The Only Thing that Counts - Is Your Life a New Creation in Christ Jesus?
Sunday, March 28, 2010 -
Galatians 6:11-18 - “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.  It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.  For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.  But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.  And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.  From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.”
It is not unique to Galatians that Paul closes with his own hand (11) after having someone else record most of his words (see 2 Thessalonians 3:17, 1 Corinthians 16:21). What is unique about the letter to the Galatians is the kind of tone Paul closes with. There are no warm greetings to specific individuals, no prayers are offered, and the closing benediction is surprisingly short (one verse - 18). The issue of the false teachers and their message seems to be one Paul just can’t let go of easily.
After over half a year studying Galatians, how will we know if its message has reached our hearts? Paul offers a closing test. He contrasts two opposite mindsets. The first is to be shunned and resisted. The second is to be cultivated and embraced:
1) MIND-SET #1 - The first mind-set equates a relationship with God with external religious ceremonies and observances, while shunning the centrality, glory, and cost of the cross of Jesus Christ.
Galatians 6:12-13 - “It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.  For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.”
Here we find the genesis of all spiritual failure and hypocrisy. There are two cancers identified that will eat the substance out of all that the Holy Spirit would do in our hearts:
a) First, the love of praise from others (“....who want to make a good showing....”(12), and, “....that they may boast in your flesh”(13b).How easy it is to drive for religious and personal success while not being equally passionate about a personal devotion to Jesus Christ and a transformed heart.
Has half a year’s teaching in the message of Galatians had any effect on your heart? Question #1 - Are you measuring your relationship to God, not by external forms, but by a genuine, internal, personal transformation of your heart with its affections and desires?
b) Second, the fear of rejection from others - Paul exposes this root motive in verse 12 - “....that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.” There has come a growing reticence in the user friendly, North American church to be dogmatically specific about Jesus Christ, God the Son, and the gospel message of the New Testament, especially since September 11, 2001. Paul calls this “Christophobia” to account and says he “boasts in the cross of Christ”(14). This phobic fear of Christ is both irrational and Satanic.
Has half a year’s teaching in the book of Galatians had any effect on your life? Question #2 - Are you persistent in your devotion to, and proclamation of Jesus Christ, God the Son, as the only hope for a redemptive relationship with Father God, even in a world that persistently presses other religions as equally valid means for reaching and pleasing God?
2) MIND-SET #2 - The peace and mercy of God rule in the life that boasts in the cross of Christ as the source of a totally new heart - a new creation through faith in Jesus Christ.
Galatians 6:14-16 - “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.  And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”
We need to study these words about the cross very carefully. The first thing to notice is they contain not a single word about forgiveness. And second, they do not even mention the death of Jesus Christ. Two other deaths are highlighted. There is the crucifixion of the world to the believer, and there is the crucifixion of the believer to the world. Until we get the message of these verses straight, holiness, power, and the life of the Spirit will elude us.
a) “The world has been crucified to me....”(14) - This is not a person being executed, but a system of desires and ambitions. Paul says that the world has been crucified to him. That doesn’t mean the world system is dead. It means Paul daily counts it as dead. It holds the external appeal of a corpse. And you don’t cozy up to a corpse.
b) “....and I (have been crucified) to the world”(14b) - We need to consider these words. We know we aren’t dead right now. We’re all here studying this passage of Scripture. Dead people don’t do that. How can Paul say he has been crucified while he was writing this letter to the Galatians? Perhaps the best explanation of 6:14 is 2:20 - “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
There is an “I” that has been crucified and there is an “I” that still lives. But the “I” who lives, says Paul, lives by “faith in the Son of God.” Notice, he doesn’t just have faith in the Son of God. He lives by faith in the Son of God. A life lived by faith in the Son of God is a life lived trusting in, and motivated by, the promises given through the Son of God.
Everyone lives life on the basis of what they believe about joy, meaning, purpose, satisfaction and security. Paul says that once he encountered Christ crucified he re-evaluated what he had been basing his life on. He found it to be a lie. He found his life couldn’t deliver what it had been promised by the world. Paul died to his former dreams and motivations. He began to boast in the cross of Christ because he found that only in Christ could his life be eternally secured. The power of the cross becomes effective for me when I die to what I had been putting my faith in before I came to acknowledge the cross of Christ.