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How can we exult in our sufferings for Jesus? #persecution

Galatians 6:17 “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

In ancient Greece, slave masters marked their slaves with brands, denoting possession of them. Additionally, many pagan priests marked their bodies with a brand that signified which god they worshipped. The word Paul uses here when he referred to the “marks of Jesus” on his body was the same word used in both of those instances. Yet, Paul was not advocating that Christians were to mark themselves, either with circumcision or by any other means, in order to gain salvation and brotherhood with Christ. Paul was instead pointing out that he gladly took every blow given to him for the sake of Jesus’ name because in each of those, he was sharing in the sufferings of our Savior. In 2 Corinthians 1:5 he said, “We share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” In 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 he said, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” Paul knew what each of us must know: the only marks or works we ever need manifested in this world are those already received and accomplished by Christ, and in each we show that we belong to Him. Let us glory in that privilege.

Study/Meditation: Read Paul’s proclamation over the church in Colossae in Colossians 1:24-29 (http://www.esvbible.org/Colossians+1/). What comfort are we to receive when we are persecuted for the sake of Jesus’ name?

*Father, the persecution I may suffer in this lifetime on behalf of my Savior, Jesus Christ, is a privilege, and I thank You for this gift. I know that it is not worth comparing to the glory that will one day be revealed in Him. Amen.

How are peace and mercy and joy connected in the life of a believer?

Galatians 6:16 “And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”

Everyone desires peace in their lives, and everyone wants to receive mercy. In those two things really lie what we would often describe as “happiness,” and we would be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t want to be happy. There are no shortages of proposed answers to this dilemma either. One need only wander down the aisles of any major bookstore and see a myriad of books describing different means to reach this elusive “happiness” we all seek. However, Paul very boldly asserts that there is only one avenue by which mankind can attain peace and mercy, thereby bringing happiness. This avenue is based on the truth that happiness is really just an outward result of internal joy, and joy comes only when we have found peace for our troubled lives and mercy for our troubled souls. No man-centered book in the bookstore or religious practice of any sort will bring what we desire. To “walk by this rule,” as Paul states it, is to be crucified to the flesh and all that it stands for and to instead allow Christ complete lordship over our lives. When Christ is our center, we have peace, a peace with God and a peace in our lives no matter our circumstances. We also have mercy, which is both forgiveness and provision in the midst of these circumstances that often seek to take away our peace. Therefore Christ who brings us peace and mercy also brings us joy that cannot be displaced. Why does anyone tarry?

Study/Meditation: How would you describe the difference between “happiness” and “joy”? Why do you think that peace and mercy result in joy?

*Father, thank You for the security of Your love that brings me peace and mercy, thereby bringing me unchanging joy, no matter my circumstances. Amen.

#Salvation is both initiated and completed by Jesus Christ.

Galatians 6:15 “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”

A boy was watching a boxing match on television one day with his father. The boy noticed that one of the boxers crossed himself over his chest before he began. He asked his father, “Does that help?” His father answered, “Not if you can’t punch.” There is absolutely nothing we can do to generate or propagate our salvation. We simply can’t win this fight by doing enough or becoming enough, just as Paul was explaining to the Galatians that the physical act of circumcision or the lack thereof would never save them. Just as a boxer can’t box simply by performing some ceremony before the fight, we can’t be saved by simply performing certain acts or accomplishing certain things. Only the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ saves, and we only receive that gift by accepting His sacrifice and making Him Lord over our lives. When we do that, we become new, not because of anything we did, but because His Lordship regenerates our heart. When our hearts are regenerated and we are justified, we become “…a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17b)

Study/Meditation: In what ways does modern man try to replace Jesus’ gift of salvation with ceremonies or acts?

*Father, forgive me if I ever try to add to or take away from the perfect gift of salvation given by Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You for both initiating and completing my salvation. Amen.

Those who really know #Christ can do little else but magnify His name.

Galatians 6:14 “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Legalism and works-based religious beliefs place their trust and therefore their foundations on either the knowledge of Christ or working toward Christ. Neither of these avenues is where Paul boasts, and he is reminding us that it shouldn’t be for us either. It is not enough to know about Christ or His Word. It’s not enough to be able to quote every word of the bible and recite each of its laws and mandates. James wrote in James 2:19, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” We, like Paul, must not simply agree that Christ died for sinners; we must glory in that truth, or as Paul states it, we must “boast…in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Everything about the world and indeed about ourselves should no longer be the mountains upon which we fly our flags of victory. When Paul says that he crucifies both, he is saying that they are detestable in his sight, just as crucifixion was detestable in the sight of all of mankind. Next to the glory of our Savior, we are as filthy rags and this world is a desolate wasteland of gray and dying refuse. We glory and exult and boast in our Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done because anything and everything in His shadow disappears beneath the absolute radiance of His majesty.

Study/Meditation: Read Philippians 3:1-11 (http://www.esvbible.org/Philippians+3/). What glorious attributes of Christ does Paul list that make Him worthy of all our praise?

*Father, I rejoice in You and Your Son, Jesus Christ, whose majesty and honor are far above the heavens. Thank You for procuring salvation for Your children. Amen.

Is it fair to describe all of fallen man as “people pleasers”? #humility

Galatians 6:13 “For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.”

As stated yesterday, Paul is summing up his letter to the Galatians with his final two warnings, the first against fear of human persecution in verse 12 and the second against love of human praise in verse 13. In the latter he is again referring back to the Judaizers and their true motives behind demanding circumcision from the Gentile Christians in Galatia. That motive, which is also the underlying motive for centering salvation on works of the flesh, is one of pride and the need to be praised by others. There is a commonly used phrase today describing those who seemingly work only for approval; we call them “people pleasers.” Often we even use this term as a derogatory one, implying a weak constitution and not enough self-confidence. The truth of the matter is that all mankind struggles against the tendency toward people pleasing because the converse stance would be one of complete and abject humility at the foot of the cross. The converse would be full realization of who we really are and what we really deserve aside from Christ. The converse would be a heart so focused on Jesus that the opinions of others, including our own, would count for nothing, and that the only thing that did matter was the majesty and glory of our Savior. The flesh will always love praise, but only Christ deserves it.

Study/Meditation: In what ways do you tend toward “people pleasing”? How can all of us learn to focus that attention only on Christ?

*Father, forgive me when I seek the approval of men instead of only from You. Give me the wisdom I need to overcome this self-centeredness so that I may give all praise and honor to You. Amen.

Why should Christians expect persecution over the #cross of #Christ?

Galatians 6:12 “It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.”

Here we are, for the final two times in Galatians, reading Paul’s admonitions against legalism and dependence on the flesh for justification and sanctification in 6:12-13. When all is said and done and Paul is writing his last words in this letter, he warns us against two things: the fear of human opposition and the love of human praise. In verse 12 he is completing his warning against the fear of persecution over the cross of Christ because that is indeed an inevitability for the one boasting only there. The Judaizers in Galatia were no doubt under extreme pressure themselves from the zealous Jewish nationalists in Judea. Paul is exposing both their fear of persecution as well as that of the Galatians who succumbed to the pressure placed on them by the Judaizers to be circumcised. The reality is that kneeling at the foot of the cross of Calvary will always call for humility, and no man in his human flesh desires that end. As a matter of fact, mankind without the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying presence will spit and jeer at the notion of this sort of humility; they will be hostile toward it because it has no place within it for exaltation of self. Christians, however, are to live only in the exaltation of Jesus Christ. All else is futility and ultimately sin.

Study/Meditation: How have you lived under persecution by man because of your faith in Christ? If you haven’t endured such, why?

*Father, I bow before the complete work of my Savior, Jesus Christ, done at the cross. Thank You for the work done by Him for me that only He could do. Amen.