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?

 

 

 

Chasing Freedom: Who are You, Lord?

Welcome to Chasing Freedom!

The first time I sat down to write about Galatians, I did so for my own benefit. I did it because I felt drained. I felt locked up by time, by wantonness, and by contentment that felt just out of reach.

Somehow, somewhere, God led me to Galatians 5:1. I encourage you to write it out somewhere, anywhere, and let it be the song of your breath for the next six weeks as we study:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 

I began writing out the truth of God for myself, asking questions like:

What does God think about freedom?

Why does He value it enough to sacrifice for it?

Where do I get it?

What makes us feel so enslaved even when we’re free?

And finally, the words that are still written across the pages of my Bible to this day,

In what ways are we held captive that God never intended?

The Apostle Paul knew freedom. He tasted it for the first time on the road to Damascus. Read Acts 9:1-5:

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

Who are You, Lord?

Doesn’t that just change everything?

To understand freedom, real freedom…not this freedom that the world offers, that feels amazing for a second and then disappears like cotton candy does the moment it first touches your tongue, but freedom that settles deep, that endures through the struggle, and raises its fists with you on the mountaintop – that freedom, from God alone, seeping into our lives, begins with this question:

Who are You, Lord?

With Paul, in this study we’ll come head to head with our search for freedom, particularly in six shapes:

Chasing approval – we want people to like us, we want to be seen as ok, good enough, worthwhile

Chasing unity – we want to get along, avoid conflict, for everyone to have the same opinion, wouldn’t that be easier? Freeing?

Chasing foolish – we want to feel good for the moment, we like our plans, our ideas, and we chase after them even if it hurts, we try to meet expectations for ourselves that we would never apply to anyone else

Chasing knowledge – we give half our hearts so we don’t get hurt, we muscle through changes by the skin of our teeth, we seek to know more, but miss being known

Chasing self – we try to do it our way, handle it all ourselves…if we let the Spirit lead, we might step into a pit; love, joy, peace, and all that sound great, but we feel vaguely uncertain how they ever work in our actual lives

Chasing “a little bit better” – we thank God for redemption, but wonder if He’s actually capable of restoration

These may seem harsh. There will be some that you don’t struggle with. Some you struggle with more than others. Some you don’t even know what in the world I’m talking about yet. It’s cool, because we aren’t chasing freedom. Instead, we’re asking the question:

Who are You, Lord?

alongside Paul and letting God bring the freedom to us.

In fact, this is Paul’s entire argument for the book of Galatians. When Paul planted a church in Galatia, in the middle of modern day Turkey, and then was called to move on, I’m sure he prayed over those believers like nobody’s business. I’m sure he poured his heart into them, because that was what Paul did. Take a peek into the character of his ministry in 2 Corinthians 6:11-12:

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us.

Paul knew free. Note, he spoke the Gospel in freedom. He loved affectionately in freedom. He suggested that freedom was a little bit brighter in affection together.

So when the Galatians were giving up their freedom, handing it over on a platter to some people who thought they needed to do more, be more, Paul began a letter to tell them a little more about freedom, to outline it for them. From justification to sanctification, I love that my study Bible points out that the book of Galatians is about finding a solution. Don’t we all just need a few more solutions in life, rather than rolling around in the problem?

Everything Paul presents, he presents so that the Galatians remain in the only thing that ever offers freedom, the foundation of all freedom we find in our life – from relationships, to expectations, to planning, to walking, running, or crawling in faith and life.

We can trust and believe in God’s Word, through Paul. Galatians 1:1-2 presents to the church in Galatia why they should listen to Paul and where his authority comes from, and these are the same reasons we are going to trust this book for the next six weeks of our lives, why we’re going to let Paul’s/God’s Word work in our hearts and our minds also. Read Galatians 1:1-2 below:

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:

Who is Paul sent by? Who does Paul’s Word belong to in inerrant Scripture?

Yep. Jesus Christ. Son of God. Winner of our freedom. Lover of our hearts and souls.

Paul doesn’t need any other credentials to teach the Galatians, or us. Jesus lives and speaks through His Word and His people.

Paul has been there. He chased freedom on the Damascus road, thinking he could find it in success, in reputation, in ambition, in man’s approval.

What did he find?

Only Jesus frees.

He frees Paul. He frees you. He frees me.

I’m so excited to learn and grow with you all over the next six weeks! I’m excited to hear more from Paul, more from our Lord, and to open many pages and passages across the Scriptures these next weeks to sit in the freedom won for us.

Who are You, Lord?

I am your freedom.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)

 

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Discussion Questions- if you feel so led, answer one or more of the questions in the comments, or use with your group:

 

What do you “do” in any given day? How do you share the Gospel in the daily places and pieces of your life?

If someone asked you “Who is the Lord?” how would you answer?

Look up the following three passages and note: Who was called? by whom? What were they doing when they were called?

Matthew 4:18-22

Luke 5:27-28

John 1:43-51

Get the full outline for Chasing Freedom here!