• Tony Birkhead

Breaking the Rules... Week - 8




Stop Trying, Start Relying!


INTRODUCTION

What are some of the ways you have used the word “love” today? What were the objects of that love?

Do you think, given how much we use the word, that we define “love” the way God does?

If not, what do you think we mean when we use the word? How can that definition of love be destructive in our relationship with God?

We love movies, food, relatives, pets, and celebrities. In short, we are a culture in love with being in love. But the fact that we use the same word to describe how we feel about pizza as we do about God’s love reveals we have bought into lies regarding the nature of love. When we use the word “love,” we typically refer to a feeling that ebbs and flows based on circumstances. But God’s love is radically different than that. Rather than being based on the desirability of the object being loved, God’s love is based in Himself. This is why the love of God does not change based on our performance. Although this truth is wonderful, sometimes we try to earn God’s love through performing, by keeping His law. But in Christ, we are free from the slavery of legalism.

KEY SCRIPTURE

Galatians 5:1-15

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. 7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

READ GALATIANS 5:1-6.

What contrast did Paul draw in this verse? How did he describe slavery? What do you think “the yoke of bondage” symbolized?

What did Paul instruct his readers to do? About what danger did he warn them?

Paul commanded the Galatian Christians to stand firm in their freedom in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul admonished his readers to keep standing firm in the face of pressure from those who would lead them to live as if they no longer were free. Christ had set them free from the spiritual slavery of paganism. Would they choose to exchange the freedom they had in Christ for slavery to religious legalism (yoke of slavery)?

To what false teaching were the Galatian believers being exposed? How did that false teaching undermine the message of grace?

Why would those who accepted circumcision be submitting to a yoke of slavery?

Paul argued that by submitting to circumcision, the Gentile believers would endorse the false teaching that salvation requires faith plus keeping some law, thus denying that salvation is by grace through faith alone.

In what ways might believers today be persuaded to abandon grace as the basis of their relationship with God? What legalistic rules do some say we must keep if we wish to get to heaven?

What dire consequences to this legalism did Paul outline in verses 2-4?

What is our hope of righteousness (v. 5)? On what does this hope rest?

Paul said circumcision really didn’t matter one way or the other. What did he say was the only thing that mattered as we “eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness” (vv. 5-6)?

When a person lives by faith in Christ and His grace, then whether someone is circumcised or not doesn’t matter. If someone is circumcised, that is fine. If someone is not circumcised, that is also fine. In other words, the matter of justification before God is not impacted in any way. Rather, what is important is faith or trust in Christ, the One who has made salvation available.

READ GALATIANS 5:7-15.

What two images did Paul use to warn against false teachings? What did each symbolize?

Here and elsewhere (Phil. 2:16), Paul depicted the Christian life as a race. Like runners on a racetrack, the Galatian believers were running well. But someone (the Judaizers) had cut in on them. These false teachers had appeared on the track, trying to cause the Galatians to trip or turn back.

How does abusing freedom lead to less freedom?

How does neglecting Christian freedom lead us into slavery to false beliefs?

Bottom line—the Judaizers were willing to accept the cross with circumcision but not the cross without circumcision. Thus, the offense of the cross to these Judaizers was its message: “The law is not a means of being justified before God.”

MOVING FORWARD

  • What rules and laws do you unnecessarily enforce on yourself in an attempt to earn God’s approval? What rules are you most likely to ignore in an abuse of your freedom? How can the Holy Spirit lead you away from these tendencies this week?

  • How might considering the freedom you have in Christ motivate you to serve others in love? What are some practical ways you could do so this week?

PRAY TOGETHER

Praise God for the redemptive work of Jesus Christ that brings you freedom. Pray for our church, that believers would grow into the freedom provided by Jesus.

COMMENTARY

GALATIANS 5:1-12

5:1. Christ died to set us free from slavery to the law. Our responsibility is to stand firm and not to fall back into law and sin.

Christ has freed believers from the law. Yet these Galatians were returning to a yoke of slavery. Depending on the law for life and salvation makes a work animal out of you. Someone else controls and steers your life by means of an instrument connected around your neck. You become a slave, obedient to every direction. Any system—pagan idolatry or moral legalism—with dos and don’ts can make slaves of its followers. It seems the false teachers were trying to get the Galatians to take up the yoke of the law. Paul countered, “Take the Spirit’s gift of grace. Become what God wants to make you, not what you can make yourself. Be free from anyone’s yoke. If you want to be a slave, let Christ be your master.”

5:2. Those who return to the law face six negative consequences. First, it invalidates Christ’s work on the cross, for Christ will be no value to you. By submitting to circumcision, a person demonstrated that he was not fully trusting in Christ. Instead he added his own works to what Christ had done, thus invalidating the sufficiency of Christ for salvation.

5:3. The second negative consequence of returning to the law is obligation. Once a person submits to one part of the law (circumcision), he is obligated to obey the whole law.

The word “obligated” actually is a noun. The verb from which the noun comes means “to be indebted, “to be bound (by duty or necessity) to do something.” The noun means “debtor” or “a person bound by duty.” A literal translation of verse 3b is: “He is a debtor to do the entire (‘whole’) law.” The Galatians had no idea what they faced if they fell victim to the false teachers. Receiving circumcision merely would be the first obligation to be met. Soon they would find they owed a debt they could not pay, for doing all the law demanded was a heavy burden too hard to bear (see Matt. 23:4). Paul wanted the Galatians to know what was in store for them if they became duty-bound to the law.

5:4-6. The third negative consequence of returning to the law is that it removes a person from the sphere of grace. While the legalist is insecure because he cannot know if he has done enough to merit salvation, the believer is secure because he has placed his faith in Christ and will eagerly await righteousness.

When Paul says we “eagerly await … the righteousness for which we hope,” he is referring to one of two possibilities. On the one hand he may be referring to the righteousness that grows in us slowly, day by day, as we live by faith in Him. On the other hand, he may be referring to the day when our righteousness will suddenly be complete, the day when Jesus returns (Rom. 8:8-25; Col. 1:5; 2 Tim. 4:8). Both ideas are true and are taught elsewhere in Scripture. Our salvation is past, present, and future. We have been saved by Jesus’ work on the cross in the past; we are saved day by day as the Spirit works within us to bring about daily righteousness, and we will be saved when we see Jesus and receive our glorified body, freed from sin to serve Him in unsullied righteousness. What truly matters is the fruit of grace which is faith expressing itself through love (Eph. 2:10; Jas. 2:14-18). To fall from grace is to fall from love.

5:7-10. The fourth negative consequence of returning to the law is that it hinders spiritual growth and development. Using the metaphor of a race, Paul states that the legalists had cut in on the Galatians’ spiritual race and caused them to stumble spiritually. As a result, the Galatians were no longer obeying the truth. Turning to a yeast metaphor, Paul illustrates how quickly a little bit of legalism can contaminate a believer and, indeed, a whole church. Paul, however, expressed his confidence that the Galatians would not depart from the truth. He warned that those who are confusing them will experience God’s judgment.

5:11. A fifth consequence when one retreats to legalism is the removal of the offense of the cross. Before Paul was converted, as a Pharisee, he preached circumcision. Now he is being accused of still preaching circumcision. Paul denies this accusation by pointing to the offense or stumbling block of his gospel. He omitted circumcision, and this omission was an offense to the legalists who attacked him.

5:12. The sixth and final consequence of turning to the law is anger. Paul is so angry, he wishes the legalists would go the whole way and castrate themselves as did the pagan priests of the cult of Cybele in Asia Minor. This desire is not a pretty picture, but Paul is completely exasperated by these people who are preaching circumcision and sabotaging the Galatians’ faith.

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- Rather…“…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

I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.

Psalm 119:44-45

God’s laws, rules, and Jesus’ teachings can appear as a type of straight jacket to those who are not followers of Jesus. These rules may even seem to inhibit a person from being themselves, having fun, or living life to its fullest. The author of the famous Psalm 119 has a different view on this notion, however. The author wrote that keeping God’s law (doing what the Bible and Jesus said) will allow us to walk in wide places. Other translations use liberty or even freedom.

This can seem contradictory, but, as one looks at what the Bible lays out for our lives, we see that it helps us to live a life that is free from the wages of sin.

We are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:17)! In turn, these supposed “freeing” lifestyle choices can no longer ensnare, or have dominion over us.

…talk to a drug addicted person, and ask if he feels like he has liberty and freedom in life.

…ask an alcoholic in jail who’s just killed a mother and daughter while driving drunk if he or she is free.

…speak with a young lady who has to make the decision whether to keep, abort, or give up her soon to be daughter because she can’t afford to raise a child.

Do these situations ring of freedom to you? Charles Spurgeon said about this verse, “The way of holiness is not a track for slaves, but the King’s highway for freemen.” Jesus said that he came to give us life and to give us life abundantly (John 10:10). An abundant life is not a list of rules and restrictions with the intent of keeping us locked up, but a freedom in him to live as the people we were made to be.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 3

And you murmured in your tents and said, ‘Because the LORD hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.

Deuteronomy 1:27

Shortly after graduating high school I remember having a pit in my stomach. This pit stemmed from the realization that I was transitioning from the safety of my parents’ home to the uncertainty of my own life! I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to handle college, a job, a wife, and especially a family. But of course, like millions of other young adults, I soon realized that though freedom is hard, and difficult choices are plentiful, this stage of freedom was exactly what I needed to continue growing.

Although growing up in 21st century America isn’t a perfect analogy to the people of Israel’s plight, we can draw a few similarities. Firstly, we see in today’s passage that the Israelites blamed God for their current trouble. Much like an immature child blaming others (namely parents) for their troublesome situations, the Israelites blamed God for the difficulty of conflict amidst their freedom.

Secondly, when God liberated His people from slavery in Egypt, their lives were no longer controlled by their oppressors and therefore no longer predictable. Freedom is hard because we have to make our own decisions and bear the consequences of those decisions. We can’t shift blame for poor decision making or evade responsibility. It can be easy to blame others for the situations we are in, or even God. When hard times/decisions come our way, remember that God has either brought you to where you are, or can bring you through it. Read through the book of Exodus and see how God continually provided for the Israelites.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 4

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 5:1-11

God’s grace is miraculous. It allows hearts to beat, bodies to heal, and love to be given, regardless of peoples’ opinions of Him. He offers forgiveness to the rebellious, freedom to sinners, and intimacy with Himself to all who trust Christ as Savior. God’s children can approach Him confidently because there is no condemnation for those who belong to Him (Rom. 8:1). What amazing grace!

But that’s not the way things always were. Israel, God’s chosen people, lived under the Law—not under grace. Like us, they were disobedient, so God established the sacrificial system to provide a symbolic way for their wrongdoing to be forgiven.

But since it was humanly impossible to obey every aspect of all 613 commandments God handed down through Moses, the Father graciously sent Jesus to fulfill the Law for us. Our Savior’s sinless life gives us permanent forgiveness because He died once for all sins (Heb. 7:27). The result is that we can approach God’s throne directly.

Believers stand upon the immovable foundation of God’s grace. It covers us like a canopy and surrounds like a protective wall. Let the truth of that sink into your heart and mind so you can become a vessel of the Lord’s love, kindness, and goodness to others.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org

DAY 5

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

There are certain things we all know that we aren’t supposed to do. They’re black and white. For instance, we know that we are not supposed to lie or steal. These are obvious things.

But then we come to those gray areas of life. We wonder, “Is this all right for me to do?” That’s when we need to ask ourselves four questions: Does it build me up spiritually? Does it bring me under its power? Do I have an uneasy conscience about it? Could it cause someone to stumble?

In 1 Corinthians 6:12 Paul says, “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” (NKJV).

Someone might say they have the freedom to do a certain thing as a Christian. The problem is that our consciences can lead us astray at times.

The Bible says that “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23 NKJV). The Message puts it this way: “If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.”

For example, some people can listen to certain kinds of music, and it doesn’t affect them that much. Others listen to it, and it triggers a lot of stuff they don’t want triggered. Some can go to a certain kind of movie, while others don’t feel right about going to that kind of movie.

The real issue is whether it could drag you down spiritually. Could it cause another Christian to stumble? Some people are weaker than others in some areas. Why allow a potential area of compromise in your life? Why open yourself up to some other kind of influence? I don’t want to be under the power of anyone or anything except Jesus Christ.

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…

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:14

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