LED BY THE SPIRIT

The Judaizers in Paul’s day brought false charges against him much like the Judaizers of this century. Because he taught that people are saved by grace, not through observing the law, the Judaizers accused him of teaching lawlessness. Paul wrote the epistle of Galatians to deal with the deceptive effects of the Judaizers bewitching the Galatians with their distorted gospel.

Salvation is only through faith in Christ, not religious works. Paul points to Abraham as an example. Romans 4:3 quotes Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness.” In Galatians 3:17, Paul writes, “the law, which was 430 years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ.” Clearly Abraham was not saved by keeping the law or by circumcision. Passover, the feasts, and the sacrifices did not come until after the 400 years of slavery in Egypt.

The Life Application Study Bible lists three distortions of Christianity: Judaized Christianity, Legalistic Christianity, and Lawless Christianity. Judaized Christianity’s definition of a Christian is: “Christians are Jews who have recognized Jesus as the promised Savior. Therefore, any Gentile desiring to become a Christian must first become a Jew.” This is what the Hebrew Roots movement wants to do today. They say that Christians must observe the same rituals and festivals that Jesus and the apostles did. The New Testament never teaches that Gentiles must become Jews first, in fact, it teaches quite the opposite.

Legalistic Christianity defines Christianity this way: “Christians are those who live by a long list of don’ts.” Good behavior earns God’s favor. Lawless Christianity says, “Christians live above the law. They need no guideline. God’s word is not as important as our personal sense of God’s guidance.” True Christianity teaches, “Christians are those who believe inwardly and outwardly that Jesus’s death has allowed God to offer them forgiveness and eternal life as a gift. They have accepted that gift through faith and are seeking to live a life of obedient gratitude for what God has done for them” (Page 2149).

The Judaizers’ claim that true Christianity leads to lawlessness shows that they did not understand the basis of salvation. Paul summed it up well: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). You received the Holy Spirit when you accepted Christ. The Holy Spirit will not guide you into lawless activities. In Galatians 5:18 Paul wrote, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Later he enumerated the fruit of the spirit in verses 22 and 23. The Holy Spirit will not guide you into the works of the flesh mentioned in verses 19-21.

Accepting Christ means that we have a new master. We are no longer slaves to sin. We no longer live lives of lawlessness. Accepting Christ means that we have repented from our old way of life and have been raised with Christ to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).

2 Timothy 2:19 says, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” True Christians must turn away from sin and let the Spirit produce fruit in our lives. So what law do Christians follow? In the Old Testament we find three categories of laws: Ceremonial law, Civil law, and Moral law. As Christians we are certainly to keep moral law. Being free from the law does not mean that we are free to murder, steal, or commit adultery. Laws against those things still apply to Christians today, but the Jewish Ceremonial law no longer applies to Christians. Its purpose was to point toward Christ. These laws are no longer necessary after Christ’s death and resurrection. Although not binding upon us, they teach us a great deal about a holy God. We can learn from their principles, but we do not have to become Jews first.

The Judaizers in Galatia had convinced the Christians to return to the “weak and beggarly elements to which [they] desire again to be in bondage. [They] observe days and months and season and years” (see Galatians 4:9-11) like the Jews had. Paul felt as though he labored in vain since they were returning with the Judaizers to the Jewish ceremonial law which Christ had fulfilled.

Walking with the Spirit is more difficult than being able to check off a list of religious activities. Walking with Spirit requires a relationship, not merely external behaviors.

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JETSONIAN THEOLOGY

In the early 1960’s, a space-age cartoon came out on Saturday mornings. Many of my generation can probably remember the theme song to “the Jetsons.” Each episode started with George Jetson taking his family out on his way to work. Each member of the family slid forward in the seat. Beginning with his boy, Elroy, and moving on to Jane his wife, George somehow snapped his fingers over their heads, a shield encased their seat, and they rode safely to school or the shopping center respectively. Each jetted off in complete confidence and safety in a protective bubble to their world that day.

Many people often have this same idea about being a Christian. They feel that somehow becoming a follower of Christ causes God to place a protective bubble around you, and you can jet through life with no problems. You will never lose your job or a loved one. You will never be poor or sick. You will always have the victory, and nothing will be able to keep you down.

If you ever experience any of those kinds of problems, it means one of two things: 1) you have unconfessed sin in your life, or 2) you simply don’t have enough faith. Either way, the problem is yours. You only experience hardship because you have down something wrong.

This same erroneous thinking took place in Jesus’ day as well, while walking through the streets one day, Jesus’ disciples noticed a man blind from birth sitting by the road. They asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he should be born blind?” Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, “This happened so the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:1-2). The disciples had concluded that the man suffered from blindness due to his own or his parents’ sin. Jesus said that neither was the case.

When a Christian, especially a minister suffers from some tragedy, critics often want to point fingers and find blame. What did that person do? Is there some hidden sin? Is there a lack of faith? There must be for a person to experience such tragedy. We often think that God is just sitting up in the sky glaring down at us so he can zap us if we aren’t 100% perfect.

God does not place some spiritual bubble over us when we begin to follow Christ. In fact, in some ways, we become more vulnerable because the world often attacks Christians. Jesus basically said, “If they hated me, they will hate you as well” (Matthew 10:22; 24:9). Around the world, Christians today are being persecuted for following Christ. Christians suffer hardship and loss as well. Paul also told Timothy to “endure hardship” in his ministry (2 Timothy 4:5). In 2 Timothy 3:12 he wrote, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

Jesus concluded the Sermon on the Mount with a parable about two builders, one wise, the other foolish. The wise one chose to lay his foundation on a bedrock while the foolish builder laid his house’s foundation on the sand. A storm arose and descended upon both houses. The one built on the rock withstood the storm while the one built on sand collapsed. The storm was the same in both cases. The difference lay in the foundations of each house.

Jesus compared these two builders to ones who had heard his word. One put it into practice, the other one did not. The storm came on both of them. The one who put Jesus’ words into practice was not exempt from the storm. The difference was that one person’s reaction to the word. He chose to build his life upon the word.

When you become a follower of Christ, your life will not necessarily be any easier. It may bring trouble and persecution your way. If you build your life on Christ’s words, you will eliminate some problems from your life because you will make wiser choices, but he also said, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Christ may not shield you from the storms of life, but he will go through them with you.