In Step with the Spirit

Galatians 5

Gal 5 7

Chapter 5 picks up right where 4 left off (if you haven’t already, you might just want to read the whole book straight through to get the most out of it – it’s only 6 chapters).

1 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. […] You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?

From chapter 4, we know that the Galatians were struggling, falling back to their old ways. Paul is still trying to get to the heart of the why and how.  He wants them to quit trying to be justified by the law – because by doing do, they miss out on Christ’s promise and are once again bound into slavery.

Do you ever get bogged down by doing things exactly by the letter and then realize that you have been missing the point?  Paul is specifically talking to the Galatians about circumcision, but I think the same idea could apply to many things.  This reminds me of Jesus’ teachings about the Sabbath.  The Pharisees were so focused on making sure no work was done, that they wanted to condemn Jesus for healing someone.  Jesus pointed out that if a sheep fell into a hole on the Sabbath, they would pull it out – and how much more valuable is a person!  So Paul’s point is to quit being so focused on the letter of the law – he says in verse 5 “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

So rather than focusing on the law, focus on this:

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

It could be easy to say that if we are not bound by the law that we are free to do whatever we want, but I believe we are called to a standard higher than the law by this freedom.  If we look to Romans 6, Paul clarifies here that we are to offer ourselves to God as an instrument of righteousness and to not let sin reign.

This chapter finishes with the fruit of the Spirit.  You are probably familiar with these, but I usually think about these alone, not in the context of this book.  If we are children of God through Christ, then we have the Spirit to guide us rather than the law.  This list isn’t easy.  They are high standards of living.  I am going to leave you today with these verses as a reminder – let’s try to live in step with the Spirit.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

Backs Turned to God, or Turning Back to God – Your Choice

Galatians 4

Galatians 4 9

Picking up from yesterday’s chapter, Paul continues to talk about heirs.   I think it is best to go back and read the end of Galatians 3 again (remember, the chapter breaks were added later – not by Paul when he was writing).  Everyone was a slave under the law.  But thankfully, God made a way that they (and we) could become His children.  By accepting Christ, one can become a child of God through adoption.

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[c] Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

From slave to heir – what an amazing opportunity!  How often do we take that for granted?  Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, not only have we been freed from the bondage of slavery, but we have also become heirs of God – and our inheritance is eternal life in His Kingdom.

This next section speaks of the Galatians turning their backs to God.  Paul is feeling like he wasted his time and effort with them since they have reverted to how they were before they knew God.  Paul seems to not be able to understand how they could go back.  When he was with them to bring them the gospel the first time, they were a blessing to him, but now they are causing him great distress.  Paul even goes as far as to compare it to the pains of childbirth as he is waiting for Christ to be formed in them again.  As someone who went through that last year, my sarcastic side thinks “Really, Paul?  What do you know about that?”  But my somewhat more logical side can recognize that he is using that language to convey the seriousness of his concern – both in how much he cares for them as if they were his own children, and also how hurt he is by the turning of their backs on what he taught them.

I imagine that the Galatians were not intentionally turning away from God.  But by not being intentionally focused on God, that was the result.  I know I am guilty of this.  It takes work to keep your mind and life set on God.  You may not be actively doing things that would displease Him, but by not actively doing things that do please Him, you are still going to be drifting further and further from Him.

Going back to Abraham’s story again, Paul brings up his two sons.

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 free woman was born as the result of a divine promise. […] 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.

We want to be children of the promise – of the free woman.  And the only way for us to do this is through Christ, so if you haven’t made the decision to follow him yet, I encourage you to do so!

~Stephanie Fletcher

Through Faith

Galatians 3

Galatians 3 26

Paul has been summarizing different points of his life in his letter to the Galatians.  But it is not without a point.  He brings it back to them at the start of this chapter.  They have fallen into the same pattern that Peter and some other Jews had of believing that they were saved by works of the law, so Paul is needing to correct them to right thinking.  Like his reminder to Peter, he reminds them of that faith or belief.

6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.8 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.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

This is us!  We call ourselves of the Faith of Abraham or of the Abrahamic Faith.    God promises Abraham in Genesis 22 that through his offspring, all nations on earth will be blessed because of his obedience.  In God’s earlier promises to Abraham, He promises that his descendants will be blessed, but this takes it a step further and gives hope to those who did not come from a Jewish background.  It was through Christ’s sacrifice that we are able to be a part of the blessing given to Abraham by faith.

Paul tries to explain that we are saved by faith in another way:

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.

Usually when I think of the Old Testament times, I think of the law.  But Paul reminds me here that the promise given to Abraham was before the law and the law does not replace God’s covenant with Abraham.  Abraham, who we look to as an example, was before the law and God’s blessings were given to him.

Paul then summarizes with this encouraging message:

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.

Our backgrounds don’t matter.  Our identity is in Christ, and he is our hope to be heirs to the Kingdom of God.  That is something to be thankful for!

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

The Life I Now Live

Galatians 2

Galatians 2 20

Paul has jumped ahead 14 years in his summary of his life as we start this next chapter.   Paul chose to meet with the leaders in the faith to present to them the gospel he was sharing with the Gentiles to make sure he was doing it properly.

This was 14 years after the end of events in the previous chapter, and if you look back, that was 3 years (and sometime) after his conversion.  After 17+ years of being in the faith, Paul, whose words we read in our study of Scripture, still asked those with more experience than he if he was on the right path.  What a good reminder for us!  Sometimes I think it can be easy to assume that for as long as you have been a part of the church (especially if you are someone like me who was raised in the church), that we have it all right.  But it is wise to continually seek counsel to ensure we have not strayed from the truth or are missing anything.

In Paul’s case, the leaders had nothing to add to what he was sharing.  “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.”

Paul’s message may have looked a little different than Peter’s because of who he was presenting to, but these leaders still agreed that it was true and wasn’t lacking anything.  I like this.  It is a reminder to me that not everyone is going to receive the Good News the same way.  If we tried to present it to everyone identically, it just wouldn’t click.  But by having different ways of sharing, and different people doing the sharing, we have the opportunity to reach more people.

As Paul continues to talk of his journey, he comes upon the argument that he had with Peter regarding forcing Gentiles to follow the Jewish law.  He reminds Peter that they and we are not justified by works, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  But that doesn’t mean that we can return or remain in our sinful lifestyle.  We must get out of that pattern.

The chapter ends with this:

19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 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. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”[e]

As Christians today, we are not bound by the law, but we are to live for God just like Paul.  We should be grateful for the grace God has given and the sacrifice of Jesus and strive to live a life worthy of that honor.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

Keeping God’s Gospel

Galatians 1

Galatians 1 7

Today we are going to be starting the book of Galatians which was written by Paul to the churches in Galatia.

After his introduction, he gets right into a major problem he is seeing among them:

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

Although this was an issue the people of Galatia were having, it is something that we can fall prey to as well.  It is a good reminder to us that the truth matters and that if we are trying to present the gospel contrary to what is found in Scripture, we are in trouble.

He continues on with his reminder in this way:

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

You may find that it is easy to go through life being a people pleaser, and you may be able to avoid a lot of conflict this way, but if you are so focused on pleasing people to the extent that you start to displease God, you are going to have problems.

Now, I’m not saying you should try to stir up conflict with others.  We are told in Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” But that doesn’t mean that you give in to the world.  You still have a responsibility first and foremost to God to uphold His Word which brings us back to keeping the gospel as it is presented in Scripture.  It is an unchanging story.

This first chapter finishes up with Paul summarizing his conversion and early faith story which we read about earlier this year in Acts.  If you missed it, go back and read the full account!  When Paul is writing here, he is assuming that his readers have already heard the story and he doesn’t go into much detail.  His point here is that God was praised because of Paul’s conversion, not because they knew Paul at all.

Most of us probably don’t have a story like Paul’s, but that doesn’t mean that God can’t be praised because of what we do for Him.  If our lives are reflecting God’s love, He will be praised.  Make that your goal for the week – that because of how you are living, God will be given praise.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

 

Heart Test

2 Corinthians 13

2 Corinthians 13 5

I’m picking up here on the last chapter of 2 Corinthians.   Thanks to Marcia Railton & Kayla Tullis for the first 12 chapters in this book!

One thing I love about these devotion blogs is that you get something a little different each week with different people contributing.  My style is pulling out some verses that stand out to me, doing some summarizing, and adding some of my own thoughts.  I hope that there is something this week that you can learn and/or grow from.

Chapter 13 picks up right where chapter 12 left off.  Paul is writing to tell them of his coming third visit.  And he isn’t going to be quite as nice.  They have gotten a couple of warnings, and now he is cracking down.

Grace is an amazing concept.  But if you use grace as an excuse to continue sinning, it cheapens God’s gift, and Jesus’s sacrifice.  So do this:

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.

We may be weak at times, but if Christ is in us, we can rely on his strength and be fully restored – thank you God for this gift!  Because if we had to do it on our own, we simply couldn’t.

Paul finishes his letter with good advice:

11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

It can be hard to live at peace with our brothers and sisters if we aren’t at peace with God.

The past couple of weeks in our ladies class at church, we have been talking about our testimonies, and this reminds me of mine.  I grew up in the church and always knew I needed to accept Christ as my Savior to fully experience his and God’s love, but for some reason, I just hadn’t.  I believed everything, I had the knowledge, but it just hadn’t made a connection in my heart.  Then one Sunday, a lady in our church who was struggling with cancer shared how in her darkest time at the hospital, she had felt so far from God feeling almost abandoned.  Yet after feeling that, God blessed her with a deep sense of peace that passed any understanding of her circumstances.  And she knew that whatever happened, she would be ok whether in this lifetime, or in the coming Kingdom.  That got to me.  That gave me that heart connection I was missing.  I remember going to my pastor after church and telling him that I wanted to know that peace – I was ready to make my decision.

 

So if you have made your decision already, I am so happy for you!  I hope that you can live in peace and feel God with you.

And if you haven’t, I encourage you to consider it.  Maybe you are like me and know the truth, but just haven’t felt that connection in your heart.  If this is the case, I hope that you will spend time talking to God and ask Him to give you that connection so that you don’t have to miss out.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

His Perfect Power

2 Corinthians 12

2 corinthians 12 9

“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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

For when I am weak, then I am strong. Let this verse pour over your heart today. How encouraging is it to know that no matter what circumstance we walk through, we can stand firm in the grace of God. His power is made PERFECT in our weakness. All of our fears, worries, troubles, sorrows, and pain may be put to rest. We can lay them all down and know that our God is greater. I’ve said it many times while writing this week, and i’ll continue to say it over and over again, our God is so very good. May we cling to Him, not only as we continue our Bible reading plan, but cling to him throughout the entirety of our lives. Wishing you all the best and I hope to see you this summer at FUEL!

-Kayla Tullis