• Tony Birkhead

Breaking the Rules... Week - 5

The grace relationship we start with Jesus should be the grace relationship we finish within ourselves and others!


When was the hardest you have ever worked? What motivated you to work so hard?

In what area of your life do you get the most reward for your hard work? Your job? Your parenting? Your relationships? Your physical fitness? In what area do you get the least amount of return on your investment?

Sometimes people mistakenly think they can do certain things to earn God’s love. What are some ways people attempt to earn God’s love?

In most areas of our lives, our success directly correlates to how hard we work. It is no wonder we have such a hard time accepting that our relationship with God isn’t performance-based. When we understand that our salvation happens by grace through faith in Him alone and we can’t do anything to earn or lose it, we’re set free from the works that enslave us. Early Christians struggled to apply this truth to their lives just as we do.


Galatians 3:1-14

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.



In verses 1-5 Paul asked the Galatian believers a series of questions designed to help them see the folly of the heresy leading them astray. These questions focused on how they were saved.

Why is Paul’s question in verse 2 so crucial? How would you state his question in your own words?

How do you feel about yourself and your spirituality when you try to impress God with your works? How does that compare to how you feel when you rest in faith?

Paul wasn’t taking issue with the religious works the people were performing, but with the motives behind their works. What was wrong with the motives of the Galatians?

The believers in the Galatian church desired to follow Jesus well. But we learn from Paul’s letter that many had fallen into a trap that tempts us all—legalism. Legalism is the belief that we must fulfill certain requirements in order to gain God’s favor. Even though we know we’re saved by grace through faith, we still try to make ourselves better in an effort to earn God’s love. The Galatian church was under the influence of false teachers known as Judaizers, who taught that people had to keep the Jewish Old Testament laws even after becoming Christians. Their teaching negated Christ’s work on the cross as the propitiation for our sins, which we discussed last week.


In proving his argument for justification by faith, Paul moved from an argument based on the Galatians’ experience to an argument based on the teachings of Scripture. The first argument Paul used from Scripture was the example of Abraham, the first of the Old Testament patriarchs.

Read Genesis 15:1-6. What does the example of Abraham teach us about faith and righteousness?

What kind of balance should there be between observing the law (v. 2) and faith?

Who are the true children of Abraham? Who is eligible to be one?

Why is it so easy for us to forget the role of faith in our relationship with God?

READ DEUTERONOMY 27:16-19, 26.

What, according to these verses, is the inevitable result for failing to obey the law?

What does it mean to be “cursed?”

God promised that everyone who does not obey His law would be cursed. To be cursed means to be cut off from God and to face His righteous wrath for our sin.


As Paul continued his warning, he illustrated the dire circumstances of people living as slaves to works and the law. Quoting the Old Testament, Paul reminded us we are cursed. Because of sin, we deserve eternal death. Our cursed nature is evident in the brokenness of this world and our inability to keep God’s entire law.

What punishment from God do you deserve as a result of your sinful nature? Why can’t works set you free from sin’s curse?

How does Jesus solve the problem that no one can earn right standing with God?

What might you say to someone who says, “It doesn’t matter so much what you have faith in, or what God you believe in. What matters is that you have faith and are sincere in what you believe?”

Paul demonstrated to the church at Galatia that it is not the strength of our faith that ultimately matters, but the object of our faith. When we are saved, we are made right before God, not because of how strong our faith is, but because Christ willingly became a curse for us.

What effect does Jesus’ work on the cross have on your life? Do you think it’s possible for it to have a greater effect? Why or why not?


  • Describe your experience of becoming a believer in Christ. How is your story a reminder of the importance of grace?

  • Why is it more difficult for most of us to trust God in faith than to try to reach Him by works?

  • What are appropriate motives for obeying God’s laws and practicing spiritual disciplines? How do they point us to the grace of God in Christ? How might we be tempted to view these practices as works?


Thank God for sending Christ on our behalf, freeing us from bondage to the law. Thank God for giving us the law, which shows us what righteousness and holy living look like. Thank God for the Holy Spirit’s daily presence in our lives to guide, convict and comfort us as we seek to live by faith.



3:1. Using a tough love approach, Paul described the Galatians as foolish for allowing themselves to be deceived by the “faith plus” crowd, the false teachers who were demanding that Gentiles be circumcised and observe the law of Moses in order to be saved. In describing the Galatians as foolish, Paul did not mean that they were lacking in intellectual ability, but rather, in spiritual discernment. However, instead of being sharp and vigilant, the Galatians were careless and lazy. It was as if someone had charmed or bewitched them into believing false teachings. The Greek term translated bewitched means “to cast a spell” or “to hold spellbound by irresistible power.” The form of the Greek verb translated crucified stresses the finality of what happened on the cross. Jesus was crucified once and for all. The work of redemption was completed through His death and resurrection, and never needs to be supplemented.

3:2. The gift of the Holy Spirit is powerful evidence of our salvation (Rom. 8:16) and God’s guarantee of eternal glory (Eph. 1:13- 14). Therefore, the presence of the Holy Spirit and the reality of the new birth are inseparable. Paul reminded believers in Galatia that they had received the Holy Spirit, but wondered if they had forgotten the basis on which they received Him. Had they received the Spirit by faith or by keeping the law? Paul knew, as did the Galatians, that they had received eternal life as a gift—not by human efforts or merit. The transformation from death to life was enacted by divine power. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can transform a spiritually dead person into a person who is spiritually alive and knows the living God. Therefore, Paul questioned how his readers could have personally experienced the gift of the Holy Spirit solely on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ, yet later allow themselves to be persuaded that something more was required.

3:3. At the time of their conversions, the Galatian Christians depended solely on the Spirit’s power to bring them into a right relationship with the living God. They had received the Holy Spirit as a gift, not as a reward. Any higher kind of life the false teachers may have been promoting was really a step backwards, given that because they were rejecting God’s grace and relying on human effort.

3:4. Paul might have been thinking that these Galatian believers could reduce the degree of persecution they experienced for their faith by accepting circumcision, since that ritual act would have given the appearance that they were proselytes to Judaism. If so, Paul would then have been questioning the Galatians’ logic in turning to a ritual that could have spared them from persecution in the first place. Although Paul evidently viewed the situation in the Galatian churches as desperate, it was not hopeless.

3:5. For God to give . . . His Spirit is an act of incredible grace. The Greek verb translated give means “to provide or furnish something at one’s own expense.” The term was used to denote the actions of financial underwriters of Greek plays. The noun translated miracles literally means “power.” God’s miracles demonstrate His power. The Galatian believers had received the Spirit and experienced God’s miraculous power through faith.

3:6. In proving his argument for justification by faith, Paul moved from an argument based on the Galatians’ experiences to an argument based on the teachings of Scripture. The first argument Paul used from Scripture was the example of Abraham. Paul reminded the Galatians that Abraham’s acceptance by God was rooted in his faith alone. Paul pointed to Abraham’s experience to prove that salvation is and always has been by faith.

3:7. The Judaizers were teaching that in order to share in the blessings promised to Abraham, the Galatians must submit to the sign of the covenant made with Abraham—circumcision. Paul countered that false teaching by emphasizing that believers become rightly related to God the same way Abraham did—not through circumcision, but through faith. Thus, Gentile believers did not need to be circumcised. All that was required was their faith in Jesus Christ.

3:8-9. The true children of Abraham are those who have been declared righteous by faith. Abraham was a man of faith. By faith, this patriarch entered into a right relationship with God and received God’s blessings. On the basis of faith, we, too, enter into a right relationship with God and experience the blessings of knowing Him.

3:10. Referring to Deuteronomy 27:26, Paul declared that obedience to every part of the law is required. Otherwise, the offender suffers the law’s punishment. No matter how upright the lawbreaker has been otherwise, the offender must bear the curse of the law because of one violation.

3:11-12. The Bible refers to one who has been saved by faith in Jesus Christ as justified. A greater understanding of the term can help us better appreciate the richness of God’s salvation. Justification describes salvation from a legal perspective. Justification is granted by God on the basis of His grace, not through human efforts to please Him (Rom. 3:24). When God justifies us, He pardons all our sins, thus removing the separation our sins have caused between us and Himself.

God provides justification through faith, not by means of works or by keeping the law. None of us could be justified by works, because all of us are lacking in amount and quality. Neither can we be justified by keeping the law, because none of us can keep it perfectly. Justification is promised only through faith—not through works or the law. Emphasizing that the law is not based on faith, Paul quoted Leviticus 18:5 in Galatians 3:12. Paul also cited Habakkuk 2:4 in support of his defense of justification by faith (Gal. 3:11). Such faith is not merely mental assent to certain historical facts, but genuine acceptance in the heart of God’s gift of eternal life (Rom. 10:9).

3:13. As believers, we have been redeemed or “purchased” by Jesus Christ, and thus delivered from the curse that our sins deserve. The Greek word translated redeemed literally means “to set free by paying a price.” Christ paid the price to free us from the penalty of sin (1 Cor. 6:20). In describing the redemption Christ made available by His death on the cross, Paul referred to Deuteronomy 21:23. Although Christ was without sin, both the fact and the manner of His death brought Him under the curse of the law. Death by crucifixion was the most degrading and painful form of capital punishment in the ancient world.

3:14. This verse summarizes two benefits of Christ’s atoning death which Paul has set forth in Galatians 3: (1) the blessing given to Abraham extends not only to Jews, but also to Gentiles who place their faith in Christ, and (2) the Spirit is given to every believer.



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?


I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,

1 Corinthians 1:4

It is hard to imagine why Paul was telling the Church at Corinth that he was thankful for them. …the church in Corinth had serious “issues.” Among them, a man was sleeping with his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5:1). Fellow believers were suing each other (1 Corinthians 6:1). People were getting drunk off of the communion wine (1 Corinthians 11:21). And the list went on. What did he see in those people that made him thankful?

Paul saw what only a follower of Jesus Christ could see; God’s grace at work in their lives. Generally, the more time a person spends with another, the more obvious sin in their life becomes. This can either bring them closer together, or rend them further apart. Unfortunately, in many relationships it separates or even creates mistrust and a pride in one’s life as they judge the other person’s faults.

As we look for God’s grace in the lives of those around us, rather then their faults, we will begin to view them as a blessing in our lives instead of a curse. Seeing God’s abundant grace in others should be what separates the church from those outside of it. We are sinners full of grace, instead of sinners full of pride.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17

Much of life revolves around relationships, yet this is one area that many of us struggle with the most. For a host of reasons, we fail to be intentional, but it’s never too late to start. Here are some guiding principles to keep in mind as we strive to repair or grow deeper, more meaningful relationships this year.

We should start by nurturing our existing relationships, like close friends and family. Look for chances to show your love and affection by genuinely investing your time, attention, and energy into these people (Romans 12:9–10). Don’t put it off until there’s a problem.

Many of the strongest relationships are those that have been fractured but allowed to heal. Choosing to forgive, or allowing yourself to be forgiven, isn’t always easy. When we lean on our faith, the Holy Spirit will give us the strength and guidance we need. If you’re in a broken relationship that you’d like to restore, do it today. The pain of an unresolved hurt is far greater than the discomfort required to resolve it (Matthew 18:15).

The people we surround ourselves with largely determine our success or failure. They impact our decisions and influence how we treat others. With these points in mind, it’s a good idea to evaluate your circle of friends. Do negative influences surround you? Do you have friends that are unhealthy, unwise, or even unholy? If you do and these people aren’t willing to grow and develop with you, then they’re holding you back, and you should consider kindly and gracefully stepping away from their presence (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Some of the best relationships are still out there, waiting to be discovered. Don’t let a past hurt, fear of rejection, or shyness get in the way of stepping out and connecting with others. If you need strength, you can find it in Christ (Philippians 4:13). Any doubts you might be holding onto have been put there by Satan himself, who wants you to be alone. God’s plans for you include being strengthened and uplifted in community with others—every day (Jeremiah 29:11).

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

Jesus traded His perfect rightness before God for our utter depravity. His sacrifice was not lacking, it was complete, flawless, and whole. In fact, Jesus said it Himself, “It is finished” (John 19:30). However, often we attempt to add to Christ’s finished work. We justify ourselves in our own minds and hearts by doing good things (i.e. reading our Bibles, going to church, giving our tithe, serving others). When we do these good things we come to believe that we are good people. Yes, we believe Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), but God’s opinion of us is still largely based on the merit we earn by doing the right things.

The belief that we can add anything to completed work of Christ on the cross is dripping with pride! On the opposite side of this pride coin, however, lurks another evil. It is the idea that we can also subtract from His work. The notion that we aren’t doing enough of those good things to earn God’s favor and love is just as heinous, as it completely undermines the truth that all of our righteousness springs from Christ. We will, as Christians, walk as He walked, think as He thought, and do as He did (I John 2:5-6), but not as the means for our justification. We will walk in relationship with our Father through the reconciling work of Jesus alone!

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:26-27

While sharing our faith, many of us have been asked questions we didn’t feel prepared to answer. The awkwardness of such moments can make us hesitant to share, but that’s why it’s important to remember we’re not on our own.

Knowing we would need encouragement in such situations, Jesus told His followers, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26). Don’t forget that the omniscient Spirit of God lives within every Christian, and He knows the best way to respond to any comment or question. But for Him to “bring to ... remembrance” the truths of Scripture, we have responsibility to spend time in the Bible regularly. Then the word of Christ can “richly dwell within” us (Col. 3:16).

When we run into questions for which we don’t have the answer, it’s fine to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll look into it.” And there may be times that others approach spiritual topics with hostility. Then, remember Paul’s wisdom: “Let your speech always be with grace ... so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:6). Gracious words and a winsome attitude reflect Christlikeness, even in those moments when you might not have an answer on the tip of your tongue.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org


All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

1 Corinthians 6:12

One night Johnny Cash was so worn out from traveling that he didn’t know where he’d find the strength to perform. Then he was offered a pill to help him get through. After a moment’s hesitation, Cash took the pill and swallowed it. That night he gave a whale of a show, which became the first of many.

It’s not unlike when Eve offered Adam the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But the results of that fateful bite reverberated throughout humanity for time immemorial. Sin entered the human race.

The pills Cash loved initially played a part in keeping him away from God because of guilt. That’s because once you taste that forbidden fruit, it’s hard, if not impossible, to turn back the clock. It wasn’t long before a couple of pills weren’t enough for Cash. It’s the nature of the beast. Over the years, he steadily increased his amphetamine use, and it nearly destroyed his career and all of his relationships. Not long after Cash met June Carter, he told her (despite being married already), “Someday I’m going to marry you.” Less than a year after Cash recorded “I Walk the Line” as a ringing anthem of faithfulness to his wife, it became just another song.

Scripture Reading

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. (1 Corinthians 6:12 NKJV) Have you struggled with addiction of any type? How has it impacted your life?

Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well. Should your fountains be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be only your own, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love. For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, and be embraced in the arms of a seductress? (Proverbs 5:15–20 NKJV)

If you are married, what kinds of safeguards can you put in place to remain faithful to your spouse and enjoy security in your marriage? No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV) Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me. (Psalm 50:15 NKJV)

Adapted From: http://harvest.org


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…

Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Galatians 3:8-9

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