~~i want to be everything you dreamed when you called my name~~

Monday, December 18, 2006

Grace and Works

I was reading in Galatians this morning - and was just reminded of God's grace...and overwhelmed at how much I don't deserve it...

The believers in Galatia had found themselves heading down a dangerous path, and they needed a reminder from Paul. They had become children of God by placing their trust in Jesus, but their simple, childlike faith was being assailed by the false teaching that faith alone is insufficient for salvation. Jewish Christians were telling them that along with faith in Jesus, God's people were accountable to keep the Jewish traditions and laws in order to be saved (Galatians 3:1-14).

The main thrust of Paul's letter to the churches in Galatia was the truth that anyone who believes in Jesus is therby God's child - and that this adoption and salvation have nothing whatsoever to do with adherence to rules. Both Jewish and Greek believers are sons and daughters of God - both slaves and free, both men and women - all who believe are God's children (v. 26-29).

Sometimes it appears that "faith" as exemplified in the Old Testament was based on how closely people followed the commandments and how faithfully they offered sacrifices. But being a member of God's family has always been a matter of trust rather than of any futile attempt at perfection. While the law of God teaches us what He is like and defines for us the kind of liefstyle He expects from us, it does not "impart life" (verse 21). Only Jesus' sacrificial death could accomplish that: "When the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons" (Galatians 4:4-5).

As the Holy Spirit moves within us, we are freed from the stranglehold of constricting rules. Instead, we are guided by His power to want to live holy lives. While we are not saved by our good deeds, they are indeed evidence that the Holy Spirit is at work in us. Paul minced no words in addressing the Galatian believers: "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?...After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?...Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you have heard?" (Galatians 3:1,3,5).

Remember, the old covenant of the law was replaced by the new covenant of Jesus' sacrifice. We no longer have to follow a list of rules and regulations to understand and get close to God - Jesus' death and resurrection opened up a new covenant for us - a covenant that says we grow close to God by faith and grace - not by our behavior. We are no longer bound by the letter of the law, rather we as believers are "clothed...with Christ" (verse 27), and our focus becomes pleasing Him because of our love from and for Him. Salvation comes from grace, not works - and works come from a deep, love relationship with our Creator.

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