I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain?
Everyone gets all excited at the start of a game. People stand up and cheer for the first pitch, the kickoff. There’s always a crowd at the first hole of a golf tournament followed by applause as the announcer introduces the golfers by name.
It’s that way in life too. Everyone gets excited and sends congratulations at the birth of a baby. People gather again, but this time send condolences when that life has ended in death.
But the vast majority of life lived takes place somewhere in the middle. That’s where we spend most of our lives. It may not be where all the excitement is, but it’s certainly where our interests, energies, and work are spent.
Paul’s doing the same thing here with the Galatians. He first talks about the beginning. How they started out in their life of faith in Jesus. When they trusted Jesus, they received God’s Holy Spirit. He came and lived inside them.
They can’t deny this. They know it to be true. When they gave up their sin and received God’s righteousness through Christ’s death on the cross, something happened. Something that can’t be explained by anything in this world.
In some marvelous and miraculous way, they received God the Holy Spirit. Now we don’t know exactly what happened, what was said, or what God did. But one thing’s for certain, it was memorable. Unforgettable. Something that marked the beginning of their new life in Christ.
It doesn’t happen the same for everyone. God chooses to work individually in our lives. But for me, when I got up from my knees after accepting Christ, I knew one thing. For the first time in my life, my sins were forgiven.
Before that moment, my life was a string of forgiveness failures. I had prayed, promised, made sacrifices, but none of it worked. But now, even thought I really didn’t understand much at all. I did know one thing, and that was I was forgiven. A new person in Christ.
Paul points back to their beginning, and then asks about their journey with God. They started with God’s grace and forgiveness. They started with nothing in their hands, they brought nothing to the party with God except their slimy sin and selfishness.
So, Paul asks how they’re going to try and finish. They’re currently living out their lives with Jesus, and they are approaching the finish line. And the question is will they continue living with and through the power of God and his Spirit, or are they going to do it on their own?
You see, there are really only two possible ways get to God.
First – You Do It. This is where all the burden is on us to do everything to earn our way to God. By the way, it’s a crushing weight. There’s no room for error. When you’re under any law, it does not reward good behavior. You don’t earn points for doing what’s right. You only lose points when you do what’s wrong.
Second – God Does It. Since we can’t do it, the only logical option is for God to do it for us. This is what Grace is all about; God reaching out to us and paying off our eternal debt in Jesus. He pay the price and our part is to receive his kindness with thankfulness.
So, how we live each and every day is a matter of choosing between these two ideas. Doing it alone, by ourselves. Or, depending on God to do it for us. There is no middle ground. There’s no such thing as letting God take care of getting me into heaven and I’ll take care of the rest of life.
It’s either everything or nothing. God wants it all and will settle for nothing less. After all, he’s the one that made us. So, he’s earned and deserves all of us. His design is for us to be filled with him, following him, living with him.
And that’s where we’ll find daily joy and fulfillment. When we give ourselves fully to God, when he calls all the shots, that’s when life’s worth living. When every part of life can flourish with beauty and peace.
I don’t know why we always want to take control of our lives when we do such an awful job of it. I guess it’s just our selfishness and sin. But God is rich in mercy, wanting us to receive his open-handed offer of himself.
There is no working, no earning. Only receiving. That’s where the journey starts and ends.
Won’t you take the first step?
Describe how your life is exciting with Jesus.
Are you closer to the start or the finish with Jesus?
How has the freedom that Jesus died for all your sins changed your life?