1 June 2018

It’s Friday and the end of another week. It’s also the end of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. I hope you have got as much out of this book of the Bible as you have listened, as we have writing and recording these podcasts for you. Next week Bryony introduces the first of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. Today’s reading is Galatians 6:11-18.

REFLECTION:

So it’s time to sign off the letter, the letter he has written with his own ball point pen: “Yours sincerely, Paul” “Love and kisses, Paul” – the end!?

No, Paul isn’t quite done yet! He has time for one last attack, one last nail in the coffin of those who have been leading the Galatians astray. Having spelt out the difference between slavery and freedom he uses this perspective to highlight the troublemakers’ life and thinking.

The reason they want you to be circumcised?

  • To make a good outward impression – Slave Thinking!
  • To be able to boast – Slave Talking!
  • To avoid trouble and persecution – Those who are really free, they know they have a new and more powerful lord and so have nothing to fear.
  • Because they are hypocrites – Thinking that they are something, when they are not.

There is probably enough in these few lines to challenge us, to challenge our thinking, to challenge the way that we talk, to challenge us to take courage and stand for good, and to challenge our own high opinions of ourselves! As I write this I am once again confronted how much I am still ensnared by the way of the world. I still need to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Thank God for his grace and his patience, Thank God that he accepts that I am a work in progress.

But I cannot linger here because Paul is about to follow up this “closing of the door behind the false teachers” with a line that summarises everything that he has been saying and the heart of how Paul lives his life… how we live this life of freedom!

[v14] May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Pause… It’s all about the cross! It’s all about the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s all about the cross.

This Easter I spent a lot of time in church. I was drawn again to the rough wooden cross at the front of church. I reflected on Jesus’ death, I reflected on Jesus taking upon himself my sin and my shame. I reflected on his love and grace for me in that great act.

But I also began to reflect on Jesus’ attitude, his way of life, his self denial, his response to injustice, his silence in the face of his accusers, the love and forgiveness that he continued to offer, the power of a life lived in submission to his father and his total refusal to put his own life, or comfort, or desire first.

In those few days he demonstrated what it means for us to take up our cross and follow him.

Was it tough? Yes! Was it costly? Yes!

And yet he lived a life more free than anyone has ever lived. And he set more people free than anyone in the history of the world.

Paul boasts that through the cross the world has been crucified to him and he to the world. He no longer is compelled to play by its rules or values; he no longer feels that he has to be what the worlds tells him to be. He no longer feels incomplete because he doesn’t have the right clothes or the coolest stuff. He is no longer worried about listening to the right music or watching the right boxed-set. He’s no longer concerned about titles and position or his future salary. He’s not trying to keep up, to do what’s ‘expected,’ to seek to make a good impression, to worry about what others think, to try and be somebody he’s not… he’s not desperately trying to be loveable, and acceptable and good enough… BOOM!

Instead he boasts in the cross of Christ

And all those other voices fall silent!

Peace!

Freedom!

The world is crucified to Paul. It holds no weight, it has no value. It’s empty, meaningless, worthless.

Instead he hears just one voice… “This is my son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.”

There is only one opinion that he counts… The loving father’s. “Well done good and faithful servant, come and share in the master’s happiness!”

The truth of the Gospel is that we are loved, more than we could possibly comprehend. We are accepted, we don’t have a single thing to prove. We are provided for, we don’t have to be self sufficient, we have a future, which God is mapping out for us.

We won’t miss out.
We won’t go without.
We don’t need to worry and fret.
WE ARE FREE.

The cross is Paul’s boast. The cross is our gateway to freedom, not just because it symbolises Jesus’ last moment and all that he won for us, but it is Paul’s way of life. It’s the way of life that Jesus left for us. As we follow this way, walking in step with the spirit, the old life loses its grip on us and we become more and more free, we experience more and more peace, we come alive, we are free!

PRAYER:

Father, Thank you we are free. Thank you for Jesus, Thank you for the cross, Thank you for the freedom that Christ won for us, Thank you that he rose again, Thank you that he sent his spirit, the spirit of holiness to bring life to our hearts and minds. Thank you for the spirit that teaches us to live the life of freedom. Help us to live more and more in this freedom and have the joy of helping to set others free. Amen.

READING: Galatians

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!

Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule – to the Israel of God.

From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.