Faith Working Through Love: Scandal

Want to be free from worry? Want to be free from fear? Want to be free from the consumer culture we experience in America? Become a minimalist. Minimalism doesn’t mean having stuff is wrong, but the meaning that we attach to stuff is binding. This trend in American culture seeks to address the greed, covetousness, and personal identity built around material possessions. But notice that it promises the very thing Christ offers in the gospel: freedom. It presents a subtle alternative to the cross work of Christ and the sanctifying work of the Spirit.

Paul says, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” (Gal. 5:9) This proverbial saying captures Paul’s concern for the Galatian believers and for us. Those troubling them were affecting their obedience to the truth of grace, and that of the church. Paul asks the question, “who hindered you?” The word “hindered” carries the idea of throwing up obstacles, distractions, diversions, and distortions. 

The leaven is the false teaching, but how can we separate the teaching from the teacher? Those persuading believers that freedom comes in obedience to Jewish law (or other cultural alternatives) were to be confronted (like Peter, Gal. 2:11-14) and Paul does just that. 

Living in the grace of God and the work of his Spirit, is radically transformative. It will lead you to build your life around Christ and not possessions, but not out of a man-made quest for freedom. An identity in the gospel will make you love people not things. So come Sunday, and let’s discuss.

Tim Locke
Faith Working Through Love: Fallen From Grace

Sunday we will continue our series through Galatians. We’re moving from the Apostle Paul’s theological argument to his applications. This week we’ll consider the seriousness of turning to traditions of men or the law of God to prove or improve our standing with God. Paul presents the binary options of law or grace, faith or works. It reminds me of Jesus’ thought that you can’t serve God and money, you have to choose.

The challenge is that my life doesn’t always function this way. I would argue that I’m trusting in Christ alone by faith alone in grace alone, but then I find myself defending my performance as proof of my self-righteousness. In those moments I’m not glorying in the grace of God through Jesus, rather I’m glorying in my performance. My desire is to live in the grace of God, but I often fall away from grace.

The binary choice calls me in that moment of self awareness to repent and look to Christ for grace. So join us Sunday, and consider the struggle to live in the grace provide through Jesus.

Tim Locke
Stand Firm: Spiritual Warfare

Sunday we wrap up our study of the armor of God revealed in Ephesians 6. The armor is not something we put on every day, but a person we draw near to. As we draw near to God, the Spirit fills us, empowering us to stand firm in the gospel, to know the love of God in Christ Jesus, to put on the new man, and to speak boldly the grace of truth.

Additionally, the armor is not just for you, but the equipping within the community of faith. Our strength is in the Lord and in standing shoulder to shoulder with our sisters and brothers. Paul doesn’t say, “you put on the armor,” but “y'all put on the armor.” While each of us is responsible to draw near to God, we are also, each responsible to help one another draw near to God. Our strength is found in our community not our individuality.

These are just some of the overarching lessons that we’ll consider. So join us Sunday as we receive the equipping grace of Jesus Christ.

Tim Locke
Stand Firm: Praying in the Spirit

One of the best ways to learn to pray is to simply pray.  But, the quality of our prayers matters. In other words, how we pray matters as much, if not more, than the act of prayer itself.  When we pray, are our prayers an act of worship that helps to remind us of our place in God’s story?  Do my prayers remind me that God is the main actor who has rescued me and called me to live in Christ?  Or, do I treat God more as a vending-machine God to fulfill my requests and desires?

A question one might consider is not ‘What do I pray for today?’ but rather ‘How do my prayers unite me with Christ?’  When we treat prayers as a thing I do (or must do) so that I can check-off my list of spiritual to-dos, there are limitations in how one can grow as a person of prayer. 

A person of prayer inhabits God’s story. A person of prayer welcomes God’s inbreaking reign into every aspect of his/her life so that this person of prayer prays “in the Spirit on all occasion with all kinds of prayers and requests” (6:18).  How are we empowered to become a people of prayer? Does the reality that God has accomplished all things in Christ shape and inform what our prayers look like and sound like?

Come Sunday and let’s learn how to pray in the Spirit.

~ Brian Ryu

Guest Contributor
Stand Firm: Sword of the Spirit

This Sunday we consider the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” You’ll recognize that the language of “take” or “receive” grammatically applies to the sword. The sword is something God provides and that we receive. The sword Paul references is the short sword the soldier carried for close combat as opposed to the longer broad sword.

This piece of the armor is the Spirit’s sword because He is the great revealer of God. It’s the Spirit that built the church through divine revelation given to the “apostles and prophets.” (Eph. 2:20) He is the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation” so that our eyes are opened to the truth, so that we can know God and stand firm in truth.

Paul says this sword is God’s word, wielded against error (distortion of truth), used to minister to one another, and used to cleanse God’s people. So, come Sunday and consider the function of the word of God in spiritual warfare.

Tim Locke
Stand Firm: Helmet of Salvation

The next piece of God’s armor we’ll consider is the helmet of salvation. Picture a cross between the plumage of a hat at the Kentucky Derby and a football helmet. It was a mix of ornamental and protective. It was made of metal, usually iron, and lined with a sponge or linen. It is another critical piece for a soldier and critical for spiritual warfare. Again, notice that Paul links the shield, helmet, and sword with the phrase “in all circumstances.”

We see another link in these three pieces when Paul says, “take up.” The English translation doesn’t do justice to the language and paints the picture of a soldier walking through an armory and choosing his shield, armor, and sword (picture Russell Crowe in Gladiator). Instead the better word choice is “receive,” which pictures a soldier receiving his armor from the hand of his commander. 

We receive God’s salvation by faith through grace, and it is his salvation that protects us in battle. So, come Sunday and consider God’s work of saving grace

Tim Locke
Stand Firm: Shield of Faith

“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” (Eph. 6:16) This Sunday we consider the function of faith in spiritual warfare. The last three pieces of the armor (shield, helmet, and sword) are linked by the phrase, “in all circumstances.” The emphasis of the shield is not your faith but “the faith” or the teaching of the Scripture that we believe. Our faith in “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) is a defense against Satan’s attacks. When Paul writes Timothy, pastoring in Ephesus, he challenges him to hold to the faith expressed in the doctrine of Scripture.

Paul adds the comment about Satan’s flaming darts, which is interesting because it helps us understand that he doesn’t always do full assaults but often lobs arrows our way. The large shield used for phalanx fighting was covered with leather often soaked in water so that the flaming arrows would be extinguished upon striking. Our faith in the teaching of Scripture absorbs the blow and extinguishes the attack.

So join us Sunday as we consider the shield of faith!

Tim Locke
Stand Firm: Gospel Readiness

Are you ready for the spiritual battle that you’re engaged in? The next piece of the armor speaks to our preparedness. Picture yourself on the battlefield, sword drawn, shield up, waiting for the commander to yell, “charge.” Are you ready? Can you charge? Can you push forward against the enemy?

If you’re rooted in the gospel of peace, the answer is, “yes.” The gospel, functions like a soldier's shoes. Picture Chacos with cleat style spikes that hold you firm in the ground and give you the added advantage of stability. As the battle is joined, your line stands firm against the enemy’s charge and together push the enemy back.

As you live in the gospel, secure in the peace Christ has provided, you can advance the gospel into enemy territory. So come Sunday and consider the power of the gospel in your life!

Tim Locke
Stand Firm: Breastplate of Righteousness

Sunday we’ll consider the next piece of God’s armor, the breastplate of righteousness. This piece of armor protected the soldier's vital organs and was secured to the belt. It was fastened down so that it wouldn’t move during battle. The piece could refer to the righteousness of Christ that we stand in through God’s justification, but the context seems to indicate something else.

Paul says that our “new self” is created after the “likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (4:24) From there Paul describes what righteousness and holiness look like for the people of God. Remember that often when the word righteousness is used in Scripture it refers to how we treat others. It refers to our social responsibility as members of a community. When God puts on the breastplate of righteousness in Isaiah 59:17, it’s to restore Israel as a place of righteousness by pursuing justice against oppression.

So come Sunday and consider how the breastplate of righteousness functions in the church!

Tim Locke
Stand Firm: The Belt of Truth

Sunday we’ll continue our study, as we learn to use the armor of God to stand firm against the schemes of the evil one. The first thing that Paul urges us to put on is the belt of truth. He begins here because the belt is a critical piece of a soldier’s armor. When the soldier needed to prepare for battle, he would tuck his tunic into the belt. In addition, the belt would hold his sword. 

Paul sees “truth” as the central and critical piece for the believer and the church. While truth includes the word of God, he has something broader in mind: integrity, sincerity, and truthfulness. Truth specifically addresses Satan’s deceitful schemes. If deceit is central to evil’s influence, truth is central to the church’s resistance and advance. 

So come Sunday and let’s consider the belt of truth!

Tim Locke