Devotion of the Day

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Galatians 3.7-14

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

–Devotion–

Paul is writing to refute the idea that the old laws of Judaism still needed to be added for Christianity to be sincere and effective. Strangely, even with letters like Galatians existing for millenia in the Church, these ideas of the old laws of Judaism needing to be practiced for faith to be sincere still manifest themselves and other laws (which are not old laws of Judaism but lie in a similar vein) are established. Examples are that of the commandment, “Honor the Sabbath and keep it holy,” which is badly interpreted for Christians when it is made into a civil law or requirement banning work on the first day of the week. This is even worse when these sorts of laws are applied to unbelieving people! In another way, and one that us Lutherans have experience with, law concerning alcohol are made.

I remember growing up in a dry county. I think the initial fear was a moral one. It was a similar fear that inspire the Prohibition laws. A fear that alcohol was a catalyst to public moral corruption. Historically I think there was justification for such thinking. But now that those laws were gone the laws concerning alcohol were more aligned with theological conviction of certain denominational lines than a true fear of public moral corruption (this was clear to me when I realized all the residents of our county who wanted to have a drink drove the ten miles to the county line). Now it is contested by some that Christians who drink alcohol are less Christian than others, or at least weaker, and they need to submit to self-denial for their faith to be more sincere. To them, may I recommend, you take an especially large sip from the Chalice this Sunday! This is to remind yourself of your freedom from such laws in Christ. But, we must also not flaunt our freedom in a way that offends our neighbors–for they are the weak ones. We must not use our freedom as a license for drunkenness, but as a license for rational conversation in the hopes of freeing consciences. So, let St. Paul be our pattern and guide as he tries to direct those enslaved by others into a more brilliant freedom brought about by the Work of our Lord.

Pastor Beltz

Devotion of the Day

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Galatians 2.17-21

But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

–Devotion–

Sweet words.  These are words directly for the Galatian Christians who are having laws placed back upon them.  Strictures and conditions on their faith.  “If you do not do this you are notREALLY a Christian.”  Paul opposes such moves.  And also makes it clear that Christians are not lawless.  We are not without direction.  We are not listless buoys adrift on a cosmic sea of change and whim.  Our listlessness has been crucified, our waywardness is dead, our directionless existence of being a sinner is destroyed and now we are Christ.  And because we are Christ, and the life we live in this flesh we live in faith in the Son of God, let us not go back rebuilding the things of our former lives.  This is a point of departure between us and the Galatians; this rebuilding what was once torn down. 

Paul is writing to Gentiles who have walked away from the paganism and polytheism of Rome.  Us, however, have not really had to walk away from a previous life of idol worship and paganism and be baptized into a new existence.  For us it is a bit different.  We have just, most of us anyway, always been Christian.  Being baptized was just what you did.  It is what any normal person did to their kid.  It is just a part of the way of life, right?  Hmmmm.  I think we are going to have to think about that a bit more.  For Paul Baptism was the point where everything changed.  This is because in Baptism old things die.  Old habits, old allegiances, old languages, old gods, old desires, old hopes all are burned up to cinder and blown away by the might breathe that is the Holy Spirit of God and something new begins.  New Lord, New Allegiance, New life, new Hope, New Kingdom!  Christ, Christ!  All Glory to Christ!

Devotion of the Day

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Galatians 2.11-16
 

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 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. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 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?”

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

 

–Devotion–

Paul opposes Peter because he is segregating the sheep.  There is no segregation among sheep.  Sheep are color blind, class blind, status blind.  So Paul opposes Peter because he is making race a matter of status and placement in the kingdom of God.  I pray that we might have the fortitude to oppose anyone, including ourselves, for doing the very same thing.  There is no one among us sheep who is greater, more deserving, more worth respect and honor, than any other in this congregation for any reason.  If you think you are, then let me tell you Jesus, Paul, the whole Church, and I oppose you.  

 

Pastor Beltz

Devotion of the Day

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Galatians 2.11-14

 
 
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?”
 
–Devotion–
 
If you want to play politics in the Church you are setting yourself against Jesus.  If you want to establish and maintain divisions you are setting yourself against Jesus.  If you let the Old Adam, which is stronger in some of you than in others, determine your relationships within the Church, you are setting yourself against the Spirit of God and the Body and Blood of Jesus the Lord.  And if, when called out on these evil practices, you are unwilling to repent; be forgiven and forgive, you are setting yourself against Jesus.  
 
The hard reality is that some of you have done these things in the past and some of you are doing them now.  Some of you are seeking the vain-glories of peers, some of you are seeking to maintain your self-righteousness, there is no telling the list of desires that can bubble up and allow Satan to manipulate our thoughts and actions.  Stop it.  Quit letting Satan manipulate the Old Adam into leading you and possibly others astray and destroying the Church of God.  Your conduct is out of step with the Truth of the Gospel.  Turn.  
 
Pastor Beltz

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Galatians 2.11-14

 
 
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?”
 
–Devotion–
 
If you want to play politics in the Church you are setting yourself against Jesus.  If you want to establish and maintain divisions you are setting yourself against Jesus.  If you let the Old Adam, which is stronger in some of you than in others, determine your relationships within the Church, you are setting yourself against the Spirit of God and the Body and Blood of Jesus the Lord.  And if, when called out on these evil practices, you are unwilling to repent; be forgiven and forgive, you are setting yourself against Jesus.  
 
The hard reality is that some of you have done these things in the past and some of you are doing them now.  Some of you are seeking the vain-glories of peers, some of you are seeking to maintain your self-righteousness, there is no telling the list of desires that can bubble up and allow Satan to manipulate our thoughts and actions.  Stop it.  Quit letting Satan manipulate the Old Adam into leading you and possibly others astray and destroying the Church of God.  Your conduct is out of step with the Truth of the Gospel.  Turn.  
 
Pastor Beltz

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Galatians 2.1-10

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 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— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

–Devotion–
Just recently the issues of division in the Church came up again in a conversation I was having.  “How can we say we have it more right than others?” 

Even the great Apostle Paul went to make sure what he was teaching and preaching was right.  He went to the Apostles in Jerusalem and presented the Gospel he was proclaiming.  And he, like they in Jerusalem, were on the same page.  That is, St. Paul was preaching and teaching the right stuff.  Even still there were those present whose desire was to bring slavery back onto people.  What St. Paul means here is that there were those present desiring to have”the law” observed by all Christians, Jew or Gentile.  That is why, previous to this statement, Paul mentions how Titus was not forced to be circumcised by the Apostles in Jerusalem even though he was a Greek.  Paul says, “we did not yield to them for a moment, so that the truth of the Gospel might be preserved for you.”

Now, this was over issues of circumcision of the flesh that Paul stood his ground in defiance.  Imagine what Paul would say over matters regarding the Body and Blood of Jesus, or pluralism, or creedal confessions, or any number of other “teachings” that have crept into the Church?  In 1 Timothy 1 the Apostles excommunicates men from the Church for teaching that the Resurrection of the dead had already happened!  What would he do to people who taught that the Sacrament was not the Body and Blood of Jesus?  What might his attitude be to folks who said something like, “Meh, the Muslims, the Jews, the Hindus, and Christians are all right. ”  What might he say to us when we just say something like, “Well, we agree on 99% of everything.  So, that is good enough.”

And look at the reason the Apostle gives for his exclusivity and rigidness!  For the sake of others!  So that they might receive the true and unadulterated Gospel (story) of Jesus.  Exclusivity and Rigidity’s main concern is Evangelism to future unknown people according to St. Paul.  Let it be so for us as well.  And if it is, then let us commit ourselves all the more to knowing the unswerving Truth of the Gospel, so that at the appropriate time we might give a good and clear confession and proclamation. 

Pastor Betlz

Devotion of the Day

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No Other Gospel

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[b] of Christ.

–Devotion–

“Gospel is and should be nothing else than a discourse or story about Christ, just as happens among men when one writes a book about a king or a prince, telling what he did, said, and suffered in his day. Such a story can be told in various ways; one spins it out, and the other is brief. Thus the Gospel is and should be nothing more than a chronicle, a story, a narrative, about Christ, telling who he is, what he did, said, and suffered–a subject which one describes briefly, another more fully, one this way, another that way” Martin Luther, A Brief Instruction on what to Look for and Expect in the Gospels; Luther’s Works, AE; Vol. 35 pgs. 115-116

When St. Paul talks about “gospel” here he is using it in the sense Luther describes above. There were folks, Judahizers, who were changing the story to say something else thus preaching a different gospel. The same happens today. It happens when we take a piece of Scripture that comes from the very lips of Jesus himself–THE SON OF GOD–and then say, “it doesn’t HAVE to be that way, does it?” or, “What Jesus REALLY means is.” Take for example our Gospel reading for this upcoming week; Luke 14:25-35 (look it up then come back to this devotion).

Jesus is attacking theRun, Run Away! “good stuff.” And when he attacks the good stuff, the stuff we cherish, the stuff we hold more dear than him, it often leads us to back away from Jesus, his words, his commands, his Lordship. “he doesn’t really mean that does he? There is a way around this isn’t there?” Have you been hearing another Gospel? One that changes the story? Let us stop running away from Jesus and deal with Him, His Words, His Commands, His Lordship. Let us stop running from THE GOSPEL–because it is the only thing that will remain in the end anyway.

Pastor Beltz

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