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Remembering Our Call

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.” (Galatians 5:13)

Valuing input from local marketplace perspectives, our leadership team had convened a group of independent insurance agents who sold our company’s products in their respective cities and towns. When the conversation tangentially alluded to the regulatory climate in a neighboring state, one of the sales professionals quipped, “In [that state], a crooked politician is one who won’t stay bought!” We all had a good guffaw at the easy target of “politics as usual,” yet the story is reminiscent of a deeper purpose for us who have found full and forever life in Christ—our call to stay free.

The young Galatian church had found themselves infiltrated and influenced by those insisting on gaining God’s favor through legalistic means, and it showed. “Where is that joyful and grateful spirit you felt?”1 Paul asked of their fleeting joy. “After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?”2 Now, if anyone understood the end result of human effort, it was Paul, “a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees”3 and “extremely zealous for the traditions of [his] fathers.”4 “As for righteousness,” he once recalled, “I obeyed the law without fault.”5 Then what did human accomplishments and worldly accolades gain for the apostle? “I consider everything a loss,” he wrote, “because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”6 Paul had sought God’s favor through the merit of his own perfection, only to find it through the grace and perfection of Christ. There was no comparison, and there was no going back.

“Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.”7 Paul’s words speak as much to us as to the Galatians, so how do we remain in spiritual freedom, and where do we regain “that joyful and grateful spirit”? Personally, I have found that, whenever I find myself in despair, doubt, anxiousness and the like, the best thing to do is to savor what is true, that in His initiating love God called us to Himself—boldly and by name. “And having called [us], he gave [us] right standing with himself … he gave [us] his glory.”8 In Christ, we have God’s favor; we are free from the impossible task of earning it. May we then stay free, and may we freely live.

Father, though I know I cannot earn your love, I’m still tempted to try. Remind me of your boundless love for me, that I’d freely serve others in gratitude and joy. Amen.

1 Galatians 4:15 NLT
2 Galatians 3:3 NLT
3 Acts 23:6
4 Galatians 1:14
5 Philippians 3:6 NLT
6 Philippians 3:8, 9
7 Galatians 5:1 NLT
8 Romans 8:30 NLT

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A Necessary Realignment

Responding to a middle-school “Bible challenge,” my wife Peggy had established a daily pattern of reading one chapter per day from God’s word. The more she learned about God, the more she wanted to know about Him. By the time she reached her mid-teens, Peggy knew she believed in God and in Jesus Christ, His Son, so she began to wonder, “If this is all true, what must God want from me?” Then reading a short summary of the gospel one day, she came to realize, “What God wants from me, is me.” Peggy was right—discovering Jesus demands a response, as the apostle Paul likewise found. Fallen to the ground in a brilliant flash of heavenly light, the ruthless Pharisee somehow mustered the two most vital questions one can ask: “Who are you, Lord?”1 and “What shall I do, Lord?”2

To discover Christ is to reach the realization that God is true, His character flawless, and His ways unsearchably wise. It is also a rendezvous with the humbling truth that our natural way of thinking is “hostile” to God and unable to submit to Him.3 Our actions follow our hearts and minds, so there must be for us a new direction for a lifetime of next steps. Indeed, there is: we align our mind with where we are going. Instructed Paul, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”4 What might this look like? Paul gives us a glimpse: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”5

Then is “right-thinking” some kind of new law to pursue in our own power, one more rule to remember and manage? Hardly. God has given us a new way—a relational way—of life. It is the way of God’s Spirit in us. Paul assured the early church, “You are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.”6 He said, “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires,” and “… the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”7 We live in daily relationship with God, “be[ing] transformed by the renewing of [our] mind.”8 So today, we listen for His voice, trust in His promises, and go in His power to do what He’s prepared for us to do.

Do not conform 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. (Romans 12:2)

Father, you are wise, and your ways are so recognizably different than my own. Send your Spirit to lead me, that I would set my heart and mind on you and do what you call me to do today. Amen.

1 Acts 22:8
2 Acts 22:10
3 Romans 8:7
4 Colossians 3:1-2
5 Philippians 4:8
6 Romans 8:9 NLT
7 Romans 8:5, 6
8 Romans 12:2

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A Life of Meaning

Isn’t it amazing that our God of limitless power is also our God of infinite love? Think about it for a minute: if God were all-powerful but imperfect in love, we might live our days in fear of caprice; but for indomitable power, on the other hand, a God of flawless love would be constrained in His ability to express it. Praise God, He is perfect in both! This then is the Gerasene’s story: in great love, Jesus cared for a man abandoned to a tortured existence, and in unmatched authority He dispersed his quaking tormentors of darkness. The man had become free—free from demonic authority, and free to follow Jesus.

As his Deliverer got in the boat to leave, the grateful man “begged to go with him.”1 Who could blame him? Yet Jesus had in mind something even greater for him—the gift of impact, or “making a difference,” we might say. “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you,”2 He replied. So, equipped with the one thing he needed for success, the true story of Jesus’ work in his life, “the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.”3 How many were “rescued … from the dominion of darkness and brought … into the kingdom of the Son”4 because of one man’s testimony, we cannot say. But we do know when Jesus returned to the Decapolis area and was asked to heal a man there, He “took him aside, away from the crowd.”5 In a region where He was once been asked to leave, there now amassed a crowd to see Him—perhaps the fruit of a one-time demoniac, now turned faithful witness.

Not many of us have had to suffer the way this man did, but we have experienced the power and love of Christ in our life, which is to say we have a story to tell. We need not to defend our testimony, because it is true. We don’t have to go about changing people, because we can’t. We need only to witness—to tell what we’ve seen—knowing people will be encouraged and God will be glorified. Could there be a more meaningful life than to make a Kingdom impact for eternity? By God’s grace we can, for we are in Christ, and by now we know this to be true. Jesus. Always. Wins.

“Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21)

Father, you have graced us with your favor and given us a story. Grace us again with the opportunity and courage to share it. Bear fruit for your Kingdom through us, your people. Amen.

1 Mark 5:18
2 Mark 5:19
3 Mark 5:20
4 Colossians 1:13
5 Mark 7:33