Galatians 1; Jeremiah 47-48; Psalm 142
In 2003 the Bolton Museum, in England, bought an ancient Egyptian statue called the “Amarna Princess” for around $500,000. They did their due diligence and had the British museum authenticate it. It was displayed in the museum with pride. Then, in 2005, the walls tumbled in. The person who sold the statue to them was caught selling forged artwork and he confessed to creating the Amarna Princess in his garage in three weeks. The creator of this work, along with his aging mother and father, had sold almost $11 million worth of fake art over 17 years before being caught. He wasn’t a “bad” artist. He was able to duplicate the styles that great masters had used down through the ages and do it in such a way that the experts were fooled. He probably turned to counterfeiting the styles of the ancients because their paintings were worth so much, and his, as a newcomer in the field, wouldn’t have made a whole lot of money. Artists usually aren’t valued in their own time.
And perhaps, in the story of Sean Greenhalgh, the Bolton forger, we gain an insight into the minds of counterfeiters everywhere. They want to be seen as rich, or famous, but, realizing that it takes too long to become rich or famous through hard work, they either duplicate the works of those who have achieved fame, or else they trade on the name of someone famous while shaping the situation to their own benefit. Peter dealt with that. Paul did too, and it was astonishing to him. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” (Galatians 1:6-7 NIV)
Paul is beside himself in confusion and anger at the Galatians. In most of the letters he wrote to churches, he said something nice about the church. In this letter, after a short prayer for their welfare, he lit into them. This isn’t just a “different” gospel where “you believe your way and I’ll believe mine and all roads lead to God;” this is another gospel that is so different from the gospel of grace that Jesus taught and died for that they aren’t even on the same continent. False teachers had come and started teaching the “new and improved gospel” message that was not of Christ at all. Oh, they probably used the name of Jesus. There are some groups that do that today. Using the name of Jesus in the teachings of the cult means absolutely nothing if they pervert the gospel of Jesus to gain control over people and enrich themselves in the effort. The gospel of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with legalism and control by others; it has everything to do with grace and surrendering control of our lives to God.
There are lots of groups that claim to be proclaiming a new and improved gospel. If you study their teachings, you will see hints, if not sledgehammers of legalism. Legalism is easy. When you follow legalistic religious beliefs, you don’t have to worry about seeking God – His plan is all laid out for you. You know what you can do and what you can’t. Everything in the world is set into black and white and you know what’s right and what’s wrong. You know what things you can do to incur God’s wrath and what you can do to gain God’s favor. In such a system, every part of our life becomes a transaction with God. Our deeds are weighed on a scale to determine the level of favor we have with God. That’s not the way He works, though. We have a God that loves us so much, He paid the penalty for our sin through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. He gives His grace to all who seek Him. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us more; there is no sin we can commit that will make Him love us less.
Lord, You are the real, one true God. There is no one like You. Thank You for loving me. Help me love You.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.