Losing My Religion
Almost immediately after the birth of the Church in the first century, false teaching began creeping into local church bodies. Some taught limitless license to sinfully do as you please, while others promoted seemingly endless rules as the way to be right with God—all under the guise of the gospel. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that every letter in our New Testament includes teaching to either clarify the true gospel or directly combat one of these false gospels. Though they take on varying forms, counterfeit gospels are no less prevalent today. This week, we’ll examine some of the counterfeits we must be cautious of as we allow the gospel to be worked out in our own lives. For further reading or study with your Community Group, consider Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope, by Trevin Wax (Moody, 2011), from which I will borrow some of the big ideas.
Memory Verse: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Galatians 1:3-5 (ESV)
GROUNDED IN THE GOSPEL
Monday, April 8, 2013
Read: Galatians 1:1-10; Romans 5
Reflect: Just in case they’d forgotten, Paul’s “loaded” introduction (Gal. 1:1) reminds his hearers that his authority to write to them comes directly from God…the One who raised Jesus from the dead! Fresh on the heels of celebrating Easter, this connection forces me to take pause. Why does Paul include this description? I believe it’s because the reality of the resurrection helps refocus us on the foundational truth of the gospel: what we could not do for ourselves, Christ has already done for us. Yet, there is something within us that does not want to believe that truth. Because of our sin nature, we are pulled toward false gospels that distort or dilute the truth of who we are, who God is, and this incredible gift of the gospel we’ve been given. We must recognize that we are in a fight—a fight to believe the truth of God’s Word! This struggle does not end with a single decision, but is an ongoing process, as Paul reminds us when he tells us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
Respond: Spend time meditating on Galatians 1:3-5. This explanation of “the gospel in a nutshell” is so simple, yet so profound. As you reflect, consider: What areas of my life are not reflecting the truth of these verses? My relationships, attitudes, sin strongholds, etc.? Make a plan to begin each day by allowing your heart and mind to be saturated by the truth of God’s Word.
THE MORALISTIC GOSPEL
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Read: Galatians 1:1-10; Ephesians 2:8-10
Reflect: In contrast to the true gospel grounded in what Christ alone has already done, Paul says he’s shocked to see his brothers and sisters turning to a “different gospel.” Really, many were returning to their former way of life that relied on law-keeping and religious acts as the path to acceptance by God. The formula went something like this: Jesus + religious/right living = salvation. It was just close enough to the truth to be deceptive. We run a similar risk of allowing a law-centered gospel to creep into our thinking. Though we may have started with Jesus, we can subtly add other things. The law, moralism, “right living,” and any other good activity are not bad things, but neither are they supplements to grace. Our desire for good works, and the power to do them, must flow from a response of sheer gratitude for the gospel; otherwise, we’ve fallen for a counterfeit gospel.
Respond: Complete this statement: “Of course, we are saved by grace, but…” However you finished that statement is an indication of where you may lean toward the moralistic gospel. Reflect on where you are most likely to allow this thinking to creep in. Then confess it to God, asking him to help “renew your mind” (Romans 12:1) with the truth of salvation by grace through faith alone.
THE THERAPEUTIC GOSPEL
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Read: Galatians 1:1-7; Genesis 1-3
Reflect: I recently happened across a preacher on TV who was quite animated, so I watched for a few minutes. As I listened to the message, I became increasingly uncomfortable with what I heard. He wasn’t espousing any blatantly heretical doctrines, nor was his message void of references to Scripture; however, I came to realize that what made me uncomfortable was not what he said, but what he wasn’t saying. His message was one of answers for whatever problem you face —addiction, fear, broken relationships—but it presented Jesus as merely the means to reaching the end of solving all your problems. This message promised solutions for the symptoms of life’s problems without ever addressing the root disease of sin that underlies all fallenness. Because its diagnosis of our problem is superficial, so too is its proposed treatment. The goal of the Therapeutic Gospel is to bring personal happiness, and therefore it seeks to overcome any circumstance that gets in the way of our becoming all that we ought to be. Does God want us to be happy? Yes, but not in a way defined by twenty-first-century American culture. He desires even better things for us that can only come when we have a proper understanding of Him, ourselves, and the world around us.
Respond: Examine your prayer life. When are you most likely to go to God in prayer? What kinds of requests do you make? Is your biggest concern your unmet emotional needs? Or are you concerned about how your life reflects the glory of God? Spend time reflecting on how the true gospel, lived out in your life, brings glory to God, then ask Him to help you do that beginning today.
THE ACTIVIST GOSPEL
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Read: Matthew 6:33; Romans 1:16-17
Reflect: Many commentators have noted the social activism “bent” of our current young adult generation. While the form this takes may have changed some, this is not really a new phenomenon. We all have an in-born compulsion that draws us toward big things—feeling like we’re part of a movement larger than ourselves that brings about change, making a difference in the world. Though this impulse toward action is God-inspired, that impulse can easily be pulled toward the Gospel of Activism which seeks to see sweeping cultural change or some social injustice righted. The goal becomes making the world a better place and the means becomes political power. This usually begins when we start to confuse the church and culture. The underlying assumption of the Activist Gospel is this: Political policy is where real change occurs. This is especially deceptive because it is carried out on behalf of “good” moral causes. Yet this assumption undermines the power of the true gospel to bring real change at the heart level. Instead of coaching His disciples on how to shape secular culture, Jesus taught them to seek first His kingdom (Matthew 6:33) and, under His authority, take the message of the gospel to the whole world (Matthew 28:18-20). If we’re restless and feel we need to grab hold of some other force to bring change in our world, it’s probably because we’ve lost confidence in the power of the gospel! The true gospel centers us on God, who has the only real power to bring social change through individual heart transformations.
Respond: One of the tests of discipleship is clinging to our identity “in Christ” above all else. Where are you tempted to find your identity in something other than Christ? Your work? Political affiliation? Family background? Social involvement? A position you hold? Ask God to help you embrace your true and perfect identity in Him, accomplished through the gospel.
REHEARSING THE GOSPEL
Friday, April 12, 2013
Read: Galatians 1:1-10; Colossians 1:9-23
Reflect: To avoid counterfeits and grow ever deeper in our understanding of our relationship with God, we must continually allow the true gospel to saturate our hearts, minds, and lives. But how do we do that? To this end, the Puritans made a regular practice of “Rehearsing the Gospel,” a conscious act of meditating on the truth of who God is and what He has accomplished through the gospel. Colossians 1:23 instructs us to be continuously established and steadfast in the gospel, refusing to be moved from there. To adequately do that requires daily-renewed focus and exploration of the gospel and its implications on our lives. When we are absorbed in the gospel, the way we are supposed to relate to God and others seems to flow out of us more naturally and passionately.
Respond: God has given us tools to help preach the gospel to ourselves. Do you have a plan for daily Scripture reading? Do you regularly set aside unhurried, undistracted time for listening to God through prayer? Are you investing in intentional Christ-centered relationships, which the Bible calls community? With your Community Group, mentor or accountability partner, commit to a plan to allow the gospel to saturate your life through these disciplines.
If you’ve not accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, simply admit that you are a sinner in need of a Savior, believe that Jesus is the living Son of God, and choose to follow Him the rest of your life. If you need to talk to someone, call the church office (781-5959) or talk to our pastors or counselors after weekend services.
This Time Alone was written by Josh Herod, PV Staff
There is so much to learn from the book of Galatians, it can be easy to miss things if we move too fast. One way you can dive deeper into this book is to do a verse-by-verse study. Below is a resource which can guide you if you’d like to give it a try! Don’t forget to invite God into the process and be ready to listen what He shares with you through His Word.
Simple Steps in Doing a Verse-by-Verse Analysis
Step 1. Write out a personal paraphrase.
Write out the verse in your own words. Do not use one of the modern paraphrases except to get the idea of how to do it. Stay true to the verse you are paraphrasing, and try to condense rather than expand it.
Step 2. List some questions, answers and observations.
List any questions you have on the verse, or on words, phrases, persons, topics, and doctrines in that verse. Write down any answers you are able to find and any observations you have on the verse.
Step 3. Find some cross-references for each verse.
Using the cross-references in your study Bible or from personal Scripture memory, write down at least one cross-reference for each verse.
Step 4. Record any insights you get from each verse.
Having thought through the words, phrases, and concepts in the verse, record any insights that you get from it.
Step 5. Write down a brief personal application.
Because of the number of verses you will be studying, you may not be able to design an application project from each verse. Instead just try to record some devotional thoughts that come to you from each verse. If a particular verse seems to meet an immediate need, go ahead and write out an application that is possible, practical, personal, and measurable.
*Adapted from Dynamic Bible Study Methods by Rick Warren, Victor Books, 1981