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
Stand Firm: God's Armor

Paul teaches us that God is renewing and reconciling the world through Christ. The church is the “administration” that he uses to advance his renewing grace in the world. Satan, though defeated, is scheming through deceit to undermine this work through distortion, doubt, division, and distraction. 
 
But Paul tells us that God has provided armor, forged in the fires of his glory, for us to wear in our battle against Satan’s deceitful schemes. It is armor the prophets tell us that God has worn in his war against unrighteousness. The armor he provides is bound up in his character and grace, which is why Paul urges the believers to be strong “in the Lord.”
 
So come Sunday and consider God’s armor for the church.

Tim Locke
Stand Firm: Satan's Schemes

Sunday, in our summer series, we’ll consider the apostle’s meaning of “schemes of the devil.” Paul is clear that our conflict is with spiritual forces whose leader is Lucifer, God’s created angelic servant who rebelled, taking a third of the heavenly host with him. Here he is called the “devil” or the “slanderer.” While this title gives us a clue into his schemes, it doesn’t help us understand how the armor of God helps us resist him.

Two scriptural texts help us understand the attacks of our slanderous adversary: Ephesians and 1 Timothy. The issues that Paul addresses in the Ephesian letter (faith, hope, unity, morality, etc.) give us an idea into Satan’s schemes, but so does Paul’s letter to Timothy whom Paul left in Ephesus. We’ll consider both texts to help us understand the enemy we are preparing to stand against.

 So come Sunday and let’s know our enemy!

Tim Locke
Stand Firm

Sunday we begin a new series on the spiritual warfare we experience as believers. In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul explains that God sent Christ to unite all of his creation under one Lord, 1:10. This is God’s response to the corruption of his creation, especially his image-bearers. His purpose in Christ is to create “one new man,” the church, under one head, Jesus. Through the church, God is administrating his renewal and reconciliation program for the creation.

Though Jesus won the decisive victory over Satan and his forces, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, evil forces continue to oppose his plan for renewal. They fight God’s plan to unite all creation under Christ’s redemptive work. These forces are active today, opposing the church and her work in the world.

In this context, Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God so that we can stand strong in opposition to the forces of evil scheming for our demise. Before we consider the armor, we must understand the ground we are defending! So come Sunday, and let’s worship our Lord and prepare for battle.

Tim Locke
Faith Working Through Love: Stand Firm!

Sunday will be our last study in Galatians until September. Our study this summer will be in Ephesians 6, considering the “Armor of God.” Our text this week in Galatians 5:1 sets us up well for our summer study. Here Paul urges us to stand firm in the freedom that Christ has won for us and granted us through his grace. As is typical with Paul, he begins with a declaration, “For freedom Christ has set us free.” This forms the foundation for his directive to stand firm.

“Stand firm” is an imperative. It’s a directive! He’s telling us to fight, not to earn our freedom, but to live in it, because it is constantly being challenged. What challenges our freedom? Our own fear that God doesn’t treat us according to grace. The legalism of others who live in their fear. The narcissism of those who want to abuse freedom. 

So come Sunday and let’s consider this admonition to stand in the freedom of Christ. Then next week we’ll consider the armor we need to engage in this battle!

Tim Locke
Faith Working Through Love: Children of Promise

In our text Sunday, Paul makes a comparison between Abraham’s two sons. His first son, Ishmael, was the result of a union with Hagar, his concubine, a slave woman. It was Abraham’s way of helping God keep his promise. But Hagar, his concubine couldn’t produce an heir, only a son born in slavery. Paul says that this represents the Jews of his day, enslaved to the law, trying to leverage human effort to secure their salvation.

His second son, Isaac, through his free wife Sarah, was born seventeen years later when he and his wife were unable to conceive. God kept his promise but did it in a way no one could take credit for it. Not only was he born in freedom, but he was born the genuine heir of Abraham’s estate. Isaac represents all who are children of God by grace alone through faith alone.

He concludes that the Gentile Christians were children of promise, and they can’t now rely on human effort to establish right standing with God. So come ready to worship Sunday, for God has set us free in Christ

Tim Locke
Faith Working Through Love: Forming Christ

Sunday we will consider Paul’s personal appeal to the Galatian believers to resist those who are excluding them. These Jewish disciple-makers were trying to incite the Gentile believers to adopt the law by excluding them from the Christian community. Paul calls out this power-play and urges his audience to see through it.

In this section, he shares his personal love and zeal for these believers, like a mother in labor. His efforts and continued concern is that they experience the full formation of Christ in their lives, not succumbing to the pressure they’re experiencing. 

This passage has strong implications for our church and ministry. So read Galatians 4:12-20, and let’s be ready to consider this text.

Tim Locke
FAITH WORKING THROUGH LOVE: RITUAL COMFORT

Sunday’s passage is an important one to Paul’s presentation. He addresses the Gentile believers directly urging them to not retreat back to religious ceremony as their source of righteousness. Doing religion can make us feel like we’re good people: we give a little bit of money, we attend church, we do a little bit of good, we keep most of the rules. The Gentiles had left their culture of worshiping pagan deities and following the rules of their setting, to follow Christ by faith. Now they were being told that faith in Christ is not sufficient, and they should start keeping Jewish ceremonies. It feels natural, but it threatens their faith in Christ.

We’re not different from the Galatian believers. We’re programmed to equate good deeds and ceremony with righteousness. As sinners, we fall short, so we look to Jesus instead. But this doesn’t change our programming and our attachment to religion. How do we combat this programming?

Come Sunday to hear Paul’s presentation.

Tim Locke
Faith Working Through Love: adoption

On Sunday we will go back to our study of Galatians and focus our attention on Paul’s argument that we have received “sonship” through faith in Jesus. While Paul argues that justification makes us right with God, not obedience to the law, now he expands our understanding of redemption to include our inclusion by membership in God’s family. What’s amazing about this is that God can give us new life and justify us without adopting us. Adoption demonstrates his love, as John says, “See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1) God demonstrated his love by sending his Son (Romans 5:8), then he blows us away with his love by adopting into his family.

 Being a member of God’s family comes with amazing benefits: how we relate to him; how he relates to us; what Christ provides us; the work of the Spirit; etc. It’s an amazing list that we’ll consider together and pray the Spirit helps us live in our adoptive relationship with God.

So come Sunday, and let’s worship God for adoption!

Tim Locke