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Fleeing back to the flesh!

March 4, 2012


That is truly my response to the message that I heard last night at church (yes, I attend church on Saturday night, but back to that in a minute).  The text was Galatians 2 starting in verse 11 and what really struck my heart was how much I am like Peter (Cephas).  Not the Peter who wrote the epistles, but the Peter who so quickly would turn back to his own understanding and would “flee back to the skin” as my pastor put it.  I find myself doing this very thing so often in my daily activities.  Just as Peter succumbed to the pressure of the “circumcision party” or the Judaizers as they are also called, I find myself doing the same thing when I try to use my works or my appearance of righteousness as my justification for relationship with God.  When I “feel good” about myself because I read my bible or go to church or have a conversation with someone about Christ, I don’t hesitate to pray, and if I commit a “minor” sin, I immediately & piously confess my sin to God and then feel even better about how devoted I am.  If I commit a more serious sin, however, like yelling at my wife or blowing my witness at work, I struggle with going to the Lord for confession and restoration and I wallow in my guilt for hours, or days, or even months.  I’m basing my relationship with God on my works when I do such things, just like the “circumcision party” and just like Peter who stopped eating with the Gentiles so the Judaizers would approve of him and he could feel good about his works.  After all, he was a Jew and had been fully obedient to the ceremonial law, including circumcision.  He didn’t want to hurt his reputation by hanging out with the Gentiles!  He was fleeing back to flesh or the works of the law for his justification.  This is the same Peter who, in Acts 10, received the vision, from God, of the theretofore unclean animals in which he was told to “…kill and eat.”  Later in the chapter, he discovered that the purpose of the dream was not just to let him know that it was OK to eat bacon (although I must say that I’m very pleased about the bacon thing!), but that salvation through the substitutionary death of Jesus, was also for the Gentiles as well as the Jews.  Yes, this same Peter who received this revolutionary vision directly from God and who was used to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, was fleeing back to the old ways so he could “appear” righteous to the Judaizers.  I find myself doing this very thing on such a regular basis, wanting to do “right” things or be obedient to the law because I want to earn God’s favor or the favor of others.

So, why did I bring up my Saturday church attendance?  Because I’ve found myself acting just like Peter based on the day I choose to fellowship with believers.  I have intentionally avoided going anywhere or doing anything on Sunday mornings.  I have wanted to become disciplined about exercising for health reasons, but I’ve avoided going out on Sunday morning because I don’t want anyone to think I didn’t go to church.  I’ve also found myself making sure that I’m not seen at the store or coffee shop, etc. until after the noon hour.  I almost didn’t publish this post until after the noon hour so that I wouldn’t be accused of missing church. I don’t even know if anyone will ever read this, but I still found myself fleeing back to the flesh even as I was writing about fleeing back to the flesh!  Just like Peter, I haven’t wanted to be seen hanging around the un-churched when people think I should be in church.  This is just a minor example of my bigger issue, which is so eloquently illustrated by the question posed in Galations 3:

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (ESV)

Oh, dear Jesus, please forgive me for so often attempting to nullify the beautiful grace provided through your sacrifice on the cross, your substitutionary payment of the debt that I owed.  Please help me to honor you by walking in the freedom that your death and resurrection so graciously provides!

From → Devotional

  1. Lauren permalink

    this is soooo good. soooo good. love it! keep writing.

  2. Julie Lowery permalink

    I very much enjoyed reading this! I agree.

    And don’t you agree that when we beat ourselves up for our sin instead of accepting grace and forgiveness that the guilt often drives us into further sin? At least that is my experience…

    As I am learning to accept grace I am also learning to give grace to others. That is my current challenge from God and I am NOT so good at either!!

    Thank you Jerry!!

    • Yes, I certainly believe that unrepentant sin breeds more sin. It’s impossible to walk in the spirit when the mind is set on the flesh. The longer I wait to repent, the more blatantly I seem to sin.

  3. David permalink

    Are you going to church on Saturday nights now? Do you think it’s legalism if one believes that worship should be on Sunday’s only? I admit I struggle with this.

    • David, the short answer is yes. In fact, I was having a similar email exchange today with Frank about the subject of Lent, but that’s for a future post. Here are the scriptures that Frank referenced on that subject which are just as applicable to the keeping of a particular day:

      Romans 14:5
      One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind

      Colossians 2:16-22
      16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come
      , but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
      20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 ( referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? [emphasis added]

      Galations 4:10-11
      10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

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