Welcome to Week 3 of Exploring the Book of Galatians!
Have you ever looked at the self-help section of a bookstore, library or on Amazon? Some of the titles are pretty … interesting.
- PEAK: How to Master Almost Anything
- The Magic of Thinking Big
- The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness
- Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One
- The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More
Some of those are funny. But one thing they each have in common is that they want to help you do better, think better and just be better. And happy. Don’t forget happy.
Maybe you’ve got your head on straighter than I do, but there are times I want to be all those things. I get inspired to start a new routine that is going to kick that bad habit. Put sticky notes of verses or positive quotes all around my house to help me focus when I’m getting ready to lose my temper. Or just get up every morning and tell God, “I’m going to do better today. I’m really sorry that I messed up so badly yesterday, but today is going to be different. I’ll do it this time.” Those things are all well and good, but how often does change actually occur?
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing–if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Can I share something with you? I often get caught up in the struggle of “doing” the Christian life. I’ve said so many times that I’m going to do better, be better, live better and force myself to grow. For much of my life I was confused and thought I was in charge of the growth in my life. Like the Galatians, I had received the Spirit, but I felt like I should be doing more.
Listen to this quote from Dick Kauffmann, a former pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC: “Christians think that we are saved by the gospel, but then we grow by applying biblical principles to every area of life. But we are not just saved by the gospel, we grow by applying the gospel to every area of life.”
Anyone else ever been guilty of being stuck in the “applying Biblical principles” hamster wheel? Spent far too long there myself.
What God, through Paul, was trying get through to the Galatians, and to us, is that…wait for it…it’s not up to us! Applying principles cannot produce holy transformation.
“Our failure to obey and conform to Christ’s character is not a matter of simple lack of willpower, and so we cannot treat our failures simply by ‘trying harder’. After all, resolving to ‘try harder’ is resolving to rely on our own efforts to keep a law. We need instead to realize that the root of all our disobedience is particular ways in which we continue to seek control of our lives through systems of works-righteousness.”
– Timothy Keller
The question that comes to my mind which gets to the core of the issue, and ties into what we talked about last week, is this: Why do we want to change? Is it to be better and gain more accolades, pats on the back and success in the world? Or is it rooted, as it should be, in wanting to be holy as God is holy.
- Are you in danger of forgetting that the gospel is the source of your ongoing acceptance? How, and why?
- What does operating through the Spirit and not your own doing look like in your life?
- Think of a sin that you regularly commit. What are you worshipping more than Jesus that causes you to decide to disobey Him? How will you replace that false savior with your true Savior next time you’re tempted?