PRAY: Humbly ask God to give you wisdom to understand this portion of the Bible and the faith to live out what He reveals to you.
READ: Galatians 1:1-10
I just returned from a two-month mission trip to Southeast Asia. Buddhism was everywhere and has ruled the day there since about the time the apostle Paul wrote 'Galatians'! It was eye opening to see their homes full of countless statues of Buddha and to hear their prayers to dead ancestors. Very foreign to me. Not exactly the sweet-tea drinking, churchy, southern, Bible-belt Tallahassee folks I’m used to.
Don’t get me wrong, the Buddhist people were nice and they try to live moral lives. However, WHY they do leaves us worlds apart. Their hope is that if they are good enough, then upon death, they will be reincarnated into a wealthier or a more powerful person. Yes, they do believe in the idea of sin, but they wholeheartedly reject the notion that somebody else can pay the sin debt of another person.
So, when I attempted to explain that one Man (Jesus) could completely and fully pay for the sins of the world, many of my Buddhist friends looked at me like I was crazy! And that was how the apostle Paul reacted when heard the Galatian Christians were flirting with a false gospel.
In Galatia, there were false teachers (aka the Circumcisers), who had entered the church and began teaching that circumcision was a requirement for salvation. No circumcision, no heaven! For real?
Paul was shocked and annoyed by this! “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6).
The Galatians needed correcting, and to be informed of the seriousness of their actions. It’s likely they did not view their actions as apostasy; chances are they felt that they were improving upon, or enhancing, what Paul had already taught them. But they had forgotten the gospel equations:
Jesus+ Nothing = Eternal Life
Jesus+ Anything Else = Nothing
I have to say I’m thankful for Paul’s reminder. If I’m honest, there are many times when my life would look no different from that of a Galatian church member; I’ll live like I’m trying to earn my salvation and leave God’s grace behind. That’s called legalism, and it deeply affects my relationship with God.
Often I live like I’m trying to pay God back, instead of having faith that He will provide grace for the future. And just like the Galatians, I need my legalism to be called out and destroyed. I need people to speak the gospel into my life and remind me that salvation is not about what I can do, but is wholly about what Christ has already done, and that He has done everything for our salvation, allowing Him to say “It is finished” (John 19:30).
Fortunately for the Galatians, Paul does not take them out to the whipping post and beat them. Instead, he leads them back to grace, and back to the foot of the cross (Gal. 1:1-4). When you and I mess up we must return to Jesus and the gospel that saved us. Don’t try to clean yourself up before going back to God! That will lead you deeper into the trap of trying to earn God’s favor. Return to Jesus and don’t delay!
As you head out into the city today, you will face an age of cultural relativism and pluralistic religious beliefs, maybe even a Buddhist friend that needs to hear about Jesus. Lets be bold and contend for the gospel as the exclusive way to eternal life. Salvation is by God's grace, through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Lets preach the gospel to ourselves daily! May we trust only in the completed work of Christ and ever swim in the ocean of His unfathomable grace.
1. In what ways do we add to the gospel? What are some “Jesus+ Something Else” messages that are taught today?
2. When your Judgment Day comes, what will you say when God looks at you and says, “Why should I let you in”? Will you point to Christ, or will you point to your church involvement, good deeds, humanitarian work, etc.?
3. What practical steps can you take to avoid legalism as you share the gospel with unbelievers?
4. Why is approval from others such a large obstacle to standing up for Christ in Tallahassee?
MEMORIZE: Gal. 1:10
This week's devotional is written by Zach Jones. Zach is an FSU student and City Church Owner apprenticing to be a college City Group Leader.