Monday, July 04, 2005

simple truths

I've just got back the eye hospital where a charming and efficient male nurse practitioner lanced and drained a cyst I've had on my eyelid for some months. He also outlined a regime of eyelid hygiene that he said I should follow to avoid similar growths appearing in future.

We Brits are so lucky to have the national Health Service! I was in an out of the hospital in just under an hour. I didn't need an appointment. The waiting area and treatment rooms were modern, clean and well equipped. My treatment didn't cost me a penny. It's great.

While sitting in the waiting area - not that I was there for long - I was reading some stuff I'm writing on Galatians ahead of a Bible study I'm leading this evening.

I was struck by the similarity between Paul's core argument about the Christian life here and in Philippians - the book we've just finished preaching our way through on Sunday evenings.

In particular, I was reminded how important it is we understand pisteos christou (Galatians 2:16) faith of Christ rather than faith in Christ. Our salvation rests not on any work of the law (including our faith) but on our trust in Jesus who was faithful to the mission God gave him. Our ability to live the Christian life depends on us living as Jesus did - putting our faith in God and being fired by the Holy Spirit Paul's argument in the second half of Galatians).

So often Christians want to impose stuff on people. If you want to live a proper Christian life, they say, you must do this or that - whether that's speaking in tongues, giving up alcohol, wearing ties in church, believing everything the man on the platform says. It was what Paul's rivals were telling the young church in Galatia. It was a lie then. It still is. Paul says what matters is the faith of Jesus and our trust in that. Full stop.

The trouble with imposing stuff on people is that when they find out that what we've added to the gospel doesn't have to be believed, they begin to doubt whether the gospel has to be believed as well. So we need to make sure that we proclaim the unvarnished, unadorned, simple message of Jesus and the cross and trust God to help people live it.

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