What Difference does the Gospel Make to your Relationships?

The gospel creates a whole new self-image which is not based on any comparison to others. The gospel (understood correctly) makes us neither self-confident nor self-loathing but both bold and humble.

That truth, when internalized, works itself out in relationships with everyone. Rather than looking at others as “above” or “below” us, we look only at our own responsibility to take what we have and who we are and offer it to God in gratitude for what Christ has done.

Galatians 5:26, “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” At its heart, this verse means that we “do not become conceited.” Conceit is a deep insecurity, a perceived absence of honor and glory, leading to a need to prove our worth to ourselves and others. This causes us to compare ourselves with others. When we seem better than another in some way it causes us to puff up and feel great. When we seem less than another we are devastated for the same reason.

If we are conceited we will provoke and envy each other. “Provoking” is what someone does who is sure of their superiority. “Envying” is what someone does who is sure of their inferiority. Paul says BOTH are a form of conceit. Either happens to someone who is self-absorbed.

Provoking and envying seem like opposites but they are both forms of conceit. As CS Lewis observed, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

Would you like to know which is more natural in you?

Answer these questions: Do I have a tendency to blow up or clam up? Do I pick arguments or avoid conflict? Am I more likely to get down on people or groups or be intimidated around them? When criticized, do I get angry or attack back? Or do I get discouraged and make excuses? Do I think: “I would never ever do what this person did,” or “I could never ever accomplish what this person does?”

The Spirit works in us to apply the gospel to our self-understanding and view of others. He creates a whole new self image which is not based on comparison with others.

The gospel can make us bold and humble. That works itself out in all relationships.

I am humbled because I am a sinner saved only by grace. I can be bold because I am loved by the only ONE that really counts.

To “become conceited” (to seek our own glory in relationships) means that, however close we are to someone else, our treatment of them must always be selfish. the gospel undermines that. It calls us to live as “brothers and sisters” (Galatians 6:1).

“If someone is caught in a sin” (6:1), conceited superiority would cause us to look down on them. Pointing out their sin would help reinforce how good we look by comparison.

But a “brother or sister” will not ignore a situation when we see someone “caught” in a sin. This does not mean we confront ANYONE we see sinning! We are not to be quick to criticize and tell people their faults (1 Corinthians 13:5,7). But we must not overlook someone “caught” or overtaken by a sin. The sinful behavior must be a pattern and in a sense has overtaken the person. The person will not be able to overcome without help and intervention.

What will our aim be? To “restore them gently” (6:1).

Paul says this gentleness will only come if you “watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” We won’t be able to confront someone gently and effectively if we think we are not capable of equal sin.

How can the Fruit of the Spirit be produced in our lives?

Galatians 5:24-25, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

1. We “belong to Christ Jesus.” Our approval in God’s eyes rests not on our character or actions, but on His.

2. Because we belong to Christ we “have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” This is the identifying and dismantling of idols, to put an end to the ruling and power that idols have in our lives. This is about strangling sin at the motivational level, rather than simply trying to change at the behavioral level.

We have to ask ourselves why we do wrong, not just what we disobey God in order to get something we feel we MUST have.

3. We need to “keep in step with the Spirit.” This is a positive process (not simply giving things up), an active process (which we do) and something more than simple obedience (though it is not less than simple obedience).

I Believe! But Help me Overcome My Unbelief

20So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”  Mark 9:20-24

This man’s cry is echoed in the heart of every Christian.  Who has not felt it?  “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”  In order to come to Jesus we must have SOME level of faith.  But so often it is weak and insufficient for the task before us.  We need Jesus to rise in our hearts and supply the faith we lack.

So “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” is a common prayer in my life.  And Jesus answers.

God as First Responder, not Last Resort

God desires to be your first responder, not your last resort.

What makes us want to try to fix all of our problems on our own, without asking God for help?  What makes us feel that the world is expecting us to be totally self-sufficient if we are “real men” or “strong women?”  God wants to be the first one you think about, not the last one you go to after you have exhausted all other avenues.  Of course, even then, He’ll oblige.

What problem are you grappling with today that you need to turn over to God?

Dissecting the Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22-23, “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

1. Agape=love. To serve a person for who they are, made in God’s image and not for what that person brings you. Selfish attraction is a counterfeit in that you treat them well because of what you may or will receive from them.

2. Chara=joy. To delight in God for who He is in any circumstance. It is the opposite of despair and shouldn’t be confused with the elation that comes with new found blessings only.

3. Irene=peace. To have confidence in the wisdom of God’s plan, knowing He is in control. This replaces anxiety and worry. This shouldn’t be confused with a numb apathy.

4. Makrothumia=patience. The ability to face trouble without blowing up.

5. Chrsestotes=kindness. The ability to serve other practically and vulnerably, which comes from having a deep inner security and identity.

6. Agathosune=goodness. Being the same person in every situation, rather than a phony or hypocrite.

7. Pistis=faithfulness. To be utterly reliable and true to your word. The opposite of an opportunist, a friend only in good times. A counterfeit is someone loving but not truthful, never willing to confront or challenge.

8. Prautas=gentlessness or humility. The opposite is to be superior or self-absorbed. Humility does NOT mean inferiority.

9. Egkrateia=self-control. The ability to pursue the important over the urgent rather than be impulsive or uncontrolled.

Being a Christian Isn’t About Being Good, but Doing Good

Let me be clear: God saves us by GRACE through FAITH.

But faith is not faith until it is acted upon.

We falsely view righteousness or being a “goody-goody” as “doing no wrong.”  So we practice “being good.”  It’s “Don’t do this.  Don’t do that.  And you’re Okay.”  But the problem with that approach is this: you can do nothing wrong and still do nothing RIGHT.  Goodness is not the absence of badness.  It means doing something right.

Do you really think God’s ultimate dream for us is doing nothing wrong?  Is God’s ultimate plan a weekly pilgrimage to the pew?  Is God’s highest aim the absence of sin?