Links Daily Devotional

Life in the Gospel

I did not receive [the gospel I preached to you] from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:12, NIV 1984)

About once a year, I have the opportunity to play golf with a pastor friend from a nearby city. During our round, our conversation will typically turn for a time to his most recent outing with the hickory stick players. It’s a group of golfers from around the country who wear the old clothes and break out the antiquated gear.

This year, they met in Las Vegas. I thought that to be an ironic blend between the past and the present. Then again, if “everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” maybe it is fitting that you have to go back there to find bygone equipment!

Deciding how to balance the ancient and the modern is actually one of the more challenging aspects of being a follower of Jesus Christ. We live 20 centuries removed from the man we call Savior. Just how do you span the ages?

The opening chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatians can be very helpful in this regard. For as we read it, we come to recognize that it took only a matter of years for the gospel he was preaching—Christ crucified and resurrected so that our salvation was purchased and secured through no work of our own—to be challenged and undercut.

Though Paul recognized in this very letter that gentleness was part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life, he was anything but gentle with his words as he began. Indeed, he called for a curse upon any who would seek to turn his learners from the pure freedom of the gospel message. This is one of those actions that don’t sit comfortably with us in our time. Our own pastor may preach about the stark differences between what the Bible says and what others are saying, but we would go home to some real soul searching if he interjected this into his message: “That pastor across the street is not preaching this same truth. A curse on him!”

But here is what we must recognize: Paul found life in the gospel. His own testimony was traced through years of religious practice that led him to despise the earliest followers of the Way for their dependence on the righteous work of Christ rather than the strictness of their piety. Paul knew what it meant to be chained to the expectations of manmade religion. It meant spiritual death.

So here he railed against those who would return his beloved Galatians to a place of slavery, to dead religion. Live! Be free! These were the themes of the gospel of Christ, and themes to be guarded against all marauders.

Of course, these themes remain. Even today “false brothers infiltrate our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves” (Galatians 2:4). So we stand for the gospel that gives life. We stand in the righteousness of Christ, a righteousness that goes back to the God who has always been. Now that’s old—and yet we still find life only in the Lord of that gospel today.

Jeff Hopper
January 5, 2015
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