After spending most likely what was 7-8 months studying Isaiah, I’m now studying Galatians. I was sad to leave Isaiah. Such richness and wonderful insights even though it was in the Old Testament. Now, I’m sure Galatians will offer wonderful insights also.
First, I’m struck with Galatians 1:10: “Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ!” (NET Bible). Wow! Pleasing people negates my surrender to Christ as His slave. Other translations say, “servant” or “bondservant.” Since I struggle with people-pleasing, I need to remember, that in that moment when I desire to please people instead of God, I have left my calling as a surrendered slave of Christ. So often we think of our “little” “sins” as just not that important, but people-pleasing is serious. I’ve removed God from the throne of my life in that moment. (By the way, I recently finished the book Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges (Nav Press). I recommend it.
Continuing on in studying Galatians 1, I was struck by 1:13-14: “For you have heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I was savagely persecuting the church of God and trying to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my nation, and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my ancestors.” (NET Bible).
As I read that, I could feel a real sense and memory of the feelings someone can get from advancement. As a speaker, I felt so good being chosen as a group’s speaker: “they want me!” As a writer, I felt so good being approved when I received a book contract or the acceptance of an article. Of course, nothing bad about those things at all, but it sure becomes a sweet drink of approval and accomplishment.
I was so struck by Paul being willing to leave his success behind. I can just think of any of us who are successful and how hard that is to give up. We derive so many self-centered benefits from success: accomplishment (meeting goals), acclamation, approval, applause, possibly financial benefits. Oh, to give that up. Yet Paul says all of that is rubbish in comparison to knowing Christ Jesus His Lord (Philippians 3). He went from popular to persecuted, rich to poor, self-dependent to dependent upon other’s support (except for what he earned as a tent maker).
Paul was climbing up the ladder of success, passing all of his contemporaries and Jesus stopped him on the Damascus Road and everything was different. Oh, may that challenge me to not put my worth into worldly accomplishments. As someone said, “You may be climbing the ladder of success, but at the top find out it was resting against the wrong wall.”