What Perfects You?
November 6, 2014 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
I am serving in Haiti this week, teaching a group of Haitian pastors about how all of Scripture centers on and proclaims the gospel. As I was preparing to teach this week I had the opportunity to speak with a missionary with the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission about these pastors. He mentioned that one of the biggest challenges these pastors face is syncretism. Syncretism is where one blends several different religious perspectives together into one faith. So, for the Haitian who becomes Christian, they tend to blend in elements of voodoo and spiritism into their daily religious practices. Christ is not enough for their spiritual needs, in their perspective, so they add these other elements. My prayer for this week has been that these pastors would grasp a clear understanding of the gospel (that Christ is all) and would be energized to proclaim the sufficiency of Christ from all of Scripture.
When we hear of syncretism we may think of more "primitive" peoples, but we all struggle with some form of syncretism. We are all tempted to not be satisfied with Christ alone and look to other "things" to fill us up. Perhaps these other things are not religious, but we place hope in them. How do we discern areas of syncretism in our lives and how do we fight against it?
The apostle Paul was confronting a form of syncretism in his letter to the Galatians. The people of Galatia came to faith through the preaching of Paul, but as they were continuing in faith, they incorporated other religious practices. Looking at Galatians 3:1-9, let's ask why do people drift towards syncretism and how we can fight it.
1. There is a universal human desire to be justified. Paul speaks about this desire in several ways: the desire to be perfected (v. 3; life is complete), the desire to be counted as righteous (v. 6; foundation of acceptance), the desire to be sons of Abraham (v. 7; foundation of significance), and the desire for blessing (v. 8-9). While we may not express a desire to be justified, we all long for these "fruits" of justification.
2. The works of the flesh are our attempts to justify our lives. The mission of Satan and the nature of temptation and sin is to distract us from the only one who can satisfy those desires. We look to other things, often what we can do, for our justification. So Paul asks the Galatians the rhetorical question in verse 3, "Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" The Galatians turned to Jewish law keeping for their justification, as if their perfection depended on what they did. Everyday we fight against this desire to justify ourselves bases upon what we do, whether it's career or comparisons with others or accumulation of stuff. Reflecting on what is our greatest fear may reveal what we are placing our hope in for justification.
3. The call of the Gospel is to yield to ("walk by") the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul emphasizes that the gospel has been the same since the beginning. The blessing of justification is freely offered by faith in Christ (see verse 9). Who we are and what we do does not impact our justification (but our justification certainly impacts who we are and what we do). Paul calls the Galatians "foolish" for trying to add to what Christ, via the Holy Spirit, has already done for them. Walk by the Spirit then. Yield to the Spirit. Rest in the Spirit.
What perfects you?