Over the next few weeks, we will travel through the book of Galatians. Paul writes this book relatively early in his ministry. He is clarifying both his calling, his authority to write and the centrality of the one true Gospel. I hope it will be fun for all of us ... but I get to have the most fun ... I get to study and prepare!
This Sunday we will look at Chapter 1 of Galatians. In this Chapter Paul affirms his apostolic credentials and provides a clear purpose for the epistle. One of Paul's major concerns is that the Galatians have been swift to follow other gospels. Paul writes ... "You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News! (Gal. 1:6)." As I read this I couldn't help but think about the day in which we live and what Paul would say to us. There is the prosperity gospel that tells us that God's purpose is to make us prosperous. There is the liberation gospel that tells us that God is always for the causes of social justice (by OUR definition). There is the warrior gospel that leads us to fight everything (including each other). There is the angry gospel that says all of our infirmity is God's punishment of a wayward world. There is the conspiracy gospel that points us to conclude that we are definitely in the end times and that government, opposing political parties, other groups of Christians and other ethnic groups are methodically conspiring to destroy the planet. There is the environmental gospel that recoils at any of us who think economics might be a valid consideration in decision making. There is the socialist gospel, the LGBTQ gospel and the legalistic gospel. And my list doesn't even include our denominational differences! Paul's message to the Galatians is spot-on for our world today!
So ... here we go! Paul reminds us that when we preface the Gospel with anything but Jesus and Jesus crucified, we make it gospel-light at best (note I didn't capitalize the g). In our walk through Galatia I am hoping we can clarify the Gospel and amplify the message of Jesus. As Paul says in Chapter 1, verse 6, the one true Gospel comes through "direct revelation from Jesus Christ."
This week we can do 2 things. First, we can watch for how we are being taught by a myriad of sources to connect human goals with Gospel truth. Don't buy in! God's word is all about leading (and being led) to God's place, God's truth and God's way. Second, we can transcend the mire of messages that lead us astray and see the truth of a Gospel that confronts, convicts and converts (that involves change folks). In a song by Susan Ashton called You Move Me she sings, "I can't go with You and stay where I am ... so You move me." If your gospel affirms your personal desires/feelings and doesn't challenge you to be better, you are probably following one of those "other gospels" Paul is speaking of. Let's look at them together and find joy, challenge and life in the journey! Randy