Love Thy Neighbor

Galatians 5:14.  “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Doing an image search for this one was a real education.  Everyone with an agenda has taken this simple command of God and used it to support his own philosphy of life. It’s really not that complicated, folks.

We are to love God supremely. After that, we are to love others in the same way we love ourselves.  Keep in mind that Paul quoted this verse in the context of Law vs.Grace.  He is teaching here the lovely simplicity of grace, as compared to the complication of living one’s life by the letter of the law. Simple.  Love God. Love others. Boom!  That’s it!

And here’s something I’ve pulled out of this concept in the last few years.  In my work, there is a great emphasis on self-esteem.  “Love yourself,” goes the psychobabble wisdom, “And then you’ll be able to love others.”

The thing is, God makes it clear here that we already do love ourselves. It is implicit in the statement.  Think about it.  If I am to love others the same way I love myself, then I must indeed love myself!

Here’s what I tell people, gently and carefully, The real problem is not lack of self-esteem.  It is our frustration that others don’t think as highly of us as we want them to, or at least our perception is that others don’t know or appreciate how terrific we really are!

Again, think about it.  If a person is ruminating on how much he hates himself, who is the center of his thinking?

There you go.  Satan is crafty, and our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked.

We need to get our eyes, our thoughts, our focus, off of ourselves just for a few minutes, and take a look at the world around us.  We already love ourselves. Let’s not worry about that one any more, and think instead about how we can, in Christ, begin to love others the same way we love ourselves.

Friday Counseling Issues: Arrogant People, part 4

More and more, I hear myself telling my clients, “You have to learn to let it go. Don’t rent space in your head to junk.  You can’t change the other person, but you can change the way you react to him. Know who you are, understand your own value and worth, and learn to let Miss Arrogant’s rude and self-centered attitude and comments slide off of you. She will only bug you if you allow yourself to be annoyed.

Say you’re at a party, and an arrogant person is introduced to you. He’s going to go through the usual niceties, and you’re probably going to ask him a question about himself. After that, you won’t have to say much. Instead of allowing his arrogance to annoy you, just listen patiently.  It’s surprising how often these people really do have interesting things to say. When you reach the point of “had it!”  it’s easy to simply tell him how much you’ve enjoyed meeting him, but that you just saw someone you really need to chat with, and graciously move on. Don’t worry about hurting his feelings.  He’ll soon be boasting to someone else.

But what if you work with Miss Big Shot?  What if you have to spend time listening to her bloviate about her own merits?

Get really busy. “I’m sorry, I’m going to have to interrupt.  I need to see several other members of the team today.  You take care!”  And off you go, looking extremely pressed for time. If all else fails, get on your phone with someone and make it clear that you can’t be interrupted. You really don’t have to be held captive by someone who understands no one else’s worth but her own.

Do you ever have to simply be rude? Probably.  But when that happens, I try to be as politely rude as possible.  Smile. Say, “Well, much as I hate to end this conversation, I have a long to-do list today.  ‘Bye now!”  And then walk away. One thing you don’t have to worry about is offending that person, or hurting his feelings.  He gets over it pretty fast.

Does it ever work to tell a person that he has no friends because he is arrogant, boring, annoying, and full of himself?

Probably not.  He’ll just figure you’re too much of a cretin to understand how wonderful he is.

The bottom line here is to never allow these people to ruin your day. Smile.  Be polite. Excuse yourself when you’ve had enough.  And don’t waste time and energy thinking or talking about how aggravating they are. When you do that, you’re allowing them to control your thoughts and emotions, and giving them way more time than they deserve.

An Occasion to the Flesh

Galatians 5:13.  “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty:  only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

If you are a believer, you are called to liberty and grace. Be careful, however, that  you don’t mistake license and liberty. Sometimes, believers are accused of using their salvation as a license to live however they please.  Sometimes, they are guilty as accused.

The thing is, if we are truly born again, our desire is going to be to live for God.   We are to use our liberty and grace to take the opportunity to serve one another humbly and lovingly.  We are free to love, since we have been so greatly loved.

Salvation is not just fire insurance. Sure, it frees us from eternal damnation in hell, and that’s a wonderful thing.  But  when a person is truly a child of God, there is a heart change. The desire to live for self begins to be less attractive.

I saw a meme recently that I believe was a quote from Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Here it is:

I believe the holier a man becomes, the more he mourns over the unholiness which remains in him.

There is the liberty!  The liberty from the chains of unholiness, not the liberty to live an unholy life.

The Offence of the Cross

Galatians 5:11-12. “And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution?  then is the offence of the cross ceased. I would they were even cut off which trouble you.”

“If I were to preach the circumcision, do you think I would be persecuted, as I am now? If I preached legalism, no one would be offended. But I can’t do that.  It wouldn’t be true to the calling which God has given me.”

And what does he mean by the offence (scandal) of the cross?

It was a disgrace to end one’s life by dying on a cross. It was a Roman punishment, designed to be as horribly painful, humiliating, and degrading as possible. The Roman philosopher Cicero said,  “The cross, it is so shameful it never ought to be mentioned in polite society.”

Yet the Son of God died on a cross. How shameful!  Surely this Jesus, a rabble rousing nobody from Nazareth, couldn’t possibly be the Messiah Who would deliver Israel.  His contemptible death on a cross proved He was nothing more than another crazed zealot who would become a distant memory very quickly.

Paul is saying to the Galatians that, if they embrace legalism, they are setting that cross aside, making it nothing. And that idea upsets him so much that his next words are “I wish they would cut themselves off that trouble you, because they pervert the gospel of Christ!”

Paul’s Confidence

Galatians 5:10. “I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you chall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.”

Because Paul knew the Galatian believers from the beginning, he has confidence that they will see the error of their ways and return to the truth.

And then, a dire warning for the deceivers who have tried to turn them away from the gospel of grace:  They will  bear their judgment, whoever they are.

They are false teachers. There is much said about false teachers in the scripture, and their end is not good. Look at  2 Peter 2:3-5.  I would not want to be in the place of false teachers on their judgment day!

A Little Leaven

Galatians 5:8-9. “This persuasion cometh not of Him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”

I’ve baked bread for years, and I had to laugh at this picture.  This is what happens when you forget about your bread dough on a hot summer day. It grows and over-runs the container, and it has to be scooped up, punched down, and allowed to rise again  before it can be baked.  It’s useless in this condition.

Leaven, or yeast, is always a picture or type of sin in the Bible. It takes only a little bit, maybe a tablespoon, to leaven six to eight cups of flour. Sin can seem like a small thing, but it gets mixed into the whole of one’s life and affects every part.

Paul had asked the Galatian Christians, in v. 7, who had influenced them with wrong teaching. It surely wasn’t God! The teaching was incorrect, and had affected them so that they were out of control, just like the dough in the picture above. Just as the dough in that picture is useless until it is reworked, so the Galatian believers were useless until they recognized the false teaching that was causing them to fall away from the truth.

Friday Counseling Issues: Arrogant People

Sorry I missed this thread last week.  Sometimes life just gets too busy 🙂  I’m back on track today, so here we go. Today we’re going to take a look at how to spot arrogance and how to make sure you’re not misjudging someone.

An interesting paradox is that sometimes people who are quite shy are mistakenly seen as being arrogant or snobbish. I’m not quite sure why this happens, but I know that it does because it has happened to me.

As a teen, and even for a few years after I married, I was really pretty shy.  It was hard for me to strike up conversations with people I didn’t know, and I hated things like walking into a roomful of people who all seemed to know each other and were all chatting away happily.  Often I would find a quiet spot out of the main flow of traffic and just hope no one could see me. Some people saw my behavior as being aloof, arrogant,  It was the complete opposite. So be careful about making quick judgments. I’m happy to say that I finally got past the shy thing, and no one believes me any more when I talk about how shy I used to be 🙂

Here are some guidelines to help you recognize true arrogance:

• If you feel that your interests and needs are not being respected at all, this can be a sign of dealing with an arrogant person, especially where he or she insists that his or her way is the only way.

  • Look for the person constantly saying that they are better than you and other people. It may be subtle or overt but you’ll certainly know of it.
  • Consider how dismissive the person is towards you and your ideas or thoughts. Dismissive attitudes signal a belief in being better than others.
  • Does this person put down the things you care about, especially in public?
  • Does this person sound and/or act plain bossy? Listen for a tone of voice that indicates bossiness and a dismissive attitude.
  • Does this person even notice when you are bored with the conversation? Arrogant people never notice this!
  • Consider whether you’re included or excluded in decision-making with this person. Arrogant people rarely include others in decision-making because they’re certain that they’re right and already have the answers. Of even less concern is whether or not the decision impacts you.
    • Does this person try to hang around with, work with, or conspire with people of high status? This is because the arrogant person believes he or she is only worthy of those with high status.
  • Sometimes, arrogant people are really very insecure. A person who seems to need to control, who talks of nothing but himself, who puts others down and mocks their opinions, could really be struggling with a strong sense of inferiority. It doesn’t make their behavior any more acceptable, but sometimes looking at an arrogant person from a different perspective makes their behavior more understandable.

You Did So Well!

Galatians 5:7. “Ye did run well:  who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?”

When Paul remembered how well the new Galatian believers had started, the joy they had in this new Way, the excitement in learning the scriptures and sharing their faith,  he tells them, “You started out so well!  You ran your race like true athletes. You had your eyes on the goal, and your hearts were in the race.

“What on earth happened?  Who managed to cut across your  lane and take your eyes off the main goal? Who has disrupted your joy by convincing you that although you were justified by grace through faith, you  must be sanctified by keeping the Law?

“Don’t you see that if the Law could not justify, then neither can it sanctify?

“You are not obeying the truth!”

Our Only Hope

Galatians 5: 5-6. “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”

How many ways has he said it?  No works of man, including circumcision, will unlock the door to salvation and eternal life. Our only hope, and it is a sure hope, is in the shed blood at Calvary and the resurrection of Jesus, Who had victory over sin and death.

It won’t matter if a man is circumcised or uncircumcised when he stands before God. What will matter is his faith, which has expressed itself through love.

Simple. Yet that simple concept has confounded the “wisdom” of the world.

Fallen Away from Grace

Romans 5:4. “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law: ye are fallen from grace.”

Here is a verse that those who do not believe in eternal security like to use as proof that one can lose his salvation. So let’s take a close look, and see what this verse really says.

There can be no argument that the person who is replacing the efficacy of grace in his life with adherence to the Law has indeed fallen away from grace. What we have to do is correctly translate Paul’s statement, and keep it in context with the rest of the book.

Paramount in this letter is Paul’s strong urging of the Galatian believers not to be deceived by the teaching of the Judaizers. This is a letter written to Christians, not to unbelievers.  Here is an excellent response I pulled from another source that explains the issue better than I ever could:

The whole issue here is what falling from grace means. Does it mean that the believers in question have fallen from their positional standing in grace? If it does, then Paul contradicts himself because in other passages he clearly states that is impossible (Romans 8:38-39; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; Colossians 2:13-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:10; 2 Timothy 2:13). Since scripture is God’s Word, it cannot contradict itself. Thus, whatever Paul meant by falling from grace he did not mean falling from one’s position as a child of God.

Is there not another obvious alternative, one which fits the context and Pauline and biblical theology perfectly? Falling from grace means that a believer who reverts to pharisaical thinking and practices has fallen from a present experience of grace. While our position in the grace of God is secure, our experience of His grace is not.

If a believer today is unwittingly duped into joining a works-salvation cult, he will cease to experience God’s grace until he leaves the cult. In fact, if a believer joins any group, cult or otherwise, which teaches that we must produce good works in order to maintain our salvation, he will cease to experience grace. Even the linking of assurance to the quality of our lives can lead a believer to fall from a daily experience of grace.

Falling from grace is a real problem today. May we proclaim the gospel and assurance clearly so that we can help people begin anew or continue to experience God’s grace in their daily lives.

Paul wanted the Galatians to joyfully experience the whole of the grace of God. This whole letter is his effort to persuade them that they are giving up the fullness of joy.  He is not talking about the loss of salvation; he is talking about walking in grace, walking in joy, walking, as we shall soon see, in the fulness of the Holy Spirit.