Tag Archives: Galatians 1

A New Perspective on Wasting Our Lives

In the opening chapter of John Piper’s book, Don’t Waste Your Life, he talks about his father who was an evangelist. He says that he recalls times traveling with him and hearing him preach, and how his father’s message, in his own words, “struck me as absolutely blood-earnest.” He then goes on to tell of a man who came to Christ at one of these times:

For me as a boy, one of the most gripping illustrations my fiery father used was the story of a man converted in old age. The church had prayed for this man for decades. He was hard and resistant. But this time, for some reason, he showed up when my father was preaching. At the end of the service, during a hymn, to everyone’s amazement he came and took my father’s hand. They sat down together on the front pew of the church as the people were dismissed. God opened his heart to the Gospel of Christ, and he was saved from his sins and given eternal life. But that did not stop him from sobbing and saying, as the tears ran down his wrinkled face — and what an impact it made on me to hear my father say this through his own tears — “I’ve wasted it! I’ve wasted it!”

The remainder of the book talks about the wasted life, what it looks like, and how to avoid it. I haven’t finished it yet (I’m close!), but it’s had a definite impact on me already.

I’ve laid in bed several nights thinking about that man lamenting over the fact that he had wasted his entire life. He had spent all those years living for the glory of himself, which amounted to absolutely nothing. Of all the tragedies that afflict humankind, few are as awful as the thought of your entire life amounting to nothing. This man’s tears were completely understandable, at least to me.

But then, as I was doing my morning Bible study today, I had a revelation that perhaps puts a twist on this whole idea. My study right now is in Galatians, and I’m still working through the first couple of chapters. In Galatians 1, Paul spends a significant amount of time building his own credentials, probably to defend against that which had been said about him by false teachers who were ravaging the Galatian churches. As a part of those credentials, Paul gives his testimony in Galatians 1:13-16:

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But…God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles… (emphasis added)

My devotional bought up an excellent point that I had never considered. Paul was most likely around when Jesus was active in His ministry. He undoubtedly could have been called as an apostle by Jesus before His crucifixion. So why wasn’t he? Why did God choose to wait to call Paul until later, and until after he had done some of what he considers his worst sins (persecuting the church)?

The answer is that God did it when He “was pleased” to do it. It all falls back to God’s plan and His own timing. My devotional put it this way:

Have you wept over your past and been, in a sense, tormented in your thoughts because you didn’t come to know Jesus earlier? Rest, beloved child of God, for God saved you when it pleased Him. His promise is there to comfort and assure you that the Sovereign God — the God of all flesh — is able to cause all things, even your “before Christ” days, to work together for good. He will use them to make you like Jesus.

So while in that moment when one comes to Christ it is right to express grief over the fact that we were wretched before we did so, as it points to the repentance in our hearts, it is not necessary to continue in that sorrow. As we grow into a fuller understanding of the nature of our God, and how even Paul’s life was foreordained by Him who knows all, past, present, and future, we can take comfort in the knowledge that God was pleased for it to happen just as it did.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Life Application

Twisting the Truth #2

<– Previous Post in this Series

Source of Deception

As I mentioned yesterday, I started a new Bible study this week called Twisting the Truth, written by Andy Stanley.  Yesterday we talked about the purpose of the study as a whole, and we discussed how the Bible teaches that a realm exists outside of our physical perception that influences us greatly.  The evil forces that act on us from this realm do so through deception – they lace our path with snares and traps that lead us to make bad decisions. And it’s these decisions that ruin our lives – physically, emotionally, and relationally.

I never served in the military, but I’ve watched enough movies (that count’s, right??) to know that one of the most important things you need to have before you go into battle is a good understanding of your enemy.  Regardless of whether or not you are a Christian, your enemy is Satan.  You may not have much interest in fighting him, but he has a lot of interest in fighting you.  But his fighting against us isn’t always easy to detect.  Andy Stanley writes “…there’s a twistedness all around us — a distortion of truth, twisted just enough to draw us into trouble, but not quite enough to scare us away.  And the ones behind this twist will never tip their hands.  If they became too obvious, we’d see them for who they are — and we’d run.”

Fortunately, God has given us insight into the actions of our enemy in His Word.  Satan hopes to harm us, both in our day-to-day lives and the decisions we make (the routine of life), as well as in our Christian walks (our Christ-life).  In the routine of life, whether you are a Christian or not, Satan deceives us through temptation to make wrong decisions.  His lies are sugar-coated, though – we often think we’re doing what is best for us, and only after the damage is done do we realize that we’ve ruined our life.  As for the Christ-life, Satan’s method of fighting against us is to blind us from a full understanding of the Gospel.  Regardless of what aspect of our life his is attacking, his methods come in one of three packages:

  • Distraction
  • Reduction
  • Addition

Distraction

For Christians and non-Christians alike, Satan acts to distract us from the truth.  The truth may be something like don’t invest in that business, because it has no future, but Satan deceives us, using our own greed against us, into thinking yes, invest in that business, and you’ll make lots of money! Satan also distract people from the Gospel.  The Gospel’s centerpiece is Christ himself.  Satan knows that Jesus “…disarmed the powers and authorities [Satan and his cohorts]…triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:15).  In the end, Satan knows he’s been beaten. So in the mean time, he works hard to distract people from seeing Christ in the first place. Jesus identified this very phenomenon when He spoke to the religious leaders in John 8:42-44:

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Satan had distracted the religious leaders from seeing that Jesus was from God. He did so through deception, since “he is a liar and the father of lies.” As for Christians, Satan distracts them from understanding the entire Gospel (more on this in the next section).

Reduction

Many Christians (myself included) don’t have a full understanding of the Gospel.  To most of us, the Gospel is just the “good news” that our sins have been wiped clean, that we’ve been given a new start with God.  But the Gospel has a whole other facet that deals with the rest of our lives.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

The Gospel, summed up here, is more than just getting rid of the old – it’s also bringing in the new!  When we are saved, we have a new life in Christ, and the Holy Spirit works out our salvation in our daily lives.  The Spirit enables us to overcome sin, transforms us to become more like Jesus, and empowers us to witness to those around us.  Satan reduces the Gospel when he convinces us that, although we have been saved, we are on our own for the rest of our lives.  He deceives us into thinking we have no more benefits to seek from God.

Addition

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:17-18:

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Paul was careful not to add his own words of human wisdom and eloquence to the Gospel when he preached, because adding to the Gospel empties it of it’s power.  Satan knows this.  He deceives people into adding to the Gospel, and in turn, causes them to preach a Gospel which is really no Gospel at all (see Galatians 1:6-7).  I can’t help but think of the so-called “prosperity gospel” that states that God wants us to be rich – this is far from true, and is really no Gospel at all.

So, we can see that Satan is a formidable opponent, because he is quite good at deceiving us.  He uses deception to tempt us into making bad decisions, to distract us from Christ, to reduce the Gospel into something less than what it truly is, and to convince us to add to the Gospel, all of which are devastating to our lives.  We must realize that our opponent is no weakling, but with a slightly better understanding of him, we are better prepared to fight his attacks.

How do you think our culture portrays the devil?  Is it accurate? How does this affect day-to-day decisions, as well as our Christian lives?

Next Post in this Series –>

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible Study