REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, prepared by Pastor Jason Sato who is currently serving in Japan as a missionary, was first posted on April 30, 2014. Jason is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.).
Devotional Thought for This Morning
“Fools for Christ”
Galatians 6:11-18 (ESV)
“See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.  It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.  For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.  But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.  And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.  From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.”
Have you ever encountered a person who seriously and obviously disliked you?
Of course not! You are a perfectly likeable person! Or at least, that’s what we hope. We might even imagine that being a virtuous, caring Christian ought to result in everyone liking us, or at the very least respecting us. Yet the Apostle Paul makes it clear that following Christ will lead to persecution.
In Paul’s day, Jewish Christians were being forced out of synagogues, imprisoned, and even killed. A major point of conflict is that Jewish Christians are seen as unclean for fellowshipping with uncircumcised Gentiles. To avoid this charge and its accompanying persecution, some are attempting to force the Gentiles in the Galatian Church to be circumcised (v. 12). In contrast, Paul proudly bears “on [his] body the marks of Jesus.” Why this different view of humiliation and suffering?
The proponents of circumcision are attempting to boast in the flesh (v. 13). While they believe Jesus is the Messiah, they still want to hold onto their old life. They want to maintain their former dignity and security in their communities. While they wanted to be Christians, they also wanted to continue to upstanding, law-abiding Jews. In contrast, Paul boasts only “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 14). While Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews once, he was willing to let go of his standing in the world to be fully identified with Christ.
None of us want to look foolish or be disliked. None of us want to be labeled as fanatics or bigots. So how can we overcome the temptation to hide our faith and deny Christ with our silence?
Paul’s opponents are still focused on external matters of circumcision and uncircumcision. But he recognizes that we ultimately need to be new people (v. 15). We won’t suffer willingly for Christ simply because of discipline, knowledge, or guilt. In our heart of hearts, we love ourselves – our safety and our reputations – too much. We need to invite the Spirit of God to transform us into people that love God’s glory and hate anything that detracts from it. So this new year, strive to die to yourself (your ambition and goal) so that you may have a life that is rooted in God alone.
Prayer: Father, so often I am more afraid of what others might think than of denying You. Please forgive me for my sin and send Your Holy Spirit that I may have a heart that wants You more than safety or respect. May following in Your footsteps be my joy. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 6
Lunch Break Study
Read Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV): “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.  And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Questions to Consider
- According to v. 17, what were the disciples experiencing following Jesus’ resurrection?
- According to v. 18, what is the foundation of the Great Commission?
- According to v. 20b, what is our comfort and reward as we obey his command?
- The disciples were experiencing great wonder and hope. They knew Jesus was the Son of God, worthy to be worshiped. But they also were experiencing fear and doubt. They remembered the great opposition and suffering Jesus Himself endured.
- The authority of Jesus is the foundation of the Great Commission. Jesus has authority to send the disciples as He is their Lord. Jesus has overcome sin and death and therefore has authority to save the nations and judge the world.
- Our comfort and reward is that Jesus will be with us. As we witness to others and testify to the goodness of God, we do not go alone but in the power and presence of God.
Reflect on your day. What opportunities did you have to bear witness to Christ? Were you tempted to give in to fear? Continue to pray for a new heart that loses all for the sake of knowing Christ.