Monday, 26 September 2011
Galatians 1:10-24: Freedom and pleasing people
Today’s post was written by Meredith Bowman. Thanks Meredith!
The praise of man. We all want it at one point or another. (I know I sure do!) But what happens when we actually get it?
Indulge me for a moment while I tell you the true story of Billy Cundiff. Currently he is the kicker for the Baltimore Ravens. His biography reveals he has been in the headlines since high school for his exceptional athletic abilities. Last year he was even voted to the All-Pro team, which is the best of the entire NFL. I’m sure he felt pretty darn good to be so highly regarded. I know I would. He’s living the dream.
Then comes last Sunday’s playoff game – the winner will head to the Super Bowl. With 11 seconds left, they are in easy field goal range which would tie the game. So they send Billy in to do the job. A “gimmie” they called it, being so close to the goal. The ball is snapped, Billy kicks, and to the utter amazement of all – he misses the field goal. The game is over. His team has lost and they will not be going to the Super Bowl.
The name Billy Cundiff is now being chanted with a different tune. The headlines are no longer praising his name. Once listed among the greats, now the headline reads, “Scott Norwood, Gary Anderson and Nate Kaeding, move over. You have company.” These men are legends for their failures. Ouch. Now I wonder how he feels.
Freedom from…Paul begins and ends our section in Galatians this week outlining this very scenario. “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man?” Paul knows that living for the praise of man will prove to be a snare. One day you have it, the next day it’s gone. Just ask Billy Cundiff how that feels.
But there’s more. Paul goes on to say “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Wow. Strong words. It seems man pleasing is more dangerous than just living on an emotional roller coaster. It is the direct opposite of pleasing God. I can’t go 50/50. It’s one or the other.
Freedom starts here. So what’s the solution? How do we avoid living to please man and become a servant of Christ? Verses 15-16 have our answer. “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me…” We can’t free ourselves. We must be freed by the grace of God.
This applies very specifically to people pleasing. We don’t turn from people pleasing to pleasing God. We don’t earn his love by pleasing him. We can’t. We are loved not because “we pleased God,” but because “it pleased God to do so!” As Tim Keller puts it:
In other words, God shed his love on Paul not because he was worthy of it, but simply because God took delight or pleasure in doing so. Compare this with Deuteronomy 7:7-8, which says, “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you….” In other words, God does not love us because we are serviceable; he loves us simply because he loves us. This is the only kind of love we can ever be secure in, of course, since it is the only kind of love we cannot possibly lose.
Freedom for…Knowledge of this love frees us to become servants of Christ. Because Paul was living for God’s approval (which now through the gospel was his for all eternity), he was no longer influenced by the attention of men – neither their praise or their curses. He was now free to serve God with his whole heart and his whole life. Which brings us to the last verse of our section. It contains the ultimate headline we can ever have written about us:
“And they glorified God because of me.”