• Tony Birkhead

Breaking the Rules... Week - 2




Is there anything about me that would cause others to praise God?


INTRODUCTION

How do you typically react to change? Do you thrive on change, or does it make you nervous? What does this say about your personality?

What is the biggest life change you’ve experienced recently? What do you remember most about that experience? How did you handle the change?

Change is inevitable. In our jobs, families, relationships, church, and country, change swirls all around us. For many people change is far from welcome. The way that we respond to changes shapes our lives going forward. Today we will see that Paul experienced dramatic life changes as his story went from being one of the most feared enemies of Christianity, to one of its most prolific voices. We’ll also be introduced to how that change came to be: by grace, not works.

KEY SCRIPTURE

Galatians 1:10-24

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. 11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. 18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. 21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

READ GALATIANS 1:10.

Is personal ambition bad? Why or why not? How should your identity in Christ affect your ambition? Do you have any ambitions in your life that do not fit with your identity in Christ?

How would you describe Paul’s ambition? How is his ambition different from the ambition of the world?

What does it mean for you to be a slave of Christ? Why is slavery to Christ an identity that sets you free?

Paul’s ambition was not for personal gain but for God’s gain. He had an audience of one, God. Too often ambition seeks to impress a large audience. Paul shifted ambition to pleasing God alone. Paul’s identity as a slave, a servant of God, clarified his ambition. It wasn’t an ambition for himself but for God.

READ GALATIANS 1:11-17.

Why did Paul make a distinction between the gospel he preached and man’s gospel? Describe these two gospels and their differences.

What happened to Paul when he received Christ? How did his life change?

Paul made the distinction between the two gospels because there were teachers in Galatia accusing him of trying to please men. Paul was making it clear he only preached the gospel that he received directly from Jesus Christ. Paul transformed from a persecutor of the church to a missionary to the Gentiles. We see Jesus as the source of Paul’s transformation in Acts 9.

READ GALATIANS 1:18-24.

Why did Paul feel the need to stay away from the church early on after his conversion? How would you have reacted if Saul showed up at your church? Think about was Saul was known for. This is pre-internet and cell phone. Word traveled slowly.


MOVING FORWARD

  • What in your past makes it hard for you to feel worthy of serving God? How does the gospel impact those feelings?

  • How has your past prepared you to minister to people today?

  • How can you use your story to serve in the church? How can your past successes and failures help you glorify and serve God?

  • Who in our community can you connect with because of your story? What are some ways you can be intentional with people this week?


PRAY TOGETHER

Pray that our identity in Christ would drive us to live for Him. Pray that God would give us a holy ambition for His name and His cause. Pray that the church would continually serve and focus on God and stay far from false gospels.


COMMENTARY

GALATIANS 1:10-24

1:10 The words win... people and please people previews Peter temporarily “deviating from the truth of the gospel” (2:14) to please a delegation from Jerusalem (2:12).

1:11-12 Paul did not say when his direct revelation from Jesus Christ came, but “reveal His Son in me” in verse 16 may imply that it was related to his conversion on the Damascus road (Ac 9:1-9; 22:6-10; 26:12-18).

1:13-14 Paul communicated three things to his readers: (1) he had advanced much farther in Judaism than those who had distorted the gospel, (2) he was far more zealous for the Jewish traditions than these false teachers, and (3) ironically, Paul’s zeal and advancement in Judaism led him to persecute the church before his conversion.

1:15 The phrase God, who... set me apart and called me sounds like Isa 49:1, which refers to the messianic Servant, and Jer 1:5, which refers to the prophet Jeremiah. Paul knew that his callings to salvation and apostleship were both undeserved (Rm 1:5).

1:16-17 On reveal His Son in me, see note at verses 11-12. On Paul’s calling to preach Christ among the Gentiles, see Ac 9:15; 26:17-18; Rm 1:5; 16:26. After his conversion (Ac 9:3-9), Paul did not feel any compulsion to travel immediately from Damascus to Jerusalem to consult with the authorities on the gospel. He went to Arabia (see Ac 9:23-25; 2Co 11:32-33), then back to Damascus.

1:18 Because of how time was computed in Paul’s time, it cannot be known whether the three years in this verse speaks of three full calendar years or one full year plus portions of two additional years. It is also not known whether the three years is figured after: (1) Paul’s conversion (vv. 15-16), (2) his departure for Arabia (v. 17), or (3) his return from Arabia to Damascus (v. 17). His trip to Jerusalem was to get to know the apostle Peter (the Greek equivalent of the Aramaic Cephas, meaning “stone”; Mt 16:18). If there were differences between Paul and Peter over the gospel message, they would have come out during this visit.

1:19 James, the brother of Jesus (Mt 13:55; Jms 1:1), is nowhere else listed as one of the 12 apostles (i.e., the 11, without Judas Iscariot, who was replaced by Matthias; Ac 1:23-26). But since he was in the upper room before Pentecost (Ac 1:13-14) and was the senior pastoral figure in the church at Jerusalem (see Ac 15:13; 21:18), James was considered to be virtually an “apostle.”

1:20 If anyone in Galatia doubted that Paul had previously had a harmonious discussion about his gospel message with Peter, and possibly with James, he solemnly affirmed in this verse that it was true.

1:22 That Paul was personally unknown to the Judean churches agrees with the silence about him in Acts from when he went to Tarsus (Ac 9:30) until Barnabas went there to bring him to be involved in the church in Syrian Antioch (Ac 11:25-26).

1:23-24 Since the Judean churches glorified God because Paul was preaching the faith he once tried to destroy, it is clear that they did not disagree with the gospel as he preached it.



DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE


HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME

The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?


DAY 1

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6

I wish my testimony was one of unwavering faith. I wish my high school classmates would all tell the same stories of my obvious love for Jesus. Of my commitment to the Gospel at all costs… Now, some of them would. Because I do love Jesus and am committed to the Gospel.

But others wouldn’t because they’ve seen me fall to sin and act pridefully. In fact, I’d wager that many of us are this way. We wish we could have another chance at past situations. These were my thoughts prior to writing this. Pretty grim way to spend an afternoon, right? But here was God’s answer to my angst and self-disappointment: “I’m not done with you yet.” I’m not finished, he’s still making me! I’m still being molded and shaped and conformed to Jesus’ likeness (Romans 8:29). And here’s more good news—so are you.

God’s not done with us, we are still being drawn and invited into relationship with him. Jesus served us first, and from that place of being served by him, we can serve him and his Church. What God did for me was turn my focus from myself and toward Jesus. This may seem simple, but it is a monumental gift of change and transformation. When our hearts are focused on Jesus we see his servanthood and selflessness, we see his love for the Church (Ephesians 5:25), we see the image to which we’re being conformed.

This changes us because we join Jesus in his mission and work on the earth. This is the context in which this molding, shaping and transforming takes place. No matter where we’ve fallen or cracked, our Maker has a grand design and intention for us that is not yet complete. Rest in hope and turn your focus upward and outward. Let the Father change your narrow scope from simply today, to that of eternity.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


DAY 2

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

1 Corinthians 2:1-2

A word of admonition to us all: don’t be a “wannabe” theologian! Paul was straightforward with the church in Corinth. He didn’t yammer on endlessly; he cut straight to the source of life, Jesus. As Christians, we should be all about Him. We should wake up with a craving to be like Jesus everyday and we should long to walk as He walked.

But how exactly did He walk? Great question. He walked through mobs of people shouting, spitting, and jeering at Him while carrying a cross. That’s how Jesus walked, that’s how Jesus lived. He allowed Himself to be humiliated, mocked, and ridiculed all for our good. Paul realized a simple yet powerful truth: when we know Jesus, our pride should evaporate. There is no room for arrogance when you’ve met Jesus. Paul didn’t need to use impressive words or flex his vocabulary, he needed to proclaim nothing but “Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

This mindset can work in us in two different ways:

Firstly, if we’re constantly looking to impress others with our knowledge or holiness, we’ve completely missed our purpose. The point is not us, it’s Jesus.

Secondly, we’ve also missed it if we neglect sharing Jesus with others because we’re worried that we don’t know enough. If we do this, we’ve also missed the heart of the matter. Again, the point is not us, it’s Jesus!

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 3

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Romans 12:18

When it comes to how patient we should be with others, the Bible is pretty clear. In 1 Thessalonians (1 Thess 2:7 and 1 Thess 2:11), Paul compares the patience we should demonstrate to our own family to that which we are to show other believers.

Throughout the New Testament, Paul reminds us to seek peace. In Romans 14:19, he says, “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” We find similar statements elsewhere in Romans, again in Ephesians, and in Colossians. Hmmm, I wonder if God is trying to tell us something?

Christ paid for our peace with His blood. This act of righteousness leads to justification and eternal life to anyone who places their faith in Him. When we do so, we are at peace with God, and when we find peace with God, we experience the peace of God, which allows us to extend peace to one another.

So if you find it difficult to live peacefully with those around you, start by turning to Christ. Believe in Him, accept the gift of salvation, and “search for peace, and work to maintain it (1 Peter 3:11).” When we learn to put aside our differences and work together in harmony, it’s a testimony to God’s power.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 4

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 4:2-6

In closing his letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul highlighted some essentials of the Christian life—devotion to prayer, an attitude of gratefulness, and wise dealings with unbelievers. Reminding us to make the most of opportunities to share our testimony, Paul said, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6).

The apostle knew the tongue’s power for good and encouraged using words to influence others for Jesus. James took the opposite approach, describing the harm tongues can do. He likened them to sparks that set a forest on fire or a restless evil that can poison (James 3:5; James 3:8). Sadly, we see this truth lived out in the media, workplace, families, and even churches.

Consider how we respond when we hear about a stranger who has ruined his personal life, carried out ruthless business practices, or brought public condemnation on himself. Our first response is often criticism and judgment instead of compassion or sorrow.

But we can learn from Jesus’ example. He asked the Samaritan woman simple questions so she’d recognize her need for living water (John 4:7-26); He invited Himself to the house of the hated tax collector (Luke 19:1-10) and He stood between the adulterous woman and her critics before gently bringing correction (John 8:1-11). Jesus’ words were seasoned with grace.

As representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must learn to speak graciously. Let’s make it our habit to use a kind tone of voice, courteous approach, humble spirit, and edifying words.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org

DAY 5

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

When you tell other people about what God has done for you, you are sharing your testimony. A testimony is when you share your story of how you came to faith. Every Christian has a testimony.

Some Christians have dramatic testimonies where they tell of being delivered from a life of drug addiction or crime or some sordid deeds. Other Christians don’t have testimonies that are quite as dramatic—but they are just as significant.

I like to hear how people came to Christ, but I don’t like it when people go into gory details about their past. Then there are testimonies where people tell how much they have given up for Jesus. They’ll say things like, “I gave up this and that for Jesus. I have made such sacrifices for the Lord. I have done it all for Him!”

Your testimony is not about what you gave up for Jesus. It’s about what He gave up for you. Don’t share what you have done for Jesus. Share what Jesus has done for you. Jesus is the one who has done the work. It is Jesus whom we are proclaiming.

A good, strong testimony will lift up what Christ has accomplished. The fact of the matter is that all of us were sinners hopelessly separated from God, traveling in the same boat on our way to Hell; and the same gospel came and transformed us. That is the testimony we all have.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org

MOVING FORWARD

One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.

Galatians 1:23-24

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