“My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you -” Galatians 4:19.
Ahhh, Christmastime…shining lights, the smell of Christmas trees, bell ringers, happy music, and shopping. Lots of shopping. Everyone bustling about in search of the perfect gift. Because Christmas seems to be all about the gifts. And with good reason. After all, Christmas started with God’s most precious gift of His Son to a sinful world.
But you know, it’s interesting how God presented His gift of Jesus. This priceless Gift came so simply – wrapped not in the costly garments of royalty, but in rags. Announced by angels not to the “important” people of His day, but to humble shepherds. Bringing not the earthly peace people longed for, but the offer of peace with God. So simple. So understated. And yet, so like God. He just doesn’t seem concerned about outward appearances.
Lately I’ve been studying in Galatians. I was struck by the contrast between Paul’s ministry goal (Gal 4:19, above) and that of the false teachers he warns against (Gal 6:12-13). The false teachers were consumed with making “a good showing in the flesh.” They wanted their followers to look good – to be good rule-keepers (which, by the way, the teachers themselves couldn’t even do!) Kind of like a beautiful, shiny gift with nothing at all inside. Admirable to look at, but hollow and empty of any true value.
Paul, on the other hand, labored to see Christ formed IN those to whom he ministered. Rule-keeping (specifically here in regard to circumcision) doesn’t matter. What matters to God is a heart-change – a “new creation” (Gal 6:15). This new creation comes about when we place our faith in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) and the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us. Our new life now is to be guided by faith, rather than by a list of do’s and don’t’s (Gal 2:20). As we walk by faith, being led by the Spirit (Gal 5:16, 22-25), we fulfill a new law – the law of Christ. This new law is the law of love (Gal 6:2, John 13:34-35.) As the Spirit (not you and I!) produces His fruit in and through us (Gal 5:22-25), our faith overflows in loving service to others (Gal 5:6, 13).
This, Paul says, is what matters to God. Not the doing. But the being. Being a new creation. Having faith – faith that brings about salvation, and faith that works itself out in daily, Spirit-led living.
On the outside, a life of law and a life of grace may look pretty similar. But what’s inside is vastly different. A focus on rule-keeping may produce a neat and tidy life, one that is full of good works that others praise and admire. But it also produces emptiness, weariness and a constant demand to do better. A life led by grace, however, is a life of spiritual rest. By grace through faith, I am already righteous before God so I don’t have to prove that to Him or anyone else. I can relax and rest in my relationship with Him. He is my Daddy and I am His extravagantly loved child. I can trust Him to lead me moment-by-moment, allowing His peace to rule in my heart (Col 3:15) and His Spirit to express Himself through me (Gal 5:16, 22-25).
What about you, my friend? What does God see when He looks inside? Does He see someone desperately trying to “keep it all together,” to do all the right things for Him and others? Does He see His beloved child running frantic with the demands of life (especially the Christmas craziness)? Be still, my friend. Stop striving, relax, let go. He is God (Ps 46:10). Enjoy Him. Walk with Him. He loves you enough to come to your world, to live the simplest of lives and die the worst of deaths. All to make you His. What greater Gift could we ever receive?