Monday, 26 September 2011
Galatians Overview: Freedom and Perfectionism
What was it like for you to trace the theme of freedom through the book of Galatians? What has Jesus set us free from? What has He set us free for?
For me it felt kind of like learning to play a new board game. At first you’re not very good at it. But then you start to catch on. That’s how it was during Christmas break when we played the game Blokus with our son and his wife. During the first round I just thought, “Oh, what pretty colors. I’ll put my shiny red piece here…that looks nice!” As the game progressed I got a little better…
Freedom beyond words. Paul only uses the word freedom a handful of times in the book of Galatians. He uses the opposite, slavery, more frequently. But if you look beyond his words to his life, you start to see freedom everywhere. Paul doesn’t just talk about it, he lives it. That’s why there is so much biographical detail in this book. He is illustrating his message with his life.
What’s true of him is true of us, too. Gospel freedom is seen in our conduct, not just in our words. I want to meditate on this thought during the coming months and ask the Lord to comb through my life with this great truth so I begin to see where my “conduct is not in step with the truth of the gospel.” Seeing it is the first step towards seeking God for change.
Freedom and New Year’s Resolutions. I’m not going to harangue us about setting or not setting New Year’s Resolutions. I’m just going to admit that I’m a sucker for them. And I think Galatians has something to say to me.
Mark and I were flying home from Chicago when he pulled the SWA Spirit magazine out of the pocket and showed me the cover: “Call your mother!” Plus 98 More Ways to Make This Your Best Year Yet. I immediately put down my book and pulled out my copy. I quickly learned that if you’re going to add one food to your life, it should be locally grown honey. If you want to balance your work and life, you need to turn off your phone. And if you want to keep your family healthy and happy, you should sit down to dinner together more often.
I immediately began measuring my life against these, tossing out the ones that didn’t apply, rereading the ones that were dead on. I am forever trying to improve myself. Are you a personal perfectionist, too?
Into this haze of self-improvements a phrase from Galatians 3 drifted into my head (thank you, Holy Spirit). Are you so foolish, having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Helpful word choice! The very perfection that drives me to peruse Spirit magazine for all 99 tips is actually God’s goal for me. It is the end for which Christ died. He died to save me from my sins and he is not going to stop saving me until he has finished cleansing me of every last one–including the hidden character flaw that frustrates my family dinner plans. Or the smug self-righteousness that tarnishes my successful efforts.
He doesn’t save me and then plunk me down on the long path of self-improvement, he continues perfecting me in the same way he began–by grace through faith in the only Savior in the universe, Jesus Christ.
Free from…free for. Christ didn’t set me free from perfectionism so that I would slouch back into complacency. No, he set me free from striving to perfect myself so that I would be free for being perfected by His Spirit. He set me free from my pitiful efforts so that I would be free for his miraculous work. That nagging sense that I am not the kind of person I would like to be is not meant to drive me to more stringent resolutions, but to drive me to him.
The funny thing is, it only takes a moment to turn from slavery to freedom. Once I turn from the slavery of perfectionism to the freedom of being perfected by his Spirit, I can now pick up that airline magazine again. I’m free to read it. Hey, I might learn something.