Plus Nothing Else (Galatians 4:8-11)

It-is-finished

Click here to read Galatians 4:8-11.

“Let me get this straight,” her sister told her, “this preacher told you that a person like you could do all the foolish, immoral things you have done all your life, and five minutes before you die, you can just repent and trust Jesus and be saved just like that? He told you that you don’t have to live a really good life to go to heaven? That’s offensive. It’s too simple; it’s too easy. I’ll never believe that! And you shouldn’t either.” The woman being spoken to was a single mother, with a string of broken relationships with men. Earlier that week, a pastor and deacon from the church next-door came to visit her. The pastor, whose name was Timothy Keller, told her about the freedom offered to all in Jesus Christ; she responded with joy and trusted Christ.

The gospel can seem offensive, even to Christians. We are prone to wander from it, because it opposes the operating principles of this world that say, “You need to earn it!” The Apostle Paul pleaded with the Galatian Christians to return to the true gospel. He reminded them of their previous way of life. They used to worship the “principles of this world (Galatians 4:3)” – likely a reference to the basic elements that were thought to make up the material world. The Greek mind believed that spiritual beings worked behind these principles to control people’s lives. To gain favor with them, people would make offerings to various gods and goddesses. Although the Galatian Christians looked very different then they had then, they were regressing to a similar state of spiritual immaturity. By adopting Jewish laws and customs to gain favor with God, they were simply replacing pagan rituals with Jewish ones. (Galatians 4:8-11)

We are prone to do the same. We can turn religion into forms of self-salvation. When the defense of a doctrine is elevated above the One the doctrine points to, we disparage Christ’s sacrifice. When we seek to appease God by attending special worship services – such as Christmas and Easter – we mock Christ’s sacrifice. Though it can be good, religiosity can morph into a form of self-salvation. Any addition to the gospel is actually a subtraction from it. Any addition says to Christ, “Your sacrifice was not enough; I need to add to it.”

Forms of Self-salvation will constantly rear their head in our spiritual walk. The remedy is to refocus on God’s provision in Christ, for nowhere else is salvation found.

For further reading:

Credible News (Galatians 1:6-10)

By Faith (Galatians 3:6-14), Part 1

By Faith (Galatians 3:6-14), Part 2

Galatians 4:3.

By Faith (Galatians 3:6-14), Part 2

Rubens - Christ Between Two Thieves

Click here to read Galatians 3:6-14.

“I have an iron will,” said Madonna in a 1991 interview Continue reading

By Faith (Galatians 3:6-14), Part 1

Click here to read Galatians 3:6-14.

What do you need to do to get right with God? Be a relatively good person? Grow up in a Christian family? Attend church? Continue reading

Credible News (Galatians 1:6-10)

static100-14-90-slide1Click here to read Galatians 1:6-10.

Since at least as early as 1914, United States Federal Reserve Notes have been produced with a raised printing security feature. Run your finger along the shoulder of the person portrayed on a bill of any denomination, and you will feel ridges. Not long after high school, I worked as a teller at a bank. I had been trained to feel for the raised printing. One day, I was presented with a hundred-dollar bill as part of a deposit. By all appearances, the bill looked like a genuine note. But, instead of feeling ridges, the bill was smooth. I discreetly excused myself and took the bill to my supervisor. My supervisor confirmed that the bill was counterfeit. Eventually that one-hundred-dollar bill made its way to the FBI. Meanwhile, the man, who presented it, was out one hundred dollars. Although they can look the same, there is a substantial difference between the genuine article and a fake.

In the churches in Galatia a counterfeit was being presented as genuine. It was stirring things up in the churches. (Galatians 1:6-10) These churches were likely located in the Southern Roman Province of Galatia, now located in modern-day Turkey. These were towns and cities that the Apostle Paul visited on what we call his first missionary journey. They were among the first churches Paul planted. Yet, within a few months of his last visit, they were turning to a counterfeit teaching. Jewish Christians from Jerusalem were teaching them that in addition to believing the gospel of Jesus Christ, they needed to follow all the Jewish customs to fully be incorporated into the people of God. Paul addressed the situation, by writing, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel, which is no gospel at all.”

Fake gospels throw people into confusion. At face value, they may seem genuine and capable of offering life in the fullest. But, fake gospels pervert the goodness of the good news. In Galatia, a fake gospel turned God’s free gift of grace in Christ into something that could only be obtained through human effort – following Jewish customs.

The only credible good news is the one received from God. No human manufactured gospel – no matter how good it may seem – can grant salvation and the freedom to live godly lives. Over the next few weeks, this blog will explore the gospel given by God, that empty counterfeits can more easily be detected.

Looking for more?

Calling Not Just Super Christians (Matthew 28:16-20)

Click here to read Matthew 28:16-20.

Upon hearing the words, “go make disciples of all nations (see Matthew 28:16-20),” you may conjure up in your mind a person like Hudson Taylor. At the age of 21, Taylor left his comfortable lifestyle in Yorkshire, England and traveled to China to share the good news. In the mid 1800’s, he weathered the five-and-a-half-month journey by sea. Continue reading

A Warning Worth Taking Serious (Matthew 13:47-50), Parables on the Kingdom, Part 5

Click here to read Matthew 13:47-50.

It seems wherever you go, companies are warning you about their products. Grab a cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts or Café 1905, and, on the lid, you’ll see, “Caution: Contents Hot.” The gas cap of a recreational vehicle says: “Never use a lit match or an open flame to check fuel level.” Continue reading

More than Any Earthly Treasure (Matthew 13:45-46), Parables on the Kingdom, Part 4

Click here to read Matthew 13:45-46.

Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains lies hidden treasure. Former Vietnam fighter pilot, self-taught archeologist, art dealer, and millionaire, Forest Fenn hid it there during the Great Recession to cheer people up and get them outdoors. Continue reading

Majestic Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32), Parables on the Kingdom, Part 3

Click here to read Matthew 13:31-32.

How many mustard seeds does it take to make an eight-ounce jar of mustard? Continue reading