How do we know if we really get the grace of God and have truly been set free by the gospel? That’s a different question than, “Am I being good enough?” It’s important that we grasp the distinction between these questions. 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. The question is not, “Am I being good enough?” but “Have I really gotten the grace of God, and have I truly been set free by the gospel?
One of the tests God gives us in the Bible to answer this question is this: How do I treat other people? How am I doing with forgiving others and showing them grace and mercy?
This is our focus, this Sunday and next week in our Daily Worship Devotions for our second week in Galatians 5:25-6:5. This is such a beautiful, powerful, and challenging text! It’s beautiful and powerful because it declares God’s loving kindness and mercy to us, not just in our brokenness, but also in our rebellion! When we get caught in a sin, not a momentary lapse of reason, but when we are stuck in a pattern of sin, a rut, God wants to restore us gently. Gently!
What’s challenging is, God wants us to show the same grace and mercy to other people. But here’s how it works: More mercy for me means more mercy for you! This is not about me working hard to be nice, but about God’s crazy, beautiful love flowing through me. It’s about the love of Jesus – who is in me, who I am united to – it’s about his love flowing out of me. It’s not about me counting to 10 and smiling through the pain; it’s about the power of the Holy Spirit – my own helper, my own comforter, working in and through me.
What’s key in all of this, according to God in Galatians, is dying to our own self-righteousness. Here’s how Pastor/Scholar Tim Keller puts it: Does the following statement make sense to you? (Why or why not?) Joyful repentance for the residual self-righteousness under both our sins and our good deeds is the secret of change.
“Paul says that the remaining sin in our hearts, the “flesh” (Gal. 5:16), is the drive to continue to live “under law” (Gal. 5:17). In other words, underneath every problem and difficulty is a residual self-righteousness, a left-over system of self-salvation. Why are we bitter? Why are we in despair? Why are we worried? Because something more important than Jesus is operating as our functional righteousness and worth. Why do we do many of the good things we do? The answer is the same. If we don’t repent of the self-righteousness under our sins, we won’t be able to wither the power and dynamic fueling them. If we don’t repent of the self-righteousness under our good deeds, we will set ourselves up for anxiety and anger when things don’t go well (because we will feel God “owes” us). The gospel leads us to repentance, but not merely to set our will against superficialities. Without the gospel, superficialities will be addressed instead of the heart. Some (e.g. the religious) will focus simply on changing behavior, while others (e.g. the irreligious) will focus simply on changing or accommodating emotions. But repentance for self-righteousness gets at what is under both behavior and feelings.”
Conceit is the inevitable result of our trusting in ourselves. We see that in our text for this week. Conceit is birthed in our minds and takes root in our hearts 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.
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.
As you prepare your heart and mind for worship this Sunday, please take some time to meditate on Galatians 5:25-6:3 and CELEBRATE God’s grace to you. Enjoy it! Let it sink in!
I look forward to worshiping with you this week!
Yours in Christ’s love,