Devotions on Galatians 1:13-17; 2:11-21–Crucified with Christ
May 15-21, 2017
Monday, May 15, 2017–Crucified with Christ
“I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it” (Galatians 1:18).
Andrew was chasing his dream of riches in Silicon Valley, working his way up the corporate ladder. The sudden death of a colleague and friend caused him to question the priorities of his life. The Holy Spirit used the occasion to move Andrew to reclaim the covenant God made with him at Andrew’s baptism. His goal in life changed from “getting more” to “loving God completely, and serving others.” Juanita was filled with rage. Ridiculed because of her nationality, beaten down by poverty and molested by her father Juanita hated God, the world and herself. The Holy Spirit used volunteers at a Boys and Girls Club to convince Juanita that in God’s eyes she was loved and a person of worth. It wasn’t an overnight process, but Juanita evolved from a person of hate to a person of love.
We all wander and get lost. Paul became a religious fanatic. Today we’d label him as a terrorist and charge him with hate crimes. Andrew and Juanita were caught up in the world’s lies of riches, power and hate. The good news is that God did not leave them alone. Nor does God leave us lost and wandering. The Holy Spirit finds us, transforms us and returns us to God’s loving embrace.
Lord, be our guide. When we wander and are lost, find us, take our hands and lead us along the path on which you want us to travel. Amen.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017–Crucified with Christ
“But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace” (Galatians 1:15).
Lydia knew from age three that she was going to be a firefighter. Twenty years later she was living her dream knowing that she was right where she was meant to be. It took Karl a while longer to discover his purpose in life. He drifted through dozens of jobs and sampled several careers. It wasn’t until he participated in a service project to a Children’s Hospital, which was organized by his congregation, that Karl discovered what he was called to do. From that time on, he volunteered to visit and entertain the children and their families. He used his “day job” to raise funds for various ministries at the Children’s Hospital.
Paul may be on to something in this verse. He believed that God had set him apart before he was born to be a missionary to the Gentiles. Most of us are blessed by the fact that we have a multitude of career opportunities and we are proud that we can choose to be whatever we want to be. Still, as disciples of Jesus, we also can rejoice knowing that we have been called to serve God and love our neighbors in our chosen vocation. Skills, needs and calling meld together so that everyone is blessed.
Precious Lord, thank you for calling and equipping us to serve you and be a blessing to our neighbors. Amen.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017–Crucified with Christ
“But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all” (Galatians 2:14).
There’s an old cliché “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” Evidently Peter was practicing a version of this saying. When he was with his Jewish friends, he followed Jewish customs. Among his Gentile acquaintances, he relaxed his observance of the law. When the Jews and the Gentile Christians mixed, Peter sided with the Jews. Peter bowed to peer pressure and in doing so acted like a hypocrite and denied the gospel of grace.
We all know the strength of peer pressure, though we may not be willing to admit how pervasive the groups’ influences are in our lives. Thankfully the Lord blesses us with brothers and sisters in Christ who, like Paul, are willing to confront us in love and point out things of which we are not aware. Using fellow believers, the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, convinces us of God’s love and forgiveness and uses the occasion to shape us into God’s image. This is another reason why, as followers of Jesus, we live in community rather than in isolation.
Thank you, Lord, for our brothers and sisters who love us, encourage us in our faith and help us to grow as followers and servants. Amen.
Thursday, May 18, 2017–Crucified with Christ
“And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 2:16).
Paul pens potent words about the Christian life. It is important for us, though, to understand what Paul is trying to communicate to his readers. Paul is not focused on the hereafter. He is not saying that Christians believe in certain theological and doctrinal propositions like those contained in the creeds and, that doing so, assure us life in heaven. For Paul, to believe is much more than that. To believe in Jesus is to live our lives in the reality that God has chosen to love us and to be powerfully present in our lives. We believe that through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we have been placed in a renewed, right (justified) relationship with God—a relationship that enables us to love God while we share our blessings with our neighbors and serve them.
Clem had grown complacent in his faith. He was content knowing that Jesus died for his sins and that he would go to heaven when he died. His faith allowed him to work hard at his job, raise a family and polish up his golf game. During a conversation with a friend, who was an atheist, Clem’s faith was shaken. His friend asked Clem to identify how Clem’s life was different than his. Aside from attending Sunday worship, there wasn’t much difference. The Holy Spirit used this conversation to start Clem on a journey of discovery. Over the next several months, Clem began to understand what it meant to be a follower of Jesus who loved God with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength and his neighbor like himself. Clem became a changed man.
It is so easy, Lord, to say “We believe.” Empower these words so they become life changing for us and enable us to experience the abundant life of faith. Amen.
Friday, May 19, 2017–Crucified with Christ
“But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrated that I am a transgressor” (Galatians 2:18).
Nashiko returned from the women’s retreat refreshed and renewed. She felt that the three days had been a life changing experience for her. The speakers and the small group conversations had strengthened her faith and drawn her into a closer relationship with God. Nashiko hadn’t finished unpacking when her eight year-old twins ran into the room. One was chasing the other. They jumped on the bed where Nashiko had emptied her suitcase and sent her cosmetics case flying. It crashed on the floor spilling the contents. Before Nashiko could stop herself, she began to yell at her children saying words that she immediately regretted. The twins slunk off to their room and Nashiko, devastated by what she had said, burst out in tears. She was not a new woman.
Saints and Sinners
In his letters Paul, stresses the completed work of Jesus. He writes in the next verse that Christians have been crucified with Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul pens the words, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away and the new has arrived.” To the Romans Paul writes that, “We have been buried with him by baptism” (Romans 6:4). Though we may be crucified, buried and a new creation, there are times when we are also our old selves. This doesn’t negate what Christ has done. It does remind us, though, as Luther said, we are at the same time sinners and saints. We are always people in need of God’s love, forgiveness and grace.
Thank you, Lord, for the new life that is ours. Forgive us when we don’t talk or act like we have new lives. Amen.
Saturday, May 20, 2017–Crucified with Christ
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20a).
The last thing Paco Gomez remembered was a searing pain in his chest, then he passed out. When he came to he was in an operating room. He was looking down on surgeons and nurses as they operated on his body. He was calm—peaceful—as he looked upon the frantic activity. They were using paddles to shock his exposed heart back to life. The room began to recede and he was drawn toward a bright light. Paco was overwhelmed with a sense of love and total acceptance. He wanted to stay in the light, yet he knew that he must return. The light grew dim and was replaced by the monotonous beep of hospital equipment. Paco opened his eyes and realized that he lying in bed surrounded by his family. Paco’s exposure to the light changed his perspective and transformed his life.
A Personal Crucifixion
Paul’s death experience was on the cross of Christ. His old self—the one fueled by religious extremism and hatred—died. With Christ’s resurrection, Paul’s new self was born—a life born of love, forgiveness and wrapped in grace. Jesus had breathed new life into him and had filled Paul with the Holy Spirit. Paul understood that his word and actions had become the expression of Christ’s Spirit that resided within him.
The changes we observe in our lives may be big or small. Still the truth remains. We have died with Christ. The old has passed away and the new has been born. We have a new purpose for living and a new perspective on life. We will never be the same. Alleluia!
Spirit of God descend upon our hearts …. Teach us to love you as your angels love, One holy passion filling all our frames; The baptism of the heav’n descended dove, Our hearts the altars and your love the flame. Amen. (LBW 486)
Sunday, May 21, 2017–Crucified with Christ
“And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20b).
Jill was raised to believe a lie. Her father told her that she was worthless and her mother agreed. In school, Jill’s teachers said that she was dumb and wouldn’t amount to much. Jill’s classmates ridiculed her and bullied her. Jill refused to believe all these voices. With an inner strength, one close friend and her dog, Jill grew to adulthood. Countless counseling sessions enabled her to see herself as a person of worth, who was loved and who had much to offer the world.
The world surrounds us with lies. It tells us that success is measured by net worth and that people who are not like us are lower than us. Our peers attempt to convince us that we need to put ourselves first and ignore the needs of others. Advertisements lure us into believing that if we purchase one more thing we will be happy. As followers of Jesus, though, we live by faith. We live according to the truth even if the lies appear to be correct. We live with the belief that love is greater than power, blessings are to be shared, forgiveness is better than revenge and that loving God and serving others is what life is really all about.
Lord, empower us to live according to your truth and to be deaf to the lies of the world. Amen.