Today’s devotional, prepared by Pastor Jason Sato, was originally posted on April 22, 2014. He and his wife Jessica (along with their three young children) moved to Japan in 2019 to serve as missionaries.
Devotional Thought for This Morning
“The Crux of the Message of the Cross”
Galatians 5:7-12 (ESV)
“You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!”
At first glance, it may be difficult to understand why someone would reject a free gift of grace for a demanding law of works. Would you rather win the lottery or work sixty hours a week for forty years? Most of us would probably choose the lottery.
Yet, somehow, the Galatians, who “were running well” (v.7), are now greatly tempted to abandon Paul’s teaching and embrace circumcision. This error is attractive enough that it could “leaven the whole lump,” or corrupt the entire Galatian Church. It does not come from God (v. 8) and deserves punishment (v. 10), yet the Apostle Paul is persecuted for opposing it. In fact, this issue behind circumcision is at the very center of what makes the cross offensive (v. 11). So why is the cross so offensive?
The message of the cross is that the Son of God had to die in order to save helpless sinners from themselves. The cross is offensive because it destroys our pride and self-reliance. We’re forced to acknowledge both our wickedness and our complete inability to do anything about it; and to admit that we are utterly at the mercy of God.
So when the message of circumcision comes to the Galatian Church, this way of earning acceptance before God appeals to their pride. Though painful, circumcision provides the Galatians with a means by which they can boast before God and one another. If one became so bold, he might even demand his rights before God, saying, “I’m circumcised, therefore you HAVE to bless me!”
If salvation is by grace alone, then we cannot boast, and we certainly cannot demand anything from God. We can only be thankful and worship him. Take a moment to pray that your obedience to God today would be motivated by a desire to honor and know Him, rather than to get something from Him.
Prayer: Father, I thank You that Your love is freely given to me, though I deserve the opposite. I am blessed that You don’t treat me fairly or as I deserve, but You give me abundant grace! Lord, may I rejoice always in grace rather than my own goodness that You might be exalted in my life and not me.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 28
Lunch Break Study
Read Luke 18:9-14 (ESV): “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Questions to Consider
- Looking at the prayer of the Pharisee in the parable, how do we exalt ourselves?
- Looking at the prayer of the tax collector in the parable, how do we humble ourselves?
- Who is the Pharisee aware of in his prayer? Who is the tax collector aware of in his prayer?
- We exalt ourselves by comparing ourselves favorably over others and boasting in our good works.
- We humble ourselves by acknowledging our failures and our need for mercy.
- The Pharisee is very aware of himself as well as those he others who he is better than. The tax collector is aware of the One True and Holy God.
Reflect on your day. Were you tempted to believe that God was being unfair to you? What can you thank God for?