Monday, March 3, 2014

Galatians 5 A field trip to Graceland . . .

We have been immersed in Paul’s plea to the Galatians to remain strong in their reliance on God’s grace as opposed to falling back into legalism. In my Bible reading this week, I came across Psalm 40 and was struck by the fact that if anyone knew grace it was that Old Testament adulterer and murderer, David! So, I thought we’d take a detour to see the heart of love that comes from truly experiencing grace and forgiveness. Read what he says about what pleases God, and note the passion that stems from his devotion to the God who extended to him amazing grace:

Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord,

    who have no confidence in the proud

    or in those who worship idols.  
O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.

    Your plans for us are too numerous to list.

    You have no equal.

If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,

    I would never come to the end of them.  
You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.

    Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand—

    you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings. 
Then I said, “Look, I have come.

    As is written about me in the Scriptures: 
I take joy in doing your will, my God,
   for your instructions are written on my heart.”  (Psalm 40:4-8)

God does not get excited about ritual and religious rules. He gets excited about hearts that respond to His love. When we have received the mercy of God, and truly understand the depth of His grace, the natural response is joy in doing His will! We WANT to obey Him. We want to tell others about Him. We can’t wait to be in His presence and with His people.

Think of how you feel about your children. Yes, you are pleased when they make their beds and clean their rooms when you ask them. But what THRILLS your heart is when they run into your arms or cuddle up on the couch with you, or call or text you in the middle of their days, or before they go to bed (love my grandson Beau for his precious nighttime texts)! These responses are based on the loving relationship you share. It isn’t what they DO so much as what is in their hearts that pleases you. It’s all about a heart set free by love and grace.

Paul reiterated this theme of maintaining our freedom in Christ when he addressed issues plaguing the church at Colosse. It’s not about watching what we eat or drink or observing particular religious days. 

So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths.  For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.  Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud,  and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it. 

You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as,  “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”?  Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them.  These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires. (Colossians 2:16-23 NLT)

So rules and rituals have no power to save us from our sinful nature. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can live out what Christ has worked into our hearts. Even David understood this! In fact, David, who was called “a man after God’s own heart,” shows throughout his Psalms the passion and devotion and authenticity of a true love relationship with God. A religion has no ability to create this kind of intimacy with God. It is a work of God’s grace to us from beginning to end. How amazing that He desires a relationship with us!  

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