Friday, June 10, 2016, 3:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Seek the Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Galatians 2:11-21 (ESV).
Acting Hypocritically (vv. 11-14)
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Cephas is another name for Peter. It is generally believed that, here, Paul was referring to the Apostle Peter when he used the name Cephas. Peter had been one of Jesus’ disciples when Jesus walked the face of the earth. Peter was impulsive and emotionally driven, and several times Jesus had to correct him. Once it was because Peter rebuked Jesus when Jesus was talking about his future death – at the hands of the priests and elders – and of his future resurrection. Peter said, “May this never be!” Jesus responded by saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” As well, when Jesus informed Peter that he would deny Christ three times, Peter said, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” Yet, Jesus’ words rang true, for Peter did deny his Lord three times, and because he was afraid.
Another time it was when Jesus visited Peter in a vision. Peter saw a sheet containing all kinds of animals being let down from heaven and he was told to eat. But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven (Ac. 10:14-16). Then Peter was perplexed over what the vision meant. Yet, he soon learned that the Lord was telling him that he was not to regard Gentiles (non-Jews) as unclean, but he was to show them the same love and care as he showed to his fellow Jews. Peter said, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Ac. 10:34-35).
Because Peter, although he initially resisted the vision, learned the lesson God had for him, many Gentiles came to faith in Jesus Christ.
Once again, though, we have Peter here setting his mind on the things of man instead of on the things of God. We have him also denying his Lord and his gospel message, and again out of fear of what humans might do to him. Even though Jesus had clearly taught him not to show partiality to any group of people, and not to treat Gentiles as though they were inferior to the Jews, he showed favoritism to the Jews, and he treated the Gentile Christians as though they were of less value. He used to eat with the uncircumcised believers, but now he did not. Not only was he being hypocritical in living and acting in a way contrary to what he espoused, but he was being unloving and was acting in disobedience to God in following the rules of men over Christ’s commands and teachings.
So, what about us? Do we live in accord with what we say we believe? Or, are our actions being determined by the company that we keep? Are we one way with one group of people, and another way with others? And, if those we wish to impress and to please are around us, and we know they don’t like a certain group of people, will we snub those whom they shun, or will we be faithful in all our friendships, not showing partiality to any group of people?
As well, will we deny our Lord and his gospel if we are with those who might mock us or reject us for our faith? Will we show greater concern for what humans think of us than what God thinks of us? And, will we seek the favor of humans over the acceptance of God in order to be liked by humans or to not be rejected? Or, will we stand strong on what we believe no matter who we are around? Will we be faithful to God and to our brothers and sisters in Christ even if it costs us our reputations, rejection and/or persecution? Or, will we compromise with the world around us so everyone will like us? Bottom line: Will we walk with integrity or will we live wishy-washy hypocritical lives, professing one thing while living another? We need to be people of integrity who don’t fold (bend) when under pressure.
Justified Through Faith (vv. 15-16)
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
All of us have sinned. We have all come up short of attaining God’s divine approval in our own fleshly works. Not one of us can do anything to earn or to deserve our own salvation. Jesus died for us, not because we were worthy, but because he loved us. No amount of good works will ever outweigh our bad deeds. It was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us. It is only by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, that we are able to be forgiven of our sins and be delivered out from under the control that sin previously had over our lives. We can only be made righteous because, through faith in Christ, Jesus’ righteousness is credited to our accounts. So, not one of us can brag that we are saved because of our own righteousness and good deeds, or because we follow a set of rules.
Crucified with Christ (vv. 17-21)
But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Yet, when we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, if our faith is genuine, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). The old has gone. The new has come. Our lives are no longer our own to be lived how we want. We have been born anew of the Spirit of God, and God’s Holy Spirit now dwells within us – comforting, encouraging, teaching, convicting, exhorting, leading, guiding, counseling, strengthening and empowering us to live godly and holy lives, pleasing to God. God’s grace is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (See: Tit. 2:11-14).
In other words, dying to the law does not mean freedom to live however we want. God still demands our obedience. He still requires us to walk in his Spirit and to no longer gratify the desires of our sinful flesh. He still commands us to obey his teachings and to walk in his love, and to no longer live sinful lifestyles (to walk in darkness). Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (See: 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15). And, Jesus died that the righteous requirement of the law might be met in us who walk not according to the flesh but who walk (conduct our lives) according to the Spirit. If we walk according to the flesh, we will die (spiritually), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live eternally with God (See: Ro. 8:1-14; cf. Lu. 9:23-25; Eph. 4:17-24).
A saved life is a crucified life in death to sin and living to righteousness. A saved life is also a life surrendered to our Lord Jesus Christ and submitted to his will for our lives. It is not a perfect life, but lack of perfection is never to be used as an excuse for us to live in willful and continued sin against God. Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self, take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity. But, if we lose our lives (are crucified with Christ in death to sin), then we will gain eternal life (Lu. 9:23-25). Yet, this is not us in our flesh trying to earn or to deserve God’s divine approval, but it is us, having died with Christ to sin, submitting to and allowing Christ to live his life out through us. His sheep listen to his voice and they follow (obey) him (Jn. 10:27-30).
Seek the Lord / An Original Work / July 20, 2012
Based off Isaiah 55
“Come to Me all you who thirst; come to waters.
Listen to Me, and eat what’s good today,
And your soul will delight in richest of fare.
Give ear to Me, and you will live.
I have made an eternal covenant with you.
Wash in the blood of the Lamb.”
Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him.
Let the wicked forsake his way, in truth.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will receive mercy.
Freely, God pardons him.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,”
declares the Lord, our God.
“My word that goes out of My mouth is truthful.
It will not return to Me unfulfilled.
My word will accomplish all that I desire,
And achieve the goal I intend.
You will go in joy, and be led forth in peace.
The mountains will burst into song… before you,
And all of the trees clap their hands.”