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 5 Part 1–We were Freed to Be Free…

Paul opens Galatians 5 with an incredibly obvious but difficult statement–“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!”  At first glance, one might reply “Thanks for that captain obvious.”  But in truth, as a race, people can not help but try to structure and try to control their lives.  It is simply easier to build checklists and rules and objectives to make their way, rather than to simply follow God.  Paul was so frustrated that the Judaizers were corrupting these people who were saved by grace and free from Jewish law.   In effect, they were prescribing a cure to people that were simply not sick. Paul was trying to help the Galatian people to relax and simply live the new and free life God had given them. He did not want them to be burdened with unneeded rules or customs that God simply did not require.
 
In our day and in our lives, the message still applies. Christ freed us to be free.  We are not saved to become burdened with a host of religious rules and practices. We are set free to follow the Lord and allow Him to transform us into his image.  Paul said it best in Romans 12, “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind!”  We have to live and think like free people. We are neither slaves to sin, nor are we slaves to religion.  We are free people and heirs to Christ’s kingdom. Nothing else matters. Walk free today!
 
God Bless You

 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty.11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

Galatians 4 Part 2-Living as an Heir, Not as a Slave

Paul was trying to explain one of the most basic truths of salvation by grace. When one is freed from sin and redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice, that person is no longer a slave to sin. What’s more, they are no longer a slave to the law.  As a child of God, one need only accept His salvation and follow His lead. Trying to go back and live a life subject to checklists and scorecards is the same as an heir going back and living in the slave quarters. In that life, one neither is welcome or finds peace. If they could have gained salvation by doing things or keeping rules, they would not need Christ. 
 
To set salvation by grace aside, both then and now is like living as a slave. One can never do enough and one can never experience peace trying to live up to a standard of perfection. We become enslaved to the idea that we have almost made it. Just a little bit better or just a little bit more and we will have arrived. That thought process is an illusion and a lie. The truth is simple–When we ask Christ into our lives, He comes in and forgives us and restores the relationship with God. As we follow Him, He transforms our lives into lives of purpose and selflessness. We become new creations; free from the chains of the law and the chains of sin.  We continue to move forward trusting God to do what is necessary to make our lives complete. It is never about us, our actions or our holiness. It is about trusting and following God’s lead and letting Him do the rest.
 
God Bless You

Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the freewoman was born as the result of a divine promise.

24 These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written:

“Be glad, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
shout for joy and cry aloud,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband.”[e]

28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”[f] 31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

Footnotes:

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 2–The Law will Never Yield Salvation

Paul was trying to help the Galatian people to understand that they needed only to follow Christ–not the Jewish Law. He was attempting to show the people that while the law certainly had value, it was never the value of forgiveness or restoration of relationship with God.  In effect, the Law helped people to see they could not do life on their own. The harder they tried, the farther they fell away. It was therefore critical that God offers an alternative–Jesus.  Jesus took on the curse of the Law so that men could have a relationship with God and be forgiven for their sin.
 
In our lives, we simply will never be good enough on our own to keep the entire law.  So, if we look to the law for our salvation, we are doomed.  So, as Paul told the Galatians, we are justified by our faith in Christ. We are not counting on a good scorecard for keeping the rules. If we were, we would all come up way short and not have any hope for the future.  But according to Romans 5:8, “God demonstrated His love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!”  We need not rely on our great behavior to win God’s favor–no, we simply need to rely on Christ and the promise of salvation in Him.
 
God Bless You

Clearly, no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”[f] 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”[g] 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”[h] 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus,so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

The Law and the Promise

15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,”[i] meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.

21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

Galatians 2 Part 1–Different Missions, Same Message!

Paul continued to recount to the Galatians his personal journey to serve God minister to the Gentile world.  He discussed meeting with Peter, James, and John.  God chose Peter to be the primary evangelist of the Jewish world. Peter, the man Jesus personally asked to feed His sheep.  After spending time with Peter, James and John all agreed that God had given the same charge to Paul, only Paul’s mission field was to the Gentile world. It became obvious to all that the missions were equally important but totally different.  So these men agreed that Paul should do what he had been doing with the blessing of the rest of the Church leaders.  Paul did not have the same mission and needed not to try to conform his mission to look like Peter’s.  The Gentile people need not become Jewish–they simply needed to come into relationship with God through Christ! 
 
As God’s chosen, we are all called to follow Him. But the journey for each of us is greatly different. The combination of life circumstance, spiritual gifting, and maturity in our walks leads us to different ministries and ministry styles.  In that, we can no more judge other’s missions than could the apostles could in the early church.  The message remains clear–God loves us! He wants to be in a relationship with us. Our sin prevents that. Christ’s death and resurrection made possible the opportunity to be in a relationship again with God. We simply must trust and follow Christ. We do so by asking him to forgive us and come into our lives. If we do–He will! Then it is His job to transform us. 
 
That is the message. How we deliver it, and to whom we deliver it–is completely a function of trusting God and not being ashamed of this gospel. He will lead, guide and direct us to opportunities to minister; we simply need to remain faithful in that charge! Thanks, Lord for allowing us the opportunity to minister in the manner best suited to us and to those you choose for us to encounter!
 
God Bless You

Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they made no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised,[a] just as Peter had been to the circumcised.[b] For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.James, Cephas[c] and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles and them to the circumcised. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.