Friday, May 5
The Mask We Wear
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Gal 2:11-14 ESV)
We’ve all heard the charge, “I’m not going to church. It’s just a bunch of hypocrites.” The old preacher joke replies with, “You’d fit right in then.” No one likes to be called a hypocrite. It is a troubling accusation. For in the charge, it forces us to examine our actions in light of our words. In these verses Peter is acting out of character according to the words he spoke. When Paul challenges Peter, Paul makes it clear he is acting hypocritically. This accusation places Peter’s actions outside of the truth of the Gospel.
But what makes a hypocrite? Is it a one-time slip, like the time you hit your thumb with a hammer and a word comes out of your mouth that shouldn’t? Matt. 6:16-18 provides some more insight to this. Jesus is preaching the Sermon on the Mount. At this point, He turns his attention to fasting and says in verse 16, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.” These hypocrites were deliberately altering their image to gain acceptance by others. The emphasis here is on the deliberate acting in a manner contrary to what they should be doing. Fasting was not to be a ritualistic display of one’s righteousness before others. Fasting was the response to a spiritual emergency that necessitated intervention by God Himself.
We are gloriously saved by grace. We are also in a constant battle with our old selves (Romans 7 and Galatians 5). Sometimes we lose the battle and sin. That one-time loss in and of itself does not doom us to a life of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy begins in one of two ways. One, we continue in the sin while we act like we are doing right. For instance, we continue to tell lies while we act like we always tell the truth. Or second, we don’t do what we should do while acting like we are. For instance, we talk about the importance of reading our Bibles, but we never do. That is hypocrisy, and those around you will see it very quickly.
Fortunately, there is a remedy. If you have been living a life of hypocrisy, the first thing you need to do is repent. Repent of trying to please man instead of God. After all that is what hypocrisy is, seeking man’s praise instead of God’s. When you repent, you are assured by God’s word, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Then live your life in pursuit of “the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). The approval you desire will not be found in man’s applause; the approval you desire, you already have. It was given to you the day God poured His grace out on you. Take off the mask, and live for God.
“Father, thank you for accepting us by your grace. Gives us the strength daily to live an unmasked life before those around us. So through our lives, they may see you. Amen.”
Wednesday, May 3
4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in–who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery– 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. (Gal 2:4-5 ESV)
As Paul and Titus go to Jerusalem, a group of people secretly slips into the meeting. They came in to spy out the freedom Paul and Titus were preaching and exhibiting in Jesus Christ. Paul calls them false brothers; of course, they would think themselves as the true brothers. They are the ones who know so much about God that you should obey them. These interlopers were not there to celebrate the freedom Jesus Christ grants them from the law or to teach others about that freedom. Instead their intent was to instruct other believers in what they were doing wrong, namely not following the law and the rules that men had added to it. They were not there to bring freedom; rather they were there to place believers back into slavery of the law and traditions.
While we do not see many advocating returning to the OT law, we see many believers adding extra requirements to what a Christian can or cannot do. Christians should not dance, should not go to movies, should not eat out or shop on Sunday, and the list goes on. In advocating these extras duties, they seek to do two things. First, they set themselves up as the more spiritually mature believer. If you were as mature as they are, then you would follow the same rules they do. Second, and an extension of the first, they put you into bondage. Erroneously, it puts you into bondage to them and sets them up as the absolute authority in your life, not Jesus. You become more concerned with following their laws than obeying God. We are gloriously freed from the law of man when God saves us. Don’t let someone else put you back in bondage.
However, there are three warnings we must consider. One, make sure the freedom you are expressing does not directly contradict the clear teaching of Scripture. Yes, you are free in Christ, but you can’t exercise your freedom to kill someone. Two, don’t use your freedom to cause another believer to stumble. In Romans 14:13, Paul instructs us to “never put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” If your liberty causes a brother in Christ to stumble, then the burden is on you to rein in your freedom. Three, two believers can view the same freedom (e.g., going to the movies) through different lenses. While you see that as liberty, another may see it as licentiousness. While neither of you may be wrong, one is exercising the freedom to engage in the activity while the other is exercising the freedom to refrain. Neither should belittle the other.
Bottom line, you are not bound to man, but you are bound to Christ. “For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. (1Cor. 7:22 ESV)
“Father, thank you for the freedom we have in Jesus Christ. May we use it wisely, not causing others to stumble, but as a means of demonstrating Your great grace in our lives. Amen.”
Monday, May 1
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal 1:6-10 ESV)
Amazingly, Christians who had been saved by God’s grace were turning away from the gospel that had saved them. In their minds, something was lacking in the gospel. What was lacking was their own understanding. They had a hard time believing they did not have to do something to be saved. When group of people showed up in Galatia telling them if they wanted to be saved they had to obey the Old Testament Law, they were willing to turn from the gospel of grace to an illegitimate gospel of Jesus plus works.
The problem the Galatians faced was the teaching was not a direct assault on the gospel. They would have recognized it was a different gospel. Even today, we recognize direct assaults on the gospel. If a person proclaims Jesus is not the way to be saved, Jesus did not die on the cross, or Jesus did not rise from the dead, we would instantly recognize this as another gospel. The greater danger is people who start with Jesus and very subtly pervert grace by adding something to it. It is a Jesus plus model of salvation. Salvation is, to borrow a line from the song, “in Christ alone.” Anytime someone goes past Jesus in salvation, they have gone too far.
This is a temptation that we face as well. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself why Jesus plus salvation is so appealing to us? I think it is appeals to our pride. There is a part of us that desperately wants to do something to guarantee our salvation. We think if we do just a little bit, God will accept us more. Or we think if we do just a little bit, our salvation will be more secure. What can you do to make God accept you more or make your salvation more secure? Nothing. There is absolutely nothing we can add to the grace of God. It is the height of supreme arrogance to think that we can do something to make ourselves more acceptable or our salvation more secure than the One who provided the way for our salvation.
The reason we do this is subtle. In adding our works to Jesus, it gives us something to boast about. And we like to boast. It makes us feel better to be able to measure ourselves against other Christians who do not do as much as we do. It makes us feel better to list all the things we have done for Jesus. When we do this we have embraced an illegitimate Jesus plus model of salvation and have cheapened the grace which saved us.
The challenge before us today is found in Ephesians 2:8-9. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Today if you must boast, boast in the One who saved you.
“Father thank you for your grace. Forgive us for the times we have tried to do something to make you accept or love us more. Forgive us for our pride which causes us to boast in ourselves. Today may we boast in you, knowing that your grace is sufficient. Amen.”
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