Revealing the SIMPLICITY that’s in Christ

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"The importance of God's grace, part 9"

Please understand my opening statement. What we have in Christ goes beyond what the Scriptures can say. There’s no doubt about it, God's word does the ultimate job in describing our Redemption of Christ and what we have in Him, but words alone cannot present the reality of Jesus to us on a deep, personal level with all of its ramifications. Only the Spirit of Christ can do this; making His promises relevant in our lives. For years when I read and studied the Bible; especially, in the New Testament letters, I took every verse as God’s personal instructions for me to live by; even the ones like Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Trying to decipher what Jesus said to my own life left me confused and at unrest, because I never really knew what “my cross” was that I was to bear daily. Thankfully, later I discovered that I needed the mindset of, “If the shoe fits, wear it, and if it doesn't, it's not for me.” There’s no other “cross” that matters but His and what He did for me. So, then I understood that Jesus was talking to people BEFORE His cross, and that everyone who puts their faith in Him (the cross) becomes His disciple and can follow Him.

Having this mindset is so important when it comes to reading Galatians 5. Because so many misconceptions and erroneous teachings have come from the first few verses of this chapter, because he goes from talking about standing firm in liberty, to Christ profiting you nothing, to being estranged from Christ and falling from grace, to seeking to be Righteous (a real mixed bag of things). But we must understand that in the beginning of Gal 5, Paul addresses 2 kinds of people: the saved and the unsaved. Keep in mind that when Paul wrote this letter, as in every letter he wrote in the Bible, he was addressing hundreds of people; and probably had the idea that he would be addressing the untold millions of people throughout history, like you and I, who would later read them. So, it’s important to keep this in mind when we read various phrases like being estranged from Christ, and fallen from grace, that we don’t try to apply that to believers who have been reconciled and stand in grace, see 2 Cor 5:18 and Rom 5:1-2

As I was preparing this lesson, one word kept sticking out to me —the word LIBERTY! So, I thought it would be good to give a review of what we’ve seen so far in Galatians 5 about the importance of God’s grace that gave us liberty, and how by faith in His grace, we are to stand firm. Here’s a statement of utmost truth: 

Because you are in Christ, you’ll never be any freer than you are at this moment; not even in heaven. 

That may be puzzling to some people who have various struggles. But please know that whether you experience your newfound freedom is another topic entirely; for that depends on you standing fast in it (And that happens by grace, not by our efforts). God has made this Christian experience so simple to partake of, that it bewilders most people (Believe me, we’ve had plenty of help in misunderstanding its simplicity). The simplicity of the Christian experience is that God wants to do the work for us as we rest in the finished work of Christ, Phil 2:12-13!

The review

Let’s look at this again in the proper context of this great chapter. In v.1-2, Paul addresses believers in Christ (who had turned back to managing their behaviors by law-keeping) with the warning of “Christ will profit you nothing” (We can see this by the personal pronouns he uses, “us” and “you”, that he’s talking to believers). Think about this for a moment. Believers who turn to the law-keeping of works in behavior-management will not be profited by Christ’s ability (grace) to help them stand firm in freedom (for it’s by faith we stand firm, 2 Cor 1:24, and the law is not of faith, Gal 3:12). If we choose to live by our own efforts, then we set aside His grace, Gal 2:20-21.

A good question is “What’s up with the term ‘circumcision’, and how does that apply to me?” Circumcision was the membership card of the Old Covenant, and without it, one could not be a part of the Covenant (They probably had other rituals for females). In 2 Cor 3, Paul did another teaching about our liberty and look at what he said in v.17 — “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” See, the Spirit of the Lord is inside us, and because it came from Him when we became Christians, it’s by faith in His grace that we stand firm in it. The works of the law (trying to accomplish something on our own through efforts of prayer, Bible study, or self-discipline) can never cause us to stand firm in our liberty. Look at how the NLT translates v.18 in 2 Cor 3 — “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” Now this is standing firm in our liberty!

In v.3-5, he switches from addressing believers to addressing unbelievers, and gives them strict warnings of “estranged from Christ” and “falling from grace”, to stress to them the importance of believing the gospel of Christ and nothing else. One cannot turn to his own works to be right with God; they can only be saved by faith in Christ (Eph 2:8-9; most understand this). Just a little side note about v.3 and how it applies to us all — believers and unbelievers. Paul uses the words, “he’s a debtor to the WHOLE law”. One cannot “dabble” with the law, like trying to keep 9 Commandments, or things like the tithe, and think that they are OK with God. The law is a complete package of 613 commandments and statutes to keep, and if one fails at 1 of them, he’s a failure at all of them. This is why the law is the ministry of condemnation and death (2 Cor 3:7 and 9, and in 2 Cor 3, Paul’s talking specifically about the 10 Commandments)! 

In v.9, Paul makes a very interesting statement about the gospel of Christ. He tells them, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” As leaven is the rising agent in baking (showing disfigurement of the original), adding the law in with grace, disfigures (perverts) the pure lump of the gospel! 

The gospel of Christ — the gospel of grace — is “gluten-free” — it’s Jesus plus nothing; no additives or preservatives! 

If we try to mix in a little law-keeping with grace to manage our conducts (any kind of rule that causes effort), then we’ve set aside God’s grace in trying to accomplish it on our own, and that leaven will start corrupting our perceptions of the gospel of Christ. We can’t sprinkle a little law-keeping in with the gospel; it keeps one in the failure of condemnation, and robs him of his Christian experience of standing firm in liberty.

He went on in v.13, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” For Paul to use words like this means that he wanted to make it very clear what kind of freedom the gospel of Christ has called us to. It’s not a “fleshly” kind of freedom, like we see going on around us in this world, but it’s the freedom of having new spirits and brand-new hearts (Our freedom experience comes from the inside out in doing whatever we please *** don’t let that scare you; we’ll get to this later ***). 

Having new spirits means that God’s Spirit now lives in them, and having brand-new hearts means that we have a new set of desires that compel us to go in the right direction; desires that are expressed in loving and serving others. 

We are the only people on this earth that want to do things differently than others who don’t know Christ. Unlike worldly folk, who are always focused on ourselves and what we were feeling, we have the innate desire to love people the way that God has loved us. I can hear people saying to me, “Gene, you don’t know me. I know I’m a Christian, but I don’t treat people this way. As a matter of fact, there is a part of me, that, at times, I want to hurt those who have wronged me.” If you’re like this, don’t feel alone; plenty of believers are like this. But when we act this way, we are “going against the grain” of whom we are in Christ; leaving us feeling miserable because of it. Most believers subconsciously think that loving others is not in their “forte”. They know that they need to change, but don’t know how to. 

I used to try hard to love others. I thought that if I prayed hard enough about it; studied and confessed enough “love” Scriptures; even if I fasted until my stomach was hurting; then it would begin to sink in and become part of my character. I know that my dilemma describes many people who have been seeking to change. Paul went on and brought this out in v.15, “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” See, the leaven of mixing law and grace can never point us in the right direction to love others, because it keeps our eyes on ourselves. 

But Paul’s approach to loving others is much different than our human approaches. His approach to this comes by standing firm in our liberty. He talks about this in the remaining verses of this chapter in the fruit of the Spirit (a pure work of grace and not human effort). I like to call it 

“Taking the 18-inch journey from our heads to our hearts”. 

Our success as Christians is found in being heart-led instead of head-led. We must admit that our heads get us into trouble at times; especially, when we try to incorporate the Word. For instance, if I try to handle my relationships by my head in applying all the verses I have learned, sure enough, I’ll find myself getting angry with people and wanting to argue with them (Then, beating myself over the head with accusations). But if I’m heart-led in my relationships, doing what comes naturally from the Spirit, then I’ll be at peace with them (In spite of how they may treat me). If we can discover the simplicity of what Paul laid out to us in Gal 5, our lives will be dynamically different!     -    13120 Three Rivers Road Apt 3004  

Gulfport, MS 39503   


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