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This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
Today we are looking at a principle that we can all relate to for various reasons. The big idea is that When a good thing becomes an ultimate thing, bad things can happen. Think about how this truth works itself in the lives of people we love and care for. What issues have you seen displace God from being a number 1 priority in their lives?
Okay, let me give you an example. I have seen families so caught up in kids’ sports that they seem to compromise their relationship with God in order to make sure the kid(s) can play hockey or whatever sport 2-3 times per week. I have seen the desire to succeed ambush a person’s spiritual life. All time and focus goes into the good thing, which in time becomes like a bronzed calf and is essentially worshipped. Their time for God is radically reduced.
Text: Gal 1:6-10
In order for us to fully appreciate what is going on in this text we need to be clued into the background. The major tension in the early church was whether or not Gentiles could come to Christ without first becoming Jewish. There were many that felt that in order for Gentiles to come to Christ, they needed to be circumcised and adhere to various laws that would be the benchmarks of being Jewish. The tension was created when Paul traipsed around the Roman world, dropping in on various Gentile communities like the ones in Galatia and started leading Gentiles to Christ - minus making them Jewish. For Paul the work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit were sufficient. Thus the battle heats up. Would this split the early church?
With this brief background on a complex issue, we come to our text.
Let’s start with the last verse first.
V.10 - Why is Paul asking these questions? What is Paul being accused of? What things in this text are mutually exclusive? Note that it is not always this way - there are times I can please men and please God. However, in this context, to please men would mean one would have to deny Christ and the message of the Gospel.
What is Paul saying that is true about who he is in this verse?
Note Paul says – “If I were still trying….” Paul’s zeal and success had been fuelled by the nature of Judaism, which placed an excessive emphasis on appearances and external criteria for commitment. Sounds like they don’t think Paul has changed. Ever felt that people have frozen you in your past?
They (Judaizers from Jerusalem) were accusing Paul of making the gospel soft and easy to believe (in other words you don’t have to become Jewish or get that nip-and-tuck) in order please the Gentiles. They were accusing Paul of being a people pleaser. Essentially, they were saying that pleasing people was far too important to Paul and so he had watered down the truth.
What was in fact true?
Paul turns the tables and accuses them (the Judaizers and some of the Gentiles) of being people pleasers. Check out Gal 6:12,13. Some of these Judaizers may have at first been drawn to Christ but now with the pressure from Jerusalem to conform to Jewish practices, they have backed down. They are living examples of 10b. Their issue is not sports or careers or work - it is the issue of bowing to the pressure of keeping people (conservative Jews in Jerusalem) happy: the fear of man.
Note that this fear of man (keep people happy, be accepted) sucker punched some of the progressive leadership in the early Church. Read below.
“Later, when Peter came to Antioch, I had a face-to-face confrontation with him because he was clearly out of line. Here's the situation. Earlier, before certain persons had come from James, Peter regularly ate with the non-Jews. But when that conservative group came from Jerusalem, he cautiously pulled back and put as much distance as he could manage between himself and his non-Jewish friends. That's how fearful he was of the conservative Jewish clique that's been pushing the old system of circumcision. Unfortunately, the rest of the Jews in the Antioch church joined in that hypocrisy so that even Barnabas was swept along in the charade.” Galatians 2:11-13 (The Message)Observations?
Note the “fear factor”. Ever fudged on obedience because of the fear of man? Peter did, Barnabas and the rest of the Jews in Antioch did. There is another group that did in this story - but before we go there, here are some characteristics of a people pleaser - disease to please -
- Fear of loss of approval
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of loss of personal identity
- Fear of loss of personal worth
- Fear of not "doing best'' for others' sake
- Fear of letting their friends and family down
- Fear of failure
- Fear of it being "found out'' they are not as good as they appear to others
- Fear that others will recognize their failings
- Fear of making a decision lest it be the wrong one
Followers Cave (v.6,7)
Note Paul’s response and the words that describe these new converts. What happened to the Gospel?
Finally, this big idea can be applied to a number of different issues, but for some of us the people-pleasing issue is the big one. Is it possible to win over this great temptation?
Note what Paul says in v.8, 9 - obviously he is not too concerned with keeping people happy by saying the politically correct thing. Membership into the club is not high on Paul’s Christmas wish list. Now before you think you should emulate Paul’s behaviour here, take note of the context and culture.
What was seen as an acceptable form of disagreement then may not be seen as acceptable today. The ancient world simply loved inflammatory language for expressing its differences. The ancients delighted in overstatements and overstatements were effectively countered with similar overstatements.
So I would not make a direct application of his style - but I would be encouraged by Paul’s modeling of a person who did not count the votes when he walked into a room with regard to who liked or disliked him. He told the truth and walked in obedience. To connect to last week - he knew who he was, who loved him and had called him - “Paul, an apostle”! (see Scott McKnight, The NIV Application Commentary, page 60)
Wrapping it up.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have the disease to please?
- Has my desire to please others in any ways compromised my faith?
- Does the fear of man have a greater hold on me than the fear of God?
- Have I perverted the gospel in any way to accommodate my desire to keep people happy?
- Take the big idea - write it in the middle of a piece of paper. Then draw spokes out from it and on the end of each spoke write out the good things of your life - work, sports, hockey, career, fitness, home, relationships, ethnicity, hobbies, image etc.
- Then ask these questions.
- Have any of these knocked God off His rightful place in my life?
- If so why, what is happening at the core of who I am to allow this to happen?
- What is my dominant emotion?
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