This is our third week walking through Galatians together. Paul starts this chapter off with a reminder of some great news:
"So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law." (Galatians 5:1)
And then he goes on to say this:
" Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace." (Galatians 5:2-4)
Okay, so this isn't something we actually struggle with in our time. There are very few people who believe circumcision equals "right with God." But we can plug in almost anything else here and it would be the same. "If I just read my Bible enough," "If I go to church enough," "If I serve others enough," "If I pray for enough minutes in the day..." No! None of it! It's all great stuff, but you don't need it to be made right with God. There is nothing, nada, zero things that we can do as imperfect humans to make ourselves right with God! And that's why Paul is reiterating all of this over and over again. We need Jesus for that!
Now don't get me wrong, you should be reading your Bible and talking to God; church is an important way to fellowship with other believers and serving others is awesome. But none of it, by itself, will ever make you good enough for God. Again, only Jesus's gift- accepted by you- can do that. Paul says this well in these verses:
"But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love." (Galatians 5:5-6)
"Faith expressing itself in love!" That would make a great t-shirt, don't you think? ;) Seriously though, from here, Paul offers up a warning:
"You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you." (Galatians 5:7-10)
Be careful that you don't imply to new believers or to those who don't yet believe that they must fix themselves before God will want a relationship with them. It's not true. Remember that in Romans 8:38-39, Paul tells us that there is nothing that can separate us from God's love. He loves us period. End of sentence. We can never make ourselves good enough. Again, only Jesus!
"Dear brothers and sisters, if I were still preaching that you must be circumcised—as some say I do—why am I still being persecuted? If I were no longer preaching salvation through the cross of Christ, no one would be offended. I just wish that those troublemakers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves." (Galatians 5:11-12)
Salvation is defined as "being saved or protected from harm, risk, etc." We are saved and protected from harm though the cross of Christ.
"For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another." (Galatians 5:13-15)
Yesterday my kids got to practice using their freedom to "serve one another in love." You see, there is a fight that happens every time we get in the van without Shaun. Andrew sits up front with me (sometimes he's driving, sometimes not). This means that someone is always alone in the back and there are tears. Well, yesterday I got tired of the fight. And so I told them that they'd be practicing loving one another. And they did. Throughout the rest of the day, they made one another lunch, jumped on the trampoline, climbed trees, played games, said kind words- all to compete with each other to be loving. Haha. How nice would the world be if we all did this each and every day? If we went out of our way to be kind and to offer up extravagant love (see Ephesians 5:1-2 MSG) for one another?
I pray that today will be another good day and not one of "biting and devouring one another" as Paul describes it above. ;)