Reflecting Galatians_Week One_Living in the Tree of Life

The free gift of salvation can be turned into a two-sided coin of good and evil, and both sides are ultimately worthless and helpless to us. This is Paul’s message to the churches of Galatia.

In the narrative of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2 and 3), Creator God establishes the garden filled with trees; it was the context for Man – his work, his play, his enjoyment of God. At the centre of the garden were two trees: the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The command was simple enough: enjoy one, resist the other. ‘Eat of that other tree, and you will surely die,’ God said.

Who can resist the allure of death? None of us, it turns out! When the choice came between life and perfect relationship with God or death and the possibility of being God-like, we put our money on death.

Paul writes to the churches of Galatia that he had passionately, faithfully and obediently planted with astonishment. They were running strong, but some had cut in on that journey.

The un-truth they’d thrown into the brilliant truth of Jesus’ saving work was that they had to add to it through their performance. It wasn’t Jesus + nothing = everything, but Jesus + circumcision = maybe something more. I’d say they had less skin in the game with the second equation, but however you look at it, they were resorting to the works of the flesh to underpin their salvation.

We look on sagely and echo Paul’s sentiments, “you foolish Galatians”, yet we’re equally adept at contriving our nuanced versions of circumcision.

Consciously or subconsciously, we can concoct our own little personal works projects—ticking the boxes of the works we believe will make us more attractive to God while doing our best to resist the things we think might disqualify us from receiving his love.

Many of these things are good, and the stuff on the evil side of the coin will steal life from us, but they don’t fortress our salvation—that’s God’s job, and He has acted in Jesus.

Someone has to pay for your sin debt, and you can’t.
Someone has to pay for your sin debt, and Jesus has.

Anything we set up as an addition to the resurrected Jesus’ finished work on the cross is an idol – an obstacle Jesus has already conquered. He has dealt with all our versions of circumcision on the cross.

The crisis of faith that some of us have when we finally realise that we’re incapable of holding up our perceived ‘end of the bargain’ is actually a gift of reality. We never could. We were deluded all along. Grace is more potent than we ever imagined. ‘Any other gospel is no gospel at all’, Paul writes.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15)

A friend recently sent me a Croatian saying:
“Spali sve mostove koji te vode natrag onome čega te Gospodin oslobodio”

For those not fluent in Croatian, it translates:
“Burn every bridge that leads you back to what the Lord has delivered you from”.

Sometimes it’s not about burning the healthy bridges of practice and healing and growth that we’ve cultivated but obliterating the false belief that they ever played any role in establishing or maintaining our relationship with God. It never did. Only grace does that.

I’ll never be more loved than I am right now
Wasn’t holding You up
So there’s nothing I can do to let You down
It doesn’t take a trophy to make You proud
I’ll never be more loved than I am right now
You are Jireh; You are enough

There’s always life in the Tree of Life.