Galatians - The Right Way to Live?
Having not grown up as a Christian but discovering Jesus Christ, for myself, in my 20s I have always wondered about how to live as a christian, what is the right way - does the right way even exist? Should I give up on all worldly possessions? is being a stay at home mum the only way to live as a godly wife and mother? Should I only be wearing modest skirts/dresses? Head coverings? No make up or jewellery? As part of my bible reading plan, I have been going through the apostle Paul's letters and I believe God has given me some peace over this...
Reading through Galatians, Paul comments about how Christians are being led astray from the true message of the gospel by placing their beliefs/customs first. In summary - He's pretty upset about this. The believers who were previously Jewish wanted to impose that the non Jewish believers were to be circumcised in order to be right with God. This is not the true message of salvation, the gospel. Jesus Christ, the son of God, died for all our sins to make us right with God. Living 'right' was causing a divide within the church and causing believers to fall away.
After I became a Christian, I wanted to please God - to live my life in a way that would be pleasing to him. I guess the Jewish people wanted this too, they felt this (obeying this part of Jewish law) was the right way to live to please God, but unfortunately, being circumcised is not the most appealing to grown up, new believing, non Jewish men. It detracted away from the message of salvation. It was wrong because Jesus came to free people from the Jewish laws, so therefore they hadn't understood the true meaning of the gospel and this needed to be taught. Paul's passion for correct teaching, over the salvation message, can be felt whilst reading this letter. Salvation is open to all and there is nothing you can do to earn it - it is a gift from God - to accept his son Jesus Christ, who died for all our sins, to make us accepted by God. It really is that simple - to accept his son, to be sorry for your sins that put him on that cross - to accept how his death redeems us.
I'm fascinated by how Christian women can live such different lives and have such different values for the sake of the gospel. How our culture can affect these decisions too - counter culture lives look very different across the globe for Christians. I understand how some people can look at Christianity as a list of rules when they look at how different Christians live. I guess from reading Galatians, the early church also saw this.
Some women choose to let their husband make all decisions financially, stay at home, have as many children as they can, only wear feminine modest clothes, no make up, plain hair/head coverings or no jewellery, as to make sure they attract no attention to themselves - they do it all backed up from studies in the bible to live right. This lifestyle or rules might be seen/called as extreme conservative Christianity. Other Christian women may feel completely offended by these choices, as a way of life, as it is cross cultural to them and takes away their freedom. Whilst the above life choices, has a place for some women it is not right for all women - it is not a salvation issue. So does that make those choices wrong?
No it doesn't. When we become a Christian we are justified by Christ - nothing can add or take away from that fact. Our salvation comes from believing in Jesus Christ alone, the son of God, who died for our sins and was risen to life. We are all justified as believers, by believing this message alone. As we live, we want to become more like Jesus and live our lives, free from sin (formally known as sanctification). The Holy Spirit helps us to live this way by revealing sin and helping us to overcome temptations. We cannot add to our salvation - formally known as justification.
If women choose to live, as whats termed, by conservative christian values because they feel it will help them become a better Christian, then this is called legalism - applying standards to their salvation - this is not the truth of the gospel and is what the new Jewish Christians were trying to impose upon others.
If Christians feel led by the Holy spirit (for example) to alter their appearance, to rid themselves of sin that has been revealed to them, then it is not legalism but the process of sanctification. For that Christian, applying rules to their appearance helps them to rid themselves of sin and become closer to God.
To live a sanctified life and not a legalistic one, comes down to the reasons why you make the choices that you do. It is not for others to judge those who do follow certain practises or not. Paul discusses this in Romans 14, where believers have different views over eating meat and who is right to follow this practise or not. Paul summarises how it is right for those who want to eat can and to live in the freedom Jesus called them too and for those who feel called to not, to continue - as this is what is right for them, between themselves and God. Also for those who choose to eat, should not cause those who don't, to stumble.
Reading through the letters, I see how much Paul had his work cut out for him, establishing church in the early days. The problems of the early church are still relevant today, its just the culture/rules have changed - its no longer about eating meat that Romans had sacrificed towards idols but perhaps the role of women in society and church, gender and sexual orientation, to celebrate Halloween or being a plastic free church, would be the new points of debate today. These letters are relevant to church today, cultural influences and living a life that pleases God. How can we be sure we are living a sanctified or a legalistic faith life? Look into the reasons and heart behind them and making sure that those issues do not become salvation barriers to non believers. Remembering the truth of the message of salvation and not becoming the Holy Spirit for others (imposing your sanctification).
We are all made unique (Psalm 139) and therefore all the ways in which we live out our sanctified life will look different. The Holy Spirit will guide, correct and help us. Pray for guidance and pray for others. Jesus accepts us just as we are, we should too - no comparisons.
I'm not a teacher but just thought I'd share what I felt God had been revealing to me through my bible readings this week. It has given me peace about how I don't live up to certain practises but how I am still justified in my faith and relationship, exactly where I am. I think justification and sanctification can get mixed up easily in my head. I can get the message of salvation and leading a pleasing life to God, mixed up too. Other Christian practices are their roads to sanctification and God will reveal my road to me, through his Holy Spirit.
How amazingly, grace filled is our God! I think it has led me to a new found freedom - that actually I am free, the good news is enough.The salvation gospel message is always relevant. I do not need to add anything to it, to be a good christian.
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