Freedom for Individuals in Community

We have come to the final teaching in our study of Galatians – we’ll be reading ch 6:1-18. Often times it’s a temptation to skim the closing words of one of these letters – but that would be a shame to do in this one. Some scholars believe the key to really understanding this book is found in the closing statements.

In his final remarks, Paul quickly restates many of the points he made earlier, but he does so with an emphasis on how the freedom we enjoy in Christ will work itself out in the context of community. That’s what our focus will be on – how we manage both our personal responsibilities in relationship with God, with the mutual accountability we have as the church together.

In v2 Paul says to share each other’s burdens, but in v5 he reminds us of our personal responsibility for how we conduct ourselves. How would you reword those two challenges? How can we share each other’s burdens?

Paul also mentions “the law of Christ” in v2. That’s weird, isn’t it? After declaring liberty from religious laws all through this letter, he urges us to fulfill the law of Christ. What do you think he means by that? How might his words in ch 5:14 help us to understand his thinking?

In v 6-10 Paul talks about the biblical principle of sowing and reaping. How does this principle help to temper the way we use our freedom?

V15 is so powerful to me. All the expectations that get created mean nothing – do them or don’t do them…the only thing that really matters is that our lives are being transformed by God’s Spirit, made possible by Christ’s work on the cross. As you look at your own life, what transformations have you experienced that prompt you to boast in the cross?

I really love this book. It’s my second time teaching it and I really got so much out of teaching it again. That gets me excited about re-teaching other New Testament books! Hope you can join us Sunday, in person or online via Facebook or YouTube (hopefully we won’t have the connection issues we had last week – and by the way, the audio version of last week’s teaching is available HERE if you missed it).

The Fruit of Freedom

Freedom is such an important principle in life, but more important is what we do with the freedom that is granted to us. This is true whether we’re talking about societal freedom or the freedom which is found in Christ.

This Sunday we’ll be reading ch 5:13-26 in our study of the Galatian letter. In this section, Paul will be providing the qualifiers concerning Christian freedom. Freedom, he says, should not become a base of operations for selfish indulgence – which the NLT translates as “sinful nature”, but in the Greek, the word is “flesh”. Flesh means more than just our bodies – it is a word that is signifying entire personhood being lived outside of God’s will or the Spirit’s guidance.

In v14, Paul loosely quotes Jesus in establishing how our freedom is to be lived out. What is the “flesh” action that love is countering, according to v15?

Paul talks about the war that rages in our lives between impulses to do good and impulses to do what’s wrong. The Intruders were teaching the Galatians that the way to win over the yetzer hara, the sinful impulse, was to learn and obey the Torah. In v18, Paul declares a different way – what does he say?

Ancient writers and philosophers seemed to enjoy creating lists of virtues and vices, and Paul falls right in line with that practice through the rest of the chapter. Count how many works of the flesh that he lists. Do you think it’s a comprehensive list or just a few examples? How many of the works are addressing interpersonal relationships? What might that tell us about Paul’s emphasis?

While the flesh has a lot of works, Paul speaks of fruit (singular) of the Spirit. In what ways do the works and the fruit corollate (one countering the other)? What does v25 describe as our part in bearing the fruit of the Spirit? How might we do that in real life examples?

It will be an encouraging albeit challenging study. Hope you can join us, either in person or online via Facebook or YouTube!

Staying Free

One major fear that gets posed whenever Christian freedom is discussed is the concern that it can lead to an antinomian lifestyle – a life with no constraint, living lawlessly. I’ve heard that fear expressed to me many times over the years. Martin Lloyd Jones, the old Welsh minister, famously said that if we aren’t accused of preaching lawlessness, we aren’t preaching grace the way Paul did. He’s right – Paul got accused of that a lot, and had to qualify his emphasis on grace many times in his letters.

This Sunday we’ll be reading Paul’s great rallying cry that boldly proclaims the main theme of his letter to the Galatians. We’ll be starting chapter 5, reading vs 1-12.

Paul states his main thesis in v1a – We are FREE! That’s a statement that carries a lot with it – first, it assumes that at one point, we were not free. Think back through the letter to the Galatians – what has Paul been emphasizing our freedom concerning? Read ch 1:4 to get one perspective of our rescue. Ch 3:10-13 gives another aspect of what we are freed from.

Freedom is sort of a loaded word. Loaded, I should say, with our pre-determined definitions of what it means. Our country, the United States has freedom as it’s centerpiece. How do we as Americans normally define freedom? How would you characterize freedom based on what Paul says we are free from? What differences, if any, can you identify? Which sort of freedom should take precedence in our lives as Christ Followers?

In v1b, Paul exhorts us in light of the thesis. What does he tell us we must do concerning our freedom?

In vs 2-12 of the chapter, Paul elaborates on how we can go about fulfilling that exhortation. As you read those verses, what jumps out to you as practical advice for living free in Christ? The last part of v6 is terribly important. It’s the way that antinomianism, lawlessness, is counteracted when it comes to our freedom.

What do you believe it means that our faith is expressed in love? Love for whom? What will that look like when lived out in real life situations?

I think this will be a really challenging study – I hope you can join us, either in person or online via Facebook or YouTube. We are no longer requiring pre-registrations – but we are asking that we continue wearing masks during the singing portion of our service.

The danger is still real, as we see in the recent development with our President. Please keep him in prayer for a full recovery.

Purpose Revealed in the Patterns

Hey Eastgate – this Sunday we’ll be celebrating the communion of the bread and cup – so if you are watching online, you’ll want to have some symbol of sustenance ready, like bread or wine or whatever is available to you. I guarantee it will be better than what we’ll be using in the in person meeting – those tiny cup and wafer things that Matt Greene commented were really authentic because they sort of taste like your really drinking blood and eating flesh. I know you’re all excited to join us this Sunday! yay.

We’ll be continuing in our study of the letter to the Galatians, reading ch 4:21-31. Paul is finishing up his argument against Christians being compelled to follow the Law of Moses – and he wraps it all up with a rather strange analogy…or allegory…or maybe a little of both. He points to the story of Hagar and Sarah and the children born to them as images of people of the promise as opposed to people who work things out for themselves. Paul wasn’t trying to insinuate that the story of Hagar and Sarah had it’s real meaning in the end of the Torah age – he simply saw it as a pattern, and he saw God’s purpose revealed in that oft repeated pattern from the Biblical story.

As you read the text and consider the story – you should also become familiar with the source material from Genesis: Genesis 16  and 21.

What was the difference between how Isaac came to be and Ishmael? What do we learn about how God accomplishes his purposes in our lives and in this world?

In what ways will this affect the way we see this world, God’s Kingdom, and our place in it?

I hope you find this study as interesting as I did – hope you can join us, in person or online via Facebook and YouTube.

 

Why Return to Servility?

Phew…2020, am I right? Sally did a real number on Pensacola and Gulf Breeze, and the Calvary Chapel out there has really taken a hit. Please visit their website to see what I’m talking about, and pray for them. If you are able, consider donating or contacting them to see if they need help on the ground. They were very generous to us during our struggles in the aftermath of Michael. You can find them HERE.

This Sunday we’ll continue doing our study of Galatians, reading chapter 4:8-20. Paul will be talking about servitude and freedom, and marking out our clear calling to choose freedom. As you read his very first statement in v8 – what does the natural condition of humanity outside of Christ seem to be? In what ways might we see that principle exampled in our world?

Paul talks about how the Galatians were in bondage to idolatry, then warns them that they are heading right back into the same bondage. They weren’t tempted to adapt paganism again…what were they being compelled to observe? What does that tell us about Paul’s view of adding any sort of religious law or code, no matter how good it is, when it comes to our relationship with God in Christ?

V 19 tells us the reason God has set us free to begin with. Paul compares himself to a pregnant woman in labor (he’s clearly one confident dude) – what is it he wants to see birthed – what does he want for their lives? How can we see this become a reality in our own lives? In what ways might we see Christ developed in the way we live?

Please be praying for those affected by Sally…and keep your eyes on the Gulf, the season isn’t over. Hope you can join us on Sunday, either in person or on Facebook and Youtube live!

The Purpose in the Promise

This Sunday we’ll be continuing our study in the letter to the Galatians. We’ll also take some time to pray for the people out west who are suffering through those fires, pray for the people of Louisiana who are recovering from and facing another storm. And we’ll pray for our own county since we are on the bad side of this coming storm if it drifts Eastward.

In our Bible study, we’ll be reading Galatians 3:26-4:7. Last week we considered what Paul described as the purpose of the law – as a diagnostic for the human condition, but not the cure. In this next section, Paul will be outlining the purpose of the promise God made to Abraham. He does this by describing the new way in which God’s communities form around his values. Not by coercion, but as mature humans, united with God.

V 28 is a powerful verse, and many scholars believe Paul is quoting from a hymn or liturgy from the early church. The words, and how Paul interprets them are profound. Paul has expanded what the issue was at Galatia, the demand that gentiles live as Jews, to include the radical way in which the Gospel transforms human community. He is undercutting the whole world’s social, cultural and sexual boundary markers. How do the words of v28 affect you? How would you apply this declaration of equality to your own life, or to the church, or to the world around us?

As we get to chapter 4, Paul places a big emphasis on maturation as the fulfillment of the promise. How would you describe the difference between a child who lives under restrictions mean to keep them safe and a mature adult who knows to make good choices? Which would you rather be? That is the essence of Paul’s point.

Hope to see you Sunday, and if you can’t join us in person, tune in on Facebook or Youtube. Stay safe and be prepared and mindful of the incoming storm system.

The Purpose of the Law

This Sunday we’ll be continuing our study in the letter to the Galatians, reading chapter 3:19-25. Paul has been making his adamant point that the Law of Moses was a parenthesis, not the main emphasis of God’s plan. The question that would naturally come up then, would be: why institute the law in the first place? This will be the focus of this section of the text.

When Paul says, in v19, that the law was meant to show people their sins, what does that mean to you? How does the law accomplish that? How would you describe the difference between a diagnosis and a cure for some disease?

Paul also uses an analogy of a guardian (or tutor or trainer depending on the translation). In the ancient world, a family servant would be assigned the task of educating and corralling a child until he came of age to take his place in the family. The analogy is highlighting the restrictive nature of this time in a child’s life. What analogies from our modern setting can you think of that highlight a temporary restriction until it is safe to lift it?

This section is probably one of the most important passages from Paul’s letters, helping us decipher his thinking throughout all of his letters. It should be an interesting study. Hope you can join us in person or watch our live feed on Facebook or Youtube. The meeting starts at 10 AM this Sunday!

A New Way to Read an Old Story

There are a lot of things happening in our world – natural disasters as well as the crisis of racism and its resultant disasters, all wrapped in the arms of a global pandemic. I know it’s difficult to navigate these troubled waters, but I know that time spent reading The Book will not be wasted and can bring redemption as we learn to live what we read. So, this Sunday, we’ll keep reading The Book – studying the letter to the Galatians. We’ll be continuing in chapter 3, reading vs 15-18.

In this section, Paul continues to drive home the importance of the promise made to Abraham. It might do some good to become familiarized with that part of the story, since Paul certainly gives it a central place in the meaning of the Gospel. You can read Abraham’s story in Genesis, starting with chapter 12 and continuing on through chapter 24. It doesn’t take that long to read it. The most pressing part of that promise has to do with God blessing the nations of the earth through him, by making them his people. That gives us a clue as to the central import of the Good News.

Paul’s insistence on reading with an emphasis on Abraham and not Moses tells us a lot about the Apostolic approach to reading the Bible. Which begs a question: How do you read the Bible? What do you understand the story of the Bible to be about, and how do the stories of the Hebrew Bible synthesize with the letters of the New Testament? Knowing these things go a long way towards getting in step with the message and values of the Bible. I’m someone who is concerned that average church-goers have drifted quit far from the flow of the Divine Revelation – and a robust (and proper) reading of Scriptures could do a great deal of good for our present day, American Church.

I hope we’ll be encouraged and challenged to start reading the Bible well this Sunday. We’ll be celebrating communion, and if you aren’t joining us in person, be sure to have bread and wine or some other symbols of sustenance handy as we observe this ritual together. Whether in person or online, hope you can join us!

The Detour and the Destination

We’ll be continuing our study in the book of Galatians this Sunday – reading vs 6-14 of chapter 3.

Paul moved from telling his own story to reminding the Galatians of their own story, to now reciting the larger story of God’s covenant people. He goes back to the very beginning – to Abraham himself, making an important point about the basis for Abraham’s acceptance by God. What is the basis? Paul’s point is that a relationship with God by faith predates the law by hundreds of years.

Why would that be an important point? What does that mean about the law – how should it be viewed in light of the Gospel? That is the issue Paul is getting at, and what we’ll be considering as we read through these verses.

This Sunday we’ll also be announcing our current list of Micro-Missions – small ministries that advance God’s Kingdom in a variety of ways. We’re hoping that they are a starting point – to join with or as inspiration to start your own Micro-Mission. We’re excited to see where God takes our church!

The Power to Change

This Sunday, as we are able to gather together to learn the skills needed to attend to the mission the Gospel calls us to, we’ll be reading Galatians 3:1-5.

Paul continues expressing his dismay at the Galatian church for allowing themselves to be intimidated into submitting to the Law of Moses. He frames his argument around several rhetorical questions. He first demands an answer as to how this journey of faith started for them, through the law or through faith in what Jesus did on the cross. Then he makes a stark contrast between obedience to the Law and life in the Spirit. One thing you may want to do is go through and notice how often a word gets repeated in a section of Scripture. That will often indicate what the writer’s emphasis is. How many times does the Holy Spirit come up in contrast with obedience to religious laws? What emphasis do you discern from this?

Paul also pointed to their own history as evidence of how God is working in their lives. What are the experiences of grace that you can look back on that reinforce the reality of God’s power to change your life? What are some of the turning points you’ve gone through? What were the circumstances around them? It can be a helpful practice to keep a written record of the many ways in which God has shaped and redeemed your life.

Hope to see you or that you can join us online!