When you read through the epistles, there’s a common theme to many of them: Paul is admonishing them for following after false versions of Christianity. Listening to teachers or prophets who said Christ wasn’t fully man or fully God . . . getting tangled back up in the law . . . denying the resurrection. From the vantage point of two thousand years later, we may shake our heads at how those early Christians were just as susceptible to straying from God’s truth as the Old Testament Israelites.
When really, that should be a warning. If God’s people were falling prey to that four thousand years ago, two thousand years ago . . . what are the chances that His people aren’t falling prey to the same today?
Oo, oo, I know the answer! *Insert me waving my hand in the air enthusiastically*
That sounds harsh. And of course, there are faithful Christians today, just as there were where then. But if it was a problem then, it’s a problem now. And if it’s a problem now, then we need to be aware. On our guard. Self-aware. Because I seriously doubt those early church believers knew that they’d strayed from the Way, that they’d done it deliberately, that they thought, “Oh, this version is wrong, but I’ll follow it anyway.” No . . . they thought they were right. They thought they’d come to a better, fuller understanding of something. They thought they were pleasing God. But Paul has pretty strong words for them, doesn’t he?
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth…? (Galatians 3:1)
We–humanity in general–are so foolish. We do let ourselves be charmed and bewitched by other gospels. We believe what we want to, creating idols–our own vision of God, that makes Him over in our own image, instead of letting Him remake us.
But Galatians 3 also gives us a test to know if we’ve stumbled onto that slippery slope. Paul reminds them that they KNOW the Gospel he preached was the true Gospel, because it was by that Word that they received the Spirit.
If we’re following the correct version of Christianity, that test should still hold true. We should still be filled with the Holy Spirit. But even that can be tricky, right? We’re in an age where we know for a fact some people put on a show of being Spirit-filled, when really they’re not. We’ve scientifically proven that drugs give people the same experience as a moving church service (seriously!). How do we even know that, then? If we’ve experienced the genuine thing?
I think that itself is actually the key–the Spirit of God is not an experience. He is not a feeling. He is a tongue of fire, a mighty wind, a being of immense power. And a great mystery too. We should know if that being has filled us. We should be aware of His Presence, of His guidance, of His hand upon us and His whisper in our ears. And we can know if He’s there in the lives of others, because they’ll be bearing His fruit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Those voices you’re listening to today–the ones on social media, on the radio, on the TV, in your own church, the friend trying to tell you how to live, or even in your own head . . . that voice you are using to speak to others . . . do they pass that test? This is a serious question we all need to ask ourselves regularly. And hopefully, the answer is Yes! But it’s not always going to be. Sometimes we’ll have let in voices that promote fear. Sometimes we find ourselves following people who want war instead of peace. Sometimes we find ourselves nodding along to people who are far from gentle, far from kind, who fly off the handle at a moment’s notice. Sometimes we do those things.
Sometimes people talk a good talk, put on a good show, but then the uglies come out years later.
Sometimes people hide judgement behind a sweet disposition.
Sometimes we chase after the visible signs, the miracles, the experience and forget to listen to the still, small Voice that comes in the quiet after the earthquake, not during the show of fire and light.
But we can know, my friends. We can know, when we actually pause to check and to listen and to question, if we’re still following the Right Gospel. We can know, because He won’t hide it from us if we ask. But sometimes we have to ask. Sometimes we have to listen to the Pauls in our lives who warn us when we’re being deceived.
Let’s regularly take the time to evaluate which path our feet are on. Let’s examine the fruit of our own lives and the lives of those whose voices fill our ears. Let’s make sure we all pass the test of the Spirit. Because that’s the only way we know if we’re trusting in the Right Gospel . . . or if we’ve fallen into foolishness like the Galatians.