Read: Galatians 5: 1-8
Remember: “The need for self examination never ends.”
Reflect: At our last Local SS gathering, I found out that it hadn't been obvious to any of our group that we'd been reading through Galatians during this study. If you've read along from the beginning, though, you've read pieces of Galatians, and we will finish it together by the end of "You Are Free."
Today's passage is one of the most well-known portions of Galatians. Paul seems to be literally shouting at the Galatians, "who did this to you?” See, the Galatians are some of the first non-Jew believers. They came to know Christ from His life lived on Earth. They did not have a Jewish background. The Galatians didn't grow up learning the way of the church or the laws to be followed, because no one in their families even knew them. Can we pause there and just imagine what it could feel like to know Jesus but not any of the rules/traditions that we use to teach Jesus? Talk about FREEDOM! That was the introduction to Christianity the Galatians had.
However, in doing life with other Christians that did have a Jewish background, the Galatians began to believe that they needed to catch up in law following. Their issue was circumcision. Jewish leaders were confirming that circumcision was indeed a necessary step towards following Jesus. The Galatians took on this burden, and Paul was angry. His exact words weren't, "who did this to you?" But, that's the summary of his questions. And, there definitely were some Jewish leaders that had stolen freedom in Christ from the Galatians.
Possibly, the Galatians could have placed blame on the Pharisees for the burden they were feeling. I can't really blame anyone else for my current state of slavery, though. I am my biggest obstacle. The pathway to freedom requires vulnerability, and I'd rather follow rules, cover with traditions/rituals, or busy myself with chores than celebrate weak places in my life. The Message version of verses 5 and 6 says, "When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love."
What matters is what's on the inside. Y'all, I'm learning that I've got to be more proactive in dealing with what's on the inside in order to keep that faith expressed in love. What a journey it is! But, what I'm finding is that dealing with all of these emotions, brings my weakness to the surface giving me the ability to see God take it, use it, and bring joy in the middle of it. For that reason, I see the importance of self reflection (always), and I choose to boast in the weaknesses that I find there.
Rest: Galatians 5:7 says, “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?” That’s a great question! For all of us who are believers, we move in and out of seasons of running the race well. I believe our chapter this week reminds us that our God, in Jesus, never moves. But, we have a propensity to get side-tracked. Every, single time, our loss of focus stems from our weakness. Rebekah Lyons has not only given us permission to be weak, she’s shouted that we find His strength in the places where we are weak. So, today, you are free to name the person, the circumstance, the weakness that has hindered you from living and obeying the Truth. Write it out on the pages of your journal. Then, in the very next sentence, express the Truth that Jesus is bigger. Own your weakness while covered by the certainty of His strength.
God, today, please grant us the courage to self reflect. Help us to look for the obstacles to our total freedom with boldness. And, when we find them, teach us to give them to you. Completely. Your Word says that You give strength to the weary and increase the power of the weak (Isaiah 40:29). So, I'm trusting You will do that for us today. I'm so thankful our power comes solely from You. I'm encouraged by Paul's life and message to the Galatians. May we never forget that You are the One that holds us all together so that we continue to lean into Your plans for our freedom.