Ephesians 2 Part 2–God Wants Our Hearts

 When you have been saved by grace and become part of God’s workmanship and family, the old distinctions that separate folks fade and disappear. In Ephesus, the Judaizer community wanted to hold on to their distinction of circumcision and keeping traditions and rules. But, as Paul clearly stated, those distinctions were unimportant when the people accepted and followed Christ.  As God said throughout His word, “Men look at the outside, but, God Looks at the heart!” I Samuel 16:7  God called folks to give their hearts to Him; from there, God would do the transformation.  God comes into people’s lives and through His spirit prepares them for an eternity with Him. The Lord wants his chosen’s devotion and attention, he is not interested in their checking off religious boxes to prove how “Good” they have become.

The same holds true with us. God simply does not concern himself with our rituals and achievements. He looks at our hearts. He loved David even after David did some heinous things–because David loved God with his whole heart. God Loved Paul, the church’s biggest persecutor because Paul’s heart was completely devoted to the Lord. God also wants that from us. Nothing fancy, just our complete devotion to Him. If we will simply trust and follow the Lord, He will do the rest. No lists, no formulas–we simply need to trust and follow Christ with a singular devotion!

God Bless You 

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Fatherby one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Galatians 6 Part 2–Closing Thoughts

Paul closes the letter to the Galatians with 2 final thoughts. First, never grow weary of doing good.  It is the character of being a new creation in Christ to want to honor Him.  The easiest way to honor Him is to set aside ones personal needs and desires and focus on the needs of others.  If one pours their lives into the needs of others, they begin to see God’s work in all aspects of life. While the effort seems tiring, the results are amazing. God will in the proper time reward such focus.
 
Finally, Paul reminds the Galatians–It simply is not about keeping Jewish law or tradition. The ones pushing that agenda fail to keep the laws and traditions themselves. Salvation and relationship with God come from the grace and gift of salvation–through Christ. It is our faith, not our actions that redeem us. If we will simply walk by faith, God will honor our faith and redeem, transform and bless us beyond our wildest imagination.  Jesus said it best, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
 
God Bless You

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Not Circumcision but the New Creation

11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!

12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to[b] the Israel of God.

17 From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

Galatians 6 Part 1–Living a God Honoring Life

Paul begins to wrap up the book of Galatians by giving some direct instruction about selfless living. Be gentle in restoration–As a family, Christians need not be the ones that judge others or say, “I told you so!” Christians do not ignore sin, but, they prayerfully and lovingly draw people back to the Lord. Still, while being gentle, there is no need to give license to sin or to forsake the truth. 

Carry each other’s burdens. As a body, we always arrive first to pitch in and we never judge or keep score. Have a healthy and real view of your life and your actions.  Work hard, carry your load and be gracious to all. The reality is that we do reap what we sow. Paul calls us to sow a life that honors God and feeds our spirit.  Not one that honors ourselves and feeds our flesh. If we will, no matter how difficult life becomes, at the proper time–we will receive a harvest. In the meanwhile, just be selfless and do good to all people! Especially do good to believers!

This is the picture of living like Christ– it’s not about checking boxes, it is about loving and serving God and others.  It is about dying to yourself and taking up your cross every day as you follow Christ!

God Bless You

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Galatians 3 Part 3 and 4 Part 1–The Power of Heirship

The “help” is always treated differently than family. Paul was explaining to the Galatians that when one comes to Christ they are adopted as God’s children. As one of God’s children, we are heirs to His Kingdom. Being an heir has so many implications that do not come with being a servant.  Still, as a child, heirs are often raised by nanny’s, tutors, coaches and other hired help that train and mold the heir into a productive and prepared adult.  Paul likens living under the law as the same process as being under the guardianship of a coach or nanny.  

The law helps to direct and guide Christians into the right life as God’s kids, but, like hired help, law and rules were never seen as our parent or real guardian. Christians are therefore free from the law and are subject only to the leading of God the Father.  There is no set of rules or checklists that will ever free men from the penalty of sin.  There is never a level of behavior that makes one good enough to restore one’s relationship with God.  

The freedom from sin and restoration as Christians come from our relationship with the Lord. We are heirs to His kingdom. As adopted children, we are completely accepted no matter our status, gender, race or level of behavior.  We are free because of who we are in Christ and whose we are as God’s adopted children.  Paul makes it clear–beyond that distinction, nothing matters.  We live as heirs to the kingdom of God and honor God with our daily lives. We do not live that way to attain something we already have; instead, we live that way because we are free from the hold the world had on us as slaves.  Help me, Lord to walk freely and to honor You!

God Bless You

Before the coming of this faith,[j] we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

26 So in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces[a] of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.[b] 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[c] Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Paul’s Concern for the Galatians

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces[d]? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

Galatians 3 Part 1–Our Works simply Will Not Save Us

The principle was simple. God Loved the Galatians. He wanted to have a relationship with them. Their Sin Separated Them from God. But Christ’s Sacrifice and later resurrection provided the means to restore their relationship with God and give the people eternal life.  All the people had to do was to trust God, and follow Him.  Paul taught that message and many believed.  But then, competing voices began to tell the Galatians they had to perform.  They had to follow Jewish law, they had to keep the rules because that was what was demanded of the Jewish nation from the time of Moses. Sadly, for many, that was actually easier than trusting God for their salvation.  So many in the Galatian church started doing acts and deeds to maintain their salvation.
 
Paul was blunt. If your deeds and acts were not good enough to obtain salvation, what makes you think that those deeds and acts will somehow be sufficient to maintain your salvation.  It was foolish to think that since they were saved by faith, that they became good enough to do Christianity on their own–under their own power. Christ’s death and resurrection was not a starter kit to make us good enough to run our lives. We will always struggle with sin. We will never be able to do the acts necessary to be perfect. Christ cleanses us of our sin and leads us to become more like Him each and every day. It was, is and always will be a gift to be saved. We will never be good enough or able to do enough to earn our way into Heaven.  Those that teach that salvation can be earned are foolish.  Trust Christ and allow Him to lead and direct our lives. That is how we will be saved and transformed.
 
God Bless You

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?[a] Have you experienced[b] so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”[c]

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”[d] So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[e]

2 Corinthians 13–Paul’s Final Message

Paul’s last message to the Corinthians was simply to take a good long look at themselves. They needed to check their hearts and lives and make sure they were walking with the Lord.  Paul was coming back for a third visit and when he did, he wanted it to be a time of celebration and encouragement not one of discipline and sadness.  Paul loved the Corinthian Church.  It was never his intention to make them not want him around. Like a parent, Paul simply wanted the best for them.  So as a parting word, Paul reminded them to put their house in order so his visit would be a pleasant one.
 
God tells us the same thing. He loves us. He simply asks that we examine our hearts and lives and put things in order so that our time with Him would be times of encouragement and joy.  We can always improve. We need to live lives that are full of grace and humility–simply following and becoming more like Christ. God loves us.  He simply wants to complete us, prepare us and bless us. Help me, Lord to live in a manner that allows You to complete Your plan in my life.
 
God Bless You

This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”[a] I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return, I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you but is powerful among you. For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power, we will live with him in our dealing with you.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored. 10 This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.

2 Corinthians 12–God’s Grace Is Sufficient and Made Perfect in Our Weakness

Paul was trying to make a point.  The Corinthians were looking for a RockStar Preacher.  They wanted flash, Charisma and Dashing good looks would be a nice touch as well.  It was the same attitude the Israelites had about wanting a king.  God gave them Saul, the RockStar King and he nearly destroyed Israel. When he put David on the throne, however, Israel saw unity, peace, and prosperity. God looks at the heart. Paul was an apostle that loved God and wanted nothing more than to share the Gospel of that love to any and all who would listen.  In the midst of that discussion, however, Paul speaks of his vision of Heaven and his thorn in the flesh.  God took Paul to the highest heights; but, then left him with a weakness he could not overcome.  Paul begged God to take away the weakness, but God told him that His grace was sufficient and his power was made perfect in weakness. So Paul was determined to celebrate his weakness; since he knew God was in it.
 
In our lives, we work to honor God and live lives that seem amazing. Still, there are things that are far less than desirable that drive us crazy.  We cry out to God to take them away but, as with Paul, God reminds us that His power is made perfect in our weakness.  He also reminds us that His grace is sufficient to meet our needs–even in our weakness.  Like Paul, it is not always the answer we wish to hear, but, it is the truth. We must cling to God’s grace and allow Him to lead His way and simply follow and trust Him. On most days, we can accept that His grace is sufficient, but on the rest, it drives us to our knees. From there, we have no other choice than to simply pray and allow the Lord to prepare us, protect us, and provide for our needs.
 
God Bless You

I I I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows.And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan,to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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.