Called To Freedom #1

Free To Believe The Gospel

Galatians 1:1-10

This Sunday is our first week in the the book of Galatians, and we will be studying Galatians 1:1-10. Galatians is written to a group of young churches filled with people who had recently become Christians. Shortly after believing the gospel, a group of agitators came to the Galatians preaching “a different gospel.”

Their gospel insisted that in addition to believing the gospel you had to be circumcised. The Galatians were falling for it. And this prompted Paul to write them a letter in which he makes clear that salvation is a gift of God’s grace alone, by faith alone, and he harshly rebukes those who preach a distorted gospel—an enslaving gospel of works. This week we will unpack the distorted gospels of our own day and grow in our understanding of the one true gospel.

Questions for Community

  • How did you hear the gospel for the first time?
     
  • What are some of the “different gospels” that you turn to?
     
  • Why are we so susceptible to false gospels?
     
  • What are some of the impacts in your own life of following a “different gospel"?

Called To Freedom #2

Freedom To Trust the Gospel and Be Changed

Galatians 1:11-2:10

Who would you be if you had never met Jesus—if you had never believed the gospel? In what ways has Jesus changed you? This week we will be studying in Galatians 1:11-2:10. As we learned last week, the Galatians were being presented with “a different gospel” by a group of false teachers, and they were being taken in by this gospel.

This week, we see how Paul defends the true gospel by explaining that the gospel he preaches was given to him directly from Jesus, that it was approved by the other apostles, and that it changes lives, including his own. His heart is that the Galatians would trust the true gospel and that the true gospel would be the scale by which they weigh all other messages.

Questions for Community

  • What is the gospel?
     
  • How can Paul's testimony increase our confidence in the truth of the gospel?
     
  • How has the gospel made an impact in your life?
     
  • How do you need the gospel to change you today?
     
  • In what ways do you to doubt that the gospel can change you?

Called To Freedom #3

Freedom To Ethnic Reconciliation

Galatians 2:11-14

Most people brush their teeth two or three times a day. Brushing your teeth is something ingrained from the time we are small. What if your dentist said you didn’t have to brush anymore? Wouldn’t it take a very clear and convincing explanation as to why? And might you even keep doing it for a while simply because that’s always been the rule? 

A primary theme in the book of Galatians is justification--by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Why does this theme ring out so strong and clear? Because Paul was up against thousands of years of culture that had been identified and shaped by Jewish law, and he needed to make it clear. Though the law was something instituted by God and though it was good, we couldn’t keep it; so, God fulfilled it for us in Christ and freed us from it.

But that new freedom didn’t erase all those years of culture, so the problems in the churches in Galatia were not just doctrinal (trying to add circumcision to the gospel) but cultural as well. This week we will look at a situation where Paul confronts Peter for not being “in step with the truth of the gospel” and learn about how the gospel brings reconciliation.

Questions for Community

  • How has the fear of others caused you to ignore your convictions?
     
  • How have you allowed cultural traditions to become more important than the gospel?
     
  • Are there people within the body that you are reluctant to engage with? Why?
     
  • How have you participated in or experienced racism in your life? How has the gospel changed you?

Called To Freedom #4

FREEDOM TO be justified

GALATIANS 2:15-21

There were two boys in school together who were the best of friends. One day, one of the boys realized that the other boy was stealing things from the school store. Not wanting his friend to get in trouble, he started quietly returning the stolen items from the place his friend was stashing them to the school store.

A teacher saw him and mistook the act of returning the items for stealing them. The teacher reported the boy to the principal. Instead of ratting out his friend, he took the punishment for stealing and was expelled from school. His friend got to freely continue with school wearing the reputation of an upstanding student. Have you ever had someone take the fall for you? How would you respond if you found out what your friend had done for you? 

This week we will look at Galatians 2:15-21 where we will see the central point of Paul’s letter to the Galatians—justification. Paul will declare to them that “a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…” This is good news for us, in fact, it is the good news. Take a look around—humans are not good at keeping laws.

We cannot make ourselves right before a holy God. We need Jesus to justify us—he bore our sin in his body and put it to death. Not only that, he imputed (ascribed, attributed, or credited) his righteousness as God’s perfect son to us, declaring us right (justifying us) in God’s sight. Based on nothing that we have done (and despite the sin that we have done), we get to walk free before God wearing Jesus’ reputation.

QUESTIONS FOR COMMUNITY

  • How would you explain what it means to be “justified by faith in Christ”?
     
  • How have you sought justification outside of the gospel?
     
  • What does it mean to be “crucified with Christ”? How does it affect your daily life?
     
  • What are some ways we “nullify the grace of God”?
     
  • How does God's acceptance of you, help you to accept others?

Called To Freedom #5

Freedom To Live By Faith

Galatians 3:1-14

This Sunday we will celebrate Mother’s Day. Maybe you’ve been around a mom who is early in pregnancy or who has just found out there is a child for her family to adopt. Maybe you’ve had this experience yourself. At this early stage, it’s hard to believe this new addition is coming—there’s very little evidence that the child exists.

Maybe there’s some morning sickness for a pregnant mom or a picture of the child that will be adopted, but the physical reality of it is just not there. Yet, that mom lives as if the child is a reality; she starts preparing for that child’s arrival and loving it before she even gets to see it. 

Faith (and living by faith) is a little like this. Hebrew says “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not see.” And this week when we study Galatians 3:1-14, Paul will remind us that, “The righteous shall live by faith.” We learned last week that our standing before God is righteous—we are justified—and we know that this is through faith, not works. Therefore, this week we will unpack Paul’s words to the Galatians about faith. 

Questions for Community

  • How are reluctant to fully trust in Jesus?
     
  • In what ways are you “trying harder” rather than asking Jesus to change you?
     
  • What does a life of faith, lived by the Spirit, look like?

Called To Freedom #6

FREEDOM FROM GOD’S LAW
AND TO GOD’S PROMISE

GALATIANS 3:15-26

“Why then the law?” It’s a great question. Paul has made it clear that adding works of the law to the gospel makes for a false gospel. He has explained it is Christ alone, not the law, that justifies us before God. And he has argued that the righteous will live by faith, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, not by the law. So, why then the law? This week will look look at Galatians 3:15-29 to understand the role of the law and how we are free from it.

The law has three purposes:

  • To reflect: The law reflects to us the holiness of God and the sinfulness of ourselves. Our inability to keep it shows us our need for a savior.
     
  • To restrain: God’s people (and people in general) need laws to help restrain evil. Laws can’t change the heart, but they can have a restraining influence.
     
  • To reveal: The law reveals to God’s people how he wants them to live in relationship to him and to others. It acts as a guide for those who believe.

The law was not given to replace the promise that God gave through Abraham. The promise--Jesus--would in fact come and fulfill the law, freeing us from it and putting it in its place.

Questions for Community

  • What are the key purposes of God’s law? 
    How does knowing God’s law help increase your gratitude toward Jesus?
     
  • Should we still seek to obey God’s law? Why or why not?
     
  • How do we know if we are obeying God’s law for the wrong reasons? 
    What would help correct us in those moments?
     
  • What are the implications of being “one in Christ Jesus”? How can we live this out?

Called To Freedom #7

Freedom of Adoption Into God's Family

Galatians 3:27-4:7

Tim Keller said, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear.” Does this ring true for you? Don’t we all have a deep longing to be loved and accepted simply for who we are?

In Paul’s day, wealthy families who had no children would sometimes adopt a young man of good character to carry on their estate. This was often a slave who had loyally worked his way up in the family’s household. The young man entered the family and received all the benefits of being the heir--a place in the family, a title, an inheritance, etc. 

Believers receive all the benefits of being God’s children when we are adopted into God’s family through Christ. But unlike the heir adopted to take on a family’s fortune, our adoption does not depend on our character--we are heirs because we are justified through faith in Christ. We can call God “Father” (“Abba”) just as Jesus, God’s own son, did. This is how God does adoption.

This week we will study Galatians 3:27-4:7 where we will take a closer look at what it means to be redeemed from the law and adopted into God’s family. Every human heart longs for acceptance and love that is not based on merit--to be loved for who we are, loved by a perfect father. To continue Keller’s quote, “...to be fully known and truly loved is...well...a lot like being loved by God.”

Questions for Community

  • How does it make you feel to know God calls you His child?

    1. How does this affect the way you view yourself?

    2. Do have trouble accepting the fact that God loves you?

  • In what ways do you sometimes act like a slave rather than an heir?

    1. Despite your actions, does God’s view of you change?  Why or why not?

  • When are you most reluctant to cry out to God?

  • How does your position as a child of God provide you freedom?


Called To Freedom #8

Freedom to be Formed into Christ

Galatians 4:8-20

“I want to go back.” It may seem surprising, but it’s a sentiment uttered by many foster kids after they are removed from their homes and placed in foster care. Even kids taken from terrible situations often feel this way. As messed up as their home was, it’s all they ever knew. And they may not understand that they are safer in a foster home. This must break the heart of those who are loving foster parents. Have you ever felt this way? Like you wanted to go back to something even if it wasn’t the best for you? Has your heart ever broken for someone who went back to something enslaving them?

By the time Jesus came, the Jewish law, which God had intended to protect his people and point them to the promised savior, had been distorted in many ways. Jewish leaders had added to the law, making it a burden, and they used following the law as a way to pump up their own self-righteousness. The circumcision party had gone back to the law by taking parts of it and adding it to the gospel. The Galatians had never been under the Jewish law; they were burdened in a different way--they were enslaved by the world. They had made gods of the things that they thought would fulfill them--nature, pleasure, materialism, power, and other pursuits. The gospel had freed all of them--Jew and Gentile--from both burdens. So, in Galatians 4:9, Paul pleads with them, “...how can you turn back again…?”

This week we will study Galatians 4:8-20 where Paul gives his most personal and desperate plea to the Galatians for them not to go back to slavery and for them to understand their freedom in Christ. Paul’s love and struggle for them gives us a beautiful picture of the gospel in relationships--suffering that others might be right with God.

Questions for Community

  • How have you imposed your own personal standards upon others? When has someone done the same to you and how did it affect you?
     

  • What difference does it make, in a relationship, when love or approval is conditional? How might you be treating others this way?
     

  • How does the unconditional love God has for you affect your life?
     

  • Why is freedom in Christ scary or uncomfortable?
     

  • What can you do this week to remind yourself that you are unconditionally loved by God?


Called To Freedom #10

Freedom To Stand Firm

Galatians 5:1-15

Their captors were coming, and there was no place to go. Returning to slavery, if not death, seemed inevitable. The people grumbled--they were quick to forget their newly won freedom, quick to forget God’s faithfulness to them. Maybe we should just return to slavery; maybe we never should have left, they wondered. Then Moses, whom God used to lead them, said, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.” (Ex 14:13) Moses wants the Israelites to stand firm--he does not want them to return to their life of slavery. And he knows God has a way forward for them.

This week in Galatians 5:1-15, Paul will echo the words “stand firm” as he continues to implore the Galatians not to return to the slavery that is inevitable for them in the false gospel that the Judaizers are teaching. In this passage, Paul explains what it looks like to stand firm and the consequences of going back to the law. He also expresses his confidence that the Galatians will not take the Judaizers view.

Questions for Community

  • How were the Galatians in danger of losing their gospel freedom?
     
  • How is the freedom that we have in Jesus similar or different to other types of freedom?
     
  • What does it look like when you do not stand firm in the freedom of God’s truth?
             a. What affect does that have on your life?
             b. What needs to change in order for you to stand firm?
     
  • How could standing firm in God’s love increase your love for others?
             a. How could you serve someone in the freedom of God’s love this week?

Called To Freedom #11

Freedom TO walk by the spirit

Galatians 5:16-26

If you were the captain of a merchant ship in the early 1700s, during the Golden Age of Piracy, a sighting of the Jolly Roger meant something very distinct to you. It was the telltale mark of a crew you did not want to meet up with. But pirates weren’t just known for their flag—they earned their reputations by their deeds. Some pirates were known simply for their own distinct style of dispatching their opponents.

This week as we look at Galatians 5:16-26, Paul explains the struggle between two opponents: the Spirit and the flesh. Having just encouraged the Galatians to stand firm, he then helps them understand the struggle to do so.

The Spirit and the flesh are marked by completely different things—the Spirit by its fruit and the flesh by its works. Paul urges the Galatians, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” As followers of Christ, fruit is produced in our lives as we walk in step with the Holy Spirit. This fruit is Christ-like character. The more we walk by the Spirit, the more like Jesus our lives become. The more we are marked by the fruit of the Spirit. And though our flesh will oppose this, Paul reminds us that “those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh…” So take heart in the struggle. Our opponent is already defeated. Jesus has already won.

Questions for Community

  • What is the conflict between the desires of the Spirit and the desires of the flesh?
     
  • Why do you think Paul identified these specific works of the flesh to the Galatians?
     
  • Which of them do you often struggle with or attempt to “rebrand”? 
     
  • How is the Holy Spirit currently challenging you to walk by his desires and not the desires of the flesh? 
     
  • What fruit of the Spirit is God producing in you currently and how have you used it to serve others?

Called To Freedom #12

Freedom To Help One Another

Galatians 6:1-10

Guinness created this commercial where a group of men in wheelchairs are playing basketball together. It’s an intensely competitive game, and the players are not taking it easy on each other. At the end of the game, they high-five each other for a game well-played, and one of them comments, “You guys are getting better at this.” A few seconds later, all of them but one get up out of their wheelchairs as they head out to get a beer together. 

Last week, we studied Paul’s charge to “live by the Spirit” and this week in Galatians 6:1-10, Paul will carry that charge into instruction about how we help each other as “the household of faith.” As Christians, we are members of God’s family who help each other live a life of faith. This involves gently restoring a brother or sister who stumbles or rebels, helping each other out when faced with a burden too difficult to carry alone, humbly examining ourselves in light of Christ and not comparing ourselves to others, encouraging those who teach us, and doing good to one another. Like playing basketball in a wheelchair when you don’t have to--and leaving it all out on the court.

The commercial closes with the announcer saying, “The choices we make reveal the true nature of our character.” Of course, Guinness wants you to apply that to your beer choice. But really, isn’t there truth in that for the Christian? Especially in light of how we live as family? If we walk in step with the Spirit, growing in Christ-like character we will “not grow weary of doing good” to everyone and especially to the household of faith.

Questions for Community

  • How would you respond if you caught a Christian brother or sister in sin? How would you want them to respond if they caught you?
     
  • What do you think it means to “restore in a spirit of gentleness”? What does that look like?
     
  • Can you think of a time when God’s family helped you with a burden? How have you helped someone else?
     
  • Why would Paul instruct us to be especially good to each other as believers (v. 10)?
     
  • What might cause us to become weary of doing good? How can we avoid that?