their unwillingness to befriend or live with or respect or worship with the poor. They are alike in separating themselves increasingly from the rest of society by either  religious moralism or social status.

In terms of Church ministry:   Legalism tends to place all the emphasis on the
individual human soul. Legalistic religion will insist on converting others to their faith and church, but will ignore social needs of the broader community. On the other hand, “liberalism” will tend to emphasize only amelioration of social conditions and minimize the need for repentance and conversion. The gospel leads to love which in turn moves us to give our neighbor whatever is needed–conversion or a cup of cold water, evangelism and social concern

I have personally seen that the gospel is the way that anything is renewed and transformed by Christ–whether a heart, a relationship, a church, or a community. It is the key to all doctrine and our view of our lives in this world. Therefore, all our problems come from a lack of orientation to the gospel. Put positively, the gospel transforms our hearts and thinking and approaches to absolutely everything.

In Galatians 2, Paul (an almost apostle) opposed Peter (an apostle) with not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel.  Pauls reason for doing this was twofold:

(1) To oppose any rejection or exclusion from the Gospel community based on racial or socioeconomic status (ie Jews vs Gentiles). In this case the Jews were “snubbing” the gentile community.

(2) To correct the idea that law-based righteoussness  plays any part in a movement toward a righteoussness in Christ.    “Justified” means “counted righteous” or “declared righteous” by God (see esv footnote). If people were sinless and perfectly obeyed all of God’s perfect moral standards, they could be justified or “declared righteous” on the basis of their own merits. But Paul says that this is impossible for any Gentile or even for any Jew to do (cf. Romans 1–2). we know that a person is not justified by works of the law. Paul saw that Christ had taught justification by faith, and so he called God the one “who justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5). Paul will soon show that this view was taught even in the OT (see Gal. 3:6–18), though it was not the view of most of first-century Judaism.

Here is the biblegateway text on Galatians 2:11-21.

Paul Opposes Peter

14When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

15“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

17“If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes Continue reading