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A Power From On High To Rescue Us

If all Jesus Christ can do is tell me that I must be holy,

His teaching only causes me to despair.

Oswald Chambers

This is how Christianity differs from other religions.

Other religions tell you to follow the steps,

walk through the pillars, keep the rules.

And the world does the same, singing to us:

Don’t worry, be happy.  

 

Great advice, if we could do it, but we cannot.

We are drowning, and we need a rescue from on high.

 

Remember, we are, as Luther said, “caterpillars in a ring of fire.”

Our only hope of rescue is from above.

And so the book of Galatians begins, not with good advice, but with good news!

Luther says this verse sums up Galatians.

We know how it works to be rescued from the penalty of sin.

We agree with God that we are sinful,

and repent and receive His payment on our behalf.

But how does this rescue from the power of sin work?

That’s where we are headed.

I’ll begin with an illustration from my life, and then ask you for some of your own.

This will be our drumbeat these two months, for Galatians

was written to rescue us from a multitude of sins.

My Sin: Lack of Genuine Forgiveness from the Heart

When someone hurts me or someone I love, I know God tells me to forgive, but that is not my natural reaction. In “What’s So Amazing about Grace,” Philip Yancey says the reason grace is amazing is because it is not natural. What is natural is to want to hurt back or to withdraw. It is not natural to let it go and to love our “enemy.”

The opening of Galatians shows us that we are prone to believe lies, to “turn to a different gospel,” the spurious gospel that tells us we can save ourselves or help God to save us. One of the lies that I believe when I struggle to forgive, is that I want this person to be dealt with, and I don’t think God will do it the way it should be done. I also think I will feel better if I can justify myself, instead of trusting in Christ’s justification. When I believe these lies, this is my scenario.

I withdraw from that person and nurse my hurt, going over why he/she was wrong, and I was right. I justify myself internally and I imagine conversations with this person that will show him just how wrong he is.

Our own Diane from Canada wrote last week:

 I can relate to Luther’s “Preface to Galatians” where he speaks of people seeking many ways to redeem themselves, defend themselves. The preface is worth several rereads and ponderings. We definitely spend a huge amount of energy justifying ourselves – both to ourselves internally and to others.

So, how can I let Christ rescue me? First, I must admit my need, just as I had to admit my need to be rescued from the penalty of sin. I need to cry out to God from my ring of fire. I know I should forgive but I cannot! Help me, O Lord!

I remember doing this when I was standing in front of my jewelry box, realizing Niki, who cleaned for me, had stolen the emerald jewelry my late husband has given me. I knew the rule: forgive. But I couldn’t do it, so I cried out from my ring of fire. Many of you know this story, and how God brought this scene from Les Miserables to my mind.

With this, God reached down and reminded me of the gospel. That helped melt my heart and I began to forgive Niki. Another woman she had stolen from pressed charges and she went to jail. I sent her a Bible and studies. But I didn’t go see her. I needed more help from above. That happened when I met with her when she got out of jail. I was overwhelmed by the Spirit who did in me what I could not do. I was able to forgive her from my heart, to ask her forgiveness for my hard and unforgiving heart, and lead her to the Lord. The peace and freedom that came was amazing.

 

I am gaining wisdom with this particular sin. I know that when I am hurt by someone, I must make a conscious decision to stop nursing my own hurt. I can do that by melting my heart with how much I have been forgiven, and reminding myself I have a God who will deal with that person. When I do this, freedom and joy comes. Often I must do it repeatedly, but He always helps me. It is, as Eugene Peterson put it, “a long obedience in the same direction.” And eventually, I really do feel free of the burden. I can truly try to be at peace with that person, have compassion instead of hatred, and in time, no matter their response, God does in me what I could not do. He causes me to “let it go!” He will do all things well in His time.

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

In the book Educated, the author had to overcome a childhood of terrible abuse. After a mental breakdown she began therapy. She said, “There was not one session that I could look back on and say: “that session changed me,” However, the cumulative effective did heal me.” So often we want a quick change, but I encourage you to stay with this for our two months, for the cumulative effect will lead to freedom.

Sunday:

1. What stands out to you from the above and why?

2. None of us have arrived, but there may be an area where you have had a measure of success in overcoming a temptation. What lies are you overcoming? What truth are you speaking to your soul? How has God reached down to you?

Monday: Rescued from This Present Evil Age

3. Read Galatians 1:1-2 and explain Paul’s credentials and why we should listen carefully.

4. Meditate on Galatians 1:4 which Luther says sums up the whole letter.

    A.  What can Christ rescue us from and how did He do it?

    B.  Give one illustration of how the gospel could rescue someone from the power of sin?

    C. Keller makes a point that he doesn’t say, “according to your merit or righteousness.” What does 

        he say and why is this significant?

Tuesday: A Different Gospel

False teachers had come to believers and told them that they needed to add to what Christ did to be saved — they were being told they also needed to be circumcised and to abstain from certain foods.

5. How do you see false teachers doing this today in regard to being rescued from the penalty of sin. They say you need Jesus plus _____________ to be saved (give an example.)

6. Now — let’s make this personal.

A. You are facing a trial, and you feel alone because you think you need Jesus plus your own merit. Speak to your soul.

B. You have been hurt. You feel the person that hurt you should suffer, and though you may not think it consciously, you are are going to help God deal with him by withdrawing or finding ways to drive the knife in. Speak to your soul.

C. Your life is stressful. To relieve the stress, you think you need Jesus plus (sugar, shopping, sexual immorality, gossiping to another…) How might you flee temptation and speak to your soul, melting your soul with the gospel?

7. Read Galatians 1:6-9

A. Describe Paul’s tone.

B. Why is this righteous indignation?

C. What do verses 8-9 say should happen to a person who preaches a different gospel?

In The Solid Rock, we sing:

My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness I dare not trust the sweetest frame But wholly trust in Jesus’ name

8. Apply this to being saved from the power of sin.

    A. Where do you tend to run, other than God, when you are stressed, bored, or depressed?

    B.  Now, in this situation practice melting your heart with the gospel.

Wednesday: Is Your Religion Manmade or from God?

9. What does Galatians 1:10 say? How could this help us stand firm on the gospel?

10. What does Galatians 1:11 say?

Last Thursday we had our first Bible study using SonShip, which is based on Galatians. We have unbelievers in our group. How I long for them to see that Christianity is not a manmade religion, as are all the others. I had prepared these questions if it came up — but it didn’t:

  • Do you think it is possible that some religions are manmade and therefore prone to error?
  • Do you think, if there is a God, that He might be capable of revealing Himself and His truth?

11. What question might you ask those who feel it is wrong to say there is only one way to God and that is is Jesus?

Thursday: Paul’s Testimony

12. Read Galatians 1:13-24 and outline Paul’s testimony.

13. What particularly stands out to you and why?

Friday: Oswald Chambers on “his Son in me.”

Print off and read, underline, and mediate on this one page essay from Chambers:

14. What heredity do we have as believers which makes obedience possible?

15. Why must we come to the end of ourselves to receive this power?

16. What stands out to you from this essay and why?

17. Share a time when you experienced this power at work within you.

Saturday:

18. What is your take-a-way and why?

 

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  1. Thursday: Paul’s Testimony
    12. Read Galatians 1:13-24 and outline Paul’s testimony.
    1.  Paul was a persecutor of the church of God and tried to destroy it

    a. nationally advanced in Judaism beyond many of his peers

    b.  zealous for the traditions of the fathers

    2.  Paul was called my God

    a.  from the womb  through grace

    b. that Jesus would be revealed in Paul and he would preach to the Gentiles

    c.  Paul didn’t consult immediately with flesh and blood or consult with the apostles

    d.  Paul went to Arabia and returned to Damascus

    3.  3 years later connecting in Jerusalem

    a. Spent to 2 weeks in Jerusalem with Peter and James (Jesus brother)

    4.  Traveled Syria and Cilicia unknown by face to the churches of Judea in Christ

    a. churches heard – He who persecuted us now preaches the faith he tried to destroy

    b.  the churches glorified God for Paul’s conversion

     

     
    13. What particularly stands out to you and why?
    Paul spent a lot of time with God without input from man.  He did a complete 180 in his life heeding the call of God on his life and fulyl immersed himself with God for 3 years and then connected himself to the apostle Peter and James.  I think new believers would do well to fully establish themselves in God, the result maybe a complete 180…I think sometimes new believers may limp around because their foundation is weak or underdeveloped.  Also, a new believer might rely on leaders in the church too much rather than God and the result could be less than optimal.  Notice Paul did not confer with flesh and blood immediately.  God is all knowing and man is limited.  God is full of grace and man can be judgemental regarding our sins and weaknesses.    Sometimes I feel like the church is a little short on radical salvations and why?  I am not throwing stones but desire the church to shine and examining myself in light of Paul’s example.  I love that the believers rejoiced from afar in regards to Paul’s conversion.

  2. Thursday: Paul’s Testimony
     
    12. Read Galatians 1:13-24 and outline Paul’s testimony. – He is chose by God from birth; He was following Judaism and persecuted the church of God; He tried to destroy the church; Advancing in Judaism among people his age; Called by God’s grace from birth; His Son was revealed to him and he preached him among the Gentiles; Got acquainted with Peter in Jerusalem; Saw the apostle James, the Lord’s brother, and only him; Was unknown to the churches of Judea that were in Christ.
     
    13. What particularly stands out to you and why? – What stands out to me, is that, even though you may not be following the Lord from birth, He will still use you when the time is right if you have been chosen by Him. This helps me to know that my boys, who once followed Him, could still be His when the time comes for them to realize Jesus is the way.
     

  3. 14. What heredity do we have as believers which makes obedience possible? – I have His heredity in me and His redemptive nature so the standards given to me are mine to follow because of this nature.
     
    15. Why must we come to the end of ourselves to receive this power? – Because God cannot make me the moral person I’m to be if I’m stilled filled with myself. I have to be to the point that I KNOW I NEED JESUS.
     
    16. What stands out to you from this essay and why? – That if and when I open my eyes and heart to the only ONE TRUE Person that can help me, that is when the Lord will be able to fill me up with His Holy Spirit and have the nature of Jesus in me.
     
    17. Share a time when you experienced this power at work within you. – What comes to mind for me is when I started realizing that things I would watch on TV, things I would let get in to my heart were actually pushing the Lord away from me, since those things He could not be a part of. But once I cleansed my heart and mind the presence of the Lord is with me and can be felt.
     

  4. 14. What heredity do we have as believers which makes obedience possible? 
     

    We have no choice in the matter; we have the heredity of holiness put into us by God initially. Jesus Christ can put this holiness into us.

     
    15. Why must we come to the end of ourselves to receive this power? 
     

    At that point we realize our limitations and know that we need help.

     
    16. What stands out to you from this essay and why? 
    The moral miracle of redemption is that God can put a new nature into me through which I can live a totally new life.”

     

    We have an opportunity, at any time, to live a new way; a restart if you will. That is encouraging.

     
    17. Share a time when you experienced this power at work within you.
     

    It always seems like when there is nothing left for me to do then God steps in and sweeps up my mess. Although, this past week I just gave myself to Him, trustee Him and He provided, so that was a bit different. Let me explain.

     

    In the past when I have “managed” situations in my family, and nothing was better for all my “work,” I would finally give up. Example? Our son, out of control as a teenager, wanting to quit school. We had all we could and the situation was bleak. I stepped out of God’s way and viola, situation(s) solved.  Not only was the problem solved, but I was better for accepting the Holy Spirit’s work in our family and in me.

     

    This past week I had a three year observation at my work. This year the process is very thorough, where I have to write a formal lesson, be observed carrying said lesson out, and then create a portfolio of my work. It is very time consuming and can be nerve wracking. Every three years I “gear up” and spend hours trying to make it the best I can. I am usually a bundle of nerves on the day of the observation as well as the days leading up to it. I don’t want to be around myself, much less anyone else! This year I decided to purposely NOT be that way, but to instead believe that God would be orchestrating the process for me as I worked. Oh, I did put in a great deal of effort, however, I decided to not worry and just be the best I could be, knowing He was with me. My observation was on Thursday, and it went beautifully! My students were on point, not too many distractions or problems occurred, and it was probably the best lesson I have ever had! The next day a student from that class said, “That was the  most fun class I have ever had!” Oh, those are the words a teacher longs to hear! I truly believe God helped me through this. His Spirit worked within me, guiding me, and keeping me focused and fruitful. I carried it out with His seal of approval, making me more holy than I have been before. Thank You Lord Jesus for Your holiness.

    1. Laura..I absolutely love your example in #17. This year I decided to purposely NOT be that way, but to instead believe that God would be orchestrating the process for me as I worked. Oh, I did put in a great deal of effort, however, I decided to not worry and just be the best I could be, knowing He was with me.”  SO important to see this. We/I can so relate with this. I did the same thing at work recently and funny how as I grew in confidence in Him. I grew in confidence in my skill sets for He has given me this gift..and I am able to accept my mistakes and move forward correcting and growing instead of beating myself up for it. I am doing an amazing job at work in a highly detail oriented job and haven’t even reached the year learning curve yet. 

    2. Loved your example in number 17.  Inspiring for us all to be our best and not worry, knowing that He is with us!

       

  5. 17. Share a time when you experienced this power at work within you.

    So, Me and my co-admin’s ex-immediate supervisor (one of the managers we supported) has a reputation of being cruel with words to her employees and co-workers but they have adapted and let it roll off their back. She also doesn’t smile a lot and comes across cold. A few months ago when she was my immediate supervisor it was my turn. :-) I let it go for a while but it was affecting my performance so I decided to talk to her about it. That didn’t go well. She claims to know Christ so I thought I could be honest but she became angry with me.  :(

    So where I have experienced His power in me is two fold. Even though my body cried out to leave this job or to just ignore her, I have this love and hope for her-for His presence in her life and His life changing power; This pursuit inside to over look an offense and to show her kindness is clearly not from me. I can’t explain it. It is from Him-truly a moral miracle!! :)

    Secondly, my desire to leave because it can be toxic changed and that is from Him. The more confident I am in Him and the more I see the reality that a job isn’t my life, He is, and that my work helping people is important to Him and for Him, and I am there so others see Him in me, not me. This changes everything. She can be mean to me again if she wants but I am pretty confident it isn’t going to penetrate my heart like it did before for He is giving me understanding where she is coming from now, that no one is really a target with her..it is just her heart condition and she needs Him like I do.

     

    1. I have a similar work situation and have come to realize that this person is a deeply wounded believer…and aren’t we all! Prayers for your work situation and this wounded sister.

    2. Beautiful testimony of his work in you!  So encouraging!!!

    3. Love this example Rebecca! Wow.

  6. 14. What heredity do we have as believers which makes obedience possible?  The heredity nature of Jesus lives in us.
    15. Why must we come to the end of ourselves to receive this power? God is a gentleman and doesn’t show up unless He is invited.  When we come to our end, we must welcome and make room for Him.  
    16. What stands out to you from this essay and why?  I love this part of the essay…”Just as the nature of sin entered into the human race through one man, the Holy Spirit entered into the human race through another Man (see Romans 5:12-19). And redemption means that I can be delivered from the heredity of sin, and that through Jesus Christ I can receive a pure and spotless heredity, namely, the Holy Spirit.
    17. Share a time when you experienced this power at work within you.  My mom passed away at 50 from a couple months of being sick.  My Dad and I were devasted!  I remember trying to cope and I was hopeless.  Day to day activities with two boys was almost impossible.  One day, I’d asked them to clean up the mess in their rooms and returned to find it still quite messy.  I yelled out at them, releasing stress that was from all I had been through.  My neighbor heard me in her backyard and turned to see what the commotion was about.  I am thankful for that wakeup call.  I returned to my bedroom to tell the Lord I can’t cope.  I could hear that still small voice repeating the familiar scripture, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, and self-control.”  I realized I had gentleness and self control even under the most trying circumstances.  i began to practice tapping into what was already there.  I started quoting the scripture throughout the day, I bought artwork with the scripture on it to hang in my kitchen. Embracing what God already had done began to impact my world on a daily basis.  I could see God in me and working through me.