Galatians chapter 6

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the Law of Christ.” – Vs 2

We are an individualized society. Every man for himself. Pull yourself by your own bootstraps. Maintain your independence. And this attitude has infiltrated the church. Even when it comes to our spiritual walk, we take an individualized approach. It’s all about MY walk with Christ. We ask each other, “So, how’s YOUR quiet time.” You can hear it the kinds of phrases we use, such as, “I have a PERSONAL relationship with Jesus.” If Christianity was a sport, spirituality would be a singles event. Now, there’s a certain degree of truth to all of this. We DO have a personal relationship with Christ. But God never intended for us to live out our faith in isolation. He placed in the context of community. He created the family and the body of Christ. He left us in this world. We are surrounded by people and He expects us to grow alongside them and with them. The testing ground of our spiritual maturity is community.

Paul seems to share this view, when he tells us to “bear one another’s burdens.” Paul paints a picture of someone who is weighed down by an oppressive load. The Greek word means “a heaviness, weight, or burden.” This individual is staggering under the weight of a load that they don’t have the strength to carry. This isn’t talking about a physical burden, but it could be an emotional one, or financial, relational, or spiritual. The inference seems to be that we all have some load that we are carrying that is too much for us. No one is immune. And the answer is not to suffer in silence, to go it alone. No, Paul says we are to step into one another’s lives and help. But that also means we have to let someone else help us. We have to let them assist us. And most of us find that hard to do.

Paul tells each of us bear the burdens of the one next to us. We are to literally “take up with the hands, take up in order to carry or bear, put upon one’s self, or bear what is burdensome.” We are to step into their lives and give them a helping hand with whatever it is that they are struggling. That means we have to be close enough to the other person to see their problem. We have to be sensitive so that we can be alert to their need. If we are self-absorbed and self-consumed, we will never notice the needs all around us. But if we will look up and take our eyes off our own little world. we will see that their are brothers and sisters staggering around with all kinds of loads and who, if not helped, will fall under its weight. Listen to what Paul says in Romans:

“Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.” – Romans 1:1-2

There it is again. We are to bear the weaknesses of those without strength. Instead of always pleasing ourselves, we are to please others. The New Living Translation says it this way, “We should please others. If we do what helps them, we will build them up in the Lord.” We are to accommodate ourselves to their needs, and not our own. Paul gives further insight into the mindset in his letter to the Thessalonians:

“Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:14

Fulfill the law of Christ

Paul says when we bear one another’s burdens we are fulfilling the law of Christ. We are doing what He commanded us to do. In John 13:34, Jesus said, A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” We are to love as Christ loved. Bearing one another’s burdens is one of the greatest examples of the love of Christ lived out on this earth. It is not normal or natural for us to do this. We’d rather get than give. But Jesus says to give to, share with, care for, encourage, and love one another. That takes community. Seeing the burdens of others takes proximity. But it also requires sensitivity. You can’t bear if you don’t care. You’ll walk right past those in need if you don’t care about their hurts, sorrows, and sufferings. This will take time. It will require sacrifice. It may get messy. You may find yourself tired from the effort of helping someone else carry their burden. But you’ll also find yourself blessed. And you’ll discover that as you’re helping someone else carry their load, your own load has become a little bit lighter. Why? Because there is someone walking behind you with their hands holding up the burden on your own back. That’s the way the body of Christ is supposed to work.

Father, give me a burden to help others carry their burden. Make me a load-bearer, a burden lifter. Help me get my eyes off my own little problems, and begin to see the needs of those around me. May we become a people of grace, who extend the love of God to all those around us as we step into their lives and help them bear the burdens of life. May we love in just the same way that we have been loved. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Galatians chapter 5

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” – Vs 25

The Spirit-filled life. We talk a lot about it, but how much do any of us ever really experience it? Sure, I believe in the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit as much as the next guy, but when Paul says things like, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry the desire of the flesh” (Vs 16), I have to ask myself the question, “Am I really experiencing that on a daily and regular basis?” Am I seeing the fruit of the Spirit listed in verses 22-23 manifest itself in my life on an ever-increasing basis? Am I being “led by the Spirit” (Vs 18)?

These are all legitimate questions that each of us as Christians need to ask ourselves. Because the role of the Spirit in our lives is critical to our ongoing sanctification or growth in holiness. Having Christ formed in me is impossible without the Holy Spirit. So Paul tells us to “walk by the Spirit” and to “live by the Spirit.” In verse 16 Paul uses a Greek word that literally means to live your life or conduct your life. The Message paraphrases verse 16 this way: “Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit.” We are to “take each step of the Christian life in dependence on the Spirit to have victory over the flesh and its works” (Ryrie Study Bible notes). So when Paul says, “walk by the Spirit,” he seems to be talking about our conduct or actions being motivated and directed by the indwelling Spirit of God.

In verse 25, Paul uses a different Greek word when he says, “live by the Spirit.” It has to do with life and less with conduct. Paul seems to be saying that we have our new life in Christ because of the Spirit, so we should conduct or live out that life in the power of the Spirit and not our human flesh. It all goes back to the issue of salvation by faith and sanctification by faith. I can’t save myself and I can’t perfect myself. Both are a work of the Holy Spirit. So all those fruits Paul mentions are only available through, by, and from the Holy Spirit. As I live or conduct my life in dependence upon Him, I will see His fruit produced in my life. In verse 18 Paul says we are to be “led by the Spirit.” The picture is of an owner leading its livestock in order to get it to go where he wants it to go. It means “to lead by laying hold of, and this way to bring to the point of destination.” The Holy Spirit is literally taking me by the hand and guiding and encouraging me to reach the final destination He has for me: Christ-likeness.

If you look at the list in verses 22-23, they are all other-oriented. This fruit is not for me, but for others. The presence of the Holy Spirit in my life and my submission to Him will reveal itself in the way I live with and treat others. In verse 14, Paul reminds his readers of the fact that the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And as we live out our lives in the power and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, we will show our neighbors love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fruitfulness, gentleness and self-control. They will not only see these things in our lives, but experience and enjoy them in their own lives.

We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the Holy Spirit. And we won’t ever reach our final destination (Christ-likeness) without the Holy Spirit. No amount of human effort or energy will accomplish what only He can do in us. So let’s let Him live out of us, not just in us. Let’s rely on His power, not ours. Let’s follow His leadership, not our own. Let’s follow His path to our final destination instead of our own.

Father, Thank You for placing Your Holy Spirit within me. Forgive me for not allowing Him to lead me. I tend to lean on my own strength to make it through life and handle the challenges that come my way. I know where you want me to go in terms of spiritual maturity. But I try to get their own my own strength and according to my own directions. But it never works. Help me to lean on Your Holy Spirit and follow His plan, not mine. Only You can make me increasingly more like Your Son, and that is my desire. I want the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life to become evident in my life, so that I might love those around me as Christ did. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Galatians chapter 4

“My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you.” – Vs 19

I’ve always found this interesting. Here is Paul, a hard-nosed, type-A personality, the preeminent apostle of the church of God, a guy who had been stoned and left for dead, flogged, shipwrecked, and persecuted, comparing himself to a mother about to give birth. Not exactly something you’d expect from a guy like Paul. But what is he saying? What’s his point?

Paul is obsessed with the spiritual development of the believers in Galatia. He wants to see Christ formed in them. That is, he is passionate about seeing them develop and live out  Christ’s nature or character in their daily lives. That is what spiritual formation is all about. It isn’t about more Bible knowledge. Sure, we need to study God’s Word, but for the purpose of discovering more about Him and His Son Jesus Christ. We are to learn more about Him so that we can become like Him. spiritual formation isn’t about activity, no matter how spiritual that activity may appear. It’s about Christ being formed or fashioned in you, like a baby being formed in the womb of its mother. His character is growing within you, maturing and becoming increasingly more distinct day after day.

Spiritual formation was an ongoing theme for Paul. Take a look at just a few of the passages that reflect his commitment to spiritual growth and increasing in our Christ-likeness.

And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more. – 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT)

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. – Romans 8:29

…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ. – Ephesians 4:13 (NIV)

Paul’s heart was to see heart transformation take place in the lives of those to whom he ministered day in and day out. He wanted them to embrace the reality that they were new creatures. They had new identities. They were children of God. Heirs of God according to Galatians 4:7. He wanted them live out of the reality of who they really were in Christ – a people who had been changed, not being changed. We have Christ’s nature within us. Now it is being formed or fashioned so that it grows into full maturity. We are not sinners trying to become saints. We are saints who happen to sin. We have a new DNA, a new nature. And Paul wants to see that new nature become increasingly more apparent in our lives. We won’t be completely like Christ in this life. But we should be making progress as the Christ-nature within us grows and matures. Then one day, we are told, we will be like Him. We will be glorified and completely sanctified, with a nature just like His.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. – 1 John 3:2

The day is coming when we will have resurrected bodies, just like His. We will be completely pure, just like He is. We will be sinless, just like He is. And we will be completely and entirely righteous, just as He is. But until that day, Christ’s nature is growing inside us and being revealed with us. Do you see it? Better yet, do those around you see it?

Father, Thank You for giving me a new nature. I have Christ living within me. I am not the old Ken I used to be. I’m not even a new and improved version of the old me. I am a new creation! I have a new nature, the nature of Christ. And You are maturing that nature within me. May His nature become increasingly more evident in my life, especially to those around. Let them see Christ in me, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Galatians chapter 3

“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?.” – Vs 3

You may feel like I have a one-track mind, but I can’t help but notice that Paul is driving home this works-righteousness issue again. He is hammering home to the Galatians that they can’t allow what they began by faith to turn into some experiment in the power of human effort. It seems that these people were buying into the idea that if they could somehow keep the Law, along with their faith in Christ, they would be pleasing to God. They had bought into the lie that they could make themselves righteous just by keeping a set of rules. So Paul literally screams at them “Are you so foolish?” Have you lost your mind? What are you thinking? I like the way this verse reads in the New Living Translation: Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?”

They had started in the Spirit, but were trying to finish what God had begun in their own self-effort. But don’t we do the same thing? We place our faith in Christ. We acknowledge that we can’t save ourselves. We recognize that salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone. We add nothing to the equation. But then we somehow think that’s where the grace ends and our effort begins. He saves us, but we have to sanctify ourselves. We have to discover the right set of rules to keep in order to become truly righteous. And there are always plenty of people ready and willing to tell us what the rules are. In Paul’s day, it was the Judaizers. In our day, it’s well-intentioned individuals who have failed to understand that our spiritual growth is a work of God, not man. So they come up with their own list of rules and regulations to keep. They decide what the actions and activities of a godly person look like and then lay those expectations on all those they meet. They even attempt to model this kind of life. They are busy for God. They work out their faith with fear and trembling. They have quiet times, pray a lot, serve even more, memorize scripture, go to Bible studies, and try to eliminate anything of a worldly nature from their lives. But in spite of all this, many of them lack joy and peace. They smile a lot and praise God in all things, but behind their mask of super spirituality is a person who feels they can’t do enough to please God. So they work harder and do more. Why? Because they have been led to believe that spirituality is all about doing. It is behavior-based. And because they are stuck on this treadmill of human achievement, they invite others to join them, because they don’t want to be alone.

But Paul reminds us, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Vs 26). I don’t have to earn sonship, I already have it. I don’t have to do anything to merit God’s favor, it’s already mine. He LOVES me! Yet how easily we buy into the lie that God is somehow displeased with us and demanding more from us.

“This distortion has kept us tied down, guilt-ridden, weary, lonely and isolated from each other. We’ve seen God as disgusted by our failures and have been left trying to somehow earn our way back into His favor. Most of us sadly came to believe that while we are justified through faith by grace, somehow we must mature and heal by some other means. We have become the “buck up” people. And though it hasn’t worked, we didn’t know another way. So, we’ve just learned to try harder. But the day of self-righteous, religious performing for cheap applause truly is coming to an end. It has brought us nothing but enhanced skils in hiding, proving, striving, posturing and bluffing. Many of us, all over the world, have grown desperately tired of it.” – Two Roads, Two Room, Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch

Have you lost your senses? Have you bought into the lie that more is required of you before God will love you? Do you think that God has left it up to you to become what He expects you to be? Is your spiritual maturity your responsibility? If so, then Paul’s message is for you. You are trying to “become perfect by human effort.” And the result of all that effort will always be disappointment and defeat. Because true spiritual transformation is a work of the Spirit, not the flesh. Only He can change us. And until we recognize that reality and begin to live in it, we will never enjoy the peace of knowing “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Father, keep reminding me that Your grace is enough. Forgive me for the times I begin to believe that it is all up to me. It shows up in all my busyness and self-effort. I somehow think that I have to do more. I have to work harder. And I fail to rest in the fact that you are perfecting me in spite of me. I know I have a part to play. I can’t just sit back and do nothing. I know I need to read Your Word. I know prayer needs to become a more significant part of my life. But I also know that anything I do, apart from the power of Your Holy Spirit, will accomplish nothing. Bring me to my senses. Help me remember that You love me and that You are making me into the likeness of Your Son. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Galatians chapter 2

“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” – Vs 21

I love the way this verse is translated in the New Living Translation: “I am not one of those who treats the grace of God as meaningless. For if we could be saved by keeping the law, then there was no need for Christ to die.” The Message paraphrases it this way: I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.

The grace of God versus the works of men. It is amazing how often this theme has come up already in our readings in the New Testament. It was a problem then, and it is a problem today. Somehow we want to take the grace of God and replace it with some form of human effort or achievement. In Paul’s day it was the Judaizers (converted Jews) who wanted to force the Gentiles to be circumcised and keep all of the requirements of the Law before they could be considered saved. They were adding to the Gospel message. They were attaching a list of rules and requirement that must be met before someone could truly be saved. And Paul would have nothing to do with it. In fact, he calls Peter a hypocrite and condemned him to his face for siding with the Judaizers over this issue.

Paul makes it very clear:

“Nevertheless, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” – Vs 16

We cannot be justified or declared righteous before God based on any amount of good deeds or rule keeping we attempt to do. We cannot earn favor with God by working harder or doing more. We can’t make Him love us more or make Him love us less. He simply loves us because of our relationship with His Son Jesus Christ. Yet how often do we try to earn favor with God by trying to do more for Him? By attempting to change our behavior? By working a little bit harder on our sin? We really have convinced ourselves that the following formula works:

Less bad behavior + More good behavior = Holiness

So we go through behavior modification, working on our sin and hoping to gain some kind of brownie points with God. But all that is just another form of works-righteousness. It is exactly what Paul was condemning in this chapter. Paul says that we have died to any form of law-keeping. “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God” – Vs 19. Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for sin that the Law demanded. So Paul could stop trying to keep the Law as a means of winning God’s acceptance. He was accepted by God because of Jesus. Case closed. Paul summarized his thoughts in verse 20:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Listen to what the New Living Translation says: So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” I live my life on this earth, not having to trust in my own self-effort or on what I can do, but on what Jesus Christ has already done. And knowing that He loved me and gave His life for me. Sure, I still need to change. I need to grow. I need to cease from my sinful behavior. But I do it out of love for God and in recognition of His grace. I want my life to reflect who I have become in Christ: A child of God. So I choose to say no to sin. I choose to accept God’s ongoing grace that gives me the power to change. I understand that I can no nothing on my own, but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).

Father, Thank You for Your grace. Thank You that I do not have to change myself to gain favor with You. I don’t have to change before You will love me. You chose to love me when I was still a sinner and now You continue to love me even when I am a saint who chooses to sin. You keep extending grace to me day after day, giving me the desire to change and providing the power for that change to take place. Forgive me when I fall back into my old habit of trying to change myself in my own strength. When I do it is as if I make what Jesus did on the cross as of no value. Help me to remember everyday of my life that I am who I am because of Christ and I will become who You want me to be because of Christ. And not because of me.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Galatians chapter 1

“He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy. And they were glorifying God because of me.” – Vs 23-24

Transformation. Isn’t that what the gospel is all about? Being radically changed from the inside out. In two sentences Paul summarizes the change that took place in his life. He went from the persecuted to being the persecuted. He went from destroyer to disciple. This one time Pharisee on the ladder to success, was now a new man with a new heart. Yes, his change was more radical than many of ours. And it was more immediate. Or was it? Paul says it was well over three years. During this time he grew in the faith and was prepared by God for the task for which he was called. And all the while he was going through the transformation of his life and character, heart and soul, mind and spirit. The life of Paul is a perfect example of the verse in Romans 12:2.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

This passage was written by none other than Paul himself. And he spoke from experience. He had been and was still being transformed as he daily renewed his mind. As we read in 2 Peter, Paul was daily growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. That is how transformation takes place. Sure, Paul had been saved on the road to Damascus, but God was not done with him. That was just the beginning of a transformational process that would continue until the day God took Paul home to be with him. Transformation is a daily, ongoing process by which we are changed, step by step into the likeness of God’s Son.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18

Paul was being transformed. Are you? Am I? And are people glorifying God because of us? Paul’s transformation was more than just a story about life change. It was visible, undeniable, and in many ways, unbelievable to those who were witnessing it. Paul was a changed man. Not just on the outside, but on the inside. He had a new heart, a new nature, and they revealed themselves in a new passion: spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to the Gentile world. How is your transformation showing up in daily life? Can others see the change taking place in you? Is it radical? Is it impacting the way you talk, act, think, and live? When we allow God to continue His transformational work in our lives, transforming us into the image of His Son, with ever-increasing amounts of glory, others will sit up and take notice – and glorify God. They’ll have to admit that the change is not man-made, but God-produced, and give Him the glory He deserves. I like the way The Message paraphrases Romans 12:2:

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Fix your attention on God and you’ll be changed from the inside out.

Father, Thank You for continuing Your transformational work in my life. Sometimes it seems painfully slow. Other times it seems as if nothing is happening at all. But You are faithful and You continue to work inside me to make me into the man You want me to be. The same power that saved me is slowly sanctifying me, making me more like Your Son every day. Help me keep my attention fixed on You, so that I might be changed from the inside out.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men