Monday, August 5, 2013

Building a Good Resume' by Martin Wiles

Galatians 1:10-24

How important is a good resume'? Some would say it’s very important in landing a good job. Classes are given and programs written on how to compose a good resume'. But what does a resume' do? It tells prospective employers about you, your family and may contain your philosophy on some matter. It gives pertinent background information so the prospective employer can get to know you better. It shows your work experience and tells what hobbies and interests you have. It usually includes previous employers and character references enabling prospective employers to check you out to see what kind of person you really are.
A resume' is very important. The way we build them is through a lifetime of experience. One continues to add to their resume' by working different places and involving themselves in different activities. We never complete our resume' until we die or quit working.

Believers are also in the process of building resumes' in the spiritual sense. Paul was in the process of building his. He tells us in these verses how to build a good resume'. Paul had to appeal to his resume' because the Judaizers were attacking his credentials as an apostle. They accused him of nullifying the Mosaic ceremonies, standards and practices. He was watering down the gospel message to make it more attractive to the Gentiles. He was telling the Gentiles they didn’t need to obey the Mosaic traditions and ceremonies anymore. What Paul was teaching was accurate but not in the eyes of those who tried to bind Christians under the yoke of the ceremonial law again. Many Galatians were listening to the Judaizers. Some began to doubt the legitimacy of Paul's apostolicity. Some of the Jewish believers still  harbored prejudice against the Gentiles making it easier for them to listen to the Judaizers. Perhaps they were looking for any reason not to accept the Gentiles. They were God's elect. In these verses, Paul presents clear evidence to refute the accusations made against him.

In light of this, how is it that we build a good resume'?

Paul made it evident to the Galatians he wasn’t in this business to please people but God. There was a time when he tried to please people, but he didn’t now. The time when he did was when he persecuted Christians to please his fellow Jews. This was before he met the risen Lord on the Damascus Road. This was his past life. Jesus created in him a new heart with new desires.

Paul's current goal was pleasing God. He had tried to do this since his conversion experience on the Damascus Road. Since this episode in his life, he taught and lived a different way. Evidently, he is now accused of being a people pleaser. This was a preposterous accusation. He surrendered his life entirely to Jesus. At the end of this epistle, he reminds his readers: “For I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.” Some of these marks he received in Galatia. In the city of Lystra, he was stoned and left for dead. Paul was a martyr for God.

People pleasers are not martyrs by nature. People pleasers try their best to escape ridicule and trouble, but Paul didn’t run from conflict. He didn’t run from ridicule by his own people. Paul's first purpose was pleasing God not people. A part of pleasing Christ was rebuking those who taught salvation by works. Such a teaching detracted from the gospel message of grace through Jesus Christ. If Paul had to offend some to stand for the truth of God's word, he would. And he did. He deeply offended those who tried to bind people under the yoke of the law again.

By nature, we want to please others. There are few people who enjoy conflict. While some are agitators by nature, I think they are in the minority. Most people want others to like them and are striving for unity and acceptance.

But there comes a point where we must draw the line. If pleasing others means contradicting  or compromising the doctrines of God's word, we must stand for the truth of God's Word. We can be people pleasers to a certain extent-and must to function in this world, but there is a line we can’t cross lest we offend God. It is much worse to offend him than others. We must remember even Jesus himself couldn’t please everyone. In fact, they crucified him because of what he taught.

Think of the church. People from different walks of life, backgrounds and personalities make them up. It’s a challenge to work together for the best interest of the church without our own personalities, attitudes and prejudices getting in the way. But it’s our responsibility to work together. The point we cannot cross to please others is compromising God’s Word. On occasion, we must agree to disagree without being disagreeable.

God gave Paul the message he preached. It didn’t come from humans. Paul is saying; “Let me make it perfectly clear. The gospel I preach is not human either in nature or in authority. I did not invent it or alter it, nor did any other person.” His message was divine in origin. Had Paul preached a message with an origin in humanity it would have been a message of works. That was the message the Judaizers were preaching. A person had to work for their salvation. They had to obey traditions and ceremonies now outdated by the work of Christ. Paul preached a message of grace and peace through faith in Jesus Christ.

The reason man's message is often one of works is because of pride. We must prove we are superior to the next person by way of comparison. If I do more, that makes me a better person. In our sinful state, the message of God, which says we experience God's love freely through faith in his Son, offends us. Our pride makes us want to do something, but it’s nothing we can do to receive salvation other than freely believe. We can’t earn it through faithful attendance to God's church, church membership, a vital prayer life, good deeds shown to others or in any other way. God gives it freely to those who place their faith in him.

This instruction to speak God's message was especially directed at the Judaizers who thought they were speaking God's message but really weren’t. Their message came mostly from rabbinical traditions. Their theology, standards and ceremonies had roots in the Old Testament but were so diluted and distorted by their traditions and interpretations that the Judaism of the New Testament was largely received from man and not God. Scripture was a religious relic, not something deserving serious study or obedience. For the most part, what they tried to live by was man-made traditions, many of which contradicted Scripture. This is proven by the reinterpretation Jesus did during his earthly ministry. Many of his strongest rebukes were for the religious leaders not the common sinners.

Paul himself was once caught up in this. He was trained at the rabbinical schools and was a Pharisee trained according to the strictest sect of the Jewish religion. After meeting the risen Savior, he discarded all this for true religion that pleased God. Paul had reason to boast of his Jewish accomplishments, but he didn’t anymore because God showed him the error of his ways. He now counted all this as rubbish.

Paul's new found freedom came by way of revelation from Jesus Christ. A revelation is an unveiling of something that was previously secret. Now Paul knew of Jesus. It was precisely this reason that he went about persecuting those who followed him. He knew Jesus dispensed with the rabbinical traditions and ceremonies. All of this changed, however, when he met the risen Lord. God removed his veil of spiritual ignorance.

If we are to build a good resume', we must speak God's message not our own. God's message involves believing in his Son who paid for our sins on Calvary's cross. Following that, we live for him by obeying his commands. There are many differences about some things among God's people. If we all believed the alike, there would be only one denomination. But in spite of our minor differences, all Protestant denominations believe faith in Jesus Christ is the way to salvation. This is God's message we must speak.
Tradition can be good but deadly. The Judaizers taught a deadly form. To depend on works at the expense of God’s grace destroyed the message of the New Testament. In speaking the message of God, we must make sure it’s his message and not our own or one passed on by tradition. We must make sure we haven’t interpreted the Word of God to suit our own attitudes or prejudices. It must be God's message. And we must admit our beliefs are sometimes colored by traditions passed on by parents, other relatives, or misinformed teachers.

Paul didn’t prove his conversion by anything in his previous lifestyle. He was a diligent persecutor of God's church and Christians. His life before conversion centered in the law and tradition. Being indoctrinated by such a background caused him and many other Jews to lose sight of God's grace. He and they trusted their own works. He tried to destroy God's church. He advanced in the teaching of Judaism far beyond many of his contemporaries. He was blazing the trail but in the process cutting down any who got in his way of interpreting God's word.

Not until Christ in his resurrected form confronted Paul on the Damascus Road did he change. Nothing human could explain the total turn around he made. Only the grace of God could account for it. God enabled him to regain control of his life. From that point, he set out to prove his conversion. A call to service accompanied his transformation.

After spending some time with the apostles at Damascus, he went to Arabia where he prepared for the ministry. From here, he returned to Damascus. After this entire period of about three years, Paul went to Jerusalem. Here he met some of the apostles. From Jerusalem, he went to Syria and Cilicia.

Because of his background, we can understand why it was difficult for early believers to accept Paul’s conversion. They thought he was faking in order to arrest them. Paul had to prove his conversion. He didn’t preach a gospel of works, but he largely proved his conversion through good works and a continuance in God’s work.

We too build our resume' by proving our conversion to others. We speak good words, but it’s our actions that prove who we are. Some today have trouble trusting Christians. Perhaps they have known professing Christians whom they feel let them down by immoral or unethical actions. This happens and is why we must diligently attempt to prove our new birth to others. We must be consistent and holy in our behavior so others can see Christ’s love through us.

What kind of resume' are you building? A good resume' for the Christian tells about their past, present and future. Make sure you never compromise God's teachings to please people. Always speak God's message not your own. Finally, prove your conversion to others.

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