Evening Devotion for October 19, 2020
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Here is a good thought for the entire week, interpreted by the Joyful Noise Rockin’ Gospel Choir. The illustrations are from a children’s book by E. B. Lewis.
Prayer for God‘s Protection
Heavenly Father, I live in your shelter. You are my refuge and my fortress. You are my God, in whom I trust. Deliver me and all those who love You from the dangers of the world, both the physical dangers that can crush our bodies and the deadly pestilence that can lay waste to our souls. Cover us with your mighty wings and protect us with your steadfast shield, and we will not fear the terror of the night or the perils of the day.
The world in its darkness curses you, the only truth, the only love, the only salvation; it seeks to destroy us by force, by sarcasm, by seduction, by compromise. But if a thousand fall to the lies of the world, if ten thousand should fall away, it will not affect me. For I have made you my dwelling place, O God. You have sent your angels to guard the faithful. On their hands, they bear us up, that no stone shall strike our foot, and no viper strike our heel.
Deliver me, O Lord, for I hold fast to you even in my fear. No temptation or power of earth can separate me from your love. You answer me when I call to you; you protect me because I call on your name. You have satisfied me with long life and salvation. All praise to the God of Jacob, all praise to Jesus Christ.
May the Almighty and merciful Lord graciously hear me, pardon and deliver me from all my sins, confirm and strengthen me in all goodness, and bring me to everlasting life; through my Savior, Jesus Christ.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
The Temple Veil
What did the torn curtain mean? For the Jews it meant no more barrier between them and the Holy of Holies. No more priests to go between them and God. No more animal sacrifices to atone for their sins.
And for us? What did the torn curtain signify for us?
We are welcome to enter into God’s presence—any day, any time. God has removed the barrier that separates us from him. The barrier of sin? Down. He has removed the curtain.
~ Max Lucado
Galatians 3:2-4 (Daily Prayer Bible)
only want you to tell me one thing: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the Law, or by faith — from hearing and believing the Gospel?
Do you really intend to rely on your flesh, which could not begin your salvation, to perfect it? It would be insanity. Would you simply throw away the benefits of the tribulation you have suffered?
2 this only I desire to learn from you, by aOr from. works of law the spirit you received or by hearing of faith?
3 So ignorant are you having started in spirit bAmbiguous. This could mean the Holy Spirit, or the spiritual nature of the believer. Both are grammatically correct and theologically sound. now in flesh you complete cOr finish. The concept of completion in Greek often carries a connotation of success and/or perfection, as it does here. (The sarcasm should thus be evident.) ?
4 So much you suffered in vain? If indeed in vain.
Notes on the Scripture
After the terribly dry notes last week on minimizing personal distortion while reading the Bible, we can see something interesting about Paul’s rhetorical style in Galatians 3. To summarize, he starts with a “rhetorical” question — Did you receive the Spirit by faith or by the law? — knowing how the listeners must answer. (It is a technique known to every good speaker or salesman — start by getting your audience to say “yes”.) Then, he asks a second question: do they think they can perfect their salvation “in the flesh,” when they could not begin it in the flesh.
The term “in the flesh” immediately evokes Judaism’s most vivid symbol: circumcision. But on a broader level, flesh symbolizes an act of a human being living in the physical world; Jews seek to obtain righteousness before God by complying with the law, and compliance with the law consists of physical acts. So “in the flesh” signifies actual circumcision — there were people trying to get Gentile converts to be circumcised after they had already received the Spirit. But it also signifies a broader principle, trying to become justified by following the law, or even more broadly, “by relying on ourselves.”
A rhetorical question implies the answer. So we see that the genre of rhetoric, or argument, creates an exception to our rule about resorting to our own logic. Paul implies that the listener received the Gospel by faith, not by works of law. If we can only receive the Spirit by faith in Christ, do we then think that we can perfect our salvation by our own power? (And just in case anyone gets the wrong answer, Paul calls the notion “ignorant”.) We can, thus, correctly say that this passage “implies” several things.
People do get the answer wrong, at least in practice, today as then. We recognize at our baptism, or confirmation, or whenever we become fully convicted, that we receive the Holy Spirit by our faith in Christ. And thereafter, we certainly try to avoid sin. But in trying to avoid sin, we must not fall into the trap of thinking that how well we behave is the source of our salvation.
The path is narrow. On the one side, we have the error of thinking that our good deeds will get us into heaven; and on the other side is the error of “cheap grace,” the attitude that once we are saved we can slack off and simply rely on the atonement of our sins.
Meditating on this can bring us to a remarkable conclusion. Say we have a problem with pornography and lust, or with buying expensive things we don’t need. The answer is not simply to try to stop our activity and put it out of our mind. It is not even fully answered by praying to God, to send us a spirit to help, as he promises He will do (1 Cor. 10:13). We must resort to the gospel itself; ultimately our problems with sin have a spiritual nature and therefore require a spiritual healing.
When we sin, there is something in us, some need, that we feel is not being fulfilled. If we are watching dirty movies, or have a hundred pairs of expensive shoes but want to go shopping for more, there is something missing in our lives. We are looking to the world to save us from something: and the path to overcoming persistent sin is to know more fully the true source of our salvation and joy, the crucified Christ.
Getting back to our passage, Paul finishes his argument with a third question. The Christians in Galatia have suffered quite a bit of persecution; they have endured trials, often severe, for their love of Christ and faith in Him. Would they now make their suffering meaningless? Having convinced them of the logic and truth of his position in the first two questions, he now hammers home the importance of staying steadfast.