Category Archives: Scripture reflections

The Life I Live in the Body (Galatians 2:20, part 3)

Today, I conclude my reflections on Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20 with attention to the final phrase: “the life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

If we have been crucified – killed – with Christ, and if we have been overtaken by the resurrection life of Christ, then our daily, bodily lives must be different. Christianity is not an abstract philosophy, but an embodied approach to living. We cannot rust to heaven and live like hell. If our body-living is not reflecting the present, dynamic life of Christ, then there is a problem.

Paul declares our bodies to be temples of the Holy Spirit while calling the Corinthians to repentance from sexual sin. Paul’s exclamation at the end of this challenge is: “you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:20). What does honoring mean other than letting God’s plans be preeminent and God’s presence be pervasive in our daily living? Our physical life – eating and drinking, work and rest, affection and sexuality – must all honor God.

“Faith in Christ” is the theme of Galatians, permeating the entire letter. The word ‘faith’ or derivations of it appear over 20 times in this brief letter. Paul lives by the words of the prophet Habakkuk: “the righteous shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11).

Yet this faith is not a generalized faith in ‘something more’. Rather, it is a faith rooted in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He faithfully lived without sin, displayed the truth and grace of God, died through crucifixion, was buried, and rose victorious over sin and death. It is this Faithful One in whom we place our faith.

Yes, we know that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son” (John 3:16), but here again Paul gets personal. Jesus “loved me and gave Himself for me” [italics min]. Through the cosmic truths of God that echo from eternity in Christ, we experience the personal love and sacrifice of Jesus. “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” (Galatians 3:26).

Lord, thank you for buying me at a price.
May my living in my body reflect my relationship with You.
Thank You, Jesus, for Your faithfulness to the Father that gives birth to my faith.
Help me to live each day full of faith in You, my living Savior.

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Posted by on January 17, 2015 in Scripture reflections


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I No Longer Live But Christ Lives in Me (Galatians 2:20, part 2)

I continue my reflections on Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20 today by looking at the second phrase: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

If through Christ’s death we participated in death, then through Christ’s risen life we participate in life. We die with Jesus and rise to life in Jesus. Elsewhere Paul writes, “if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him” (Romans 6:8). In John’s Gospel, Jesus consistently teaches about a real, indwelling relationship that we can have with Him. Praying before His arrest, Jesus asks the Father that future followers would experience the unity with one another like they – the Father and the Son – experience with one another: “that they may be one as we are one – I in them and You in Me” (John 17:22-23).

Jesus lives within us as a community of followers of Him, but also lives within us individually. Augustine said this unifying bond of love between the Father and the Son was the Holy Spirit. So, the unity we experience of Jesus (“I in them”) comes by the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. Because of this, Paul can describe us corporately as “the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16), but also individually saying “your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Both the corporate and individual aspects are true. How could it be otherwise?

Here in Galatians, though, Paul is referring to himself as individually being completely overtaken with the life of Christ. He is, as he states in another letter, “a new creation” in which “the old has gone” and “the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Boiling it down to the basic level in another place, he says: “for to me, to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).

Lord, I never though it would be good to stop living, but thank You that You live in me.
Thank You for the gift of life that I experience with and in You.
May it be true for me that to live is Christ.

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Posted by on January 16, 2015 in Scripture reflections


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I Have Been Crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20, part 1)

Since my message, “The Real Gospel,” I have been thinking about Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20:

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.

These words are so familiar to me, yet they have a depth of meaning I often overlook. Over the next few days on my blog, I will reflect on these words for our lives. Today, I’m considering the first part of that verse: “I have been crucified with Christ.”

Paul writes elsewhere: “we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:6-7). As Jesus Christ was physically crucified on the Cross, our own sinful nature was crucified.

Jesus’ death on the Cross was a historical event that is not disputed by historians. Still, there is something personally effective for each person that occurred at the Cross in Jesus. “We are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died” (2 Corinthians 5:14b). “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Taking upon Himself not only our sin but also our very selves, Jesus was crucified.

In His crucifixion, we – our old selves, that is – were killed. We suffered death with Him, though in God’s mercy to us only Jesus Himself experienced the literal weight of sin’s bloody death. When we come by faith to Jesus Christ, we choose to spiritually associate with His death and we, too, die. We die to our capacity to make ourselves right by acts of righteousness under the law, and we also die to our tendency to live in rebellion to God through selfish sin. It is a new beginning that begins with a final end to ourselves. “I have been crucified with Christ.”

Jesus, how can it be that one so innocent as You took all the pain and judgment?
How is it that you would suffer so much for me?
Thank You…thank You…beyond all words, thank You!


Posted by on January 15, 2015 in Scripture reflections


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The Real Gospel (discussion questions)

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, we continued our series, “Free: A Study on Galatians,” by looking at the real gospel from Galatians 2:1-21. Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “The Real Gospel,” which is the second part of our series.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As we continue our series, “Free,” this weekend, we are looking at Galatians, chapter 2. Whether on your own or with a small group, take a moment to begin with prayer, asking God to speak through your study of the Scripture. Next, read that Bible passage out loud.
  2. Background: The first two chapters of Galatians include a lot of biographical background on Paul’s life and ministry. This is important because it helps to show that Paul’s message and calling were derived from God and not human authority. It also helps us understand some of the challenges Paul is facing in the Galatians churches.
  3. How would you characterize Paul’s reasons for going to Jerusalem in Galatians 2:1-10? What role did the leaders in Jerusalem – James, Cephas (Peter), and John – play in his ministry and the unity of the early church’s work with Jews and Gentiles?
  4. In Galatians 2:11-14, Paul relates an incident with Peter while they were in Antioch that he sees as a challenge to the gospel. What is the challenge and how does Paul address it?
  5. It is a fascinating moment to see tension arise between two heroes of the faith, Peter and Paul. Why do you think Paul viewed this issue as significant enough to make such a big deal about it with Peter, instead of simply letting it go?
  6. How important is the core gospel message to you? Do you think it is it worth getting excited or riled up about? Why or why not?
  7. It is likely that Paul is using these stories to address the tensions in the Galatian churches. In verses 15 and 16, Paul outlines the fundamental issues at stake in the Galatian churches. What are these fundamental issues and why are they important?
  8. Galatians 2:19-21 have been described as “the central affirmation of the letter.” What is being affirmed here and what is its significance for Paul and his message, the Galatian churches, and us today?
  9. Name one thing you will take away from this study on the real gospel? If you are with a small group, take some time to discuss these things with one another. If you are alone, share that with someone this week. Close in prayer.

Action step: Pastor Matt encouraged us to memorize Galatians 2:20 during this series as a way to let the gospel message sink deeper into our lives. One way you could do this would be to write Galatians 2:20 on a notecard and keep it in your pocket, pulling it out to memorize it. Another way you could do this would be to print it out and place the verse in several prominent places where you will see it often.

[Next week: We continue the “Free” series by looking at Galatians, chapter 3. Prepare by reading this passage ahead of time.]

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Posted by on January 12, 2015 in Eastbrook, Scripture reflections


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jesus mary

This is why we celebrate (from Luke 2:1-20):

2:1  In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

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Posted by on December 25, 2014 in Scripture reflections


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All I Want is a New Beginning (discussion questions)

All I Want for Christmas Series Gfx_Web AdHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “All I Want for Christmas is a New Beginning,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This was the second part of our series “All I Want for Christmas.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. As we continue our series, “All I Want for Christmas,” this weekend, we will study Isaiah 61:1-11. Whether on your own or with a small group, take a moment to begin with prayer, asking God to speak through your study of the Scripture. Next, read that Bible passage out loud.
  2. Background: In the 8th century B.C., the people of Israel and Judah were exiled from their homeland to Babylon. A good portion of the land, as well as the religious and political center of Jerusalem, lay in ruins. Scripture tells us that God exiled the people as punishment for their disobedience to Him as expressed in the covenant at Mount Sinai. The prophet Isaiah addresses these exiled people with a message of hope and new beginnings.
  3. Within Isaiah 40-66, there are four major ‘servant songs’ that speak of how a servant of the Lord, perhaps an individual or the people of Israel together, will suffer while also bringing a revelation of God to the world (see Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-9; 50:4-9; and 52:13-53:12). Isaiah 61:1-3, is often grouped with these as conveying a message from a servant-Messiah sent by God. Describe this servant-Messiah’s job and message as outlined in verses 1-3?
  4. How do you think Isaiah’s promise of such a figure would impact the Israelite people exiled in Babylon?
  5. In contrast to the destruction and plundering Israel had experienced, Isaiah speaks a strong message of restoration in verses 4-6. What are the elements of this message? How might this change Israel’s view of their losses, as well as their relationship with surrounding nations?
  6. In Isaiah 61:3 and 7, as well as 60:17, God promises to exchange a certain set of things for another set of things for His people. What sort of exchange does He promise and to what extent does it go?
  7. Where in your own life do you long for God to make such a great exchange? How might you pursue that today?
  8. What does verse 8 say about the character of God?
  9. Verses 10 & 11 describe a life powerfully transformed by God’s touch. What does it look like? Where have you experienced God’s touch in this way in your own life?
  10. In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus reads Isaiah 61 to launch His public ministry in Galilee. Read that section of Scripture aloud. How would you say that Jesus fulfills what we read in Isaiah 61:1-11?
  11. What is one thing you will take away from this study about new beginnings? If you are alone, share that with someone this week. If you are with a small group, take some time to discuss these things with one another. Close in prayer.
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Posted by on December 15, 2014 in Eastbrook, Scripture reflections


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All I Want is Some Good News (discussion questions)

All I Want for Christmas Series Gfx_Web AdHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “All I Want for Christmas is Some Good News,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This was the second part of our series “All I Want for Christmas.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Name a time in your life when you received some good news right when you needed it. What was happening at that point? What was the good news?
  2. This weekend at Eastbrook, we continue our series “All I Want for Christmas” by looking at Isaiah 40:1-11. In preparation, ask God to speak to you through your study of the Scripture and then read that Bible passage aloud.
  3. Background: Isaiah was a prophet in the 8th century B.C., speaking to the people of Judah (southern part of Israel) during times of great pressure. Surrounding nations were threatening them, and eventually many were exiled into Babylon. The book of Isaiah is divided into two major sections. Chapters 1-39 speak to the judgment on God’s people and chapters 40-66 speak to the restoration God will eventually bring. Chapter 40 begins the second major section aimed at bringing hope for God’s people based on His direct and personal intervention.
  4. Isaiah 40:1-11 contains three sections built around ‘voices’ – or people – speaking into specific situations (see verses 1-2, 3-5, and 6-8). How would you summarize what the first voice is saying in verses 1-2? Why would this message be important in the midst of a difficult situation like the exile?
  5. The second ‘voice’ in verses 3-5 speaks about God’s personal intervention in a crooked and wild place. What is the significance of this message and why might it be good news in Isaiah’s time?
  6. Verse 5 highlights the glory of God revealed so all people will see it. This is one of the few Old Testament passages referenced by nearly all of the Gospel writers (see Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:1-3; Luke 3:4-6). If Isaiah was foretelling God’s future comfort, what are the Gospel writers trying to tell us by mentioning it?
  7. In verses 6-8, the third ‘voice’ tells the prophet to cry out. What is the message the prophet is given? Why would this be a meaningful announcement for a people exiled at the hands of another powerful nation?
  8. This passage culminates in verses 9-11, which focus on bringing good news that is centered in God’s revelation. What is the message here about God and why is it good news?
  9. In response to this study, consider the good news God has spoken to you. How has it changed you? Now consider the good news God brings in Jesus Christ for others. Who in your life most needs to hear the true message about Christ this season? What is God calling you into this year? If you are alone, write it down somewhere so you can think about it further this week. If you are with a small group, take some time to discuss these things with one another. Close in prayer.

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Posted by on December 9, 2014 in Eastbrook, Scripture reflections


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