Christianity is not about “trying hard to be good and nice.” That’s one of the reasons the good news of the gospel is apocalyptic. The gospel changes everything – including our defaults to work hard on being good and our efforts to be nice.
One of the key apocalyptic emphases of the book of Galatians is: Relying on and looking to your own ability, effort, and attempts to be good and nice, is actually trusting in yourself, denying God, and worshiping false gods! That is an apocalyptic pronouncement: Working hard on being good can be idolatrous!
For the next two weeks in Galatians 5:26-6:5, we’re going to slow down to dig into how this all works and how the gospel frees us from “self” in order to free us to be the “better me” that we want to be and know we “should be.”
According to God’s Word in Galatians 5:26-6:5, one of the central dynamics in being “free from me to be me” involves our struggle with “conceit.” Now there’s a word we seldom use! Here’s how one Greek Lexicon explains the meaning of the Greek word that’s translated as “conceit”: vain-glorious, eager for empty glory, glorying without reason. So, conceit isn’t just behind displays of pride and boastfulness, it’s also behind the low self-image and defeat that we feel when we don’t measure up. Conceit happens when our emotional state and self-worth is tied to something false. Conceit is our hunger and need to be validated, approved, and thought well of. Conceit can show up as pride and also masquerade as humility.
Here’s how a wise pastor/scholar explains how conceit operates:
Conceit is then a deep insecurity, a perceived absence of honor and glory, with a concomitant need to prove our worth to ourselves and others. This in turn fixates our mind on comparing ourselves with others. When we seem better than someone else in some trait, our “honor hunger” puffs us up and overly elates us. When we seem to be inferior to someone else, we are devastated for the same reason. In addition, “honor hunger” can make us very competitive. This describes the natural state of our hearts without the gospel.
But the message of the gospel is NOT try hard to not be conceited. Do better at being nicer! The message of the gospel is very different – and much, much, much more beautiful and powerful. How does it work? I very much look forward to us delving into that for the next two Sundays and in our Daily Worship Devotions. Between now and then, take some time to meditate on Galatians 5:26-6:5 (and Galatians 5) and reflect on “how the gospel sets me free from me to be me.”
I look forward to worshiping with you this week!
Yours in Christ’s love,