Called to be Led and Live in a Secular Culture – Galatians 5:16

Vol. 2, No. 29 – 7-16-2017

I say, walk by the Spirit. Galatians 5:16

In Matthew 7:6 we come across this strange passage: Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

It seems strange because we do not live in a time of wild pigs and wild dogs roaming the streets of our towns. The days in which Matthew wrote did indeed have these creatures in the streets. It was a dangerous environment. The habits of wild dogs and wild pigs is descriptive of those opposed to the truth of the gospel; opposed to the intentions of the Holy Spirit.

Ravenous dogs were bothered by your presence, and would react with violent tearing of the flesh if you so much as made an effort to befriend them or to give them what they really needed. People with this kind of reaction are dangerous; the believer needs to exercise discernment.

Violent pigs were always looking for something to devour; always hungry. If one would cast something in their direction they would examine it to see if it could be devoured. If they could not devour it they would trample it under their feet demolishing what they find unsatisfying.

Wow! Paul invites those who follow Christ to depend on the dependable Holy Spirit.

Dogs and pigs are not the only animals that appear in the Bible. Most often we read about sheep (or lambs). In comparison to dogs and pigs, sheep are at least clean—because of their habits of life. So we have choices in life. We can live like a dog, a hog, or perhaps a sheep (lamb sounds better). We make choices.

Paul notes that the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, but the Spirit has His desire already set against the flesh (5:17). The two are in opposition; the flesh and Spirit. Paul remarks that the war is so that your choices get altered. In the words of the old Cherokee story, the winner is based on who you feed.

We build relationships in our work, our ministry, and in our families. We always have an impact, good or not so good. How do we escape the compulsions of life?

  • Cheap love—allowing the emotional garbage to stink up our lives
  • Superstitions and opinions—the trinkets that alter our thinking, speaking and actions of life
  • Competing relationships—pitting “to be friends” against the absolute truths of God
  • Competing wants—the never satisfied draw of our toys of life becoming our first priority
  • Divisions—the lopsided pursuits that push others away in favor of only those who will agree with you
  • Living with a focus on “me” — thinking everyone has an obligation to cater to “me” (including the government)

Of course, there are more compulsions; but you knew that. The sampling only causes us to contemplate. Be reminded that the struggles go on, it is not just one-time occurrences. There are menaces of the flesh around every corner of our lives.

In verses 21-23, Paul says there is a solution. The light turns on! There is a source for our victory, in the person of Jesus Christ, in the presence of the Holy Spirit. The source for our living does not come because of works in our lives, but are a result or outcome of Who is in control. If we walk by the Spirit, our lives will portray the “fruit.”

How does that work out for us as we relate to others? It is seen in the reaction of the animals. Sheep will run to their Shepherd; hogs and wild dogs run to devour. What do these look like in our culture.

Leaders and participants in our culture who are linked to the absolute truths of Scripture take a different fork in the road–by choice. They also develop followers from that which they model (and by whom they model).

As Christ was preparing to ascend to the Father following His resurrection, He announced that the Father would send another just like Him, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is needed should we desire to be the all to others God expects. Paul encourages us with these words:

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that you toil is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:57-58

How is it going for you in our present-day culture?

Do What You Want? – Galatians 5:1

Vol. 2, No. 27 – 7-2-2017

Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Galatians 5:1

Neat passage is it not? Christ has set us free! No one can ever put a harness on you. We are free! Bring on life!

St. Augustine spoke a paradox: Love God, and do as you like. Wow, really? We have that kind of liberty? Well, yes; but . . . no.

We have a liberty that is constrained, yet unconstrained. It is constrained as conditional: we are to love God. It is unconstrained with the possibility of doing what we want to do. Puzzling?

What God is doing is limiting us within the confines of love so that He can give us unlimited freedom.

We live in a world of yokes. A yoke is used to join a pair of beasts of burden; a wooden frame fitted around the neck intended to make sure they would remain in subjection, bondage, and enslavement (tough words!). Farmers used yokes for their oxen. Interestingly, if the farmer were to free their oxen, the oxen would not willingly work for the farmer. We are not oxen, but man’s religion is like that.

  • The way of religion is the yoke of the law—legalism
  • The way of grace and mercy is the liberty available only in Christ
  • The way of the yoke is man’s traditions; religious stipulations—it loads down with unbearable pressures of obligation
  • The yoke with man-made rules is in confrontation with the inner discipline of God’s grace

Our relationships and leadership can become a yoke to others.

Quite in contrast is the inner discipline of God, (it is of and) by grace, which yields to God’s Spirit, lives for others, and seeks to glorify the Lord—Warren Wiersbe

Do not let us always be hampered, like poor, half-hatched birds within the egg. May we chip the shell today and get out into the glorious liberty of the children of God—C.H. Spurgeon (in his Volume of Prayers)

How do we lead; how do we relate to people? How do we respond in our emotions, and restlessness?

Jesus says:

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your soul. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.

If we stay in the company of Jesus, we will learn to live and work and serve freely and “lightly.”

How do we speak and make demands of our team, our family, and those we would have serve with us?

Every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned. Matthew 36-37

Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and slanders. These are the things which defile the man. Matthew 15:19-20a

What do you want; to love God with His mercy and grace, or to have “freedom of choice.” His love is the liberty of release and victory that comes through our relationship with Him. No other condition is able to free the soul.

The yoke we serve under is quite different than man’s yokes. Jesus makes sure we know the difference. If we are a leader, we are in the process of developing following leaders. What does that look like? Us. Then, it is important that we model the life of Christ so that in our relationships our followers will look like our leader Jesus, — that is a different model than what we often look like.

Son Life – Galatians 4:29

Vol. 2, No. 26 – 6-25-2017

At that time, he who was born according to the flesh persecuted Him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. Galatians 4:29

This is a reflection of an earlier scenario found in Genesis 21. The book of Genesis is especially poignant in its descriptions of the lives of people of the earth living under God’s watchful eye.

The scene is turbulent; of a family with only one son, Ishmael. Abraham’s son lived with him and Sarah for 14 years. Then it happened. Sarah became pregnant. You might want to read, again: the background of the turbulent family.

Another son for the family! Isaac was born! Sarah was perhaps as old as 90; more likely older. The son is born 25 years after God’s promise to the “young couple.” There was surely a write-up in the local Desert Times, a report from Mid-Wives-R-Us, and perhaps camel couriers broadcasting the exciting news of the “mature” woman delivering.

Thus, Isaac came into the world. A special feast was held; perhaps that is where birthday parties began. It was a time of rejoicing, and Ishmael celebrated by kicking stones with his sandals.

Three years later, as was the custom in those days, Isaac was weaned. Another celebration, as was customary, takes place. This celebration did not catch on; I do not know of greeting cards or wrapping paper that declares this kind of event. However, I am sure that Sarah celebrated.

Ishmael, the flawed teenager, utters the famous saying of the day: “O, how cute!” He probably kicked a few more stones. Ishmael the arrogant, sarcastic teenager.

Can you imagine Ishmael overhearing his history? He was the son of human planning. A handmaiden was chosen; the human effort was engaged:

Hagar + Abraham = Manipulating God to fulfill His promise

It is the old, “God helps those who help themselves trick.”

When was the last time you read in Deliveries-R-Us about a 90-year-old checking into the maternity ward? Can you imagine the thoughts of Ishmael, the teenager? He moved through his days with contempt; thinking how he was going to hassle and irritate Isaac. (Might be the reason Paul mentions persecution.)

What does that mean for us—this sibling rivalry thing? Paul says, it is the same now. For even the committed, those of us walking in grace, those of us seeking to serve and perhaps even lead, there will always be pressure from the Pharisee and Sadducee types. They want us to join their ranks, but we should not. They attempt to make us feel inferior with their legalism. They want us to feel inferior, out-of-step, politically incorrect, second-class.

But we should not give in to their traps. The traps includes the projection, “if we would but perform as the ‘religionists’ instruct, we would please God.” The problem is that the legalists are humanly determining how we should live out life—perhaps we should call legalism Abraham-Sarah Manipulation Philosophy (ASMP). God’s Word was left out of the equation.

We are here to serve a God whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts; ways are higher than our ways. We who know Christ are already sons! God is already pleased. He asks us to serve in love, grace, and mercy. To reflect Him.

My father used to tell me, “You could be more like me if you tried!” Dad has passed into eternal life with God—it is God who now speaks to me saying, “You could be more like Me, if you would!”

When we live in God’s grace and mercy we learn what God has really done for us. It is just like God to expect that we would pass on what we have learned.

When God called me into ministry, I promised Him that I would give others what He has given me to pass on. Life is not so much about income as it is about outflow. Think on that! Ishmael should have!

 

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