Are You So Foolish? The Deception of Grace vs. Flesh

We all experience that moment where we realize that we need God. We discover our own sinfulness and God’s grace.

I experienced that moment in the 7th grade. My testimony began while waiting for a school bus. God’s grace overwhelmed me and my spirit was born again! It was amazing and totally an act of God’s grace!

Now, some 10+ years later, I find myself falling for the same deception that the Galatians fell for. What God began with His spirit, I try to manage in my flesh.

Have you fallen for this deception?

Paul and Confrontation

Paul was a master at cutting to the heart of an issue. In fact, most of his letters are written to a body of believers with 2 main goals:

  1. Encouraging believers.
  2. Bringing them correction.

He was excellent at complimenting before teaching…you know, the good old oreo example of squeezing constructive criticism between two compliments!

The Galatians, however, received no such softness. Paul begins his letter to them quite directly:

“I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ.”
Galatians 1:6-7

Why So Serious?

Paul is worried about this body of believers that he helped start. He had seen some of them come to faith and it grieved him to see them falling away from the Gospel.

He wants them to be able to say as he later says to Timothy:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7

Paul recognized the struggle they were facing. It’s easy to become trapped in the lie that we have to continue the race on our own. His own words to the Corinthians could be misinterpreted to emphasize our fleshly efforts.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27

But we know that he is speaking of self-control as a work of God’s grace and spirit. In fact, it is one of the 9 fruits of the spirit.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5:22-26

The Charge

“Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” Galatians 3:3

Ouch. I mean, that seriously had to sting a bit. Can you imagine receiving that message from your mentor?

But Paul had come from the life of living under the law and knew it’s deadly life-sucking effects. His strong words were purposeful, a way of startling the readers and opening their eyes to a lie.

The Goal

Simply stated, Paul wanted to live a godly life and do the ministry that Jesus called him to.

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
Acts 20:24

Look in the Mirror

Please don’t walk away from this post without taking a serious moment to reflect on your own state. Consider the following questions:

Are you living in the strength of your flesh or the spirit?

Do you rely on God’s spirit daily or do days pass without thinking about the power and grace of His spirit?

Do these words from the author of Hebrews ring true to you?

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:1-2

Don’t allow yourself to fall into or stay in the deception of trying to earn God’s favor or working in your own flesh instead of His spirit. It’s a tactic of the enemy to try and keep you sidelined and weak.

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