Tag Archives: Galations 6

To do lists…

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.

(Ps 119.97-99)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.

(Rom 12.1)

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

(Gal 6.9&10)

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people..

(Eph 6.18)

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

(Col.3.23&24)

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. ..always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

(1Thess.5.14-18)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves….whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.

(Jm 1.22&25)

One of the most insidious weapons which the devil uses against me – and very possibly against many other believers – is to play on my desire to glorify God in my life, my desire to become more like Jesus.

Does that sound like a contradiction? I can assure you it is not. This very good and proper thing – like so many other good things – can be manipulated and twisted into a weapon which disables the believer and causes them endless trouble. I know, because it happens to me so often.

The great love of God for me, his grace in forgiving and making me a child in his family, call forth a response of love, of a hunger to please him and show how much I value all that I have been given, and also how amazing he is. This is very right and proper…but then with a very clever twist, the devil gets me to begin thinking about just what that right response should look like in my life – what is the “right” thing to do here and now? For an over-thinker, a perfectionist, and one who hates to upset anyone, that question is a lethal, paralysing power that goes straight to my heart and destroys my peace.

Firstly, the list of things which we are called to ‘do’ in response to our calling as redeemed children of God is quite daunting – so much to be prayed(continually?!) for, so much scripture to be meditated on (day and night!); so many people in physical and spiritual need to be reached out and ministered to. How does anyone manage to hold down a full-time job, run a family, pursue their God-given talents and skills in recreation, as well as doing these things which are commanded? How can I hold conversations with people at the same time as praying continually? How can I study and write essays, or take part in meetings and make business decisions at the same time as meditating on scripture?

When I put it that way, you can see it is nonsense, and since God has called us to interact with people, to serve him in our labours, to be godly parents, spouses, siblings, then these things also must be right. But just how does it work in practice? Perhaps now you see why I described it as a ‘paralysing’ question?!

Secondly, when I begin to think about prayer and scripture meditation, about serving others and sharing the gospel, I am invariably overwhelmed by the awareness that I do none of these things ‘as well as other people’. That is a dangerous phrase – when you hear it in your thoughts, take warning and realise that the devil is needling at your peace of mind, at your acceptance as a child of God and perfect in his sight.

I do not have answers to this challenge, I live with the questions; what does God desire that I should do with the limited time, talents and opportunities he has given me?

But I take great comfort from the word given to the Colossians – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…” – and from the sure knowledge that God sees my heart, and understands my weaknesses. Let me learn to trust his grace to be sufficient – I can never be ‘right’ in what I do, and that is ok with him, because his strength is made perfect, seen most clearly, in all the ways that he does things ‘right’, weaving all my best efforts into his beautiful whole.

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But I will boast!

As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of  that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle, they are the new people of God.

(Gal 6.14-17)

This is what the Lord says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in the power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

(Jer 9 23-24)

The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…. there is a subject upon which one could lavish a lifetime of study and reflection and still never reach the end! It is the pivotal point upon which all of history revolves, and by which the eternal destiny of humanity is determined. And for every individual follower, it is the foundation of their new life, the power which re-creates them as children of God with the promise of eternal life and the guarantee of his constant presence.

In the cross, God demonstrated that he was indeed a God who brings justice to the earth, because it was there that the price demanded by holiness for sin was paid – the wages of sin is death. And there too, was demonstrated the unfailing love of God, because it was God himself who paid the price, so that we might be spared! Our God, he it is that delights in justice, in unfailing love, and righteousness – that all should be done well. How great should our delight in this God be! We can most legitimately boast in our God, the only one who can fully deal with the brokenness of our hearts and our world, while at the same time restoring us to the perfect relationship with him for which we were designed.

What human wealth could ever buy a clean conscience or a quiet mind? What power on earth can bring a holy God back into fellowship with rebellious, proud and stubborn creatures? What wisdom could discern the only way to restore the broken image of God in his creatures? When we begin to understand what was achieved on the cross, then we begin to understand our great God, to glimpse the unfathomable love, the amazing grace, which are his essential character. There can be no end to the ways in which we can truthfully glory in, boast about our wonderful God.

This afternoon, I watched my small nation’s rugby team winning – against the odds – the opening game of the 2017 Six Nations tournament. It was thrilling, nerve-wracking, exhilirating – all the things a great sporting occasion can be; and I am proud tonight to be a Scot, to identify with the team in their commitment, passion, skill and doggedness. But as we all know – especially Scots! – sporting greatness is a fleeting thing, and not to be relied on for national pride or peace of mind. As individuals, we dare not invest our security or identity in such things, because they CANNOT be relied upon, they will fail us and leave us adrift and vulnerable. That is the point which Jeremiah is making when he dismisses the claims of wealth, power and wisdom to our loyalty and reliance.

There is nothing upon which it is safe to build our identity, our lives, except the Lord of unfailing love, who delights to bring justice and righteousness to the world. And it is supremely in the cross of Jesus Christ our Lord that we see this God revealed to us, when everything  needful was done to restore us. We add nothing, no matter how wise, powerful or rich we are, to the cross. If we cannot accept it without paying or contributing in some way, we have failed to understand what God is doing, and what a state we are in before his holiness. Let us rejoice in this complete work, in the cross, and be at peace!

I will not boast in anything, no gifts no power no wisdom;

But I will boast in Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection!

Why should I gain from his reward? I cannot give an answer;

But this I know with all my heart, his wounds have paid my ransom.

(Stuart Townend) 

 

The single eye.. and the audience of one

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

(Galatians 6. 4&5, the Message)

I think that one of the hardest lessons to learn as followers of Jesus, is that we have to keep learning the same lessons over and over again! I know that I do, and I don’t think I am alone in this…

It is a dreadful blow to our pride to realise that issues which dogged us in the past continue to entangle our thoughts, bring doubts and lead us away from quiet, peaceful service of God. We think that surely we must have matured and grown enough in faith and experience of the Christian life to be able to avoid such mistakes and trials. Finding ourselves back at the bottom of a familiar pit – whatever yours might be, I know mine only too well – we look around in despair and say, “Lord, I can’t believe I am here again, where did I go wrong this time?!”

The temptation for me then is to indulge in a serious bout of self-pity, painting myself as an abject failure, stunted in faith, whose life is a lie and her service of God a sham… It is horribly easy to get into this habit of thought – and it is a very clever trick of the Devil’s, by which he paralyses me, a captive to my own thoughts in dark hopelessness. I wonder if this is how Peter felt after betraying Jesus by that fire, the bitterness of realising that he was not as strong and true as he believed. How deeply pride runs through our thoughts, how we love to think of ourselves more highly than we ought, and despise others for their perceived weakness and vulnerability to things which are not a problem for us!

Yes, it is painful to see ourselves clearly, with all our faults, to admit that in our own strength we will never amount to much that is worthy or beautiful. So what is the healthy response to the pain of finding myself in the pit again?

Think of David, lamenting in Psalm 51 over his sin with Bathsheba, full of grief for the pain he has caused to his Shepherd, and bewailing his sinfulness. He turns back in repentance, and yet also in confidence that his prayers will be heard, and that God will answer. He relies on the revealed character of God, the one whose love is steadfast, the one who sees the heart of man and cannot be deceived by fine words or deeds. He knows that God values the offering up of “a broken and contrite heart”, and by the end of the psalm is already anticipating the renewed joy of praising God with a clean heart.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

(Psalm 51.11&12)

The passage from Galatians with which I began is very helpful alongside this psalm in helping me to deal with the reality that I will continue to fail as long as I live! Paul exhorts his readers to take a good hard look at themselves, and to be humble about what they see – not puffed up with conceit, but content with whatever God has given them. Their focus is to be on doing their own tasks for God as well as they can, and at all costs resisting that dangerous urge to look at other people. We are only responsible for ourselves, and that is quite enough. I can be glad when, with God’s help, I am able to serve and live for him; and when I fail, I can have confidence that my sin is dealt with, that God is not surprised by it, and that He is gently urging me to keep moving on, recognising that sin no longer has any power over me – either to cut me off from God permanently, or even to keep me in the pit of despair and self-pity.

May our patient, loving God continue to create in us pure hearts, so delighted by Him that we care nothing for the opinion of anyone else. May His presence in our hearts continue to transform us, so that we can live with others without envy, jealousy or pride, content  and willing to do what we can and steady against the temptation to despair over our sins. In Christ, we have the victory, and nothing, NOTHING can take that from us!

He must become greater…

For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate.

Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do… It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life!

(Galations 6.14&15, The Message)

“..not what you and I do.. It is what God is doing”, and what He is doing is glorious! Over the past few days, people all around the world who believe in Jesus as the son of God and their saviour from the power of sin, have been taking time to celebrate his death and resurrection. It has been a special time for meditating and rejoicing, praising God for his indescribable mercy and love towards us.

We believe that because of Jesus, the brokenness in our world, which goes like a fault line through every human heart, is being healed and will one day be gloriously wiped away for ever. We, who are powerless to save ourselves, crippled by sin and yet so blinded by pride in our own achievements that we think ourselves worthy of God’s approval; even we, are offered a fresh start. As Paul said in his letter to the Galatian church, we are liberated to live as new creatures, under the mercy and love of God.

What joy to know that it is not my own moral life, good deeds, carefully-controlled thoughts and desires which have to earn my place in eternal life – because I know full well that I am weak and wavering, so that even on my best days, I fall far short of perfection. What a relief, that I do not have to pretend to anyone that I am confident in my own worthiness and abilities – because I have no illusions about my strengths and weaknesses, and know how unreliable I am.

Instead, I have the privilege of boasting in and relying on Jesus, whose mercy and love are precious beyond telling, and beautiful beyond describing. His death, for me, is my sole claim to peace with God now and eternal life hereafter. I take a fierce delight in this, because he deserves so much more praise and boasting than I can ever give, I cannot ever overdo it! I can affirm his greatness and worthiness against all opposition, and know that I am on firm ground. Many may not like what I believe, many will dismiss it as foolishness or be offended by it, but I will boast in Jesus Christ and his all-surpassing power to save.

In him, my weaknesses are a vehicle for his strength to be displayed.

In him, my struggles and trials are a window for the world to see his power to comfort and sustain me.

In him, my life of small duties and responsibilities becomes a thing of great beauty, where every act of mercy and service is worthwhile, and no effort is wasted.

In him, my heart finds joy because of his great love, and each day brings so many love-gifts to make me glad.

In him, I know that true justice rests, and I have no need to pursue revenge.

In him, I know the power of forgiveness in my life, and am strengthened to forgive others.

In him, my heart delights, and I know that he is changing me from one degree of glory to another as he transforms me into his own likeness, so that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control become who I am.

In him, my soul finds rest, because it is all his doing, and his goodness and mercy will be my companions all the days of my life.

Let us rejoice in Jesus, let us boast of our wonderful Lord and Saviour, let us praise him and exalt him, and rest completely in his all-encompassing and complete salvation.

Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!

(Revelation 5.12)