Everyone needs to read our Galatians 3 passage. Talk about good news! Galatians is the cure to all misguided churches who need to refocus and correct warped theology, from the churches obsessed with this: “Do you accept Jesus as your personal Savior?” to churches where it has really become this: “Do you accept Jesus as your personal shopper?” News flash: Jesus is not a genie in a lamp who is here to guide you through the mundane tasks of the day or bless you with riches.
God is looking for transformation! See Galatians for more details.
Here’s another tell tale sign for misguided churches: litmus tests to be considered Christian. Usually this is based on works. Paul says no to all that garbage. “Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish?”
Don’t get me wrong, works certainly are important, and are a natural outgrowth of any church that is following Christ and living into the Holy Spirit. That’s the result of a spirit-filled faith – good works abound!
The age-old debate about faith and works is one of the topics of Galatians. And why is it so important? Isn’t this just some minor theological hair-splitting? No. For it takes the focus off of Christ. Our faith begins and ends with our Lord Jesus Christ. When works become the gate code into the heavenly kingdom the whole church becomes awash in itself. Classic narcissism.
We have seen the effects of this happening in our churches today – when one’s status in a church is solely determined by one political stance that is held. It immediately turns God’s grace on its head and instead implies, “God’s grace is with you as long as you do or say what is right (in my eyes).” (The “in my eyes” is always the implication, isn’t it.)
If we learn nothing else from Paul, we learn that the details of practicing our faith are the tricky part. They are not to be taken lightly, but they are not meant to the litmus test either. Peter and Paul had some very lively disagreements about how they were to proceed as a church. But we do come to understand that central to all that we do and believe and feel and say must be rooted in Christ Jesus.
The newest “work” to plague the church is the sin of individualism. This came as a product of the 18th Century Enlightenment and glorification of individualism. It’s evil twin brother, and the most obnoxious question in all of Christendom, a plague in today’s church, is: “Do you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?” I just despise this question. No where in the Bible does this appear. Worse yet, this acceptance speech is thinly veiled as a belief, but is, by nature, a work in and of itself.
It is also a thinly veiled threat. More a threat than a belief or a work. More of a litmus test than a Spirit-driven experience. It is more an individual status than a communal experience of grace. And that is what makes my blood boil when I hear this question, because underneath is the veiled threat of “I have the answer to life’s questions and you don’t. So come to my understanding of things and we will be good.” Paul railed against this! In fact it is a corruption of everything Galatians stood for. It is OUR faith.
Paul was adamant in the transformative nature of belief. Belief wasn’t so much an acceptance speech as much as “Have you heard the Good News of Christ Jesus?” The news of Christ was “good news” first and foremost, and it was also something that spread like wild fire. It was a turn away from the flesh-based religion of Abraham into a mysterious spirit-filled community. It was a secret that was heard and experienced, not an AP test to be passed. It was something to be seen and heard!
This wild fire of good news was not something to be capsulated into a personal experience, but expanded into a community’s transformation into a loving community. This is the heart of Paul’s argument. This is the purpose of the law.
So have you heard that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us? (Galatians 3:13) Have you? Well, pass it along! Tell everyone you know!
Also, do the Church a favor, and let’s shelve that silly question about accepting Jesus, and let’s instead get to the heart of living the Spirit in community. Here’s a better question: “Have you ever wanted to get involved in mission, and make the planet a better place?” Come with me to _________ where we not only help those in need, but you can see the Spirit come alive!”