Saturday, March 2, 2013

Yet another chapter

Meet Samantha Stevens
         Remember Darren and Samantha from the old television series Bewitched?  Samantha and Darren fell in love and spent all of their time kissing.  Darren decided to ask Samantha to marry him (at this point the kissing stopped).  He then found out she was a witch. The entire television series was basically one episode after another of someone or something being bewitched, and the characters trying to solve the consequences of the bewitching.  It was a cute show, and I spent many hours wishing I could bewitch our lawnmower and tractor to do my chores like Mickey Mouse did in Fantasia.

         It was cute.  But it is also a sad statement of the church.  God says that our discipleship curriculum of read your Bible, pray, go to church and try to get other people to read their Bible, pray and go to church is a witch’s spell. Continue reading in Galatians 3.  In Galatians 2, Paul gives a little of his history for the Galatians to connect with his message.  In 3 we go back to the message of chapter 1.  It is the gospel plus nothing.  It is faith alone.  It is Jesus.

(Gal 3:1)  You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?

This is some of the strongest language in the Bible.  It is a harsh, harsh statement.  Look at that first part.  God is talking to people like me.  I have a Masters Degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and over 20 years of pastoral experience.  I am an educated, moral, and devout man.  But look at the word that God used to describe me.  “You foolish” person.  The word used for fool is only used in a couple of other places.  It is what God says happens to us when we love money, we fall prey to foolish lusts.  He also says that before we knew Christ, we were sometimes foolish people.  The best way to translate this word into modern English would be the word, “Stupid”.  The amplified does this with it: O YOU poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians! (Amplified Bible) .

         You poor, silly, thoughtless, unreflecting, and senseless person.  You fool.  You stupid little boy.  Wow!  This is God talking.  Who is it that deserves such a scathing remark from GOD?  Is this some horrible atheist?  Is this passage addressed to a white supremist?  Is it targeting a cult leader? An abortionist? A politician increasing taxes on the rich?  God must be talking to a pretty big sinner to say things like this.  So, who is the target of this tongue lashing?  You and me!  Any Christian that believes you are saved by faith and then you modify your behavior by following a certain list in order to grow in Christ or to stay saved…that person is a poor, silly, thoughtless, unreflecting, senseless fool.  Look at how he described it.  I am going to re-write it with a little creativity to try and capture the emotion.

The Apostle Paul approached the leaders of the Galatian Church with what appeared to be an angry light in his eyes and stood about 3” from the pastor’s face. “What is your problem!” Paul demanded to know. 

Before the pastor or other elders could answer, Paul continued, “I thought you were wise.  I thought you were Christlike.  I thought you were mature.  I thought you were leaders.  Now I discover that you are all a bunch of poor, silly, thoughtless, unreflecting, senseless fools.”  The leaders were taken aback at this tirade and tried to defend themselves, but they did not have the time as Paul raised his voice above them declaring aloud for all to hear.  “There are only two choices here.  The first one…well I hope that it is it.  There is a witch in town.  She is an instrument of Satan. She is probably possessed with the very power of hell itself.  Using her dark arts, she has cast a spell on you.  It has confused you.  It has darkened your senses.  It has caused you to walk around like zombies, or be led around like a blind man.  She has cast a spell on you and it is overwhelming you.  So tell me, who is this wicked woman that cast a spell on you?  Where is she?  We have to deal with her and release you from this spell of stupidity that you are under.”

The pastor started to reply, albeit with a confused look on his face, but Paul interrupted. 

“If it wasn’t a witch that cast a spell on you, there is only one other option.  You are stupid.  So what happened?  Are you just plain stupid?  Are you an idiot?  Are you as dumb as a day is long?  Or is there a witch in town I need to go have a showdown with?  Stupid or bewitched?  Those are the only options that I can come up with as to why someone would believe and teach what you are saying, after you so clearly heard the truth.  You are either too stupid to understand the truth, or a satanic person has caused you to believe a lie.  Which is it?”

         Before you think that I took too much liberty with this passage, go back and read it again.  Look at what he said, and you will see it is what I captured in my re-write above. 

(Gal 3:1)  You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?

         There are the two categories.  Foolish or bewitched…what happened?  You know that Jesus Christ was crucified. Now why do think He died?

(Gal 3:2)  This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

         Let’s go back to the beginning.  How did this Christian journey of yours start?  Did God come to you with a long list of items to be completed in order to establish a relationship with Him?  Did He come to you demanding that you change your life, modify your behavior, and become ultra-moral before He could love you?  Did you receive the Holy Spirit inside of you by complex behavior modification or simple faith?

(Gal 3:3)  Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

         There is that word again. Modern terminology would be this.  Are you sssoooo ssstttuuupppiiiiidddd?  I mean, how dumb can you be?  Do you really think that the spiritual life, the life which you began by faith, is now brought to maturity by works of the flesh?  Let’s see.  Start spiritual life by faith.  Finish spiritual life by physical works.  Dudes, that is stupid.

(Gal 3:4)  Did you suffer so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain?

         Remember what happened when you encountered God and He freed you from having to follow these complex religious laws?  You were persecuted.  Why did you allow yourself to be persecuted for your faith if it is religious law that saves you?  Even that would be stupid.

(Gal 3:5)  So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

         God proved Who He was, and that His gospel message was true by doing incredible miracles among you.  What works of the flesh did you have to do in order for God to work miracles?  Which discipline did you have to perform that was the cause of God’s miraculous effect?  Did God work the miracle because you read your Bible?  Prayed? Went to church? Got other people to read their Bible, pray and go to church?  Did God work the miracle in response to your financial offering or week long fast?  Was it your ministry to the pre-schoolers that brought about the healing?  You also have the Holy Spirit inside of you.  Which of the 400 minute laws, behaviors, disciplines and rules resulted in God living within you?  How many acts of holy behavior did you have to do to prove to God that your life was a decent neighborhood so that He would change His address?

         Oh.  I see.  NOTHING.  All you did was believe.  Faith alone.  Faith plus nothing.  You had all your sins forgiven, the Holy Spirit regenerated you and indwelled you, and God did incredible miracles among you by faith and faith and faith and faith.  Now, if God would actually move inside of you…if God HIMSELF would die for you, forgive you of your sins, transform you into a new creation, then live within you by faith…what works is it that you are doing to try and get Him to do more?  It is faith. 

         If it was all God all the time, then why is it suddenly all you?  That is what God is attacking.