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Archive for July, 2018

Freedom in Christ

July 26th, 2018

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. (Galatians 5:1)

Many Christians I know have a bad habit – the habit of giving into those around them, doing whatever they demand, and agreeing with whatever they insist is true. And the funny thing is that people think that, somehow or another, this is the Christian thing to do.  After all, they reason, we are supposed to be kind and nice and servant-hearted, aren’t we?

We are commanded to be kind: “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful” (2 Tim. 2:24). And forgiving: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). And willing to serve others: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44). And avoid putting stumbling blocks before our Christian brother: “Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister” (Rom. 14:13). And this is true even toward our enemies: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:44-45).

Yet we are also called to take a stand on the gospel and boldly insist on the teachings of the Scripture. And one of those is that we must stand in the freedom that Christ has given us. Apparently, the believers in Galatia gave into the false legalistic teachers and let them bully and pressure them into submitting again to the Old Testament Mosaic Law.  This “giving in” went beyond just being sensitive not to put a stumbling block before them, and went so far as to accept and even promote the false teachings – that we are accepted by God by obeying the Law.

We are only accepted by God on the basis of what Christ has done and what we have received through faith. We now stand in the freedom of grace. Because we are accepted by God through faith we should live holy lives, but we should not be enslaved again to the yoke of the Law. The problem in Galatian churches focused on the rite of circumcision, which was a command under the Law for the Jews. Yet these false teachers insisted that Gentiles becoming Christians must not just be baptized but also be circumcised.

A few verses down in Ephesians Paul wrote: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Gal. 5:6). By grace we are drawn to Christ, to live in Him and to follow Him. He should be our focus and He frees us through changing our hearts. The Christian life is to be a positive experience of growth in following Christ, but the false teacher had changed it into a negative experience of keeping the Law. And, of course, keeping the Law meant that there were those around them that considered themselves enforcers of the Law, keeping everyone in check.

We are free in our hearts to the degree that we love Christ and seek to please Him. We are enslaved to the degree that we make it our main goal to please the legalists in the church. We should be kind, forgiving, gracious, and sensitive, but we should not let them enslave us to a false teaching. We must stand in our freedom, for this is what Christ came to give us.

 

Galatians

Rest, My Soul

July 24th, 2018

Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. (Psalm 116:7)

How often our souls are restless, constantly turning in doubts, accusations, and troubling thoughts. Worries flood our minds and destroy our peace. What remedy does God have for these thoughts?

Friends and happy circumstances that lift our emotions are some of God’s remedies. Blessings and even memories of past blessings can bring some peace to us and make us grateful. Music, calm surroundings, even fun and entertainment can also give us some relief. Yet none of these things really depend on us. All are unpredictable, temporary, and happenstance. God has something better for us to hang on to that brings spiritual rest and peace to our souls: God’s own Word.

The psalmist commands his own soul to return to its rest, and that command rests upon the word of the Lord. Do not depend on circumstances to give you rest. Learn to return through faith to your rest that is prepared by God’s grace in Christ Jesus. Learn to stand on the promises of God. This is the victory of our faith, and faith must rest in God and leave the struggles and fears of our hearts in His hands. We may return to our true spiritual rest everyday, in every situation, through simple, child-like faith.

Do your sins trouble you? Then rest upon and within His grace: “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).

The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:8-12)

There was a time in my life when I was troubled over my sins, wondering if God could truly forgive me for my many failures. Victory came through the study of His Word, especially Romans 8:1 – “There is now, therefore, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” – and I could to say to my own soul, “Either God has forgiven me through Christ Jesus or He has not. I choose to believe what His Word says, that I am forgiven.” In that simple faith, my rest was restored. And whenever doubt has raised its head, I return to that passage, and others, and claim again the promise of His Word.

Does the future frighten you? Then trust in the promise of God:

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matt. 6:30-33)

Are you afraid of loneliness and of being forgotten? Remember what Christ said: “I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you” (John 14:18). Paul gave this testimony:

At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (2 Tim. 4:16-18)

Are you concerned with eternity, wondering what lies beyond the grave? Trust in the words of Christ:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3)

Every challenge of life, every thought that might rob our souls of peace, has an answer and remedy in His Word. Learn to trust and to stand on His Word. Enjoy the pleasant circumstances and mood-altering moments He sends along the way, but know that they are all fleeting. Establish the habit of returning regularly to God’s rest for your soul by trusting in His promises.

Psalms