Putting God's Word into Practice…

Galatians 2 ~ Good Enough

Paul had been teaching for 14 years that the grace of God and substitutionary death/resurrection of Jesus Christ was enough to save ANYONE!  Paul examined and tested himself to be sure those 14 years were not run in vain.  The Jewish believers in Jesus agreed with Paul that non-Jewish believers in Jesus did not need to add circumcision to their faith in Jesus for true salvation.  However, there were “false brothers” out there who disagreed.  Paul was unyielding and unsubmissive to them in order to protect the freedom and truth of the gospel.  That is what I hope this blog post does for any readers who happen upon it!

Paul even had to stand up to Peter for enjoying the company of the Gentiles until the Jewish leaders of the circumcision party (Doesn’t sound like a party to me!) came around.  Paul called it hypocrisy!  Hypocrisy is never in step with the truth of the gospel!  People who make salvation about following rules are slaves, and they enslave others!  Following rules will NEVER make us right with God!  Faith and belief in Jesus Christ is the only way!

The two verses that stuck out the most to me were 18 and 21.

For if I rebuild what I tore down (the Law), I prove myself to be a transgressor.

I do not set aside, nullify, treat as meaningless the grace of God.  For if keeping the law could make us right with God; then Christ died for no purpose!

There is no way to measure good works.  Being good will not save anyone.  Unless we can keep the whole law–never breaking one law EVER–we live separated from God for not attaining to His perfect standard.  GOD KNEW WE COULD NEVER BE PERFECT–HE GAVE US THE LAW TO REVEAL THAT TRUTH TO OUR HEARTS.  THEN HE GAVE THE LIFE OF HIS OWN SON, JESUS, TO MAKE ATONEMENT AND MAKE US RIGHT WITH HIMSELF.

I am a sinner!  I have lied, stolen, gossiped, cheated, been drunk, judgmental, dishonored my parents, loved things more than God, cursed, misused God’s name, the list could go on ad nauseam.  BUT I can say with Paul,

My old self has been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (2:20)

No other religion in the world has a God like that–who loves and gives Himself for the people!

The old me is dead and gone!  When people see me now, hopefully they see the love and grace of Christ living out through me!

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Galatians 1 ~ Truly Good News

This is a letter from Paul to the church in Galatia (modern day Turkey).  He had visited and shared the Good News of Jesus there, but after his departure other men came in and tried to change the beliefs of the young Christians.  They tried to make the Christ followers believe Jewish customs (circumcision) were necessary for salvation.  In this way, the false teachers could earn the respect of men.

Paul started off right away pointing to truth–Jesus GAVE HIMSELF for our sins and to deliver us from this evil age, and reminding them of their purpose–to give glory to God the Father.

Paul stressed that man’s gospel is zealous for traditions, is distorted, is contrary to the truth, and aims to please man not God.  Christ’s gospel sets us apart, involves His grace and His opening our eyes to truth, gives glory to God, and involves a complete character transformation (not a bodily transformation like circumcision).  In essence, the true gospel is fully up to God not man.  He calls us, He shows us truth, He changes us!

Today there are false gospels among us.  A gospel that makes people feel good about their sinful condition–tolerating and rationalizing it, a gospel that devalues the grace and cross of Jesus Christ, a gospel that adds work and rules are NO GOSPELS AT ALL.  THEY ARE BAD NEWS!

The true gospel–THE GOOD NEWS–is pure and unchanging.  There are no additives!  True Good News is just Jesus–Jesus giving Himself to deliver us from sin.

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2 Corinthians 1:1-11 God of ALL Comfort

A month ago, I spent 40 minutes typing a thorough blog post for the beginning of 2 Corinthians only to have the site “freeze” and lose the whole thing.  I didn’t have time to re-think and re-type it that morning and am going to type up my notes now before moving on to Galatians.  I believe that everything happens according to God’s plan–even computer freezes!  Maybe someone needs to be reminded of God’s comfort today more than they did a month ago.

2 Corinthians was a letter from Paul to the saints (holy and dedicated ones) on the peninsula of Achaia, specifically those in Corinth–the gateway city to Achaia.  Paul referred to himself as an “apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.”  Paul did not choose this path for his life, but surrendered to God’s will.  He had written and visited Corinth in the past, yet there were still problems that needed attention.

Paul gave two names for God–names that we can cling to when we are in turmoil.  1. Father of mercies and 2. God of ALL comfort.

God comforts us in ALL our affliction so that we can comfort others with the comfort that we have experienced through Him.  Where suffering is abundant; comfort is abundant!  We cannot out-suffer God’s comfort.

Personal affliction has purpose when we recognize that it gives us an opportunity to help others.

  1. It brings salvation and comfort. (6)
  2. It enables us to testify to God’s deliverance. (10)
  3. It gives us a firm place to set our hope. (7)
  4. It allows us to support each other in prayer.  (11)
  5. It stirs up gratitude in many.  (11)  

Paul described their affliction as being “so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.”  Have you been there?  God allows those burdens into our lives to make us rely on Him and His strength.  We will never know more of His presence and power in our lives than when we lean on Him in our afflictions.  As we experience His strength in our suffering, it gives us hope for future suffering.  Hope is defined in the ESV Study Bible as, “absolute confidence in God’s promises for the future based on His faithfulness in the past.”

What/who are you turning to for comfort in your afflictions?  If it is not the God of ALL comfort, you will be left empty, disappointed and hopeless.  Let the God of ALL comfort, comfort you today.  If you have been comforted by God in affliction, share His comfort with someone else. This gives purpose to our struggles and a way to use them to help others.

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2 Corinthians 13:5-14 Self-Examination

We are counseled to routinely exam our breasts, skin and teeth/gums to find early signs of foreign or toxic growths and/or discolorations.  The direction Paul gave in verse 5 is imperative!  Examine Yourself–Test Yourself!

Paul’s heart’s goal is to strengthen and build up the church in Corinth.  He does not seek anything from them materially, but he is jealous for their hearts to be restored to God. Their sinful lifestyle has separated them from God and dulled them spiritually; to the end that he even asks them to question their salvation.

Matthew 3:8 and Luke 3:8 are two accounts of John the Baptist warning people to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”  Earlier in the letter, Paul wrote that godly sorrow leads to repentance.  Those who have repented and turned to Christ for forgiveness and grace should look different.  Their lives should produce different fruit!

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.  Do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?  Unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (13:5)

  1. Is there willful, persistent sin in my life?
  2. Have I wept over my sin and turned from it?
  3. Is there new, fresh fruit (actions and thoughts) in my life that line up with God’s Word?
  4. Do I experience Christ’s presence in my life?
  5. Is there anything in me that is decaying, rotting, changing for the worse, or abnormally growing?

I pray, like Paul, that we will all be restored and healthy in the Lord, that we will be filled with joy and peace with God and towards one another, and that we will be able to comfort each other as we journey together.

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2 Corinthians 12:11-13:4 ~ Gladly Spending

About seven years back, I picked a theme verse for ministry.  It was 2 Corinthians 12:15a.  “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”  Somehow, it had been stolen from my memory and forgotten by my heart.  Ministry can be discouraging.  This week I felt like giving up and walking away.  God so graciously reminded me of this verse for the first time in years.  It brought sweet conviction to my heart for my attitude and lack of faithfulness.

When I use the word ministry it envelopes my role as a wife, mother, school teacher, and volunteer leader in the church.  There are times when I would say that I definitely spend myself–but I have been missing the “most gladly” part for a while…again!

There are several characteristics of a ministry that is marked by gladly spending and being spent for people.  We work at any cost (time, emotional, material) to see others built up in the Lord (19).  We are humbly mournful over unrepentant hearts (21).  We love others more(15b). We seek out others (14b).  We don’t want to burden them, and they are not a burden to us (14).  We go out of our way to meet with people face-to-face (13:1). We speak the truth of Christ, point people to Christ and warn people of sin and its effect in their lives (13:2) for their freedom not their condemnation.

Does a life like that seem impossible and exhausting?  The key to “spending and being spent” for people is living that life “with Jesus through the power of God.”  He has all the power we need to fulfill His purposes for our lives!

I am so thankful that God reminded me of this verse and has renewed it in my heart as my theme for ministering to my family, church and community.  The price is high, and I will spend my life!  People’s souls are worth it!

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2 Corinthians 11:16-12:10 ~ It’s Opposite Day!

Do you remember “Opposite Day” from elementary school?  “I hate you…(dramatic pause)…it’s Opposite Day!”  That’s how Paul addresses the area of boasting in these verses.

We are taught to boast in our strengths and hide our weaknesses.  We boast when our children do something great, in our church growth and programming, our weight loss success, our education or career triumphs.  As is most things about God, Paul is stating that we should desire the opposite.  We should boast in our weakness, not in our accolades and accomplishments.  Paul actual said that boasting in our strengths is fleshly and foolish.  Boasting in ourselves leads to conceit–it steals God’s glory for ourselves.

God would not allow that in Paul’s life.  Paul had so much potential in pointing people to Christ, in building and strengthening the church that God allowed something negative into his life to keep him humble and dependent on God.  When we are humble and dependent on God, we see all strength and achievements as His power in us–then our boast is in Him!

Three times Paul stated, “I will boast only in my weakness.” In 12:9 we see two purposes for his desire to boast in weakness: 1) To display God’s surpassing grace. 2) To experience the power of Christ in his life.

Paul went on to say he wasn’t just boasting, but he was CONTENT in weakness, insults, hardships, persecution, and calamity (such as beatings, getting stoned, shipwrecked, sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, no food, cold and exposure, being on the lam).  How could he be content in that kind of life?  God’s grace and power in our circumstances is a special experience!

So when I am feeling weak, in danger, in difficult hardships I want to remember what God told Paul, “MY GRACE IS ALL YOU NEED.”  Believing that will give me contentment no matter my circumstances!  Then I will be able to boast in the Lord and His goodness to me.

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2 Corinthians 10:4, 11:1-29 ~ Can’t think of a good title =)

I’ve often prayed 2 Corinthians 10:4 and heard it taught as a way to avoid temptation, “Let me take every thought captive and make it obey Christ.”  However, as I have studied it and mulled it over during the last few days, I think that is only a small part of the power of that verse.  Any idea or opinion raised against the knowledge of God must be taken captive–our own and others!

This is why Paul is so bold in facing sugar-coated and outright untruths!  He is jealous to protect the purity of the church.  He knows that Satan works diligently to deceive and he does it by leading our thoughts astray.  As we think, so we act!

If Satan has our thoughts, he has power over our actions.  He is working to divide our devotion to and steal our sincerity in our relationship with Christ.  In contrast, Paul wants to help people take their thoughts captive to obey Christ.  Paul is waging war on their behalf to keep them pure, which he says in 11:28 causes daily pressure and anxiety.

If your pastor is committed to your spiritual purity, thank him by listening and respecting him.  So many people forfeit the blessing of truth by listening to people who don’t care for them personally or have their best interest in mind.

If you read this and you are from our church; I want you to know for sure that your pastor and his wife love you!  We carry concern daily that you are growing in truth; that you are purely and sincerely devoted to Christ; and that you are consistently experiencing the love, joy, freedom, peace and grace of God.

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2 Corinthians 10 ~ Supernatural Weapons

Paul wrote in this chapter about tearing down strongholds that are set up against the knowledge of God.  Some strongholds I thought about were disobedience, deception, pride, bitterness, our flesh, any area of life and thoughts where Satan is ruling and not God.

There is a promise here that we–using the weapons that are supernatural–can be used by God to tear down and completely destroy strongholds.  Some of the weapons that have divine power to destroy strongholds in my life and even the lives of those around me are prayer, God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, and the meekness and gentleness of Christ.

When strongholds come tumbling down; boast only in the Lord. It is only His weapons that have power to gain spiritual ground in the battle.  We cannot change our minds or other’s minds toward God and His truth.  But God’s power through our availability and love for others can.

“It is not a case of the Christian’s effort to force all his 

thoughts to be pleasing to Christ. Rather the picture seems 

to be that of a military operation in enemy territory that 

seeks to thwart every single hostile plan of battle, so that 

there will be universal allegiance to Christ.”  (Harris)

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