Big idea: The gospel lets Christ's life shine through us.
Next to my desk is a lamp. The light bulb in it is, right now, just a dark ball of glass. No amount of scolding or encouraging it will ever entice it to glow. But if I twist the switch, connecting it to power, then an incredible change will take place. What it could not do on its own it can accomplish with the power of wind turbines or natural gas fires flowing through it. The light bulb will never work without a power external to itself flowing through it. This is not a flaw, it is designed to be connected to the outlet!
A lot of people live their lives in a kind of futile darkness. They have the right makeup to accomplish things of significance but wonder why they never do. Maybe they are religious people and try their best to do good works but find that good works never have the desired power. Maybe they are secular and try to mentally climb their own way to enlightenment (pun copyright me 2020) but can never get above the shadow of their own weakness. Even godly people, like Peter when he quit eating with Gentiles, can be fooled into disconnecting some area of our life from the real power source.
The message of the gospel is presented here plainly, through the Law we die to the Law. Christ came and fulfilled the demands of the Law and died in our place. When we trust Him, our old self dies and the Law's demands on us die too. We have given up on self-illumination and by turning from relying on our internal power to His, we are finally alive. "I am crucified with Christ nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me," Paul famously wrote. It is good theology and it is good practical advice. When we try to rely on ourselves we find only discouragement and frustration. When we turn to Jesus we have more than we could ever ask or think. Self-righteousness, trying to earn our place with God, is never going to be a success because we were designed to be connected to the Power.
One of the greatest hymns of all time ("And can it be?") says:
’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
The Immortal has died so that we can live. There is no greater source of strength than grace and no source of life except the Author. No human being will ever be justified by our works, but by faith, we can be justified by His. It devastates our pride and replaces it with love.
Discussion idea: Peter knew that gospel and would never have claimed to be saved by works. But his behavior did not match with his doctrine and he started pretending ceremonial Jewish observance was important once again. Why? Do you see any similar temptations in your own life?
Prayer focus: Lord, help me to remember that without You, I can do nothing. The idolatry of legalism which says that I am able to earn my relationship with You downplays both the depths of my sin and the heights of Your love. Drive it out of me! Let the life I live in the flesh be always and only Christ living in me.
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