When Barb and I were in high school she was a ‘flag girl’ with the marching band, one of several assigned a flag on a long pole that would perform synchronized maneuvers during breaks in athletic events.
One night after a football game we were driving to her house so she could change clothes and then we’d get some pizza: I remember it like it was yesterday – the uniform was like a cheerleader’s, bright red and blue of the school colors, with the flag pole was sticking out the back window as we drove along, the warm night…
Suddenly, a police officer going the other direction passed us, then did a U-turn as he turned on his lights and siren, and pulled us over. I knew I wasn’t speeding and assured Barb it would be okay.
He was very business-like and his flashlight (‘torch’ for UK influenced friends) shone directly on our faces, then around the car, then back to us…finally he said a white 2 door car like mine had been involved in a gas station robbery a few minutes earlier, with a man and woman, and we fit the description. I calmly replied we’d come from the football game, my girlfriend was a flag girl as he could see, and we were headed to her house from the game, not from a robbery. Wonder of wonders he believed the obvious, and we went our way.
At first my heart had been beating pretty fast, but at the same time I was secure in the fact we had done nothing wrong – not speeding, not driving reckless, and we certainly hadn’t robbed a gas station. If my conscience hadn’t been clear, I would have been afraid of the law, but instead I was at peace because inside I knew we were righteous in the eyes of the law, secure you might say, in that grace.
Paul asked the Galatians if having begun in the Spirit, were they now being matured by the law? The answer is no, of course. Paul was urging them to be secure in Christ and the truth of the new creation of the human spirit in Him, rather than be afraid they were missing God because people were telling them they had to obey x and y rules.
Paul said if you love God and love your neighbor as yourself*, you are fulfilling the law – so rest in that grace of Christ in you. It’s that simple. Don’t complicate your faith – He also said it is the devil’s tactic to complicate our faith** by seducing us into a more complicated faith. *Romans 13:8-10, **II Corinthians 11:3-4
The basic logic of sanctification goes like this: We are born again, but we have to allow the life in our spirit to flow out of our spirit to renew our mind (thoughts/emotions) and then to our body, which becomes a living sacrifice to walk in God’s ways. No problem so far. Living from spirit to soul to body.
Paul’s issue with the Galatians was that people were manipulating (witchcraft) believers by telling them what they could and could not do to please God, rather than directing them to obeying Christ from the inside out.
Back in 1986 I was an Associate pastor in Boulder, Colorado helping a young woman trying to save her marriage. Her husband had become involved through a co-worker, with a local church that was part of the Church of Christ denomination. They believed unless you were baptized in water in their church you could not be saved.
The husband of this young woman wanted to serve God, and even though he was born again and was baptized with the Holy Spirit, he became concerned for his salvation due to his co-worker’s constant arguing their doctrine all work week long. Badgered into submission coupled with his fear of missing God, he gave in.
But simply being born again their way wasn’t enough. Now he had to become ‘sanctified’. The elders of that church went through his wife’s closet, throwing out any clothing they said was too suggestive, flattering, or sexy. The husband was told to burn the clothes rather than donate or sell them, lest he cause other women to sin as (they said) his wife was doing.
Next, they demanded they get rid of the TV because it could open him up to sin. Then it was the removal of all newspapers, magazines, and books from the home except the Bible and their church magazine and teachings. When the elders found out he and his wife went to the community swimming pool they outlawed that, saying other women in swim suits might cause him to lust after them.
All that was done in the name of ‘sanctification’. Now that he was born again according to their standards, he must be sanctified, and you can clearly see from last week’s teaching how this is a perfect example of witchcraft – the manipulation of God’s Word and people for the purpose of external control. They ended up divorcing because he said, his wife was now unsaved and refusing to submit to him. He began in the Spirit, but believed the lie he would be made mature and complete by ‘the law’ - the flesh’s efforts to please God.
But wait, there’s more
A few years later in another church, a lady expressed concerned for her unsaved husband. She ran off a list of things she was doing in the church: She volunteered with the children’s church and with the Christian school, she was active in the women’s ministry, never missed a church service, was in charge of the church nursery, tithed off her household allowance…and she wanted to know why God hadn’t answered her prayer for her husband’s salvation. Should she fast 1 day a week? What could she do to be more holy that God might be inclined to answer her prayer? She was trying to be ‘sanctified’ so her prayers would be answered.
My advice was grace – I told her to stay completely away from church for 1 month and take the time she would normally be involved in a church activity to be with her husband and their children – the husband can’t compete with God, so bring God in her to him and show him the love and attention he and their children deserve, for the Lord is in that first and foremost. On a Sunday morning 3 weeks later, the whole family walked through the door, the husband having decided to believe on the Lord and serve Him when he saw the change in his wife – and they were active during the rest of our time at that church.
Are you living from the inside out, or from the outside in?
Having begun in the Spirit, we must be matured in the Spirit. We don’t begin by the Spirit but then matured by legalism and its external rules and regulations. (Galatians 3:1-3)
Legalism/law is simply this – trying to gain acceptance or forgiveness from God though your own efforts.
Sanctification is this – a lifestyle of living from the inside out in a series of small decisions for righteousness, from a position of grace and peace, with the certainty that Christ is in us guiding every step and decision submitted to Him.
We live in, and then out to our lives from a secure position in Christ, loving Him from the inside out, maturing because we want to, because we love Him, not because we fear if we do something wrong we’ve opened the door to some disease, disaster, or tragedy.
SO many people are involved in various religious activities just because they are afraid of ‘missing God’ or ‘opening themselves up’ to disaster, disease or tragedy. They don’t know or ignore Romans 5:1-5 that says we are at peace with God and He with us, and we live in grace. Fear is often the root of religious efforts.
An many just want to learn more to draw them closer to God, whether that knowledge is Jewish roots, or attending conferences and meetings of various subjects to learn they hope, the single key that will open heaven for them so they can have an answered prayer. Christ is in us – get with Him in there.
My experience has been that nearly all miracles I’ve seen in my life have flowed from my intimacy with Him, and never from doing this or that ABOUT or FOR Him, but rather spending time WITH Him. Be aware that Christ is in you. You have the mind of God in you. Live by the rule Paul told the Galatians – the new creation is what matters, and if you do this, peace and mercy will be upon you.
We have Christ in us - what more could we want? New subject next week.
Until then, blessings,