Welcome to Friday’s Podcast. Next week James Brown will continue our journey through Galatians. Our reading today is Galatians 4: 12-20. Today we’ll look at verse 15:
‘What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.’
A great joy for me in this lockdown period is our lovely garden. I’m so grateful! Not only does it mean the kids can play but it means we get to have a go at growing things which I really enjoy. I’m not a great gardener – I know how to water – I’m pretty good at that. I have two grape vines. One which has produced nothing. Not even one grape. And the other one has produced the smallest grapes I have ever seen. They’re barely edible but I do eat them out of respect the vine.
Every day, sometimes twice or more I check their progress. I know that sounds a bit obsessive – maybe it is – but when you’re homeschooling it’s a welcome break to have a few minutes to check out progress.
During this lockdown season I’ve been really taking notice of the vines (well, one would if you’re checking 3 times a day) because to get them to grow grapes they have to be pruned. In fact they need to be trailed – trained – and pruned. It’s a slow, slow progress. It seems so counter intuitive to cut them down and trim them back in winter. And then in the summer keep them trimmed. Not letting them get too wild or crazy. Always forcing the growth into the grapes, not the leaves.
One of my reflections on this season, I don’t know about you but it does feel like we’re being pruned. For example, Plans are getting pruned. Birthday celebrations pruned. School and work – all pruned. A sense of being connected to other people – seeing friends and family all pruned. The list could go on…
In the NIV version of the Bible translates verse 15 as ‘What has happened to all your joy?’ We’re told later in the book of Galatians by Paul that joy is a fruit – a by product of the Holy Spirit’s activity in our lives. Whenever I’ve met really joyful Christians I have found it such an energising experience. There’s something really infectious about them – really life giving. Life giving people often have evidence of the fruits of the spirit – along with encouragement and honour. We know, Jesus tells us in Luke 6:45 that what comes out of our mouths is what is from the overflow what is stored in our hearts. So, Joy – coming out of us – is a fruit of God’s internal activity within us.
This is important. This week we’ve been tracking the apostle Paul deal with a pull among the Galatian believers backwards to a life of religious obedience which is often concerned with the external appearance. Any reading of the gospels tells us that. In the Galatians’ case circumcision; observing Jewish festivals adopting their customs which we’ve seen Paul tackle head on.
What can this say to us coming up to the end of week 6 in the lockdown?
Let me be honest for a moment. I know in this lockdown I have been pretty grumpy with my children. I’m not always sleeping very well – which apparently is a thing for lots of people. Plus we’re living through a generation-defining moment. So some of my grumpiness is pretty normal – it’s natural but some of the fears, the anxiety well, I like you have to give that to the Lord through confession and worship.
So it’s really interesting that in verse 17 Paul says ‘Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good…’ Some scholars say that one of the features of the leaders who were leading the Galatians away from Paul’s teaching was that they used flattery. Smooth words and with great eloquence.
Here’s the thing – the apostle Paul is calling the Galatian church back to the gospel. They cannot achieve their own salvation. They cannot earn God’s approval. He’s not flattering them. He’s not telling them what they want to hear. He’s telling them the truth. They’ve lost their joy. They’re out of step with God.
This season will bring up all kinds of stuff or us. But you see coming back to Jesus – saying sorry – confession is embracing pruning. And pruning cuts off areas of our life that aren’t right and brings us back to the heart of God. It’s the place we return and it’s the place where we grow.
This season will pass. It is challenging. There are many blessings but the call is to keep in step with the spirit. If we want to be like Jesus who walked in perfect relationship with the father then we have to allow the spirit to prune the parts of us that aren’t helpful.
One of the features of John 15 – Jesus talks about vine – he says ‘I am the Vine. You are the branches’. I’ve come to realise that means that he’s in us and we’re in Him. So when we’re pruned and it’s painful – he’s with us. And because he’s with us and because he overcame the grave – resurrection will come. New life in the spirit will come. So embrace this season. Keep in step with the spirit. It’s when we lay down ‘our rights’ we receive abundant life.
Lord may we walk with you closely this season. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Galatians 4:12-20
I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!