SUMMER PODCAST REBOOT – this episode was originally published in May 2020.
Hello everyone, my name is James and welcome to Wednesdays podcast. Today our passage is Galatians 5:7-12. The verses we’ll focus on today are v7, 8 & 9.
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”
In a different approach to our reflections on Monday and Tuesday I am not going to begin with a story but we will start by hearing the main idea of our reflection today. We are looking at our motivation for obeying God. The reason in attempting to be REALLY clear is that on Thursday and Friday we are going to be looking at the results of following God, the outworking or as our Bibles call it the fruit. If we are going to talk about fruitfulness in a healthy way then it is SUPER helpful to begin thinking about today’s passage first. What is our motivation for obeying God?
As my colleagues and I have mentioned previously in the last two weeks there are two teams making theological points to the church in Galatia. One is asking for these followers of Jesus to also obey the laws of Moses… with all the Jewish customs towards food and festivals.
Perhaps hearing this we will remember what was said yesterday: the laws given to us in the Bible are good and wise. Our problem is our ability to obey any of them. The reason these things are being brought to our attention again is because I want us to notice something together. As we see in verse 7, Paul is also advocating for obedience.
V7 puts it like this: You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?
But there is one HUGE difference.Motivation. Both ways of thinking want us to ‘Join Us for the Better Life’ (still our vision for the year 2020) … if that’s the goal – for Paul, how we get there is REALLY important.
We can obey God but for the wrong reasons and that can be as bad as disobeying God. For example, we can help a neighbour, or gift some money, time or talent to a person in need and our hearts can be filled with pride, anger or fear. We could host a prayer meeting and our chief aim could be prove something or to better someone. All things that are opposite to the fruits of the Spirit that we are going to hear about on Friday, “love, joy and peace” to name a few.
I have been part of STC now for 12 years. I arrived as a student in 2008. Long before I arrived there have been these midweek communities, clusters, that serve their communities or do good in neighbourhoods or networks across the city. From care homes, to street parties to serving food and hot drinks to those on the streets of Sheffield. The creativity of this church to be generous and promote justice has always amazed me. Beautiful people doing a beautiful thing in Jesus’ name. Sometimes friends have joined in serving alongside us. We’ve all had to learn that clarity is really important, we do it because God so loved us and others are free to join us in doing good.
This is important. Because other motivations, Paul describes, can be like ““A little yeast [working] through the whole batch of dough.” – with the right conditions, it doesn’t take much for yeast to change the entire recipe. If you’ve managed to get your hands on some ingredients to make bread at home you will understand what this verse is talking about. My friend Matt Roden has sent me through a recipe I can’t wait to try – as soon as I can find some flour. It doesn’t take long for other motivations to reshape our obedience.
A Christian faith will always produce good works. But the works that it produces can be because of love not fear. I’m in this boat with all of us listening in today, I need to be reminded like others that we do not do good to fill a quota of kindness that the Lord requires of us that year. It is not to make Jesus love us any more than he already does. And for all of us listening into this podcast, if you feel connected to clusters in this church (or if you haven’t yet joined in meeting this way), every act of justice or generosity we can possibly offer to God, is because he SO loved us first that our response is to love others. That is the example of God’s self-giving sacrificial love as is beautifully written in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Let the love of God be our motivation for doing good. We have nothing to prove. We have no quota to fill and I am not here to measure your output and do a performance review.
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19.
I meant it when I shared that I’m in this boat with all of us listening in today. There are times when I’ve really failed in this mindset. The temptation in lockdown is to think: I must do more for God. I must reach more people, raise my kids in the faith better or become TikTok famous. Here is a funny one, in the first two weeks of lockdown I felt this massive pressure to host a quiz online. Why? Because everyone else is. I don’t even like quizzes. Tom shared it better than I can with his reflection last Monday (we can find it on our website). There is always a wrestle in human nature. It’s part of the fallenness of creation… To earn… to get… to win… to count our progress. We cannot build our identity on these things.
Our chief motivation for obeying God? Love.
Let’s finish by hearing verse 6 from yesterday’s reflection read aloud again for us today:
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Father, we love you. Help us to recognise your love for us. Help us to live in response to that love. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Galatians 5:7-12
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. ‘A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.’ I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offence of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!