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Green Pastures and Still Waters

It’s the tension on guitar and piano strings that makes music possible.  It’s the tension in our vocal chords that makes speech possible. Those are situations where we welcome tension but if we’re honest, there are plenty of situations where we could be very happy without tension!  For example, relationships are natural places for tension because every human being has a will of his/her own. Wherever we have a context of “shared will,” we have the potential for tension. I wish it was never true but it’s virtually impossible to be in relationships and community without tension.  We have differing preferences. We have differing opinions. Theology doesn’t settle everything because there is tension in theology! Tension is an inevitable reality of this life. It’s not “if” we’ll experience tension, it’s “when.” Since tension is normal, the question then becomes, “What will we do with it?”  We may decide to run and hide. We may decide to fight and hold our position. We may decide to defer in every situation just to keep the peace. We have options and there is no “one size fits all” solution. We plan to return to Acts 15 this coming Sunday and it is a chapter that describes—tension! Paul and Barnabas could not seem to get away from this problem of legalism.  From Antioch to Galatia and back to Jerusalem, the problem of people adding to the requirement for salvation was like a mosquito in the dark. It was hard to find, hard to kill and really annoying. We’ll learn more about their method and manner over the next couple of weeks. Thanks for joining us in the journey through “The Acts of Jesus Christ Through His People in the Power of the Holy Spirit.”  Don’t let the tension kill you or keep you away. ☺

We’ve taken nine Sundays to survey the letter to the Galatians.  The Gentile believers must have sensed Paul’s urgency and I trust we remember that his urgency was a reflection of the Holy Spirit’s passion!  After all, we believe that Paul was moved by the Holy Spirit to write what he wrote using Paul’s personality and style.  I wish the problem of legalism would have gone away with that letter but unfortunately it is still with us.  We fight that spirit all the time here in the USA and it is global as well.  We have a missionary friend in Poland, (he will be speaking here on September 9 in the PM service) who told me recently that one of the big problems affecting the church in Poland is legalism.  Why can’t we get rid of this?  After reading a half dozen commentaries and meditating on this letter for the past three months I think the answer is painfully simple.  We are obsessed with ourselves.  We want life our own way.  We want our preferences to be everyone’s preferences and we’ll even use God to try to make them that way.  Once we have our lives the way we want them, we start to evaluate other people according to our own standard.  We eventually start to think that our standard has been adopted by God and are now His standards!  Then, the only way to please God and be accepted by Him is for people to adopt those standards.  The problem with all this is obvious.  It puts us in God’s place, minimizes the power of the cross and reduces the work of the Holy Spirit to the conviction of others.  I hope we can be people who “get” this message from the Spirit; that justification is by faith, sanctification is through the Spirit and that we are free from the penalty and power of sin through the work of Jesus alone.  I hope we see that we are free to love and that love is the distinguishing characteristic of the person who apprentices with Christ.   “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  Soli Deo Gloria!