There I was, sitting in the emergency room gasping for breath as the venom from a bee sting was racing through my veins. As nurses frantically raced back and forth administering one shot after another, I sat calmly with the New Testament on my lap as I read a passage from the Psalms. How this occurred was only by God’s grace and peace.
Grace is God working in the heart of man to produce an action beyond man’s ability. Peace occurs when God works to establish a state of being in man’s heart. On that day, the work that God’s grace created was for me to abstain from any frantic effort to resolve my dilemma. Had I tried, my efforts would only have made things worse. His peace was manifested in my heart through my calm reaction to the life threatening situation. Beyond my ability, God set my heart with the assurance that he was in control and that he would work things out according to his perfect will.
In the end, I lived to serve God another day and the medical personnel witnessed God’s grace in action. Regardless of what they believed, they could not explain away what they saw that day.
Today is another day. We need God’s grace and peace as much today as I did then. As we walk with him and allow his work to occur in our hearts, the world around us will see our testimony of grace and peace. It is that testimony that The Lord will use to draw them to himself.
But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. Psalm 81:11
After God delivered Israel from the task masters in Egypt and provided for them in the wilderness, Israel chose not to follow after The Lord. Instead they ran after other gods. Why did Israel refuse to hearken to the voice of God and no longer rest content in him?
Their reason is the same as to why we are prone to drift away from God. Israel wanted God, but they wanted God to act and meet their needs as they expected. They did not want to experience the difficult trials that were part of God’s plan to deliver and reveal another aspect of his greatness. They wanted a life of ease and in accordance to their will. In reality, they wanted to be on the throne of their life with God being subservient. Are we not the same? Do not we struggle the most when times are the most difficult? Do you not wrestle in your heart when God delays bringing deliverance? Each time you state to either God or to yourself that you cannot go another step, you are at that converging point between following and refusing.
The remedy or way to hinder this from occurring is found in the opening portion of Psalm 81. God admonishes us to sing to him about his wonderful strength. God desires heart felt singing to him. When it occurs, it will be for his glory and result in our strength. Each day, sing and make melody in your heart to The Lord (Ephesians 5:19). It is not how well or loudly that you sing which will bring helpful results, but a song that comes from the heart. A heart of devotion pouring out praises to God is what he wants and what we need. Place a songbook next to your bible or download an application of hymns for your electronic device and each day as you seek his face take time to sing praises to him.
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Galatians 6:1
Many believe that their duty as Christians is to straighten out people. Those who believe that way are missing a major purpose for their lives. God’s purpose for you and me is to help people towards restoration. The Lord recognizes that when a person has fallen, they are in a state of incompleteness or in need of repair in some aspect of their heart, soul or mind. When a person is restored, a healing of emotions, change of perspective, or repentance in the heart will occur.
How many people do you know who are away from God? If you could look into their hearts, you would find that their turning away from God most likely occurred from hurt, disappointment, confusion or a longing that had been unfulfilled. I have known many people who have given up because God did not solve a problem in their lives that had caused them great hurt. Their walking away did not make their problem any better, but because their heart had turned against God, they decided not to give God what he wanted because he did not give them what they wanted. The Deceiver led their heart against God causing even more hurt and pain. What they need is restoration.
Some, because of a roller coaster of emotions due to problems in their lives, have made emotional decisions that led them out of God’s will. They did not just decide to fall headlong into sin, but made decisions that then would lead them to make sinful choices. This is how so many people get hooked on prescription drugs. Their lives are a tangled emotional mess and then an injury or surgery occurs which requires pain medication and the trap is set. Once they find the temporary escape from their emotional pain, the bondage begins. What these people need is a person to help them to restoration.
What can you do to help? You and I are ministers of consolation. We can through love bring encouragement to those who need restoration. Letting them know that regardless of their life’s decisions you still care and are there for them will go a long way. Stop and think, if a Christian is not reaching into the life of a fallen person, who is? Our quick step is to break fellowship because they are backslidden. If that were true, Jesus should never have eaten with the publicans. Look for the hurt and reach out in love to bring healing. Find the emotional mess and bring stable input into their lives. Seek out those who need repentance and with tears love them back to Jesus. If you even try to do this, you are working a ministry of restoration.
For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. Galatians 6:3
Did you ever think to yourself that you had it together spiritually? Spiritually speaking you have dotted every “i” and crossed every “t”. You see yourself as understanding the scriptures, applying them to your life and an example for others to recognize and follow. Many people including myself have fallen into this deadly trap.
Notice that in this passage, Paul declares that we are nothing. He uses the words “if” and “when” when referring to man: if a man thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing. Notice it does not say, “If a man thinks himself to be something, if he is nothing.” Paul is admonishing us to remember that we in fact are nothing. The legalists of previous chapters thought themselves to be something and were attempting to promote themselves through the conversion of others to their system of belief. Spirituality never comes to those who think that they are standing at the entrance door to “right living” or “spiritual success”. Pride still comes before the fall and God still refuses to allow man to glory in his flesh (Proverbs 16:18; 1 Corinthians 1:29). Pride and self reliance are just as great of sins as the despised vices of this world and the debauchery of those living in vile sin.
We must take heed to Paul’s warning. You and I can keep ourselves from being deceived by recognizing who and what we are. The moment we begin to think that we are somebody or that we deserve something more than what we have, we have allowed our minds to become ensnared with deceit. When thoughts such as these begin to arise, gird up the loins of your mind and fight them with this truth (1 Peter 1:13; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. Galatians 6:15
Before the Book of Galatians, there was never a mention concerning emphasizing the law as a continuation of becoming holy before God. From Paul’s writing, we have developed a term for those who stress the law. We now refer to them as legalists. Legalist existed before Paul identified them. However just because Paul only addressed legalism in regards to keeping the law for salvation does not mean that it only refers to just salvation. A legalist is any person who stresses the keeping of the law as a means of appearing righteous before God whether it is as an attempt to attain salvation or to be recognized as living holy. In other words, they are considering themselves as holy because they keep to a certain standard of living based on a list of outward appearing rules of conduct, dress or appearance.
However God’s measure is completely different. He does not tells us to focus on the outside but instead to focus on the inside. God tells us that it is not circumcision or uncircumcision that avails, but instead the new man. In the previous chapter, Paul contrasts two aspects of man: the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. He is contrasting the natural man to the new creature in Christ. Both have characteristics which are evident, but before they can be seen on the outside, they were first present on the inside.
People look sickly on the outside because they are first sick within. Just because a person dresses up like a doctor does not make them a doctor. For in order to be a doctor, he must first have the knowledge within. I lost track of how many times people approached me in stores for assistance only because I was wearing a tie and looked like an employee. Doctors should look like doctors and store clerks should look their role. There is no difference with Christians. They should look like Christians and the evidence or outward adorning is the new creature or the fruit of the Spirit.
Should we then cast off righteous living in the name of liberty or being free? God forbid. There are still countless guidelines for us to follow and apply to our lives: forgiveness, enduring trials, exercising mercy and compassion and the refraining from the works of the flesh. If we do, it will be true Christianity because we will be yielding ourselves as instruments of righteousness to God and not to sin (Romans 6:12-13). Legalist in both its forms are still focusing on the inside of the cup instead of the outside (Matthew 23:25-26).
For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith (Galatians 5:5).
The Christian life involves many aspects of time. One aspect of faith directed towards Christ focuses on work completed by him in the very distant past. What he accomplished by dying on the cross may have occurred many years ago, but it is crucial to the Christian life today. It is the foundation upon which all other truth resides (Romans 15:20; 1Corinthians 3:11). Another aspect of faith focuses on the work of Christ in the present. He is our guide, deliverer, strength and source of joy. The future focus of faith is directed at our position in Christ. Paul speaks of waiting for the hope of righteousness. At this current time, we battle the guilt of our past, our present failures and the thought of future expectations. There is nothing in the present that can strengthen our future hope and position in Christ. It has already been established. We must maintain this hope by faith because we are in Christ.
Legalism takes root in people who have difficulty waiting for the hope of righteousness by faith and want to experience the security or rather the false security of it now. They look for the evidence of their position of righteousness. However, they will never find it. Paul states in Romans 7:18, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.” They create long lists of “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” in oder to determine weather they are a good Christian, but in the end they continue to fall short. Their life becomes the antithesis of Romans 1:17 ever trying to justify themselves before men by their works. In the area of measuring up spiritually, they are still walking by sight.
To break free from this bondage is a difficult matter, but it is possible. In order for the victory of freedom to occur you must do the following: do not make spiritual decisions based on fear, because God is not the author of fear (2 Timothy 1:7); remove the influences from your life that are delivering you the wrong message which is legalism (Romans 16:17-18); and do not interpret what is believed to be what the Bible is saying: only accept what the Bible says (2 Peter 1:20).
These few steps are really gigantic leaps. Few will recognize them. Of those that do, many will repeated fall. However because Christ wants you to be free, he will pick you up and lead you to try again and again until you experience the victory that is in him.
Not long ago when you were lost, you were bound in your sin. Your sin nature controlled you just as a bound prisoner is controlled by his captors. You did not decide to sin, sin decided for you and you did as it pleased. As you continued in this state, your heart became heavy and burdensome. You longed for relief from hurt and for something better. You did not know what it was, but innately you longed for it anyway. Then God began to bring truth to you. For moments of time, your blinded eyes were open and you began to see a hope for your state of bondage. Then on that most memorable day, the truth removed the callousness of your heart and the scales from your eyes to the blinding beautiful light of the gospel and you became free. For the first time, you could live without succumbing to the dictates of your sin nature. You began to enjoy life in a way previously unimaginable and it all came about with your liberty in Christ.
The Galatians experienced the same thing, but instead of continually enjoying the liberty that they had in Christ, they allowed themselves to be brought again into bondage. They again embraced the law as a manner of completing them spiritually. How did this happen and why were they able to be led away from truth?
One key from scripture that reveals why people allow themselves to be brought again into bondage is fear (Gal. 2:12). Even Peter himself because of fear gave in and placed himself under the law. Fear of rejection, fear of failure and fear of being in error can all be motivators. People who before salvation lived under some of these types of the afore mentioned fears are likely candidates for submitting to bondage. Another cause for bondage to occur is because a leader attempts to promote himself among those he seeks to lead into bondage or to promote himself among his own peers (Gal. 4:17).
Have you placed yourself back into bondage? Ask yourself, “What am I doing to make myself justified before God or man? What rigid code am I following to make me appear just or justified before my peers?” You may believe in eternal security and may resist law keeping in order to attain salvation, but by what standard do you measure your spirituality or by what standard do you allow others to measure you? If it is by anything other than recognizing the fruit of the spirit in your life (Gal. 5:22-23) you are in bondage. The fruit of the Holy Spirit will reveal God’s holiness in your life. Paul condemns using liberty as an occasion for the flesh, but does promote godly living.
You can live free from the bondage of sin and God wants to assure that you never again come into bondage either to sin or any other entity. Decide today to be free and live free.