Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 7 April 2022. Today’s topic: All Through Faith

Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.  Galatians 3:25 (NIV).

Now that Jesus has come, we no longer are subject to the spiritual consequences of the laws decreed to Moses.   Now that Jesus has made eternal (and timely) salvation available to all mankind, we are no longer bound by the constraints of those Mosaic laws and those that followed.  

But there are understandable constraints.   This clearly isn’t talking about civil law.   Nothing in the context of the verses around this one mentions people being free of the constraints of civil law.   Indeed, Jesus said to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”   He was referring specifically to money and respect, but, in a larger sense, meant many more things, including being subject to Caesar’s (civil) law.

Not only, but even as we are no longer subject to the eternal penalties of Mosaic laws, those laws still have validity.   There were given to Moses by God (part of whom is Jesus) and aren’t to be simply discarded.   The holy, Godly, and moral boundaries outlined in the law are still valid examples for our benefit, even if they don’t have spiritual penalties associated with them for those who put their faith in Christ.  Indeed, the law still defines boundaries for us that help us identify when we have transgressed.   Rather than being subject to a Day of Atonement, however, we are now beneficiaries of the once-for-all salvation Jesus accomplished.

As we talked about yesterday, the law is good for us, given to us to help us from being libertine animals.

Finally, Paul notes the plain truth that faith supersedes the law.   This is the central ‘rub’ between Judaism and Christianity.  2000 years after Christ, Jews today, like Jews of Jesus’ day, don’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the one promised to Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses; the true deliverer because He delivers us from the eternal damnation that our sins deserve.  Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and the rest of us were/are all sinners; imperfect and unholy choosers of anything but God. 

Faith in Jesus made all that moot.   Jesus lived a perfect life, abiding by the entirety of God’s holy law because we sinners couldn’t.  Jesus atoned for all sin, and imparts that atonement to us.   We gain its benefit through faith in Him.   In doing so, through that same faith, we are freed from the constraints of the Mosaic laws.   They continue to be (and should be) guides for our, but they no longer hold legal sway over our lives.  In the time between Moses and Jesus, Jews could be punished, even killed, for legal infractions.   That’s no longer the case because of Jesus.

All through faith.

For further reading: Mark 12:17, Galatians 3:26

Lord Jesus, all praise and glory to You for keeping the law, for freeing us from it, and for Your holy life and sacrifice.

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Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 6 April 2022. Today’s topic: Good For Us

So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.  Galatians 3:24 (NIV).

Have you ever considered that the law was good for you?   I know folks who absolutely despise laws, and hate cops even more.  They say that all cops are all corrupt, and that laws were put in place for elites to control other people.   And I know folks who would prefer anarchy – the absence of law – over having even the most lenient of laws in place.   That it would be better for the world if people were simply allowed to do anything they please, free of consequences.

What a foolish, short-sighted way to think.   Simple physics says that, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.   Too often, those consequences go poorly.  There are always consequences.   Even in a world of grays, there are still right and wrong actions.   Yes, nearly all things can be boiled down to binary choices.

That isn’t just me saying that:   it’s part of what Paul is saying.   God’s law was given to us to protect us, to show us that we need to rely fully and only on Him in a world full of sin and its corruptions.  Without boundaries, we humans will drive anywhere:   over someone else’s roads, over other’s property, over others’ relationships.  Our boundaries – our laws – are based on morality, which is (even for secularists and so-called atheists) universally based on our knowledge of God and the boundaries He laid for us. 

Until God’s salvation was fully revealed to humanity (in Jesus), we humans were made aware of our transgressions by having the law itself in our lives.   Going all the way back to Hammurabi, we added to God’s natural laws with codes, regulations, and additional laws to define behaviors where God’s laws didn’t.  But in nearly all cases, laws were made (or even decreed) to preserve humanity or ensure safety.   Yes, there have been tyrants and despots throughout history who misused law for their own gains and controls.   Yet even the most despotic of those have been the exception.

Bottom line?  The law is generally good for us.  God gave us His laws so we would be aware when our thoughts, words, and deeds became transgressions against holiness.   Against what Satan is trying to do in our lives.   The law guards us and provides us opportunities to know when we’ve wronged God or others, then to act on that (repent, prevent, even just to vent).  I know there are those who’ll disagree; that’s ok.   It isn’t for me or anyone to judge others, only to judge how things others say and do impact our lives…by comparing those things against God’s laws and what they mean to us.

For further reading: Galatians 3:25

Father, I give you all my praise for the laws You give us!

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Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 4 April 2022. Today’s topic: Before Then After

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.  Galatians 3:23 (NIV).

Before Jesus, we were/are bound to the consequences of our sins.  God’s law demanded them. Those consequences are God consigning us to what we choose, namely eternal damnation.   Personally, the longer I live the more I believe hell is mostly God removing Himself from our lives forever.   No love, no peace, no mercy, no justice, no anything good we can think of…forever.  According to some passages in the Bible, that’ll include fire as well.  Whether it is all fire and pain and torture forever I don’t know.  All I understand is that it would be the worst never-ending life I could imagine.   All because I choose anything in this world other than God.   I chose dependence on sin rather than independence from it.

Now, after Jesus.   After Jesus perfectly kept God’s law.  After accepting all He did to remove those consequences from my future (and present), there’s no chance of it happening.   Jesus guarantees that those who die having believed in Him will live forever with Him in paradise.   It will be the most wonderful, adventurous, satisfying life possible.   Seeing Jesus fully in person, as He is all God and man at the same time.   Being able to live with the fullness of God without the hazy veil of sin and pain.  According to my friend, Patrick, heaven will be a place of fulfilling vocation, not floating around on clouds.   It will be a place where we live on in praise and satisfaction, of being filled with worship for our God and being known fully by Him while thriving on that.   Heaven will be an adventure, not just some never-ending white cathedral in the sky.

Before and after.   Those who knew God in the Old Testament accepted God as He was, as He presented Himself to them, and they followed Him.   The heroes of the Old Testament understood that God was revealing Himself to them in ways they could absorb.   That all Israel would know that the Lord, their God, was Lord and One.

During and after the ministry of Jesus, however, people got to see God more plainly, understanding that the One Jehovah YHWH is Father, Son, and Spirit as three beings co-equally one real person.  In Jesus’ aftermath, people began to see how God had kept His ancient promise to Abraham, and how He still keeps it today.   Every other faith on planet Earth will eventually leave you empty and wanting.   But not faith in Christ.   In Him, you can see who you were before, and who He has called you to be after.  The ancient mystery is solved, and the new adventure is only beginning every new day.

For further reading: Romans 11:32, Galatians 3:24

Lord God, all praise to You alone!

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Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 31 March 2022. Today’s topic: Plainly Aware

But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.  Galatians 3:22 (NIV).

If you’ve never read the Bible before and this was the only verse you ever read, you’d probably walk away scratching your head.   On its own, verse 22 is nonsense.   Jesus enables sin in us through Scripture?   Sin leads to a promise, through faith in Jesus, for believers; sin causes belief?   Is that what this says?  Of course not. Context is needed, both the context of what was said earlier in this chapter, as well as things Paul said elsewhere.

I’ve long thought that studying Scripture – truly studying it for God’s intent and meaning – is the most intellectually demanding exercise possible.  The Apostle Paul was an intellectual, someone gifted in the talent of using reason, fact, and logic.   He was an intellectual in a time when the big brains of Greece still held great sway over much of the western world.  As a Pharisee, Paul was intensely trained in the intricacies of Jewish law, of God’s commands.   As a Roman citizen, he had been exposed to the highest culture on the planet.   As an intellectual living in a Hellenized Mediterranean, Paul understood reason, the lure of knowledge, and the thirst to always know and explain more.

Here in Galatians, Paul has spent all of Chapter 3 talking about how God promised Abraham to deliver all people through him, and how the law, given to Abraham’s descendants, was given to us for our good so that we would know what sin is (and beware it).  Here in this verse, Paul says that “scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin.”   Another NIV variation of that says, “But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin.”  I don’t know what the original Greek version says, but that second vignette makes more sense to me (and fits in better with the bigger lesson from the chapter).   This point is hammered home even more in Romans 3.   There we are reminded that all humanity is thick and guilty with sin.

Knowing that, it makes sense that Paul would immediately proclaim that faith in Christ remedies our punishment for sin.   The law mandates consequences, and God’s holiness requires atonement.   Christ’s sacrificial death was this, then His resurrection put the law back under the control of God’s grace.   In reality, the law has always been under God’s graceful control.  He has always provided a faith-exit from our sins.   Yet only through Jesus, and the Spirit He sends to us, can we be plainly aware of how His salvation specifically applies to us.

For further reading: Romans 3:9-19, Romans 11:32, Galatians 3:23

Father, You provided Your Son as the only holy sacrifice for my sins.   Forgive me.   Thank You for all this.

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Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 30 March 2022. Today’s topic: Who Provides

Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.  Galatians 3:21 (NIV).

Another way of saying this might be, “if sinning increases the grace God gives, then let’s sin more to get more grace.”   Wrong.   That both treat’s God like a function machine AND makes our behavior (and even God’s grace) into an idol, taking our focus off Him.

I’ve started driving for Lyft.   We are trying to put aside some extra money for things we have going on this summer; more later.   So, after my day work, I drive.  One of the folks I drove was a woman who had just recently moved from Chicago with her two kids.   She told me they “had to get out of there because it wasn’t a place to raise kids anymore.”   Since coming to Dallas, however, she hasn’t found life any easier.   She had a job but lost it, then she got evicted.   When I picked them up, they were staying at an extended stay hotel paid for by the city.  I drove them to a mobile phone store, where she needed to purchase extra minutes.  When she got out of the car, I told her that I’d pray for her, and I have.   Repeatedly.   I told her that God was going to help her land on her feet, and that He would work things through her.  She told me, “thanks, but this is so hard.” And she was on the verge of tears.

Oh Lord, why is this life so hard for some and not for others?

For all of us, if doing things, or following the rules, or adhering to the law could earn us eternal life, or even temporary peace, then we might be the most obedient people in the universe.   But that’s not how things are.  God’s law is perfect, holy, given to us not because He wants to hammer us but, instead, because He knows that sin will constantly tempt and trap us.   Because of that, we need boundaries, white lines to help us drive between so that our path will lead to Him and not astray.

Our following the rules doesn’t make God bless us more.   Moving from one place to another doesn’t do that either; neither do extra jobs, primary jobs, reading online news, or filling in all the right forms.   Some people, sometimes through no fault of their own, live harder lives than others.   Others seem to drive on Easy Street.   Yet no matter which road we travel, it is God, not the system, who provides road, vehicle, opportunities, and all the blessings that come with simply being alive.

For further reading: Romans 7:12, Galatians 3:22

Merciful Lord, please bless the woman and her family, and lead them to a home, safety, and Your peace. If you’d like to know more about Practical Proverbials, please contact aspiringwriterdt@gmail.com for more information

Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 29 March 2022. Today’s topic: All By Himself

A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.  Galatians 3:20 (NIV).

When someone mediates between two people, more than one person is involved; this is an obvious thing.  And, while individuals may be represented by only single attorneys, when two or more people are involved in a legal dispute (especially mediation), generally, two or more attorneys becom involved.

Not so with Jesus.   He does it all by Himself.

Jesus represents both sides in a legal argument.   In the case of God against you (or me), where God charges us (rightfully) with the sins we commit in this life, Jesus, our attorney, argues for us that He already suffered the punishment for what we did.   That we are not guilty because of what He did.  At the same time, Jesus, fully God, remains holy so that He (and only He) can impart justice and impute righteousness to us as the graceful restitution for what we did.  By what He did on the cross, we are innocent of all the evil we have thought, said, or done here even as He remains pure.

All by Himself.

I think about the scene in the last Harry Potter movie, when Voldemort appears to have won (but has, unwittingly, been brought to the edge of defeat) and he confronts the rebels at Hogwarts.   He gloats, “from now on, you put your faith in me.”   Don’t you just know that so many people did just that.   That so many put their faith in evil because evil gives recognizable short-term rewards.

Don’t you know, too, that it isn’t just some story; that it applies to our lives as well   We put our faith in our own talents, abilities, ambitions, whatever, and exchange the beautiful grace of Christ for the temporary reward of ugly things.   When it comes time to settle accounts with the Lord – and everyone will do just that – we stand in front of Him and are either found innocent or condemned based on where our hearts have truly been.  

All through it, there’s Jesus who, all by Himself, paid the price for our shabby sins, our shabby treatment of God’s gifts.   All by Himself He atoned for every sin of every one of the billions who have ever lived.   All by Himself He continues to argue for us, advocating for us, for the Father to have mercy for His sake.   But for the blood of the cross, we would be found guilty.   But because of that blood, He declares us “not guilty” because He already took the spiritual death that we earned with each rebellious “no.”

For further reading: 1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 12:24, Galatians 3:21

Father, have mercy on me for the sake of Your holy Son, Jesus.   Forgive my sins and grant me Your merciful, beautiful forgiveness and peace.   Teach me today to share these with others.

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Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 28 March 2022. Today’s topic: Mediator

Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator.  Galatians 3:19 (NIV).

In this verse, Paul asks one of the most profound questions in history.  “If Jesus redeems us, then why have law at all?”  Some other related questions could be, “if we are so sinful, then why save us?   If God can redeem us, then why let us continue to wallow in sin?”  Good questions, I’m sure, but they miss the point.

Not only, but, if we have this law, do we need a lawyer?  

Abraham was a mediator – a function of a lawyer – between God and his people.   Over the years, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and many others served in this same role.   Moses was the great human mediator of Jewish history, maybe even all of human history.   He personally witnessed between God and the Israelites.  The Levite priests of Israel, then the judges who presided over the nation, the prophets from Samuel and Nathan down the line until the prophets whose voices went silent 400 years before Jesus:   all of them mediated from God to God’s people, passing His words and His judgments to the masses who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, go to Him individually.

Finally, there was Jesus:   the final mediator of humanity.   He served up His life in order to come between sinful humanity and God’s holy nature, which can’t abide sin.  Like a lawyer, Jesus pleads our case to His Father.  But unlike a lawyer, Jesus also carries out our sentence on Himself, declaring those who believe in Him to be innocent because He alone paid the price for all transgressions. 

My Concordia talks about all this, reminding us that Christ is that ultimate mediator; the only one who could do what He did and make all things both right and new for all time.   Knowing, this, Paul asks the question about why we should have law at all.   His letter to the Romans answers it best:   the law is given to us so that grace might increase.   Where our realization of the sins we’ve committed increases, because of our faith in Christ (who kept the entirety of God’s perfect laws), along with the realization comes acceptance of always-increasing grace from God.   Those who sin greatly have great reason to be thankful for much grace.   It’s not to say, “let’s do more bad things so we can know more grace.”   Instead, it’s a recognition of how merciful, wonderful, and beautiful it is when the creator of the universe interacts with each of us personally, imparting His forgiveness especially for each of us.

For further reading: Exodus 20:19, Deuteronomy 5:5, Deuteronomy 33:2, Acts 7:53, Romans 5:20, Galatians 3:20

Graceful Lord Jesus, where my sins have happened, let Your blessed grace shine so much brighter.

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Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 24 March 2022. Today’s topic: More Beautiful Than We Could Imagine

What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.  Galatians 3:17-18 (NIV).

Out of all the discussions we’ve yet had in Galatians 3, these verses best capture Paul’s God-given idea in the fewest words.  In doing so, it paints a beautiful picture of a how God loves us.

In our human understanding, an agreement is an agreement.  In most agreements, both parties go into the agreement in good faith, intending to uphold their part.   Even if we don’t like the terms, our dislike doesn’t negate or set aside the valid agreement.   We are still bound by it, until something happens to change the agreement or its terms.

That all sounds so legalistic.   Yet here’s a beautiful thought:  God doesn’t operate that way.   His law is both agreement and bond; His law is always for our best because His purposes are always for our best. And He meets us in our humanity, understanding our human need to have rules, boundaries, and laws to define our behavior.   So, He gives us His law in a form we can understand, knowing we won’t be able to keep it; knowing we will misinterpret what He’s really saying, knowing we’ll want a way out.  He then completes (for us) the requirements specified in those laws while also offering something supernatural that operates outside the bounds of them.

You and I can’t keep the law.   No matter how we try, no matter what we do, the best we can be is a law-abiding citizen who can only hope that nobody with a microscope ever looks at our legal record too close.   Somewhere, sometime there will be some kind of small law that we will break.   According to God’s standard of holiness, that means we’re guilty of breaking all the law.   Sure, human civil law has differences, but the intention is the same.   Laws are boundaries we need and when we break one, we break into the criminal justice system.

Enter Jesus.  Jesus crashes into our understanding of the law and says “not guilty” to us, standing in-between us and the police who are there to arrest us.   He then says, “take me instead,” and they do, and they punish Him for things we’ve done.  He does that because, long ago, He promised Abraham to bless all humanity through him.   That blessing is undeserved grace, unmerited redemption.   It’s more beautiful than we could ever imagine.

For further reading: Genesis 15:13, Exodus 12:40, Acts 7:6, Romans 4:14, Galatians 3:19

Lord Jesus, what You did for we underserving people is beautiful, the most amazing event in all history.  All praise and thanks to You for it.

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Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 23 March 2022. Today’s topic: Genealogy

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.  Galatians 3:16 (NIV).

I love how Scripture has such deep, dual meanings in so many ways, and how those meanings always ultimately point to Christ.   This verse is an example of it.

My mom was interested in genealogy.  She spent years researching the history of her paternal family, taking the known path of paternal ancestors all the way back to the earliest records in Germany in the late 1300s/early 1400s. 

Know who else’s family history is known?   Jesus.   Go down the genealogies outlined in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 and you see how, like the rest of us, Jesus’ ancestry is passed through lines that point only and directly, one son at a time, to Abraham.  Unlike most other people, Jesus’ history is actually traced through both Mary and Joseph all the way back to Abraham.   That matters because Abraham was the focal man to whom God promised a son.   That son, Isaac, had two sons, Esau and Jacob, but only one through whom the promise would be kept.   That son, Jacob, had twelve sons, yet only one, Judah, through whom the promise made to Abraham would be kept.  This carried on all the way through Judah’s descendants to Jesus.

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of that promise God made to Abraham.  Jesus is a direct physical descendant of Abraham, but so were millions of others at the time (even more so today).  After Jesus’ time, the genealogical lineage of Abraham became, at best, difficult to trace.  In our time, nobody on Earth could prove that they were a direct descendant of Abraham.   Yet, as today’s version implies, we are all children of Abraham – the seed of Abraham – through faith in his descendant, Jesus.  It’s a reliable fact.

Now, consider this:  today’s verse also has a kind of additional meaning, specifically how each successive son from Abraham to Jesus was only one in a long line of inheritors of the promise.   God kept His promise each time a son was born, and each time a son was born to that one.  Abraham’s descendants would have had no way of knowing when or how it was kept, but, in a way, the promise was continually kept.  Yet the promise itself ends at Jesus, and is fulfilled only in Jesus, is made complete, made whole only in Jesus, the Son of God and direct descendant of Abraham.  As believers in Jesus, so are we.  Nothing my mom (or any genealogist) found can compare to that.

For further reading:  Genesis 17:19, Psalm 132:11, Micah 7:20, Matthew 1:3, Luke 3:21-37, Romans 4:13, Galatians 3:17

Lord Jesus, only You could keep this miraculous promise in such a miraculous way.   Thank You for making me part of Your family!

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Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 22 March 2022. Today’s topic: Rely On It

Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.  Galatians 3:15 (NIV).

Paul has been making argument for his friends in Galatia concerning God’s promise to bless the entire world, not just Jews, through Abraham’s spiritual descendants.   In this verse, he analogizes God’s covenant to unchangeable human contracts that we can rely on.

There are some contracts, some covenants, you shouldn’t or can’t break.   Some homeowners association covenants are unchangeable.  Some zoning regulations and covenants can’t be changed.   Marriage covenants are supposed to be unbreakable, even though the curse of divorce too often shades and obscures them now. Our US Constitution is unbreakable; our ancestors fought a war to establish this.

Some agreements are so serious, so important, that they can’t be set aside, or at least easily, because to do so threatens so much more.   And there are some covenants that are so desirable that nobody in their right mind would want to abandon them.

That’s how it is with God’s promise of redemption; that’s the point Paul is making.   What God offers us through faith in Jesus is so good, so permanent, so serious yet wonderful, and forever, that we would be crazy to let go of it.  Or to change it, not that we could.   Indeed, when God promises something, He means it.   And He always keeps it, even when we don’t recognize what that looks like.  What God promises, what God wills, cannot be changed or negated by man or spirit.

Centuries ago, God spoke to Abraham and promised him that he, already a very old man, would have a son, and that his descendants would count as many as the stars.  Abraham’s family and friends, even his wife, scoffed at this, thinking Abraham and his equally elderly wife were far beyond the childbearing years.   Yet God used their advanced age – and then had them wait another generation – in order to prove to scoffers and skeptics that nothing was impossible for Him.   His promise was golden, and His covenant would be unbreakable by mere men.

I’m thankful for that; how about you?

I’m thankful that there’s something beyond myself that I can count on.   I’m thankful that God’s promises are reliable, that His words are always honest, true, and permanent.   Even in our so-called modern world, we need permanence more than ever.   Mankind’s tendency is to change, to always seek change so much that change itself almost becomes a constant.   Yet it is God’s word that never changes.  He took many, many years to prove out His promise to Abraham, and it’s still being proven to us today.  Rely on that.

For further reading:  Romans 7:1, Galatians 3:16

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your reliable word.   For Your steadfast promises.   For Your permanent ways.

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