Only Partly Dead

Galatians 5:1, 7 “Do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. . . . You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” (NIV).

Observation: Paul’s direct words are self-evident in their meaning. He challenges the Galatian churches to stand firm in their new life in Christ while also warning them against trying to live under the law or somehow trying to blend life under law with grace through faith. The freedom Paul emphasizes is freedom to no longer be burdened with law. If the Spirit of Christ leads us, we will turn from sinful pursuits. Instead, our lives would manifest such Christ-like fruit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see Gal. 5:22–23).

Application: Is there anywhere in language a phrase more haunting than to “be burdened again”? There are indeed some afflictions in life that burden us again, often ones for which we have no antidote and which may be more difficult upon second appearing: recurring illnesses, investments that take yet another hit, or loved ones’ repeated rejection of our values. These are generally things we cannot avoid; life for most of us is not that tidy. But the truly awful prospect is that there are some things we permit to burden us again over which we do indeed have control.

Picture a three-year-old child seeing Grandpa approach the house and running to open the door for him. Grandpa, knowing nothing of this flurry of good intentions, pushes the door open, whereupon the child dissolves into wails of disappointment. Her response is poor, but not overly objectionable due to her age. She unfailingly receives correction, yet her response is the same the next time the scenario is repeated. Here, though, is the encouraging thing about a three-year-old: one day she will be four or five, and presumably no longer subject to the rants of her immature past.

Shamefully, I must confess that although I have been a Christian considerably longer than my granddaughter has been opening doors, an occasional rant still attends my behavior. What was Paul’s question again? “Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying?” Ouch. I’m doing pretty well in the debauchery and sexual immorality departments, but I begin to squirm at honest self-assessment of jealousy. And let’s not even think about those other categories. I’m only partly dead, aren’t I, Lord? What does the Manual say? “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (v. 16). “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (v. 24).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I think I understand a bit more as to why You have given me life and breath for yet another day. It’s for practice, isn’t it? Thank You for Your grace toward me as I lay before Your Cross those traits that are not yet fully crucified and dead.

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