• Tony Birkhead

Breaking the Rules... Week - 3




The Response to Grace is Freedom not Confinement!


INTRODUCTION

In which sport(s) do you think it is most difficult to score? Why? In which sport is it easiest to score? Why?

In what ways might we as human beings try to “score points” with God?

Why do people want to “score points” with God? What’s tempting about this approach? What’s wrong with this approach?

For those of us with a competitive spirit, games in which we can score more points than our opponents are exciting. We often consider games to be worthless unless a winner is declared. We also tend to think this way about God. Many people believe they can score points with God through seemingly righteous acts, but today we will see in Galatians 2 the futility of that hope. Only Jesus is able to satisfy the requirements of the law and we receive Him only through faith. Therefore, God’s pleasure in us is not based on our performance for Him, but through faith in Jesus.

KEY SCRIPTURE

Galatians 2:1-10

Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. 4 This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 6 As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. 7 On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. 8 For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. 9 James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

READ GALATIANS 2:1-10.

How would you explain Paul’s goal in this situation?

How would you summarize Paul’s approach? How is this different from how you might react in a similar situation?

Paul spoke to the division over Jews and Gentiles by talking about his experiences. He knew that tension existed, but he was not worried about the issue because he had spoken with the apostles, the leaders of the church in order to reach a wise conclusion. Paul knew his purpose was to spread the gospel, not to worry about circumcision. Yet Paul’s spread of the gospel would inevitable lead him to confront any form of performance-driven salvation.

When Paul was in Jerusalem (2:1-10) and when Cephus came to Antioch (2:11-14) Paul could have compromised his message to gain the approval of others. What are some of the pressures that we face that can distract us from following through with what we believe God wants us to do?


MOVING FORWARD

  • In what ways has God’s grace given you freedom?

  • What areas have you observed people trying to put rules where there should be grace?

  • How does accountability help us not abuse grace?


PRAY TOGETHER

Pray specifically for group members to apply the reality of God’s love for them to the struggles in their lives. Pray that each person would continue to change in order to look more and more like Jesus. Pray that they would reflect on and understand what it means to daily die to self.


COMMENTARY

GALATIANS 2:1-10

2:1. This reference to 14 years could be to a full 14 calendar years or 12 full years and fractions of the first and last. The time could look back to: (1) Paul’s conversion (1:15-16), (2) Paul’s previous trip to Jerusalem (1:18-19), or (3) Paul’s trip to Syria and Cilicia (1:21). Paul’s relationship with Barnabas, whose name means “Son of Encouragement” (Ac 4:36), began in Jerusalem (Ac 9:27). Titus was a convert under Paul (Titus 1:4) who became an effective minister (2Co 2:13; 7:13; Titus 1:5).

2:2. Paul “presented... the gospel” he was preaching to the leaders (at least James, Peter, and John; see note at v. 9) for the sake of helpful discussion. The phrase “might not be running... in vain” reflects concern over brewing disunity in the church. Paul’s meeting privately with the leaders (lit “the recognized ones”) in Jerusalem makes it unlikely he was talking about the Jerusalem Council, which was larger and more public (Ac 15:6,12).

2:3-5. To make it clear that he had not adjusted his gospel message during this private conference with the church leadership in Jerusalem, Paul used Titus as a test case. Had Paul caved in to the view that had recently been preached in the Galatian churches (that it was necessary for a Gentile to be circumcised and keep the Mosaic law to become a Christian; 2:16; 5:2-3), Titus, a Gentile convert, would have been compelled to be circumcised, but he was not, reflecting the fact that Paul’s gospel was accepted by the recognized church leaders in Jerusalem. “False brothers” reflects that they were not really Christians. This group heard that Paul was having private discussions about the gospel and the Gentiles, and they found a deceptive way to “crash the party” to try to curtail “freedom... in Christ” and enslave Christians to the law, which was happening in the Galatian churches (5:1). To maintain the truth of the gospel, Paul did not submit even momentarily to their argument about circumcision.

2:6. James, Peter, and John were the recognized “pillars” of the church (v. 9). “What they really were... God does not show favoritism” was not meant as disparaging to them. However, as Paul recounted in verses 11-14, he encountered problems in Syrian Antioch from: (1) those who were claiming authority from James (v. 12), and (2) Peter’s hypocritical attempt to appease that group.

2:7-10. Paul was not saying in these verses that there are two different gospel messages. Rather, he had been appointed by God as the apostle to the Gentiles (Ac 22:21; Rm 11:13), and Peter served as an apostle to the Jews. God was at work in each ministry. The unity of viewpoint between Paul and the leaders of the Jerusalem church was symbolized by the “right hand of fellowship”—a common sign of friendship and agreement. “To remember the poor” was the main reason why Paul and Barnabas had made this trip to Jerusalem (Ac 11:28-30).



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

“Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.”

1 John 2:28

Recently I’ve been looking some of my biggest fears straight on. And frankly, I want to run and hide. And then stay hidden forever. To be honest, my deepest fear has everything to do with the fear of man: fearing what “they” will think of me. It can feel crushing sometimes, can’t it? God calls us out upon the waters, to do the unknown, unthinkable, or unheard of, and then, as true as we know God to be, we begin to look around. We feel different. We may even feel like a freak. But oh, the catalyst to freedom this can prove to be… if we let it.

MAN’S FAVOR WILL FAIL- The truth is, when we look to man for our value, we are never protected from shame. Mankind is incapable of perfect love. Mankind is broken, hurting, enslaved by the power of not knowing perfect love, and in this, man is ignorant. We know not what we’re doing… nor what we’re talking about. This is not to shame humanity! This is to remind us that we aren’t free in human love. Darkness doesn’t free darkness. Light frees darkness. And God is light.

Jesus kept this in mind constantly. We could say he was the weirdest one of all. He didn’t teach what the others were teaching. He didn’t live as the others were living. For this, he was constantly and notoriously the object of man’s judgment. “But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men… for He Himself knew what was in man.” John 2:24-25 NASB

GOD’S SOLUTION- “…while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him…” 1 Peter 2:23 NASB When God calls us onward, upward, and to the unheard of, our catalyst to freedom will be, not looking around, but looking to him. Abiding in—practicing conscious awareness of and faith in—his perfect endless love is our solution to all fear and shame.

GOD’S FAVOR WILL PROTECT- Do you know that God does not shame? Do you know that? Perfect love does not shame. It only calls us to itself. For this reason, we can live in a world of fury and judgment all around us, yet be at perfect peace and rest within. Friends, it is this we must train in! If we look again at the verses we began with, we’ll see that the ultimate call to trust in his perfect love will be realized when Jesus returns for us. And it is to this end that every confrontation with fear and shame is for. He wants us to learn to not fall for it. When he returns for us, he will be coming for us all. Because he loves us all passionately and unconditionally. Yet, if we are not practiced in trusting his love, we will witness him in all his beautiful glory and will agree with the lie that we should be ashamed before him. Just like Adam and Eve did. (Gen. 3:8) And history will repeat itself.

CONCLUSION- But oh—there is no fear in perfect love, is there? Rather, perfect love casts out fear, doesn’t it? Friend, lets let fear be our training ground. Let’s let it become the greatest catalyst to freedom we’ve ever known. Let’s recognize it, call its bluff, and move onward, accepting perfect Love’s sweet invitation in its stead. “…God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment…” (1 John 4:16-17)

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 2

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:31-32

We live in a world of fake news, relativity, and social media highlight reels. I mean, come on, do you really think your “friend’s” lives are as #blessed as their Facebook and Instagram feeds say they are? What happened to reality? What happened to authenticity? What happened to the truth? A recent Google search on the topic revealed 994,000,000 results of websites claiming to have answers to these very important questions. The dictionary defines truth as a fact or belief that is accepted as true. So how can we know what is true and what is not? God gives us the filter of His Word. It provides and reveals the truth in every area of our lives. Today’s verse gives us the four step framework to answer this very important question. So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

STEP #1 – ABIDE IN MY WORD. The word abide is defined as continuing without fading or being lost. To abide in the word means we need to continue faithfully believing what Jesus has said, and then put this faith into action by consistently walking in obedience to His Word. This leads us to Step 2.

STEP #2 – YOU ARE TRULY MY DISCIPLES. To truly be a disciple of Christ, we need to continue to trust Jesus’ word and obey him on a consistent basis. We need to die to ourselves in every moment and live our lives as a living sacrifice fulfilling the calling he has on our lives. This will ultimately lead to His honor and glory.

STEP #3 – YOU WILL KNOW THE TRUTH. The amazing promise in this passage of scripture is that if we abide in His Word and obey His commandments, we will in fact, with zero relativity, know the truth.

STEP #4 – THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE. Close your eyes and recite that truth with me, THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE. Isn’t that awesome? The Creator of the universe has revealed ultimate truth to us through His Word. We have been delivered. We have been set free from relativity, guilt, and sinful behaviors that oppress those who do not abide in Him.

We live in a world that is at war with the truth of His Word. As believers, we have been given a gift, a roadmap to freedom. To know truth, we must abide in His word and obey His commandments. Are you abiding in His Word daily? Are you faithfully trusting and obeying His commandments? If not, I would encourage you to develop a new truth habit. Make the decision today to commit to consistently abide in His Word and faithfully trust and obey His teachings.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 3

The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the LORD said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand—”that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”

Exodus 4:1-5

God: What’s in your hand?

Moses: A staff.

God: Lay it down, I’ll make it come alive.

Moses: *Drops the staff*

It transforms into a snake—a living thing—that God asks Moses to pick back up. Through this staff, God worked miracles in Egypt and led his people into freedom. This staff represented deep things about Moses. He was a shepherd.

This was his: identity, income, influence. For me, I’m a writer, and I hold a pen. This is who I am, how I make money, and how I wield influence. I’m just learning that it’s not about me—and if I try to make it about me, it quickly runs out of ink. But when I lay it down for God, there’s a river of ink, a fountain of never ending inspiration, wisdom beyond my abilities, and purpose I could never engineer for myself.

So, what’s in your hand? Are you willing to lay it down so God can make it come to life, and work wonders in the world? When we do, let’s not run from the calling, like Moses did at first. God’s plans for you are much greater than your plans for yourself—the same goes for me. Let’s pick up the purpose he has for us.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 4

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9 Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

2 Corinthians 2:5-11

Satan’s primary goal is to alienate you from the love of God. If our enemy can manipulate you into focusing on your own desires, you will no longer see the Lord’s perspective.

We have seen this happen to people throughout the Bible. In Genesis, Eve wasn’t able to see all that God gave her, because she focused on one fruit (Gen. 3:1-6). In the book of Joshua, Achan was trapped by his desire for wealth, and he sinned against God (Josh. 7:20-25).

Even a man abundantly blessed by the Lord can lose sight of what’s important. King David went up to the palace roof, and he spotted a beautiful woman bathing (2 Samuel 11:2). This single action led to several tragic events in his life. By taking his eyes off God and all that He had provided, David ended up experiencing great heartache.

The same can happen to us, but there is good news: If you’ve committed yourself to the Lord, then you have died and been raised with Christ. He is now your life (Col. 3:1-4). When facing temptation, ask yourself, How will Christ regard the choice I make, and Will my decision have unwanted repercussions? Listen for the Holy Spirit, and He will send you in the right direction.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org

DAY 5

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

James 4:7

Are you running from God? Maybe you were raised in a Christian home, and you’re running from that. You’re saying, “I don’t want these values. I don’t want to live this way. I want to live my way. My family doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” And off you go.

How’s that working out for you? God will give us the freedom to make our own choices. And He will allow us to experience the repercussions of those choices.

Jonah found out that it was a really bad idea to run from God. The others on the ship called out to their gods, and ultimately Jonah called out to his God.

Would you rather have a nice easy flight and a crash landing, or a bumpy flight and a safe landing? For nonbelievers, life on Earth is as good as it will get. That’s it. If Jesus Christ isn’t a part of their lives, it will get a lot worse.

But for the Christian, life on Earth is as bad as it ever will be, because the best is yet to come. When Jesus told the disciples to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, a terrible storm hit. But they did make it to the other side.

Some people in life seem to have no suffering at all. Then there are others who seem to have more than their share of suffering. Why is this? I don’t know. But I do know this: There is more than life on Earth. There is eternity.

As Christians, ultimately. we will live happily ever after. But there might be some rough seas along the way. God loves you. His plans for you are better than your plans for yourself. So, don’t run from Him. Run to Him.

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…

We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

Galatians 2:5

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