There are so many things that distract us today and vie for our attention. And in our “entertain me” mentality, we flit from one event, meeting and agenda to the next. Everyone has a plethora of passions and initiatives: save the whales, stop child slavery, raise money to fight cancer, equal pay for men and women, and the list goes on and on. We jump on board and are passionate for the fundraiser gala, we run the 5K, we give up our lunch breaks and occasionally even host an event to raise awareness.
But in reality we are passionate-less.
We are not truly convicted.
Unless, of course, that cancer or slavery or animal abuse has hit us close to home.
Out of sight, out of mind might be a temptation of forgetfulness for our Earthly agendas, but have you noticed the same weakness when it comes to your spirituality? Do you have a once-a-week Christianity? Do you have a ten minutes-a-day faith? Paul opens up his letter to the multiple churches in Galatia differently than any other letter he wrote. He said, “Hi” and then jumped squarely into this confrontation:
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
– Gal 1. 6-9
Can you imagine if the person who led you to faith wrote you a letter and this was the opening paragraph? “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ”. How shallow was your salvation experience and discipleship process that you have been distracted and led astray to love another?
What is particularly convicting in this assessment is that the people have not been led astray, primarily, by a foreign Gospel. Paul’s problem with the Galatians is not that they became Christians and then turned to a foreign religion. They were Gentiles (non-Jews) who received the Gospel with joy, and then Jews came in and started teaching them that in order to follow Jesus they had to keep the Mosaic Law. They were accepting the forgiveness of Jesus in word, but then trying to earn it through works and sacrifice. And Paul states that the attempt to earn God’s favor through obedience, sacrifice and ritual is to abandon Jesus.
Aren’t we supposed to obey? Didn’t Jesus Himself say,
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
– John 14.15
Yes, Jesus did say that. But notice the logic here. Love is the foundation and obedience is the response. When we distort the order by placing obedience as the foundation, then it turns into self-righteousness and merit. We cannot earn forgiveness, and we cannot pay off our debt. God is a just God who will punish every sin ever committed. He cannot turn His face away and just let it slip by. And no matter how much we do to try to balance the scale, we can never appease the punishment required for sin.
Notice that Paul says that the Law is “really not another” (V 7). The Law is the foundation for the work of Christ. The sacrificial animals whose blood was shed was a picture of the perfect sacrifice that could atone for all the sins of those who would believe. The scapegoat that was released into the wilderness was looking forward to the inexplicably glorious exchange that happens at the moment of justification where Jesus takes our guilt and we receive His holiness. The Law teaches us that God desires first that we love Him and obey Him, and the standard is perfection and righteousness. When we fail to miss that mark we need a Savior. The Law looks forward to Jesus as the only one who can keep the Law and he offers us forgiveness by paying our penalty and debt. The problem is that the Gentiles in Galatia wanted to distort salvation and attempt to make themselves worthy of God. They put obedience before love. It is not really another Gospel, but it is distorted enough that Paul calls the one who taught it accursed.
Paul condemns anyone who perverts the Gospel of Jesus Christ as damned to Hell.
Have you abandoned Jesus? Or do you wake up and start your day with Him? Have you added to the Gospel or distorted it? Or do you love Jesus, thank Him for salvation and obey Him in response? Do you mess up the order, trying to earn His favor? Or have you abandoned Jesus for a totally foreign Gospel? A foreign religion?
Return today to the one you love. Obey Him because you love Him. Spend time with Him. Enjoy Him.