When I was little, the adults in my life tried to help me. One sentence that stuck in my head is “Normal people act this way, or normal people do this.”
My poor first grade teacher reached the end of her rope and decided to use it on me. “Kimmy, you need help remembering to stay in your seat,” she said. “This will help.” She then placed a gigantic jump rope across my lap. I could barely move let alone wiggle out of my chair. Eventually, the big jump rope disappeared, and Miss Hayes used even more drastic measures – she tied me to my chair.
One thing was for sure. The way people acted was important, and I couldn’t figure out the formula. (I have no idea how my parents survived.)
The Galatians were much like a kid who doesn’t have the ‘formula’. Paul taught them about grace and listening to the Spirit, a non-formulaic way of knowing God. Then Paul left.
Soon enough, along came some people who wanted to help them look like ‘normal’ Christians. Here, let us help you. These are the rules to being a Christian. First you have to look this way, abide by Jewish rules – then you can experience real grace. The Galatians wanted a full experience. They were willing to do whatever it took.
The problem was that the people who brought in the Jewish law brought in a covenant that taught people to look at themselves as different. Where were they looking? At themselves. Where did God want them to look? At Him. The reason Jesus died on the cross was to fulfill the old covenant so that people would be free to look at God and let Him do the work on the inside of their hearts.
New behavior now comes out of new focus and regeneration, not outward training.
In the beginning of Galatians 3, Paul asks five major questions:
- Who has bewitched you?
- Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?
- After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
- Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing?
- Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
He is asking: Are you crazy? Don’t you remember why you have the Spirit to begin with? This isn’t just another religion. You have come so far and it hasn’t been easy – why have you fallen to trying to do it on your own?
Here are my questions today:
- When someone comes to Christ, do we rejoice in their freedom, or do we give them a month or two and then start trying to show them how to be a ‘real’ Christian?
- Do we focus on outward things, or do we teach people how to focus on God and let Him do the work?
- It is so much harder to teach people to listen to Jesus and do what He says than it is to teach them how to conform to a standard. It is easier to get people ‘cleaned up’ and then teach them to follow Jesus than it is to teach them to follow Jesus in their broken down, falling apart lives that are usually filled with other people who don’t know Him.
- When excellent leadership teaches us to ‘duplicate ourselves’, are we trying to duplicate our ability to spend hours on our face in carpet-eating prayers because we haven’t got a clue, or are we trying to duplicate our put-together selves that we got as a result?