Read-Through-The-Bible [11.26.19]

Today’s read was the letter to the Galatians, written by Paul. Because of its contents, it may have written shortly after the conference in Jerusalem over the issue of circumcision. Galatians is a rich book, full of insight, theology and practical wisdom on our new life in Christ. Paul’s main point is that justification comes by faith, and the law was never meant to give us freedom from sin. We cannot work our way into heaven. We are saved by faith, and we live by faith, not by the law.
 
A key verse in this letter is 2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” This is the secret of what God is teaching us through Paul. We can never overcome our flesh and become holy by keeping a set of rules. That’s “outside-in” theology. Jesus came to make us holy by clothing us with His righteousness and putting His Spirit inside of us so that the rules are written on our hearts. He enlightens us to understand what to do, and by His power, we are able to do it. That’s “inside-out” theology.
 
Paul reminds us in 5:13-14 that our freedom in Christ is never meant to allow us to serve our flesh (i.e., “Now that I’m saved, I can do whatever I want and just ask forgiveness because of grace.”) Instead, we are called to obey the greatest commandment which sums up all the commandments, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That can only happen as the Spirit of God gives me His love for others. My actions are not simple “law-keeping duty” (don’t hate, don’t steal, don’t covet), but acts of real love overflowing from the Spirit who lives in me. The truth is, I might be able to keep the law at a certain level, but it cannot change my heart, and heart-change is necessary for holiness before God. If we rely on the law to get us to heaven, we will always fail; we remain guilty because we will be law-breakers (James 2:10).
 
Personally, I love this letter because it reminds me to stop comparing myself to everyone else and trust the Spirit of God to lead me to do His will. It releases me from “measuring up” to others’ expectations and instead seek Christ. Why is it that we readily accept salvation by faith, but struggle to accept sanctification by faith, allowing the Spirit to do the work in us? The harder I try to love others, have joy, find peace, be kind and gentle and self-controlled, the more I realize I can’t do it. But the Spirit can. Just as I asked for salvation by faith, I can ask the Spirit to live out those “fruit of the Spirit” qualities in me by faith.
 
Keeping the law is not my goal. My goal is to know Christ, to be saturated with His Word so that He lives this life through me. I need daily reminders because I still live in this fleshly, physical body that craves approval from others and is tempted by the old desires. Believers, let’s determine to live fully in the freedom and joy that Christ longs for us to experience, as we walk by the Spirit. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

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