I am sitting in my office reading my bible in the peacefulness of the early morning, embraced in the wise counsel of the Lord through His Holy Spirit. It feels like being in the presence of a scholarly professor or an older relative who embodies holiness and righteousness. You lean in with your whole being to listen to every word as it lands in hungry places within your soul offering spiritual food to starving parts of your life. Yes, I am that hungry for God’s Word. Aren’t you?
The more painful the world gets to live in, the more we long for relief, freedom, and peace. Sin causes pain. It is that simple. There is no profound revelation to explain away the bad choices we make as if those choices were the fault of something else. We can scramble to justify our actions by creating a chain of events that attempt to link our dirty hands to someone or something else that happened, but in the end, as we stand before the God of judgment, it is our hands that he will see, not someone else’s.
Galatians 1:11-16 NIV, “11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the Gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being.
If we took a chronological look at how our sins progressed in life, we would be able to name those who contributed to our bad choices. Countless so-called friends were coconspirators to our gossiping and backstabbing of others. People who flocked around us to share in our addictions by providing false acceptance and fake approval. We locked into destructive relationships because our need to be loved was tethered to the world’s propagandizing of sex as an acceptable substitute. We were really good at lying about our life, manipulating others to get our sinful needs met, condoning sin in others, teaching others how to sin, stealing, and cheating while relishing its counterfeit rewards. And sin’s greatest accomplishment is its ability to judge and punish the sins of others before our sin.
Paul knew this about himself. He knew what it was like to be raised in a culture, environment, and religion that enslaved his mind and decisions to be obedient to works and laws in order to receive acceptance from others. He knew the ravage of hate, the violence that self-righteousness and pride can evoke, and how ungodly influence leads us slowly into destructive paths. He knew what it was like to look at his dirty hands every morning when he got out of bed and every night before he closed his eyes.
What is key to Paul’s words in Galatians 1 is his response to God. This is so critically important for you and me to hear. Before we go further, ask God to give you the heart to receive this truth and the will to put it into action. Paul’s immediate response when he realized how much God loved him when he was convicted of his sin, of the false teaching, of the lies he had believed, the brutality of his hate, the innocent he savagely murdered, when the wretched sum of his own sin was revealed to his spirit, heart, mind, and body through the light of God’s overwhelming love, grace, and mercy, his first response – obedience to God. He didn’t go back to the false teachers who had misled him. He didn’t go back to the men he banded with to murder Christians. He didn’t go back to the bar, the hustle, the sex, the coconspirators. He responded to the salvation of Jesus Christ, the living Word, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to God with obedience. He just went.
Paul didn’t doubt the divine revelation of the truth of the Gospel that had been downloaded into his soul, having the mind of Christ, the knowledge of the Gospel, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and consumed with the eternal assurance of everlasting life. He didn’t doubt the truth.
Where we get tripped up is in our mind that immediately goes to a place of being unworthy of something good. We go back to old unreliable sources to get approval which ends up being foolishness, and we feel worse off. We give all our power over to the sin that kept us trapped in shame, and we spiral down this dark hole filled with webs of lies, getting stuck again. Then we start praying for God to rescue us, and He never fails to do so because He truly loves us like no other can and would never abandon us. God, faithful to you and His Word, comes with the blood of Jesus to set you free and ministers to your wounds, forgives you of your sin and instructs you on the way you should go. You receive His rescue, love, and forgiveness, but you won’t be obedient to His instructions. And you wonder why you stay stuck.
As we look at Paul’s response to God – obedience – we can further read that his entire life, ministry, relationships, and emotional and mental health all took a trajectory to prosperity. Yes, he did face many trials. Yet, imagine facing those trials without Christ. He didn’t face them with fleeting friends. He didn’t face them with false promises. He didn’t face them with a bottle, a needle, or a pipe. He faced them with hope, faith, strength, perseverance, the power of Heaven, and the peace of Christ. His obedience to his new life in Christ gave him everything his heart desired and more. He left a legacy of transformed lives through Christ.
Most of the time, our circumstances remain the same because we refuse to change who we listen to. Be careful of those who you allow speaking into your life and minister to your wounds are not binding you to themselves. God is always for your freedom to blossom into the whole and the complete person He created you to be. His creation is not dependent on you; rather, he wants you to receive the blessings of His creation. Unfortunately, those whose position, self-worth, and esteem can be very unhealthy and toxic as they tie themselves to your woundedness, making sure your growth is constantly stunted so they remain needed by you. Paul chose not to consult with those people, as you may choose not to.
Who we allow speaking into our lives influences the direction we choose to go. Those we invite into our circle should be those that influence our growth, inspire us to fly, and cheer us on to prosperity. They should want to see the fruit of the Spirit develop in us, the mind of Christ expressed through us, and the Gospel of Christ lived by us. Remember, God chose you.