In my third week as the high school pastor for Calvary Fellowship, I thought it’d be a good idea to post a blog for each message. Looking at my notes and recalling what I actually talked about this morning, I realize they’re slightly different. But the main points are the same and hopefully they’ll help the high school group if ever they stumble upon my blog.
Teaming up with Danny O’Neil, our head pastor, we’re walking through the book of Galatians. It’s the first leg of a new series we’ve begun (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians) and today was the first week. What he and I didn’t really plan on, though, was teaching from the same exact passage (1:1-10).
“Paul, an apostle – not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead – and all the brothers who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Who are these people “who trouble [the Galatians] and want to distort the gospel of Christ”? It’s quite clear from the rest of Paul’s letter that these are Jewish Christians who regard Jesus as the Messiah, but who desire to remain faithful to the old traditions and law of the Torah, which is why they attempt to require the Gentiles to be circumcised as well. This is the “different gospel” Paul is referring to.
His letter to the Romans deals with this issue more elaborately than he does in Galatians, but what’s important here is the “different gospel.” In his time, “gospel” meant “good news” and would usually have some political connotations (which makes Mark 1:1 so striking in the early Christian era). In our day, it’s like the political parties rallying voters during their election campaigns. Each party presents its top two candidates with a god-like aura about them – as if they were chosen to bring peace and stability to the United States.
But Paul opens the door to other “gospels” beyond politics. Religious beliefs, societal ideals, or even sports teams all have various messages of promise embedded within. We, as humans, have the bad tendency of place our hopes into an ideal, a movement, or a sports team’s triumph to make our lives better if we simply tag along. One of our high school kids also talked about a message of acceptance she notices when she goes to school. What you where, how you act, and what you do determine how cool you are to everyone. Paul, however, teaches exactly the opposite.
What the gospel of Jesus Christ meant for Paul the Apostle was a life in opposition to the people-pleasing ideal of his day. It meant following after the teachings of Jesus regardless of our acceptance in local, national, or even global society. It meant following Jesus especially if we had to sacrifice our “cool” image.
All our lives we’ll be bombarded with societal pressure to believe the right thing, wear the right clothes, or vote for the right political party (pun intended). In my advertising class last spring, we learned that the average person is exposed to roughly 300 advertising messages a day. To use Paul’s language, that’s 300 “different gospel” messages every single day. Not only does that imply we might be distracted, but it also implies we are always going to be challenged. We’re always going to have to compare those messages to the message of Christ to see if there is truth within. We’re always going to have to be somewhat critical of the movements, campaigns, and trends of our society.
My final encouragement this morning to the high school kids was to reflect on what gospel they believe in. What gospel do you seek to represent every day? Academics? Athletics? Something else?
Or is it Jesus?
Give it some thought this week.