Mock: -To attack with ridicule, contempt, or derision. -To challenge; defy -To deceive, delude, or disappoint Synonyms: cheat, dupe, fool, mislead
God cannot be duped, cheated or defied. We will reap whatever it is we have sowed. There will be no hiding from it, covering it up, talking our way out, or refusing the consequences. We must guard our hearts, check our actions and words against God’s word. Have care that the things you sow. Choose to sow things that please the spirit. Do good at every opportunity.
We have a responsibility to other believers. We should help bear their burdens and gently turn them back when they have fallen into sinful behavior. In the previous chapter, verses 19-21, it says those living in the acts of their sinful nature will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. That alone should be motivation enough for us to desire to help gently redirect them. We have to be careful too though not to be lured into their sin along with them and also that we are not tempted into attitudes of pridefulness, superiority, jealousy, or even hatred toward them. Sitting back and wishing ill to befall them in consequence for their behavior and being unwilling to go through the uncomfortable actions necessary to restore them is effectively hating them in your heart. All of us have wandered away from what is right at times, all of us have needed to be corrected and redirected away from sin. So we shouldn’t judge, just gently and humbly help. Let the fruits of the Spirit guide your dealings with the person as you endeavor to bring them back home.
“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
Galatians 5:19-21 NLT
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
If we insist on adhering to one aspect, any aspect, of the law in order that we might gain favor with God then we are obligating ourselves to obey the whole law. We cannot have it both ways. Either we must commit ourselves fully to the law, becoming a slave to the rules once more in order to try to earn our righteousness (which is impossible!) or we must realize that the laws were given to help us see our deep need for a Savior and that it is only by grace that we are saved, through faith. Our faith is counted to us as righteousness, not our deeds. Likewise, His grace is what allows us back into His presence, not our deeds. Christ gave everything to be able to cover us with His righteousness. We should not cut ourselves off from our Savior by turning our back on the work He already did so that we can cling to our stubborn ‘DIY’ attitudes on a project that is completely beyond our ability to complete.
“I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law.”
Galatians 5:2-3 MSG
“…The only thing that really counts is faith that shows itself through love.”
Galatians 5:6 NIRV
Putting ourselves under the control of false gods; whether they be money, relationships, jobs, hobbies, legalism of religion, etc.., is effectively turning ourselves over as slaves to those gods that are not really gods. They are not kind masters, if they are where you look for your identity or where you go for comfort or what you depend on for security, then they will leave you feeling empty, worthless, and miserable. Yet we continue to pursue them. Often, even after we have been freed from their power over us and released to a new master of love, compassion, purpose and joy, we find ourselves slowly turning back toward those old gods, falling back beneath their boot. Why? When we know firsthand the difference between the two, why do we tend to return to the false promises, the empty gains, the life sucking tedium that comes from following their ‘weak and worthless’ principals? Why do we not run full out into the life promised by our Father who is trustworthy, a life that offers more joy and fulfillment than we can even dream up for ourselves. Why can we not never look back?
Legalism is something that every believer of every denomination struggles with to some extent. We’re supposed to do this, we’re not supposed to do that, and we often find ourselves condemning ourselves and others when we fail. These passages more or less point out that not failing is not an option when we place ourselves under the weight of the entire law. If we are not following each and every one of the six hundred & thirteen laws given in the Book of the Law then we are still cursed. “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And it is not anything you have done; it is the gift of God, not a result of works…” So us worrying about whether we, or others, are following this rule or that one is pointless. Our behavior, attitudes, and actions should flow naturally from our growing relationship with our Father and His Son. What we desire should morph over time into just wanting to please Him and that gives us freedom from the burden of rule following. So long as the freedom you find does not cause others to stumble in their own walk with God then you can walk in that freedom and be at peace rather than stressing over how you should act. *This is not a free pass to do whatever we want. It is important to know what God’s word says, know what He considers sinful and displeasing as well as what He considers good. Seek to know God and to please Him and you will stay on the right path!*
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
If someone is clearly in the wrong, not on matters of opinion that have no eternal consequence but where solid Biblical truths are concerned, where the truth of God is being either misunderstood or outright ignored and those actions are causing others to stumble in their own walks with Christ, then it is important that we confront that person. Their words and actions should not go unopposed regardless of who they are, what their reputation or history look like, or how much power they have. In fact, the more influential they are, the more people can be let astray by their words and actions and even those solid in their faith may not be immune to the tendency to follow or imitate such leaders. It is vitally important to call out the truth to them, face to face, one on one, not to try and shame them publicly but to try to guide them back to right living. Complaining or speaking ill of this person behind their back to other people does more to harm the situation then to correct it. Speak to them, be gentle but firm as you lay out your argument and the evidence that supports it. Once the truth has been clearly presented they will have to decide whether to repent and come alongside God or to continue in stubborn disobedience. If they continue to lead others away from the truth a more public stand may be necessary so that everyone who had heard and followed can have the same chance to see the truth and turn.
“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”
Matthew 18:15-17 NLT
We are all called by God to some kind of work to further His kingdom here on earth but we are not all called to the same kind of work. God has something specific set aside for each of us that we are uniquely qualified to do according to how He created our individual selves. That can mean that some people may be called to work that we feel, at first, is outside of the boundaries of what we feel God has asked. However, just because He did not ask it of you does not mean that He did not ask it of another. For example, when Jesus was among us He clearly stated that He was here only for the Jewish people and so, after He ascended, His disciples continued in that same work. But God called Paul to something completely different, ministering to non-Jews which way outside their comfort zone and what they themselves had been called by God to do. But these pillars of the church were also able to recognize God’s hand in what Paul was doing, they could see His grace and blessing on Paul’s ministry. So instead of being antagonistic, undermining his calling, putting him down or dismissing the people he was called to teach, they offered encouragement and advice. We should be willing to do the same for our own brothers and sisters in Christ- no matter their past or their calling so long as God’s grace is with them in their work and they continue in the foundational premises of God’s word. We must uphold one another, work alongside one another, so that we may reach as many as possible.
There will always be people, even within the relative safety of the church, who will try to lure us back into the bonds of legalism, of rule following for salvation. Christ has given us freedom with His mercy and grace. Our love for Him should drive our behavior, not a checklist of rules written by man to earn us favor with one another or with God. I don’t imagine, given His choice to give us free will that we may choose to love Him rather than be forced to serve Him, that He would give us any credit at all for following rules simply because we feel like we have to. But when our behavior begins to fall within the guidelines for living that God provided us in His word because we have chosen to love Him and to please Him, then I imagine he takes pride in us and in our actions. We can’t let rules make us unfeeling slaves, don’t give in to that lifestyle or to the people that preach it even for a minute. Don’t let them drag you back into bondage to legalism. Let the truth of the Gospel, your freedom in Christ, remain with you and guide your actions.
If we compromise the Gospel, bend its teachings to make it fit better with the sensibilities of the people around us then we are simply out trying to make people like us. Our motivation is essentially selfishness. It does not serve God because His truth is being corrupted. If people are not confronted with the sometimes hard truths then they never have to face them. They are not being changed, molded, into the people that God intends for them to become and so they are missing out on an essential part of what it means to follow God. When we compromise the truth of the Gospel to keep it from making anyone uncomfortable then we are just putting a flowery band-aid over a toxic wound and feeling good about ourselves for ‘helping’ them. All the while, they go back to their lives believing that all is well while their insides continue to rot to death. We cannot serve Christ or men by trying to be a people pleaser. Serving Him will require stepping on some toes, making some people uncomfortable, making them think, making them question. We must remember though, that while it is often necessary it must be done from a spirit of love and not condemnation. We may be asked to point out uncomfortable truths but it is the Spirit’s job to convict and change. Be gentle and loving but unwavering in the truth.
“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”
2 Corinthians 7:10 NLT
We are called to be faithful in our hospitality to our fellow believers, even if they are strangers to us. Because in truth they are members of our family and their cause is our cause. To help them, love them, support them; these things work toward the goal we already strive toward- spreading God’s truth. More hands equals more work being accomplished. Imagine if the body could put aside its petty differences, its territorialism, its steadfast loyalty to a building rather than Christ’s cause. What could God’s people accomplish then? What enemy would dare stand against a united church?
The gospel, the truth of Christ, did not spread like fire throughout the known world of the first century because the churches there remained isolated among those with whom they felt comfortable and safe. No, they shared among strangers what little they had, hungry for community and strength borrowed from those who walked a similar path. They did all they could to help support the ministry and calling of others. What can you do to support the calling of the believers God places in your path?