Who is the Christ who stands in the centre of Paul’s testimony and preaching? He is the crucified Christ - ‘I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me’. He is the living Christ - ‘I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’. In Christ, there is love - ‘He loved me’. In Christ there is life - He ‘lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20).
We don't ‘read into’ the Old Testament things which aren’t really there. We read it in the light of the full revelation of God. We see Christ as the Central Theme. Above everything else and everyone else, there is Jesus Christ our Saviour. God dwells among His people (Exodus 25:8). Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27). God is merciful to us (17-22; Psalm 103:8-12; Micah 7:18-19). Through Christ, we have received ‘mercy’ (Ephesians 2:4-7; Titus 3:4-7). From ‘mercy’ we move on to 'testimony' (Exodus 25:18). The two are vitally related (1 Timothy 1:12-17). The ‘bread of the Presence’ (Exodus 25:30) turns our thoughts to the Cross. The ‘lampstand of pure gold’ calls us to shine brightly for Christ, who ‘came... to save sinners’ (Exodus 25:31; 1 Timothy 1:15).
Jesus says that we are not to be like ‘the hypocrites’ (Matthew 6:2,5,16). The word ‘hypocrite’ means ‘play actor’. It refers to ‘putting on a performance’. This performance may be extremely religious, but God is not in it. The hypocrites live according to ‘the letter’ of the law, but they know nothing of the power of ‘the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3:6). The hypocrites’ religious performance gets along very well without God. His presence is not sought, welcomed or treasured. The hypocrites draw attention to themselves. They do not direct attention away from themselves to God. There is a better way than the way of hypocrisy. It is the way of holiness. Our lives are to be centred on Christ - ‘it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20). We must not forget: apart from Him we can do nothing. We are to abide in Him (John 15:5) - in true holiness.
‘Stop believing these deceitful words, “We are safe! This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!”’ (Jeremiah 7:4). For many, the place of worship has become more important than the Person we worship. They talk a lot about ‘the Church’ - but they never speak of Christ! They love to see ‘the Church’ looking good - but they’re not so concerned about what ‘the Lord sees’ when He ‘looks at the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7)! Their talk is so self-centred - ‘I love my Church. I never miss my Church. I always support my Church’. There is a great deal of ‘I’ in this kind of talk - but Christ is conspicuous by His absence! ‘Look at what I have done for my Church’ - ‘Stop believing these deceitful words’. Let Christ take the place of ‘I’: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20).
‘Participation in the blood of Christ… participation in the body of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 10:16): There is nothing more important than this. We are not to be spectators, standing on the side lines, watching what’s going on without ever getting involved. We are to be participants, getting to know the Lord Jesus Christ, growing in our love for Him, strengthening our faith in Him, bringing more glory to Him. We eat bread. We drink wine. We remember Jesus Christ, ‘the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us’. We do not only remember this great event from the past. We participate in Christ here and now. He has brought us out of our old life - ‘I have been crucified with Christ’ - and into His new life - ‘It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20). Participate ‘in Christ’ - not only in ‘the Church’!So many instructions - Don’t get bogged down in details. Remember this: We do not live by an ethic of legalism. This is an ethic of redemption (Exodus 20:1-2). Forget the God of redemption, and you have nothing but a lot of rules and regulations. Become obsessed with rules and regulations, and there will be no room for the Redeemer and His redemption. ‘Earmarked’ for Jesus, we are to ‘serve Him for life’ (Exodus 21:6). No turning back! We are bound to Him by love - not law! What love He has for us! Exodus 21:30 speaks of ‘ransom’ and ‘redemption’: What great words of the Gospel (Mark 10:45; 1 Peter 1:18-19)! ‘Eye for eye...’ (Exodus 21:24) - This limits vengeance. Remember: Love is the answer - not vengeance (Leviticus 19:18)! Let Christ’s love give you strength - to keep on serving Him (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:6).
Think of the “Good News’ of our Lord Jesus Christ - ‘the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me’. Let your heart overflow with praise to the Lord Jesus Christ - What a wonderful Saviour He is (Psalm 45:1; Galatians 2:20)! Let us celebrate His Name in this generation. Let Him be praised for ever and ever’(Psalm 45:17).
What kind of people are we to be? What kind of life are we to live? We are to be God’s people - people who are learning to live a life of ‘love’ (Proverbs 17:9). How do we learn what love is like? We learn from God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father loves us - ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son...’ (John 3:16). In the Son, we see perfect love - ‘The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20). Through the Spirit, our lives are filled with love - ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love’ (Galatians 5:22). We can only be an influence for love if we are learning to be influenced by love. We are to be people ‘under the Influence’. We are to live our lives under the influence of God’s love. This is the Godly, Christlike, Spirit-filled life - the life of love.
The way of blessing is the way of obedience (Psalm 119:1,9,11,17). Many will choose the way of disobedience - ‘influential people sit together and slander me’. We must choose the way of obedience - ‘Your servant will meditate on Your teachings’ (Psalm 119:23). Following Jesus Christ will not be easy. We see many people turning back from following Him. We are tempted to join them. We feel the pull of the world. We must not take our eyes off Jesus. We must not return to the world’s way of living. We must remember all that Jesus has done for us - ‘He loved us and gave Himself for us’ (Galatians 2:20) - and recommit ourselves to following Him: ‘I have decided to follow Jesus... The world behind me, the Cross before me... Though none go with me, I still will follow... No turning back, no turning back’ (Mission Praise, 272).
In Luke 9:18-27, we learn (a) Who Jesus is: ‘the Christ of God’ (Luke 9:20). (b) What Jesus has done for us: His death and resurrection (Luke 9:22). (c) What Jesus calls us to be: His followers (Luke 9:23). May God give us grace to follow ‘the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us’ (Galatians 2:20). We follow Christ, looking for ‘the Kingdom of God’ (Luke 9:27).
We look back to what Christ has done for us. We look forward to what He will do for us. Looking back and looking forward: These are both found in Hebrews 9:28 - ‘Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him’. We remember our Saviour. We remember what He has done for us: ‘the Son of God loved us and gave Himself for us’ (Galatians 2:20). We eat bread and drink wine, giving thanks that our Saviour went to the Cross for us - His body broken for us and His blood shed for us. We are not only looking back. We are also looking forward: ‘As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes’ (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Remember - and pray, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’ (Revelation 22:20).
Let’s pray for a deeper devotion to the Lord.
When our devotion to the Lord is being deepened as we learn to walk with Him on the way of the cross – “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20) - we will be less concerned with being more popular and more concerned with pleasing the Lord – “approved to God” (2 Timothy 2:15).