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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Meehan » James Meehan - My New Identity

James Meehan - My New Identity

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    James Meehan - My New Identity
TOPICS: Culture Makers, New Creation, Identity, Inner Man

Well, welcome to this week's episode of Switch Uncut. Coming at you from the place where we record this. My name is James Meehan, this is my friend, Caitlin Caffrey. And today we're gonna talk about the Bible and we're gonna get nerdy with it. Because here's what we know is that as followers of Jesus, we have been given this collection of documents called the Bible and it's intended to help us know Jesus and become more like Jesus. And one of things that is really important for us to acknowledge is the fact that one of the most powerful habits that we can develop as followers of Christ is intentionally taking time to study God's word. And what we've seen time and time again is that when people are engaging in God's word, their faith is so much stronger in so many different areas. It's like the Keystone habit, it's the one thing that if you do this, almost everything else in your faith life gets better, why? Because you're taking time to enter into the presence of God to allow his words to shape the way you think, to change the way you live, so that you can also maybe be a little bit like Jesus and be good news for other people. So, that's what we're doing today, specifically, we're talking about how we are all sinners saved by grace because we're in a message series right now titled, Who Am I? Where we are allowing the truth of God's word to inform how we see ourselves. So it's gonna happen, as Caitlin, our friend here, is going to read the passage of scripture that we'll be walking through today. After she reads that we'll dive into some of the context of who wrote it, why'd they write it, who the audience was? And a little bit about how to read this particular genre of scripture. And then we're gonna go back through verse by verse and break down, what does it mean? What did it mean then? And what does it mean now? And finally we'll close out by taking some time to explore what we are trying to learn from this and how we're allowing these words to change our lives. So with that being said, Caitlin, take it away.

All right, we are in Galatians 2 and we're gonna start in verse 15, so here we go. "We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we too have put our faith in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law. Because by the works of the law, no one will be justified, but if in seeking to be justified in Christ we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn't that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not. If I rebuild what I destroyed then I really would be a law breaker. For through the law I died to the law that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and it's no longer I who live but Christ lives in me. The life that I now live in the body I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God for if righteousness could be gained through the law, then Christ died for nothing".

So, Galatians 2:15-21. We're gonna look at the context, who wrote it, who'd they write it to, why did they write it? And a little bit about this type of literary genre. So when it comes to Switch, we approach the Bible with this big idea in mind that Jesus is king and context is everything. So what is the context? Well, this letter was written by the Apostle Paul to a group of Christians living in the Roman province of Galatia. Now, the reason why he wrote this is because these Christians were wrestling through the question of how Jewish do I need to be in order to be a follower of Jesus? Because up until this point in time, the people of God were all from one nation, one family, they were all Jewish people. But through Jesus, the invitation to be a part of God's family was extended to everybody everywhere. And as non-Jewish people were entering into the family of God, there were a lot of questions about, okay, so do I have to do all of the things that Jewish people do? And this is a part of what Paul is trying to answer to these Christians to help them understand what faithfulness to Jesus looks like. Now, when it comes to Paul's writings specifically throughout the New Testament, they're what are called epistles, E-P-I-S-T-L-E-S. Oh, come on, my wife was a spelling bee champion. She almost went to the national spelling bee but she was two words away and unfortunately didn't get to go. So I think I'm a good speller by association.

That's good.

Moving on. So the thing about epistles, these are letters that the apostles wrote to churches and the goal of these epistles was to help these early churches navigate some of the questions about how to follow Jesus faithfully in their specific time and context. And so when we are reading the epistles, we're actually reading somebody else's mail. It's almost like if you, Caitlin, are having a text message conversation with a friend who is asking you to help them navigate a problem they're experiencing at school and you're giving them advice, and then somehow thousands of years later we find part of that conversation, but all we can see are the things you said and not what the other person said. This is kind of what it's like when we read epistles, we're getting part of the conversation, we're getting Paul's words of advice of encouragement and teaching to these early churches. And because we only have part of the story, we always wanna read these words with humility and curiosity knowing that God inspired it to help us become more like Jesus, but we don't have everything so we don't wanna assume that everything means what we think it means, because that can get us into a lot of trouble really quickly.

Right, okay, so I have a question. If I'm searching for the context of some of these things, especially the epistles and trying to understand like who wrote it, who'd they write it to, why did they write it? Where do I look to start to find some of that information?

That's a great question. First, you keep watching Switch Uncut, somebody, let's go, second, you can check out the BibleProject on YouTube, they are absolutely phenomenal at helping people understand the meaning of the different books of the Bible and what we read. They've got a bunch of Bible plans as well in the YouVersion Bible app, something else that's kind of cool is if you go into the YouVersion Bible app, not every version does this, but in the New International Version translation of the Bible, you can go to like an intro chapter that's before chapter one if you're like searching through the books and those give you a really good overview, like, I don't know, a few paragraphs of the context of what was going on and the big ideas from that chapter. And so like maybe even right now, you can pull up Galatians in the NIV, look at that intro chapter and you're gonna find some really cool information that helps break down some of what was going on and what Paul was trying to accomplish.

Cool, awesome. So do you wanna dive back in and start pulling this thing apart.

Come on, pull it apart, put it back together. That was a pause for effect.

I'm gonna read now.

Go for it.

All right, back in verse 15, we'll read 15 and 16. "We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we too have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law, no one will be justified". Okay, so he's making a distinction between Jews and Gentiles. So let's clarify by who those people are first.

So the Jews, those are the people of God, the nation of Israel descended from Abraham from the very beginning. This has been God's chosen people that he was working with throughout history to bring his plans into effect. And so that's the Jews and then there's the sinful Gentiles. For most of you watching this video, that's us. We are the people who are not Jewish by birth or heritage, but we have been adopted into God's family through our faith in Jesus, which is kind of what that next piece is. Paul talks about how we've put our faith in Christ and that we are justified by faith. That word justified is just a like version of the word justice which means to make wrong things right. So to be justified means that our relationship with God that was wrong because of our sins has been made right through the grace of Jesus.

That's good, yeah, he says that word justified a bunch. And then he says something down there at the bottom, works of the law. What does that mean?

Yeah, so the works of the law, there's some different kind of like interpretations and understandings of that phrase. It seems like what most people tend to agree that the works of the law is the Jewish law in the Old Covenant that was specifically given to the Jewish people. It's like the Old Covenant is the kind of old partnership that God formed with specifically the nation of Israel. And then when Jesus arrived he began a New Covenant, a new partnership with everybody who's willing to say yes to a relationship with him. And so when Paul talks about the works law versus being justified by faith, what he's talking about is the difference between how we are made right by God. For the Jewish people it was, hey, God has formed this partnership with you, now live in accordance with these things. For those of us who are now under the New Covenant, we've been offered this gift called grace, where what makes us right with God is not living according to the Jewish standard but it's actually faith in Jesus, responding to the gift of grace that we've been given.

That's good. So that first section is painting the contrast between Jews and Gentiles, and then being justified by works of the law versus faith in Jesus.

Yep, 100%.

Okay, so we keep going, 17 and 18. "But if in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn't that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not. If I rebuild what I destroyed then I really would be a law breaker". Okay, hold on a second. What is this question that Paul is begging of like doesn't that mean Christ promotes sin? How did he get there and what does that mean?

So, when you look at the context of what comes right before this passage, it's Paul describing interaction he had with Peter, another one of Jesus's disciples who was being a friend of Gentiles and eating with them, drinking with them, doing all kinds of things that under the Old Covenant would've been considered sin. And then when some other Jewish Christians who felt like in order to be faithful to Jesus, you have to live out all the laws of the Old Testament, they arrived and all of a sudden Peter stopped hanging out with Gentiles, and so Paul called him out on it. He said, hey bro, you know that grace brings us rightness with God, and so why are you avoiding interacting with the people that Jesus died for? And so Paul has this really interesting confrontation with Peter and, you know, basically says, do what Jesus would do, Jesus was a friend of sinners. And so this specific question I think is mostly referring to the broader question of, okay, but if we're not justified by doing the right things but through faith in Jesus, does that mean that we can just do whatever we want? And the answer is of course not. Like if you actually have a relationship with somebody and they trust you and they love you, and you think that that means you can go do whatever you want, then you are a bad friend. If because my wife committed herself to be married to me forever, I took that as permission to go and have inappropriate relationships with other people, I would be a bad person, my wife would still love me, she would still have made the decision to get married to me, but I would basically be spitting in her face. And this is the thing about grace, is it doesn't lead us to just go and do whatever we want, it gets deep into us and changes who we are from the inside out because we know that regardless of what we do or what we have done, we are loved by God. And so does grace promote sin? Absolutely not. What grace does is it leads us to live a life of faithfulness to Jesus.

That's so good. Okay, so the next question that I have is Paul is talking about rebuilding and destroying things. If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a law breaker. What is being rebuilt and destroyed? What is he talking out here?

Yeah, fantastic question. I think that the next verse actually tells us the answer. And before you read it, it's just a preview of so much of what Paul's getting at here is the contrast between living under the Old Covenant and living under the New Covenant. Living under the law of Moses that was given to the people of Israel versus living under the grace of Jesus that we've all been invited into.

Got it. Okay, so I'll go ahead and read the next two verses, 19 and 24. "Through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith and the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me".

So, through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. What Paul's saying is I had this old way of life as a just Jewish person, now I have a new way of life as a Jewish believer in Jesus. And this old way of life has passed away because I have a new life in Christ. And in this next part, he says he's been crucified with Christ, so it's no longer Paul who lives but it's Jesus living in him. The thing about faith in Jesus that is really difficult for us to wrap our minds around, is it's not just that we're offered a new way of life, it's not just that we're adopted into God's family, but actually according to the Bible, we become one with Jesus, we are united with Christ. And so now when we live, it's not just us living, but it's Christ who lives in us. Now, what all does that mean? Great question. Like we can't fully comprehend it, but I think it's just really interesting to consider the implications of what would it look like if you really believed that you were one with Jesus, that through your faith in him, responding to his gift of grace, that you became not just a new person, but united with the son of God. And then Paul concludes this little verse by saying, I live now by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave of himself for me.

That's good.

That part is so powerful. Jesus loves you and he gave himself for you. And it is in that belief, in that truth, that Paul is able to live faithfully knowing that there's gonna be a lot of people who don't like him, Who try to silence him, who try to hurt him, who eventually will imprison him and execute him. But none of that phases him, why? Because Jesus loves him and Jesus gave himself for him.

That's good, that's good. So the very last verse, verse 21 says, "I do not set aside the grace of God for if righteousness could be gained through the law, then Christ died for nothing". That's a bold claim right.

That's really bold, so Paul just said, if we could be made right with God, if we could be justified by doing all the right things, then Jesus never would've had to die. So if we tried to achieve a rightness with God through doing all the right things then we're basically saying that Jesus died for nothing. But that's not the case, we are all sinners, we've been infected by this disease of self-centeredness that bends us away from what's good and true and towards what we like and what we want. And this is the beauty of who Jesus is, is he invites us to be cured from that disease, to be made right with God, to become one with him. Not because we do all the right things, but because of his offer of grace that transforms us from the inside out.

That's so good. So we've just walked these passage, talked about that we're not justified by trying to do all of the right things, we're justified by our faith in Jesus and his grace towards us. So, as we've kind of walked through this, what are some of the questions that you're asking yourself or the Holy Spirit has been prompting you with?

Yeah, two big questions. Question number one for me is, where am I trying to gain God's approval through keeping the law, through doing all the right things? And then question number two is where am I choosing grace for myself and the law for others? So starting with question number one. Where am I trying to gain God's approval through keeping the law? I dunno about you but I'm the kind of person who really likes it when other people tell me good job for something I do well. And so I try to most of the time do things well so that I can get a clap on the back or a good job or way to go. And I think that that idea and that way of thinking definitely has infiltrated my understanding of God in the sense that there are times where I think because I read my Bible today, because I spent time with Jesus, because I prayed, because I was kind to that person who was unkind to me, then that probably means God loves me more today. And then on days where maybe I am not as intentional about spending time with Jesus, or where I get frustrated with my one year old kid who, you know, sometimes will just throw up all over the place, like the couch, super gross. We moved into a new house, got a brand new couch with it, and like two weeks in, threw up all over it. So this big old throw up stain on this new couch. And so sometimes I get frustrated, I'm unpatient with my kid, and in those moments I can start to think, wow, what does God think of me? And that thing right there is so interesting because if I actually were to answer the question based off the truth of what we find in scripture, the answer to that question would be, God loves me, he gave himself for me, that's what Paul just described. And so for me, what I wanna continually do is root out this performance mindset that if I do more, then God loves me more. And instead replace that with the truth of what it is that Paul told us, that it's no longer I who live but it's Christ who lives in me and he loves me, and he gave himself for me, that doesn't change just because I'm not being a great Christian that day, it doesn't change because I'm being a stellar Christian that day, and I'd say both of those phrases sarcastically because all of us as followers of Jesus are sinners who've been saved by grace.

Come on, that's something that I've kind of been thinking about recently for me as well is I can be super tempted to like live for that well done my good and faithful servant and just like try so hard to one day potentially earn God saying those words to me. But what I miss and exactly what you're saying is that when I am like going with all of my efforts and all of my might towards achieving that well done my good and faithful servant, I actually miss that the other part of that exact same verse is would you just enter into the joy of your master? And that is something that God has been challenging me with recently, is like, how often am I pushing towards this well done my good and faithful servant and rejecting the joy of my master?

Dang, that's really good, we should probably do a whole episode on that sometimes. Okay, question number two.

Question number two.

Where am I choosing grace for myself and the law for others? So Paul said that if righteousness could be gained through the law then Christ died for nothing. Here's the thing that I think is so challenging is there are times where it's really easy for me to have grace for myself. You know, I described those situations where I do something wrong and I feel like maybe I've let God down, and obviously that's not true. But then there are other times where I do something wrong and I'm just like, well, thankfully the grace of God covers that. But then other people do things wrong, and instead of thinking, man, thankfully God's grace covers that, I think, golly, that person sucks. And that is not the right way to think. Because if I'm holding other people to the standard of righteousness that comes through the law, through doing everything perfectly, then I'm basically saying that Christ died for nothing. And that's super convicting to me because I have a tendency to be incredibly judgemental and critical of others and blind to my own hypocrisy. And so what I wanna do daily is ask God to give me eyes to see others the same way that he sees them, to see them as sinners saved by grace. And Also to see myself that way, because there are times where I can be blinded to my own selfishness and arrogance and what have you, and I don't wanna lose sight of the fact that all of us are united in the fact that we've all fallen short of God's standard. And all of us as followers of Jesus are united in the grace that has been offered to us and the faith that we now have because Jesus died for us and Jesus loves us.

Yeah, that's good. Again, something that I have been processing in correlation to that is, I've said for a long time that I'm really good at giving grace to other people, I'm terrible at receiving it for myself. And I just felt like the Holy Spirit just convicted me so hard about that because like, Caitlin, hey, you can't give away what you don't have. So, there's that.

That's good.

And B what I realized was that I wasn't actually giving people grace, I was giving people excuses because that's what I was actually giving myself. It's like I was really trying really hard to like justify their behavior, and so I'd say, oh, it's okay you're just tired, it's okay, you know, you just, you know, this happened to you so that's why you acted this way towards me and so I'm just gonna be so generous, I'm gonna give you grace. But what I was really doing was attempting to justify their behavior so it didn't hurt me as much. But what grace is, it says, you know, actually that really did hurt and it's not actually okay, but there's space for you to be human too.

Come on.

And that's something that God has been kind of challenging and working in me is like, do I actually give grace to people and have I actually received the full measure of his grace for myself?

That's so good. The thing about grace is that it only sticks to our imperfections, it's what Author Donald Miller says. And it's so important for us to remember that if we don't acknowledge our own sinfulness, then it's gonna be really hard to accept God's grace because grace only sticks to our imperfections. And so having grace for ourselves and others doesn't mean ignoring the things that are done wrong, it just means acknowledging that God's grace is bigger than that. And so for you, as you're watching this episode, as you have questions, as there are things that God is revealing to you, let us know in the chat below, like comment down below, say, this is what God's showing me, here's what I'm trying to learn, here's a question that I have that I have no idea what to do with. And what we wanna continue to do is go on this journey with you and figure out how can we, as followers of Jesus in our modern world, become students of the Bible knowing that it is through the Bible that we can better understand who Jesus is and the life called us to live. And so thank you for joining us once again for an episode of Switch Uncut and we'll see you next time.

Bye guys.
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