We all do it: Chasing freedom from other gospels


One of my favorite things in life is when I see any of you face-to-face.

It’s mostly a rare treat. My favorite time ever was at an educators’ conference in Michigan, when I was walking down a hallway, completely lost, with no sense of where I was going, and a woman tapped my shoulder, “Are you Heidi Goehmann?”

Me: I am. (Mind scrambling – Do I owe someone money, need to move my car, or am responsible for children I forgot about somewhere?)

Kind woman: I read your blog. I just love your Bible studies. I want to say thank you. They were there for me when I was walking through darkness.

Me: (Mouth agape)

I was shocked. I really love the work I do, and I’m so thankful when it’s useful and hope-filled. But in the context of walking around, feeling like I was about to cry because I was so lost, having someone find me and know me was a level of grace I least expected in that situation. I was astonished.

Why does the Gospel always surprise me?

Why does God reaching into my life through the people of God always leave me amazed?

Why haven’t I begun to expect it?

There once were some other people who forgot about grace. Paul addresses the problem the people were facing, swiftly, in the first chapter of Galatians. Paul talks about his astonishment in Galatians 1:6-10:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

The Galatians had a group in their midst called the Judaizers. These Jewish Christians were demanding that the gentile converts (those of non-Jewish birth) be circumcised to participate in the grace of Christ.

The Galatians bought into the lies of the world, to a certain extent, but more specifically the part of the world that should have had their backs: those presenting the gospel to them. Someone had told them that grace wasn’t enough, their faith was incomplete, their church, their salvation wasn’t “enough.”

Oh man. If I had a quarter for every time the world told me I wasn’t enough.

Why do we buy it then?

What happened, to sweet, foolish Galatians?

I think it’s easy for us to believe that we aren’t enough. Satan works on our heart daily to ripen us for the moment when he can send us a “not enough.”

The Galatians are just like us. They have lives, and vocations, and jobs, and stories before this moment when we meet them. They probably desperately wanted to be enough for someone – their wife, their husband, their boss, their friend, their church, their neighbor.

Faced with the intrinsic reality that they weren’t enough, the Galatians had to think these Judiazers presenting them with an option to “just do this…” sounded pretty good. The Judiazers confused them, prevented God’s Word. It was sinful and wrong, wrong enough that Paul calls down curses on the situation, but that doesn’t mean it was necessarily obvious. Satan’s lies never are.

What Judaizers do you have in your life? Who or what makes you believe that you are not enough, God’s grace is not enough? What “other gospels” exist in this world that seem deceptively simple and more complete than the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Paul cuts to the answer swiftly as well. Read Galatians 1:10 again:

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. 

Who gets to say what is and is not enough?

Who gets to say what the complete Gospel is, what grace looks like?

God, and only God.

When we have questions about who or what is enough, we don’t look to man, but rather we look to God, and more specifically to the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Many days, even on the good ones, we feel slightly lost in this world, just like me wandering around a big convention hall with thousands of other people bustling about. It’s easy to pick up a myriad of advice and suggestions, should-haves, and better-bes, but let us hold fast together to the True Gospel, the real and authentic astonishing grace of Christ, a savior who died, who rose, and who is enough.

Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone.

He is enough. No other Gospel necessary.


Discussion questions:

Across different commentaries and authors, I could identify four common gospels we struggle with particularly in the church today. Where do you see each of these at work? How do we gently argue against them? How do we continuously return to the True Gospel?

1-  Because we behave or act or dress accordingly, we are saved.

2 – Because we give our whole selves to Christ, we are saved.

3 – Because we believe the right doctrine, we are saved.

4 – Because we are good and loving, no matter what we believe, we are saved.

There is an ocean depth of difference between a fruitful Christian and a Christian who believes they are saved by what they do, think, act, wear, or even believe. Christ Jesus Himself tells us the simplicity of the True Gospel. Read John 3:14-17. What brings salvation? Why do you think the Simple Gospel is so hard for people to grasp?

Freedom by Sacrifice: The Shocking Truth of Substitutionary Grace


Our world is jaded. We carry justice around like a pet. If everything was right and fair, then we would have no problems, things would line up, just the way they are supposed to be…right?

No. It never works out that way, does it? Even when justice comes, we get that pang in our stomach. When one of my kids does something wrong, and then they have to suffer the natural consequences of it, I have mixed emotions. Wouldn’t it be nice if justice had a counterpart that let compassion in? Wouldn’t it be great if our world was a place of where justice was important, but we weren’t ruled by it?

Grace.

This is why grace is so shocking.

It’s not first nature. It’s actually what we would do second, third, or even last. It doesn’t come naturally, but we are desperately seeking it, chasing it, even when we don’t know it. That pang in your stomach when you hear of the death penalty, you have to watch your kids endure consequences, or when you really know it’s better just to hang up on the telemarketer.

Paul is about to use the language of astonishment in Galatians 1:6, but first, he reminds the Galatians, and us, that there is something bigger, that everything he is about to say and present is really held in the context of something greater:

Shocking grace.

Read Galatians 1:1-4 to connect Paul’s full introduction in one spot:

Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers and sisters with me,

To the churches in Galatia:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Grace and peace to you…made possible by God, through Christ.

Paul starts even his introduction with the full Gospel.

Jesus gave Himself….

Perhaps our world has heard it a million times, so it isn’t really shocking anymore. The Galatians may have had a similar problem, slipping into “It can’t be. There’s no way. No one does stuff like that.”

Let’s hear the freedom in the truth of this message once again:

…the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself…

Romans 5:6-8 reminds us just how shocking this Gospel is:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

If you have your Bible out, underline these words –

very rarely

might possibly

Do you hear the language of the unexpected?

Look back at Romans 5:8 – But God…

God demonstrates who He is and how He brings freedom to this world, very differently than we would expect. Paul’s message is that it’s not what we expect that we need, but rather –

truth is found where we least expect it – in grace.

Christ didn’t just die for our sins. Christ gave Himself for our sins and for our deliverance.

The NIV and NASB translations use the word rescue instead of deliver. The NRSV translation uses the very straightforward to set us free.

Deliverance – that sounds a whole lot like freedom to me.

Christ did it for us. This is substitutionary grace, meaning we couldn’t do it. When there is a substitute teacher, it’s because the regular teacher couldn’t get there. We can’t get there either. We would never get there on our own to save ourselves. We can chase freedom all we want, but we need a substitute- for us.

Christ gave Himself for you, for your family, for your neighbor, for the unborn, for the elderly, for the junior high student, for us.

The truth is freedom will never come from justice. Freedom only comes through the shock of Grace.

We may want to be free from the evil around us in this world, but God does something different. He sets grace down in the middle of it instead. We think freedom looks like deliverance from the junk of life. God says it looks like deliverance from being ruled by it.

What junk, what anxiety, what trouble of this present evil age feels like it’s ruling right now for you?

God gives us grace in the midst of it. He gives us the knowledge of for us. Sin no longer has control, because… Grace.

Where might some shocking grace seep out of your mouth and your heart because of the freedom of Christ?

Shocking grace, for you – sounds a lot like freedom to me.


Discussion Questions:

Look again at Galatians 1:2. Who does Paul say is “with” him in his writing of the letter? Why do you think this is an important detail he included? (If you can, google the NRSV translation of this verse… that one is my favorite.)

Why do you think authority is such an issue for Paul with the Galatians? Do you ever struggle with authority in any of your vocations? What grace can be found in the matter of authority?

The words deliver or rescue, and the concept of needing a substitute, insinuate our helplessness. What usefulness is there in knowing and understanding that we are helpless? What is hard about this?

 

 

 

Tending Friendship: Judgement and Hot Dogs


“Thank you for not judging me for eating a second hot dog.”

We recently met up with a friend at Coors Field for a fun night of baseball. Behind me sat two women, also enjoying the fine May weather and a win for the home team. I spent most of the night passing out snacks, because that’s what I do, as a mom. And it was stadium food after all – yum, just yum.

These women behind us knew that baseball and stadium snacks went hand-in-hand. But this one phrase caught my attention above others. It was sweet and it was tender, an expression of genuine gratitude between two young women, living in a world full of judgement and condemnation.

“Thank you for not judging me…”

Her friend was struck by the phrase too.

“I like hot dogs,” was her simple response, with a shrug of the shoulders.

It was the words left unspoken which spoke grace to her friend.

Why would I judge you? Who cares if you want two hot dogs? Even if I thought hot dogs were disgusting, it’s your life and you can eat hot dogs if you want- loads of them. Because I love you. I don’t love you because you only eat one hot dog. I think I love you more because you ate two.

This is tending friendship with non-judgement.

So often we haphazardly apply judgement because someone’s choice is different than our own-

“I wouldn’t do that.”

“I wouldn’t eat that.”

“I wouldn’t say that.”

Of course you wouldn’t. That’s fine. I don’t eat fresh tomatoes. I don’t drive the speed limit. I don’t always make my kids pick up after themselves.

You probably do. That’s awesome, because you’re not me and I’m not you.

Friendship is where lives meet and we say “Me too!”

That same friendship is tended when we continue to meet and say, “I’m so glad we’re different!”

Our best peeps are the people who understand who we are, but also help us to be better versions of ourselves with the help of their unique insights and ideas.

This cannot happen in the midst of judgement.

We get enough of that. We scroll through Facebook or Instagram and see all the opinions people have and the ways they live differently than we do. We go to work and hear how we should do things differently. We look at our kids and pray they turn out ok, even when we make all of our finest mistakes on them.

Judgement is all around us and judgement just is. It exists. But it doesn’t have to seep in to friendship.

Friendship is a safe place. It’s a place to be honored and cared for, and to honor and care alongside. Friend is in fact one of the highest honors we can bestow on someone because it shows us that we are chosen and loved.

God chose us through His Son, Jesus Christ; despite our weirdness and despite our sins. Creating us was an act of love from our Father, but the Son chose us as friends on that cross.

Christ freed us from judgement and tells us that it is finished. If our own judgement is completely righteous in Christ, than why would our friendships be any different.

So today, grab a good friend. Sit around and laugh about what you have in common and what you see differently. Eat two hot dogs. Drink something festive, and tend to that friendship with grace – judgement free.

Tending friendship with my peeps. 😍