PRAY: Before you begin reading today, ask God to help you understand His Word & also to help you understand your own heart & mind…attitudes & areas in your life where you need God to help you become more like Jesus.
READ: Galatians 4:8-31
“No turning back, no turning back.” If you’ve been around church for a while you may recognize those words as the closing for each verse of the hymn I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.
For a follower of Jesus Christ the battle to consistently & intentionally live out the Gospel is a war waged in our hearts & minds…multiple times a day. Paul knew this all too well in his own life. In his letter to Christians in Rome (Romans 7:15ff) he becomes transparent about the struggle to follow Jesus in obedience.
For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Romans 7:19
The Christians that Paul was writing to in Galatia were no exceptions to the fight, & neither are we. It would be easy for us to boil following Jesus down to a list of do’s & don’t…seasons or holidays that we celebrate (or that we don’t celebrate). Daily goals & tasks that could be completed & checked off our Christian “to do” or “to don’t” lists would seem to make life more manageable. Crossing off those action items or making it another day without giving into that specific temptation moves the authorship of our faith from Jesus to ourselves. It’s not all about us!
Paul bluntly called out the Galatians struggle with people pleasing. For the sake of the Gospel Paul would spoke to them like a spiritual parent saying,
“My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you.” (Gal 4:19)
Paul saw that they were trying to manage their sin rather than die to it; that had fallen into the trap of becoming their own functional saviors rather than trusting and growing in Christ.
We need to be reminded that Jesus lived a perfect & sinless life so that He could die in our place as the blameless, sinless, unblemished sacrifice. Jesus’ work on the cross & through His resurrection is the work which reconciles us to God…not anything that we can do.
So as we seek to follow Jesus with all of our life, our aim is that we wouldn’t turn back to the old way of life where we used to find temporary satisfaction. Our goal would now be to faithfully walk toward Jesus & not be distracted by what others may say we need to add to faith in Jesus.
The ambition for Christians is now to daily (maybe multiple times a day) die to sin & self. That’s a lot easier said than done, but we start by asking the Holy Spirit to help us. After that Paul would say that we need to have other Christians in our life to encourage & support us as we seek to live out the Gospel.
Through the power of God’s Holy Spirit & the community of God’s people we can walk out the truth of the third verse of I Have Decided to Follow Jesus: The world behind me, the cross before me. No turning back, no turning back.
1. What causes you to get distracted from genuinely following Jesus? Do you tend to choose to go back to old things from before you were a Christian, or do you trade the joy of following Jesus in for a checklist of do’s & don’t’s?
2. Paul knew it was important to have others involved in our life, especially those that would seek to encourage us to live for Jesus day in & day out. Who do you have in your life currently helping you do that? Do they really know the areas where you are struggling? If you don’t have at least one person who can encourage you in living for Christ, why not?
3. Sometimes it seems like the first step in following Jesus is to stop doing something. There are also numerous aspects of Jesus’ life that we need to begin implementing in our life (i.e. pursuing humility, practicing patience, boldly & gently speaking truth, etc.). What is one attribute of Jesus’ life that you can ask God to begin cultivating in your life this week?
MEMORIZE: Galatians 4:8-9
This week's devotional is written by Zach Allen. Zach is the College & Connections Pastor here at City Church.