What are the advantages afforded those who continue to follow Christ?

We are all looking for advantages in life. Those things that can help us as we seek to move through life. We seek these advantages in many areas – work, play, and school. At times, they help us as we attempt to navigate the ever changing world.

Experience tells us, however, that these advantages don’t last and they are ever changing. But there is One who does not change. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The advantages He offers are real and unchanging.

What are the advantages afforded those who continue to follow Christ?

(1) You don’t have to live under a standard you can’t meet (13a)

We know the Judaizers expected the Galatians to live according to the law because they taught that they were to accept circumcision. But while following the demands of the law is what the Judaizers wanted the Gentiles to do, we learn in verse 13, that they themselves weren’t living by the law. In the first half of the verse we read,

For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law,…” (Ga 6:13a)

What does this mean?

On the one hand, the Judaizers lived according to the law. They were circumcised, they observed the dietary laws, and they lived according to Jewish customs — Observing feasts and other things. While they did those things, they still failed to keep the law perfectly so as to earn salvation. Remember what Paul revealed in chapter 3.

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” (Ga 3:10)

The key phrase in that verse is “abide by all things.” If we add anything to the gospel, any work, then we nullify the gospel and we are forced to keep the whole law in order to experience salvation. But no one is perfect. We all make mistakes. We all sin. We all break the Law, the Judaizers included.

That is why the gospel is good news. It reveals we don’t have to live under a standard we can’t keep. All who trust in Christ are freed from the condemnation of the law. We are freed because Christ paid the penalty for us. He became a curse on our behalf. That is the paradox of the gospel and the advantage in continuing to follow Jesus.

Remember, Jesus + something = nothing. But Jesus + nothing = everything. That is exactly what Paul wants the Galatians to see. In Christ, we don’t have to live according to a standard we can’t meet. Jesus has met the standard for us.

Transition: Another advantage of following Christ is that:

(2) We are free from having to follow the world’s system (14)

In verse 14 the text says,

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.” (Ga 6:14)

We will get to the first part of the verse in a moment, but look at the second half. Essentially, Paul tells us the world’s system doesn’t have a hold on him. The idea that the world doesn’t have a hold on him has massive implications for how he lives. It means he no longer looks to the world for hope and salvation. He no longer needs the approval of others. He’s no longer enslaved by sin and Satan. All that makes it possible for him to live in the world for God. He can be counter-cultural without having to worry about what others think or what others can do to him. He can seek to please God and expand his kingdom. He can be a real force for the gospel. As well as, he can enjoy the things that the world has to offer because he’s not finding hope or salvation, ultimate joy or peace in any of the things of the world. They are what they are and he can enjoy them for that.

In Christ, we are freed from having to follow the world system, and we are able to live in the world in the way God has designed for us to live. We don’t have to fear the world. We don’t have to try to gain meaning from a meaningless world. We can enjoy the world in the way God has designed for us to enjoy it instead of making it an idol.

Transition: Another advantage of following Christ is that:

(3) We are a new creation and we have a new creation for which to look forward (15)

Look at verse 15,

For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (Ga 6:15)

When we believe in Jesus, we are made anew. Essentially we are changed from the inside out as our desires and will are brought inline with God’s. As Christians, we are a new creation. As those who are created a new, we look forward to a time when the world in which we live is created a new as well. This world is not all there is or all there will ever be. When Jesus returns, He will change the world. It will become a new creation free from the affects of sin and Satan. All those who are blessed to live in the new world will be new creations as well.

How do you experience this change?

This present change and future hope is only for those who follow Jesus. Those who don’t follow Jesus have an eternity in hell to which to look forward. Instead of living in God’s perfect, new creation. But if you believe in Jesus as your Lord and as your Savior, you can be made into a new creation. You can experience the New World to come. You can experience the kingdom to come, Jesus‘s kingdom. A kingdom that is completely and absolutely perfect.

If you are willing to humble yourself and admit that you cannot save yourself, and that Jesus is the only one who can save you. That He has provided a way for salvation to take place by dying on the cross for your sins. If you are willing to turn from, to repent of, your rebellion against God, then you too can be made into a new creation. You can experience the salvation Jesus offers.

Transition: The last advantage in this text to following Christ is that:

(4) We will experience true peace and mercy (16)

Look at verse 16,

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

The rule to which Paul refers is living according to the gospel. With the gospel as our foundation for life, we will experience true peace and mercy. As well as we will be a part of the Israel of God.

If you long for peace and mercy, if you long to experience true salvation, don’t move on from the gospel. Don’t move on from faith alone, in Christ alone. That is the way we receive the mercy of God and experience a peace that’s beyond all comprehension.

What does it take to be Jesus’ disciple?

In Luke chapter 14 Jesus highlights key ideas we must be willing to forsake to follow Him and be a part of His kingdom. He tells several parables in this section. These parables help us to see a number of things.

Jesus wants us to see that those who enter the kingdom must not immediately expect that they are kingdom people (vs 7-24).

The Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, believed themselves to be kingdom people because they sought to keep the law. They believed they pleased God through their works and deserved to be a part of the kingdom as a result. But Jesus flips the script on them. He reveals it is not those who believe they are deserving, but those who are humble, who recognize they are not deserving that are invited into the kingdom.

Jesus also wants us to see that those who enter the kingdom are willing to forsake all for Him (vs 25-33)

This is the point that landed on me this morning as I read the Bible in my devotional time. At the end of His teaching on the cost of discipleship, Jesus wraps the section up by saying:

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:33)

I have read this Scripture a number of times in the past, referred to it in conversation, and even included it in my preaching and teaching. Though I am familiar with the passage, today it landed on me differently.

How did it land on me?

Jesus reveals that His disciples must be willing to renounce all that we have in order to be His follower. I am afraid that those of us who live in the West hear those words, champion them, preach them, teach them, but don’t take them to heart. We want to add Jesus to our comfortable lives, to the American and cultural dream of what it means to be happy and successful. I am not saying we shouldn’t be successful, we shouldn’t work hard, or that we shouldn’t have things that make life more comfortable. If the Lord blesses us in that way, praise God. Instead, what I am driving towards is that we can’t make those things ultimate. They can’t be those things that define us. Our relationship with Jesus should define us. It should be what makes us happy and joyful. It should be what gives us meaning and purpose, as well as peace in life.

We must not add Jesus to our cultural idea of success.

Instead, we must allow Jesus to define success. I am afraid that is where many of us fail, myself included. We chase after the things of the world as if they are ultimate. We get frustrated when they are not manifested in our life. We believe Jesus has abandoned us. Jesus, however, hasn’t abandoned us. He is right there with us, teaching and guiding us. He wants us to see that He is the One to whom we should look to for ideas of success, not the world.

If we are going to be Jesus’ disciple, we must renounce all worldly ideas and be willing to live according to biblical ideas and convictions, regardless if they are popular or not.

“All things” is all things.

We must be willing to forsake, to abandon and renounce all things, pledging our full allegiance to Jesus. But more than that — we must find our life and being in Jesus. As believers, our kingdom is not of this world. We must live as if that is true.

Once we are able to renounce all things, living in the world, no matter how blessed or how difficult life might be, we will be joyful and peaceful because we will be living as Jesus’ disciples, allowing Him to dictate and determine what should and shouldn’t bring us joy, meaning, and purpose in life.

Why Do We Struggle to Give Financially to the Church?

Giving is where many of us struggle. A recent statistic I came across revealed that:

  • 75–90% of church members do not tithe (give 10% of their income)
  • The average giving by adults who attend US Protestant churches is about $17 a week.
  • Typically, 77% of those who do tithe end up giving 11%–20% or more of their income, far more than the baseline of 10%.[1]

What this reveals is that when it comes to giving, we find that in every congregation there are some who don’t give at all, there are others who give a little out of habit or obligation, and then there are those who joyfully and generously give above and beyond.

Why Do We Struggle to Give?

There are different reasons why people fit into each of these categories as well as there are different reasons why people struggle to provide financial support to their local church.

(1) Maybe you have overextended themselves so that you have nothing to give.

If this is you, what you need to do is sit down and audit your budget. Once you have audited your budget, you need to make a budget and stick to it.

Many of us spend more than we make, which results in credit card debt or debt in other forms — a car payment too large to really afford. I’d counsel you to spend time balancing your budget and offloading those items you really can’t afford. It will take some time and a change in your spending behavior, but it is necessary if you want to be able to help further the gospel ministry of your local church.

Once your budget is balanced, plan your giving into your budget. In other words, make your giving a line item in your budget. I’d suggest it be the first line item, so that you are giving out of your first fruits rather than your leftovers.

(2) Maybe you don’t realize the impact your individual giving has on the church budget.

Churches budget based on past giving and number of members. If a member is not giving, they are severely impacting the budget of the church. If a church can’t make budget, they can’t effectively do ministry. Your giving matters!

(3) Maybe you do realize the impact your giving has on the church, but you are upset about something the church is or is not doing, so you withhold you tithes and offerings out of protest.

This is an area in which you really need to check your heart. The reason people withhold their tithes and offering is almost always a selfish one. Your pet project didn’t get selected or it was cut from the budget. The church isn’t moving in the direction you want. Change is occurring and you are uncomfortable with it. A minister slighted you and in order to get back at them, you are withholding your gifts.

In some situations, a minister or ministry leader will notice your giving has dipped. But in most instances, many ministers, including myself, don’t know what individual members give. I purposely keep those numbers from myself so that I won’t treat any one person different than another.

Instead of withholding out of protest, the best solution is to set a meeting with the pastor or ministry leader with whom you have issue or questions and talk it through.

(4) Maybe you have the money to give, but you don’t because you don’t trust that the Lord will provide.

God doesn’t need our money, but God does desire we give on a regular basis to support the gospel ministry of the local church.

Giving is not just a money issue. Rather, it is a heart issue. If you struggle to give, your heart is most likely directed towards something else. Where our money goes, there our heart goes as well. What you spend your money on is indicative of what you believe will provide you with joy, satisfaction, purpose, comfort, and security.

A lack of consistent giving reveals a trust issue.

God, however, can be trusted. Jesus tackles this issue in Matthew chapter 6 when He says,

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:24-33

If God provides for birds and flowers, how much more do you think He will provide for you? Our God is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. He is all sovereign. Not only is He in control of all things, but He is a generous God. So generous, in fact, that He gave His only Son to die in our place. Jesus freely came and took the condemnation we deserved so that we might have a restored relationship with the Father and experience His kingdom both now and for all eternity.

God is not one to withhold good things from His children. Instead, He gives freely and abundantly to those who have need. The greatest gift of all being our salvation. If you are struggling to give, consider God’s generous gifts to you, especially the gift of salvation.

As well as consider your giving as a form of worship. When you give, you are exhibiting trust in the Lord. You are saying He is great enough to meet your needs. You are proclaiming that He is your Provider. Giving is an act of worship.

[1] https://nonprofitssource.com/online-giving-statistics/church-giving/

How Can You Experience True Freedom?

We live in a post-modern society. Post-modernism casts off any and all meta-narratives as power plays by authoritarian systems. In an attempt to escape oppression and experience freedom, meta-narrative are traded for individual narratives that allow one to construct their own truth. In this way there is no absolute truth, just that truth you derive from yourself and your own experiences. We see this transition in phraseology such as “You be you”; “Be your authentic self”; etc. These ideas are why we are currently experiencing so much transition in every area of life.

The Promise of Different Gospels

Different gospels that promise salvation have been preached for centuries. Post-modernism is another gospel in a long list of gospels hoping to cast off the restrictions of a Judeo-Christian worldview to provide freedom without submission.

But does a disregard for the Christian meta-narrative provide true freedom? Does creating our own individual narratives divorced from any overarching narrative, especially a Judeo-Christian narrative, provide an escape from bondage?

The Galatians were not confronted with Post-modernism, but they were confronted with a worldly gospel. Paul, the author of the letter to the Galatians, addresses their fall away from the biblical gospel when he writes in Galatians 4:8-9

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?” (Gal. 4:8-9)

Different Gospels Don’t Provide Freedom

The elementary principles of the world represent those ideas that are fundamental. They serve as the building blocks for a particular system of beliefs. Everyone operates according to closely held building block beliefs. They are those beliefs that drive our worldview and the actions that follow.

Worldly religions and philosophies, those things we build our life on a part from the biblical worldview, do not provide us with freedom. Instead, they enslave us. They entrap us in a cycle of performance, worry, and anxiety. We are left to wonder if we have done enough in order to experience that religion’s or philosophy’s form of salvation. In the case of our modern movement, we might wonder if we gone far enough in divorcing ourselves from a Judeo-Christian worldview. In other words, are we properly secular? Are we championing secular causes well enough?

Cancel Culture as an Example of Bondage

It is here that cancel culture enters the picture. All those who are not in the main are seen as being on the wrong side of history. They are not able to represent modern day culture. They shouldn’t be applauded or championed. Instead, they should be punished for their lack of adherence to the current cultural movement, which results in them being “cancelled”.

Those who believe themselves to be on the right side of history today feel liberation, they feel as if they have been saved from oppressive structures. But “today” is not “always”. Tomorrow always comes. Tomorrow brings change in one’s ideas and thoughts. In modern day vernacular, we might say people “evolve” over time.

Tomorrow, and the evolution it brings, is why cancel culture exists. Cancel culture doesn’t care what side of history you were on in the past. It only cares about what side you are on today, which is why many past cultural champions find themselves forced to change or be cancelled.

The irony is that cancel culture requires truth and an overarching narrative to work. The very thing Post-modernism denies it uses. The truth claims made by those of cancel culture are seen as dominate and ones that should be embraced by all people. If one doesn’t embrace the current cultural meta-narrative truth claim, they are oppressed. In an attempt to create freedom from bondage, Post-modern thought has actually created bondage and oppression. There can be no dissenting voices only those who agree or cancel culture comes for you.

True Freedom Does Exist

There is no freedom in the elementary principles of the world. There is only slavery. You can, however, experience freedom in Christ. He has come to set you free.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1)

How can you experience freedom? Jesus has come, He has died, paying the penalty you deserve. He took your sentence of eternal death for you. He sat in the cell of hell, He experienced God’s wrath in your place. Jesus has done your time. You have been pardoned. He has also freed you from the need for self-salvation, releasing you from the bondage of performance culture.

The good news is that His provision is open to all who would humble themselves and submit to Him as Lord and Savior. If you want freedom, don’t turn to the elementary principles of the world. Instead, turn to Jesus! Allow Him to be your King, your Savior, your all in all. Allow Him to guide and direct your life.

Money Can’t Buy You Happiness

As a child, my friends and I would sit around in the park near my house discussing what we wanted to be when we grew up. The most common answers we all would give, besides a professional athlete, was a doctor or lawyer. You know why we gave those answers? It wasn’t because we cared about medicine or the law. Many of us didn’t even know what those jobs involved. Instead, we answered in those ways because we knew doctors and lawyers made a lot of money.

I lived in a lower middle class neighborhood as a child. We didn’t have all the luxuries many kids grow up with today. We always had clothing and food and a little bit more, but we didn’t have many of the luxuries of life. We saw a career as a doctor or lawyer as a way to get those luxuries. As a way to “make it” so to speak. I’m sure if you think back to your childhood, many of you probably had similar conversations.

Many of us are still chasing those luxuries. Many of us are still seeking to “make it”. We are working ourselves to the bone. Sacrificing every chance we get to make an extra dollar, to build another relationship, to connect with someone we think can help us get ahead. We miss time with our family, with our friends, with our church. We bend the rules at times, operating in the grey because it benefits us.

But here is the thing. Money can’t buy you happiness. It can’t buy you friends. It can’t buy you what you really need. It is temporary. When it is gone, the lifestyle you were striving to sustain, the possessions you were after, they are gone. Seeking to “make it” is one big lie and an even bigger let down.

When this young man ran out of money, his friends didn’t come to his aid. They were no where to be found. He had to hire himself out to feed pigs. A Jew feeding pigs. That is about as low as it gets. But here he is. At the bottom of the barrel, all because he thought money could buy him happiness.

Money can’t fill that whole in our heart. It didn’t for this young man. It won’t for you either. So don’t put your hope and trust in the wealth of the world. Instead, put your trust in the Lord. He is the only One who will ultimately satisfy.

Please God, not man!

In today’s world, cancel culture is alive and well, which makes it is easy, and even necessary at times, to slip into a people pleasing mindset. If you get on someone’s bad side or go against a cause they are championing, you might find yourself the victim of repeated attacks that are meant to ruin your life and career. I don’t know anyone who wants their life and career ruined. We generally want our life to improve not spiral out of control. We are creatures who desire comfort, peace, and security, not the opposite. So many tow the line even if they disagree in an effort to please those around them.

For all the talk of being genuine, people pleasing is about as far from it as you can get. We might make it seem like we are championing a cause because we care so much about it but all we are really doing is looking out for our own self-interest. At our core, we are selfish people who want to travel the smoothest road through life.

The broad, smooth road, however, can easily turn into a bumpy, pothole filled road that will destroy our comfortable ride in a matter of moments. We can’t please everyone no matter how hard we try. Even if we are successful for a time, trying to please one group at one cultural moment, might result in us offending another in a future cultural moment. This is why so many who want to stay in the good gracies of the culture “evolve” every so often.

But the apostle Paul makes it clear in today’s passage that if we are going to be a servant of Christ, we must purpose to please Him and only Him.

Look at Galatians 1:10

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Paul draws a hard line in the sand. His life’s focus is to please one person and one person only. His life is focused on pleasing Jesus Christ, who is the only person that matters. Culture changes, people change, opinions of what is right and wrong change (sometimes daily), but Jesus and what He stands for never changes. What pleased God thousands of years ago will still please Him thousands of years from now.

As our Creator and Savior, pleasing Jesus is the only thing that matters. His opinion of us is the only one that holds any weight. A relationship with Him is the only one that will provide that for which we are looking — peace, comfort, and security.

Stop toiling to please the world. Unhinge yourself from the heavy burden you are carrying. Turn to Christ! His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Please God, not man!