Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Living by faith (Galatians 2:1-21)

"Church Ladies"
Minolta DiMage Camera
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

It's kind of fun.  If you remember the verse from Psalm 23,
Psalm 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.

My last job was the very worst one ever.  It was incredibly unprofessional.  There was gossip and all sorts of weird stuff going on.  My manager loved to yell at the top of his lungs in staff meetings.  The commute was at least 3 hours.  My husband was in between jobs so I stayed as long as I could and finally quit.  News of what was going on spread to the upper levels of management.  On my last day, I said goodbye to my friends and headed toward Human Resources to turn in my badge.  I got on the elevator and all these ladies surrounded me.  One asked me, "You're a Christian aren't you?  I can tell." 

I had to laugh and told them, "Yes I'm a Christian."
Then one of the ladies exclaimed, "I knew it!  I told you so Marge, she's a Christian.  You'd have to be to get through all this and smile."

It was so encouraging.  Next I met the Human Resource guy.  He asked me what I would do next.  I replied, "I'd like to help some homeless people; do something worthwhile."

He paused, "Fascinating.  I consider those who would help others to be the most valuable."

It was so encouraging!  So that's how I had a table prepared for me in the presence of my enemies.  I was just trying to leave and forget it all, when these people treated me like something special.  I still smile remembering His goodness and all the nice people.  I did help homeless people for a short time and then the Lord inspired me to write and illustrate this blog.  Hoping it helps others.  I love visiting elderly people in Nursing Homes too.  

Galatians 2

1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. 2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 
In Judaism, it was required for all the boy babies to be circumcised.  It was considered a symbol of adherence to the Jewish law.  As people became Christian, the circumcision was no longer required.  Faith in Christ's sacrifice became the only law.  It is still a practice in the United States for health reasons, which could've been God's intent in the first place.  It's interesting how much God's laws make sense.  If we'd all followed the 10 commandments, it would've been a very different world today.

4 And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), 5 to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
Yikes!  Some people were pretending to be Christians and trying to get new Christians circumcised.

6 But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. 7 But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter 8 (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), 9 and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.
This is where the  ministry was divided between Peter who preached to the circumcised Jews, and Paul.  I can imagine it would've been difficult for Paul, who once destroyed Christians to be taken seriously by those who were devout Jews.  It also shows how God can open hearts to meet the needs around them.

Barnabas is an encourager.  I imagine him to be a large man with giant arms that occasionally gave hugs to those who needed it.  I'm not a hugger (except my hubby).  I look forward to meeting Barnabas in Heaven one day.  In the New Testament, he seems to show up at just the right times.  Like when Paul needs some cheering up.

11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.
James is Jesus' half brother.  The Apostle Paul talked to Peter face to face to rebuke him for eating with the Gentiles and not the Jews.  To me, this sounds like showing partiality for Gentiles instead of being open to all people including Jews.  It's like he was afraid of what the Jews would think of him.  Today we struggle with this in race, education, and denomination.  The Church isn't a building with a big cross on top, it's the people who believe Jesus is our Savior from all types of lives.  The presence of Christ and our faith will carry us through all sorts of troubles.

14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
Paul is still a bit upset here it sounds like.  He is telling Peter that he shouldn't try to persuade people to live like the Jews, if they aren't Jewish. We aren't justified by God because of our works or pretending, only by faith.  We seem to complicate things don't we?  That hasn't changed.  We've all sinned and no one can keep all the laws in the Bible that God gave us.  I wish I could but I can't.  This is why Jesus became the sacrifice for us in the first place.

Here's where Paul gives us the clarity to apply all this to today.  We can memorize these verses for the dark times when we feel forsaken or forgotten by God.  It also helps when we feel we've failed beyond repair.

  • 17 “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 
  • 18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 
  • 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me
  • 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.

(Gal 2:1-21 NKJV)

This song is by Moriah Peters, "You carry me" (link)

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