Today’s devotional, prepared by Pastor Jason Sato, was originally posted on April 21, 2014. He and his wife Jessica (along with their three young children) recently moved to Japan to serve as missionaries.
Devotional Thought for Today
“What True Freedom Looks Like”
Galatians 5:1-6 (ESV)
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”
The Apostle Paul declares that a life in Christ is a life of freedom. As you begin your week, do you feel free? Of course, the answer to this question depends on how we define freedom. Is freedom having no responsibilities? Or the ability to do whatever we want whenever we want? In our passage, Paul defines freedom in other terms.
While hard work and self control can be difficult, these loads are light in comparison to the slavery of needing to prove that we are worthy of approval. More often than not, each day brings a constant inner pressure to prove to ourselves, others, and God that we are good students, employees, parents, Christians, [fill in the blank]. So we strive to perform, motivated by guilt of past failure and fear of future rejection. The sad truth is that our attempts to justify/prove ourselves actually sever us from Christ (v. 4). How can this be?
According to Paul, there are only two ways to relate to God: either by works or by faith. We can either depend on our own works or we can have faith in the work of Christ for us. By relying on our own performance, we are, in fact, pushing God away. We are clinging to the idea that we are still the center of the universe, the hero of the story.
When we soar with every success and crumble with every failure, we are putting all of our attention on ourselves. Even wallowing in guilt or making resolutions to do better, draw our thoughts away from the beauty and sufficiency of Christ. When all we can think about is our own righteousness or lack thereof, there is no room for worship of the only one who IS righteous.
Christ comes to set us free, not only from behaviors and bad situations, but with our obsession with ourselves. Ask the Lord to give you eyes to see who Jesus is and what He has done for you. Invite Him to free you to worship.
Prayer: Father, I desire to be free! I am so weary of trying to show everyone that I am good, that I am righteous, that I am worthy of love and praise. Free me from my trust in my own work and enable me to trust and boast in the work of Christ for me. Free me from my obsession with myself that I may be obsessed with You.
Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 24
Lunch Break Study
Read Philippians 3:4b-11 (ESV): “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
Questions to Consider
- What reasons did the Apostle Paul have for “confidence in the flesh”? What are you tempted to boast in?
- Why could Paul endure the loss of all things? Consider the things you boast in. Would you be able to endure their loss?
- In v. 9, Paul declares that he desires a righteousness through faith in Christ, not from the law. According to v. 10-11, what are the benefits of a righteousness from God?
- Paul could boast in his cultural heritage, his knowledge of the law, his passion for his faith, and his scrupulous living. There are an endless number of things we might boast in, but a small sample could include our education, income, physical appearance, spiritual gifting, or the admiration from others.
- Paul could lose all things “because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (v. 8). Answers will vary for the second part.
- Through a righteousness from God, we may know Christ and the power of His resurrection, be able to endure and share in His sufferings, die to self, become like Him, and attain the resurrection from the dead.
Reflect on your day. In what ways were you tempted to rely on your performance to determine your worth and standing before God and others? How can today’s successes and failures draw your attention to Jesus?