““But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 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 for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.””
Galatians 2:17-21 NKJV
I remember my first bicycle. It was made by Huffy, and it was a stingray. When I began to ride, I had training wheels which kept me from falling off the bike. I could ride and ride, and there was no fear of falling over. In reality I was not actually riding the bike, but I had the sensation. All training wheels did was remind me that I had not yet developed my balance.
Then came the great day when the training wheels came off and I could ride! I was wobbly at first, but quickly became proficient as I began to rely on balance rather than the presence of the wheels.
I found myself reading in Galatians chapter two this morning, and read of the sufficiency of Christ. The children of Israel had relied upon the Law of God as a means to define their relationship with God. The law was given as a standard to show the sinfulness of man. It did not provide salvation, but showed the need for it.
In Antioch, there were those who relied on the law. The idea of letting go of the spiritual training wheels, and actually relying on Jesus was scary. They had not come to the knowledge that Jesus is the only way it salvation.
Paul talked of his confrontation with Peter, who had yielded to those who insisted on gentiles in the church, following the law. Relying on the Law, is akin to riding a bicycle with training wheels. We are saved by our faith in Jesus, and not by our works. Likewise, life in Christ should be conducted by walking in the Spirit, and not by following rules.
“Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.”
Galatians 2:11-13 NKJV
Peter and the others had begun to add things to the Gospel, and did not present it in a straightforward fashion. In doing so, there was danger for those who had yet to believe, as they were not getting a true picture of the faith.
All too often, believers seek to establish standards and practices that add performance to the faith walk. There is also a tendency to look for gimmicks, for programs that seek to create some kind of short cut to godliness. Many books have been written where people are exhorted to pray a certain way, or read a certain bible, or interpret in a certain way to have that intimacy with God. Just more training wheels, and much deception.
We must endeavor to remember that we are saved by faith in Christ, and thusly built up in that same faith. Anything else, and we are relying on lesser things that lead to the sin of unbelief as we begin to believe that faith in Christ is not enough.
“We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”
Galatians 2:15-16 NKJV
The Christian faith is meant to be simple, as those who are followers of Christ minister by the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit and the word.
Brothers and sisters, let us acknowledge the power of God to grow us to maturity. Let us remember the simplicity of the faith, the one to One relationship we have to Jesus, the author and finisher of the faith. You have the privilege of going into the Holy of Holies in prayer, as the veil was rent in two, as Jesus was rent on the cross.
Rather than praying with some mighty gimmick, I pray as if I am talking to God. Be assured that you are heard, and even the most anguished whispers can yield huge outcomes.
The more intimate you are with the Lord, the more He builds you up, and eventually you rely on Him. Before I spent three weeks on my back in a hospital bed at the Mayo Clinic, I prayed through formulas in the hopes that the Lord would hear me. As I lay broken, and humiliated, many of prayers were whispers. But He heard me and He answered.
“This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles.”
Psalms 34:6 NKJV
Too often we make the faith a complicated mess. It is as simple as Adam meeting with God in the cool of the day. It is much easier to tell those lost without Jesus, of a simple Gospel message: Jesus died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the grave.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV