On a mission…
Randy and I have been to many pastors’ retreats in the past. To say that we enjoyed them would not be honest. Here is the reason why, and I am just now opening up to share this out loud. When pastor’s get together, it begins with the usual question. “So, how’s “your” church doing?” Followed by, “How many do you have now?” The retreat then would follow a pattern of “one-up -manship” while trying sugar-coat perceived failures in ministry.
You come seeking rest and affirmation. You go away feeling “less than” you were before coming. You want and need to be affirmed in what you are doing to advance the gospel of Jesus, to make sure that what you are preaching is indeed God’s Truth. You do not want to play the political positioning game to seek higher, nobler stances in the religious organization. We seek integrity.
Paul, a few years after his conversion, met with advisers, other pastor leaders, seeking affirmation, to compare notes, and to make sure that he was telling God’s Truth of the Person he adored, Jesus Christ. What he saw in Peter, disturbed him. He called him on it…out of love and with a spirit of Truth-seeking.
Galatians 2, The Message
What Is Central?
2 1-5 Fourteen years after that first visit, Barnabas and I went up to Jerusalem and took Titus with us. I went to clarify with them what had been revealed to me. At that time I placed before them exactly what I was preaching to the non-Jews. I did this in private with the leaders, those held in esteem by the church, so that our concern would not become a controversial public issue, marred by ethnic tensions, exposing my years of work to denigration and endangering my present ministry.
11-13 Later, when Peter came to Antioch, I had a face-to-face confrontation with him because he was clearly out of line. Here’s the situation. Earlier, before certain persons had come from James, Peter regularly ate with the non-Jews. But when that conservative group came from Jerusalem, he cautiously pulled back and put as much distance as he could manage between himself and his non-Jewish friends. That’s how fearful he was of the conservative Jewish clique that’s been pushing the old system of circumcision. Unfortunately, the rest of the Jews in the Antioch church joined in that hypocrisy so that even Barnabas was swept along in the charade.
14 But when I saw that they were not maintaining a steady, straight course according to the Message, I spoke up to Peter in front of them all: “If you, a Jew, live like a non-Jew when you’re not being observed by the watchdogs from Jerusalem, what right do you have to require non-Jews to conform to Jewish customs just to make a favorable impression on your old Jerusalem cronies?”
15-16 We Jews know that we have no advantage of birth over “non-Jewish sinners.” We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it—and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good.
17-18 Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? (No great surprise, right?) And are you ready to make the accusation that since people like me, who go through Christ in order to get things right with God, aren’t perfectly virtuous, Christ must therefore be an accessory to sin? The accusation is frivolous. If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan.
19-21 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.
Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.
What do we learn? A ton…this is only the tip of the iceberg…
–Sometimes we ask the wrong questions. Instead of how’s your church, ask where has God led you and what are you learning as He leads You? What do you believe about…study the scripture together, has it out, discover the freedom of God’s Truth.
–Confront real issues with grace, mercy and unconditional love.
–Call each other on fake notions and actions in a Spirit of love and Truth.
–Seek trusted advisers who will tell you the truth.
–Ultimately trust GOD as the final answer who gives us the freedom to live as HIS woman or man of God.
–NEVER forget Christ lives in us!
–Don’t live to impress God or to be merely impressed with Christ. Love God with all your heart, all your mind and all your soul. Then dare to move out of the comfort zones of our religion to discover a free, forever, growing relationship with Jesus Christ our Savior AND our LORD with his constant Presence living in us. Wow!
–We will never be “good enough” but Christ is more than enough for us!
Dear Heavenly Father, Wow. I will be thinking about this all day long. You have stirred my inner heart. My mind is reeling. Teach us more. We repent of asking wrong questions and trying to perfect. Impressing others is just not important to me. Loving You, knowing You more is central to my life. I believe! I trust in You alone. Continue to be with us, go with us, I pray…
In Jesus Name, Amen