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Entries in Galatians (7)


What are we sowing to?

Studying and teaching the latter part of Galatians is one of those "ouch" experiences. This is more than just material I am presenting to other women. This is exhortation directed to me, too. Pondering over what sowing to the Spirit means has provided a lot of fodder for looking objectively at myself. These are times of holding up the mirror of Scripture to my own heart.

This passage, from John Stott's commentary on Galatians was pretty hard-hitting:

Every time we allow our mind to harbor a grudge, nurse a grievance, entertain an impure fantasy, or wallow in self-pity, we are sowing to the flesh. Every time we linger in bad company whose insidious influence we know we cannot resist, every time we lie in bed when we ought to be up and praying, every time we read pornographic literature, every time we take a risk which strains our self-control, we are sowing, sowing, sowing to the flesh. Some Christians sow to the flesh every day and wonder why they do not reap holiness. Holiness is a harvest; whether we reap it or not depends almost entirely on what and where we sow.

I'm pretty sure that a passage like that will generate the old cry of "legalist!" Yes, the Holy Spirit is responsible for bringing about that harvest. But we won't see a harvest of holiness if we aren't actually sowing it.

The first portion of Stott's commentary really pierced me. How often do we hold grudges and soothe our wounded egos by hanging on to our anger just a little bit longer? I'm guilty of that. 

The blessing of teaching others is the learning for myself.


It's painful

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)

Paul is winding up his discussion where he contrasts the fruit of the Spirit with the works of the flesh. In saying that the flesh has been crucified, we see that it is "those who belong to Christ Jesus" who have crucified the flesh. It is up to us to crucify our flesh, with the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Phillip Ryken, in his commentary on Galatians reminds us that the reason why putting our sins to death is painful is because the crucifixion was painful:

Crucifixion was a painful way to die, as painful a means of execution as human beings have ever devised. It was excruciating, in the full and proper sense of the word. Likewise, the mortification of sin is painful. It is not painful to the body (as if we had to abuse ourselves in order to please God), but to the soul. The reason sanctification is such a painful process is that there is always something excruciating about putting our sins to death. Our sinful nature loves them so much that we secretly hope they will live.

Think of the word "mortification." Have you ever been so embarrassed that you said: "I was mortified!" Being mortified isn't a happy experience. The mortification of sin is not a happy experience.

Just think of even the simplest sin, like being offended at something someone says or does. Likely, it was something small, but my how we love to blow things up out of proportion! We know in our hearts that the easiest thing to do is to mortify that sin and put it away, yet there is something satisfying in our own indignation, and it's difficult to put it to death.

It's such a strange balance when it comes to sin. On the one hand, we know it weighs us down and makes us miserable, yet at the same time we hang on so tightly, and that doesn't make us feel better. It's like watching a child with an "ice cream headache." His little head is frozen with the tasty stuff in his mouth, and he is both in agony but delighted at the taste.

There's no way around it. Sin is painful. It just depends on when the pain comes. 

As an aside, I cannot say enough good about the Reformed Expository Commentary series. This is the fourth one I've used, and they have all been excellent. I am hoping a volume on Romans will be available at some point.


Who am I?

The apostle Paul an answer to that question of who I am. 

In the beginning of chapter four, Paul talks about what it means to be an heir according to promise, a term he used in 3:29. He compares our before and after situations with that of an heir. Before the inheritance is given, the heir has no more rights than the slave. But when the time comes, and the inheritance is given, he is granted the full rights of the inheritance. Paul reminds us:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoptions as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying "Abba, Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (4:4-7)

These verses show that the purpose of Christ's coming is twofold: redemption and adoption. The act of redemption secured our adoption as a child of God. Who am I? I am a son (or daughter, if you like) of God. I have been redeemed and adopted as God's child. I am an heir to the promise. 

What rights am I entitled to as an heir? God has sent the Spirit of His Son into my heart. I am united with Christ through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit reminds me that I belong to Christ. The ministry of the Spirit, who intercedes on my behalf, convicts, comforts, and teaches me.

Who am I? I'm a child of God, and that means I am one with Christ, through the Holy Spirit.

How does this affect the day to day nitty gritty of things? That's a big question. Books and books are written about the significance for it in our lives. 

One thing came to my mind recently as I read an article about the tendency of women to compare themselves to one another. When we do that kind of thing (and we do) it is on a strictly human level. We look at the lives of other women, their appearance, their financial status, their vocation, and we compare. We focus on the temporal, the things that we will not take to heaven with us. The cure for comparison is not to get busier so that I feel better about myself, develop my skills, or enlarge my "platform." The answer is to look back to who I really am.

If I want to live a life devoted to God, I should think more about how I can reflect Him, not myself. I have worth because of who I am in Christ, not because of what I do, whether it is mothering, working, or serving. If I find my worth in anything else but my identity in Christ, then I will be like a hamster on a wheel, chasing something, because there will always be other women with whom I can compare myself. The solution is to turn the gaze away from them and to Christ.

It's an incredible, amazing gift to have an intimate, eternal relationship with Christ. That is the foundation of who I am. The challenge is to rest in that. And with the Spirit's help, I can. 


Born to be the promise

William Perkins, quoted in Philip Ryken's commentary on Galatians:

The promises made to Abraham are first made to Christ, and then in Christ to all that believe in him.

The right way to obtain any blessing of God, is first to receive the promise, and in the promise Christ: and Christ being ours; in him, and from him, we shall recieve all things necessary.

The name of the promise was Jesus.


The gospel is Christ crucified

From John Stott's, The Message of Galatians:

The gospel is Christ crucified, His finished work on the cross. And to preach the gospel is to publicly portray Christ as crucified. The gospel is not good news primarily of a baby in a manger, a young man at a carpenter's bench, a preacher in the fields of Galilee, or even an empty tomb. The gospel concerns Christ upon His cross. Only when Christ is 'openly displayed upon the cross,' (NEB) is the gospel preached.

This is really crucial when you think about it. Any detraction from the cross reduces the gospel to nothing. The crucified, risen Lord means that it is finished.