Galatians 5:21 | Inheritance of Life

I hear conversations when talking of spiritual things where people want to speak positively that God has many ways to heaven, many ways to acceptance, many ways to peace, or many ways to salvation. I nod along at such uplifting talk and I think how does one interject truth into this flowery but meaningless language? I don’t like to argue and I certainly do not enjoy bursting someone’s bubble but the truth is too important for all of us trying to make our way in life.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:21 ESV

We live in a moment of grace and mercy. God in his loving wisdom gave to us the Bible, the most printed book in all of history, for us to understand His nature, to understand His character, and to understand His plans for humanity. And it is here at this plan for humanity that the idea of many ways to find reconciliation with God are not found in the text. What one does find is a Jesus that spent much time dividing people and running off potential followers with hard truths. There is but one way to reconcile with God and that is to understand the war waging between the flesh, our lustful selfish desires for physical satisfaction (sin), and the spirit, God’s peace, love, and mercy that we are in desperate need to receive. God tells us that he is the King, the Father, who has an inheritance for those that find life by way of the Spirit. Jesus promises the Spirit filled life to his disciples…

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. John 14:15-17 ESV

Jesus is telling any that will listen that a life lived like the world, dominated by the selfish wicked flesh, cannot be reconciled with God. Peace cannot be found because peace can only come from an unselfish life lived by way of the spirit. This is the way God has ordained reconciliation and life. Think on this and think on this future moment that Jesus describes for all peoples. Where will you sort out?

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Matthew 25:31-34 ESV

Galatians 6:7 | Please don’t Live Your Truth

The mantra of the modern person that is preached and taught today is “You be you. Live your truth”. This sounds wonderful and in the free society that America has provided, people may be whoever or whatever they want to be. We as a society have moved far beyond conversations about what is truth or is there an absolute truth. Now society demands that we recognize, affirm, and support whatever an individual decides is true for themselves. But the age-old problem with truth is still true… Truth is fixed it cannot change.

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 ESV

There are truths out there that we are constrained by. There are natural laws and laws of personal interaction that are true regardless of how I live or what I believe about them. The laws of gravity prevents my ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound. There are laws of nature that demand I will grow old and die. No matter what I believe incorrectly or correctly the truth of reality is fixed and this brings us to a powerful realization of an absolute truth that impacts everything. That absolute unchanging knowledge is that where there are laws there is a Law Giver. Where there is a creation there is a Creator. The truths and the laws that we are constrained by, these laws that provide order and consistency are given by God the creator of truth and the creator of humanity. Jesus declared that he is the truth therefore anything that is truly true is sourced from him. The order of mathematics, the order of physics, the order of the seasons, the very order that scientist use to conduct their research, and the order of interpersonal relationships are all sourced from God the creator and law giver.

7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. Galatians 6:7 ESV

This brings us to what will be a shock to many living in this contemporary time. We have no power to alter or set aside what God has ordered and set as true. Paul writes that God is not mocked. It is the only time in the Bible that this Greek word is used. Contempt, the turning up of one’s nose at truth and the order God has set in place will not last.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! Isaiah 5:20-21 ESV

Continuing on in his thought that God is not mocked Paul goes on to explain what he means by putting the result of mocking God into terms of sowing and reaping.

8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Galatians 6:8 ESV

Mocking God looks like someone who is consumed by personal truth. A pseudo truth that they build life upon. In fact, Paul right before this topic on mocking God writes what a personal truth looks like to God. From this list of personal truth one can start to see how reaping corruption is the only conclusion.

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 ESV

Alternately someone who sows to the Spirit. A person who understands that there is no truth apart from God the law giver and creator would look like this to God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:22-24 ESV

I have one more point to make on this topic which is very emotional for many who are trapped in their own truth and are consumed by the physical and relations created in this personal truth. The final point is around perspective. The life we build in this world is temporary. The power I accumulate the way I love others if outside the truth of God’s order will come to nothing and set me against God. In order to reap in eternity, one must submit to God and his truth now in this moment of grace. My personal truth is a lie and a trap that leads to destruction. God is truth and he is eternal. He is able free and untangle each of us from the desires of this world and set our heart on him if we recognize his authority and truth through faith.

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17 ESV

Galatians 3:23 | Under Guard

Anyone who has ever become entangled with the government criminal process will understand just how difficult it is to meet all of the demands placed on individuals by judges, law enforcement, and the uncaring underbelly of bureaucracy. Even after serving a sentence of imprisonment there may be some kind of house arrest or limits on movement. There are fines and fees that must be paid endlessly for all the bureaucracy. The individual now also has a record that will follow them around hindering employment or causing grief with any future interactions with law enforcement. To those without strong family support, those without strong motivation to rise above, or even those who have no strong examples on how to move forward it can all seem very self-defeating like it is a trap that one can never be free of. Paul the primary author of the New Testament lived this kind of life of imprisonment at the hands of the Roman government. He uses this firsthand experience of imprisonment and abuse to explain how the law and faith work in the life of a Christian.

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. Galatians 3:23 ESV

The laws of God, think the 10 commandments, hang over the head of every person ever born. Murder (hate), lies, theft, and not honoring God our creator to name a few are laws that every person ever born has broken repeatedly. In a past conversation someone told me that as long as we follow the ten commandments all will be good with God. I asked the person to list the ten commandments for me. The person became nervous because they did not know all ten. How can a law we don’t study or know be a law that we can follow to be right with God? Paul tells us that we are under house arrest because of the law. The word he used here actually means “to guard, protect by a military guard, either to prevent hostile invasion, or to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from flight” (Strong’s G5432). The physical breaking of the law of God imprisons us spiritually. We can’t flee and we can’t get away from it. Living life anyway you want and as the youth of today like to say living “my truth” does not free anyone from the imprisonment of the law. The law is written to prove to us how broken and rebellious we are toward God who created us. The law represents a problem we have with God. We are entangled in this mess without support and without a way forward on our own.

God who is righteous and just in giving the law is also loving and compassionate so he has provided a way to be restored. Paul states we are imprisoned until faith is revealed. Faith is the family support, the lawyer, and the mercy of the judge. Freedom from the law and freedom to be restored in right relationship with God is found in faith. The faith Paul says is revealed to us is found in Jesus Christ. Peter using the same word Paul used to describe our situation under the law uses it to describes faith. Faith is a protective guard that allows us to become unentangled from the defeat of our failure at the hands of the law. 

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, …, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3;5 ESV

God’s power has provided a guard of faith for salvation. Salvation once received and secured is then guarded not by following the law but by believing and trusting in Jesus who was able to follow the law perfectly. You are God’s creation, he loves you, and God is calling you to be free from the city besieged by the law. Salvation and freedom are available to those who turn their lives over to Christ in faith that he has a better way.

Galatians 3:10 | Physical Solutions to a Spiritual Problem

There is an old joke about a spiritual person who has a house that is hit by a flood. Everyone has advanced warning of this flood and flees, but the spiritual person waits for God to save him from the flood. After some time, the water rises and the spiritual person has relocated to the roof of the house and a boat comes to him and the operator encourages this person trapped by the water to get into the boat. The person refuses because he is waiting for God to save him. The waters rise and the roof is almost under water and a helicopter comes with a life line and the person refuses the rescue. This person eventually drowns and upon meeting with God the person asks “God why did you not rescue me?!” and God responds “I sent you warnings of a flood, a boat, and a helicopter rescue what more did you want?” This joke is usually told as a challenge to some religious person who is waiting on God or is seeking God’s will in a situation.

While amusing this joke has a flaw that makes it irrelevant to the majority of people who are waiting on God. This joke highlights a situation where there is a purely physical situation that requires a physical solution. The failure of the joke is that people are both physical and spiritual so most problems are both spiritual and physical. So, seeking a completely spiritual response to a physical need is not relevant to how life works. What is real however is the opposite of this joke. People are almost always seeking a physical intervention to a spiritual predicament. Rarely does anyone wait on God for his solution to the problem of life. We chase after purely physical interventions like idols, crystals, superstition, self help gurus, money, lovers, and drugs to comfort us in our failed spiritual conditions. This happens inside the church to spiritual people as well and it take on the form of rules and laws. The thought goes like this “If I follow these rules then I will be hashtag blessed”

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Galatians 3:10 ESV

Laws are wonderful. They provide order and protection in an evil world. When there is a breakdown of laws then violence and poverty increase. This increase in poverty and anarchy is the physical result of unrighteousness, or lawlessness, that is in the spiritual heart nature of mankind when unchecked. The laws prove that I am lawless. It is impossible for me to live a life that follows all laws perfectly from birth until death. I hate and I lie which leaves me under a curse. But even if I tried to follow the law perfectly the law is only one part of understanding our predicament before God.

Jesus highlighted this problem directly to the religious leaders of his time. These leaders followed to the letter laws and customs but their spiritual state was an ugly mess. While they may have kept the “law” they were evil and mean-spirited people. They had perfected the physical response while neglecting their spiritual condition.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:27-28 ESV

The problem people miss when discussing the law is that the lawlessness is the physical outcome of a spiritual problem. Trying to live to the letter of the law without first solving the spiritual condition is the criticism that Jesus had to the Pharisees. They “outwardly appear beautiful” following the law and customs. But Jesus continued “within [they] are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” because they never confronted the spiritual side of the problem. God understanding this problem provided his Holy Spirit to mankind in order that we might live by the spirit. This means that we might be transformed starting on the inside and then following the law would be a natural overflow into the physical.

5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Galatians 3:5-6 ESV

Is God at work in our lives because we follow the law? Or Is God at work in our lives because we believed and trusted in him? The law is the physical overflow of what occurred because we first trusted him by faith in the spiritual.

Galatians 1:23 | Evil Transformed

There is a narrative that Hollywood likes to write about around the idea that people don’t ever really change. Can the bad guy really become a good guy? Or are we bound by the nature of who we are? It is an interesting idea that plays out in real life. If the person known to be evil all of a sudden becomes nice everyone is immediately suspicious and starts to wonder what real motive or game the evil person is playing at. Another variation of the theme is the good person takes pity on the evil person, cares for him, and then the evil person repays the kindness with more evil.

But in real life do evil people become good? To answer that question from a Christian perspective look no further than Paul author of most of the New Testament Bible. Paul started as a person filled with violence and hate who eventually became a leader of the Christian church on par with Peter the most famous disciple of Jesus. What we see with Paul is that his transformation was not of his own doing but something miraculous occurs that alters his life going forward.

23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me. Galatians 1:23-24 ESV

Paul by his own words was a violent man who was sold out for the faith of his fathers.

13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. Galatians 1:13-14 ESV

Paul, also called Saul, was even involved instigating the first death of a Christian, Stephen, after the resurrection of Jesus.

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at [Stephen]. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. Acts 7:54-59 ESV

But something happened to Paul while he was trying to destroy the church of Christ.

11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:11-12 ESV

Paul did not have a meeting of the mind with the church or the disciples. He was confronted by Jesus and forever altered moving from acts of evil to a life submissive to God. Luke in the book of Acts details how this happened.

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Acts 9:1-9 ESV

Paul was not a disciple of Jesus. He did not know Peter or the others in a personal way before his conversion. Paul tells the church in his letter that the gospel, the good news, he shared with them came directly from Jesus. History goes on to demonstrate how complete the change was for Paul. He wanted only harm for Christ in his youth yet in the end he authored most of the new testament and expanded the church beyond Jerusalem more than any other. Paul even willingly went to Rome giving his life to preach Jesus.

To the question Hollywood likes to write about. Can a person change? The answer is most assuredly people can change evil rebellion against God to powerful humility in service to God. But this change comes from God himself it is a miraculous event. We do not need to remain who we were before. Here is how Paul describes this transformation…

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

Even better we do not need to take Paul at his word. In any Hollywood story there is the good that must testify to the change that has occurred in the evil. Who better to validate Paul than Peter the most famous of the disciples?

15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 2 Peter 3:15-16 ESV

The gospel Paul preaches is the good news that God wants to reconcile and restore sinners to relationship with their creator. God came to earth as Jesus and paid the cost of sin that we might be free. Through Jesus God offers new life. A restored life like Paul found on that road to Damascus.