THINK: Not everything or everyone that claims to be "Christian" is Christlike. Not everything that seems to come from the Bible is the truth. Few people who wear a cross are willing to accept the humiliation that accompanies its message. And most people who identify themselves as spiritual are not actually led by God's Spirit. There are a lot of people spreading a lot of messages that sound good, but in reality they distort the real "good news" - the gospel message of Jesus Christ as we have it in the Bible. That message is the measure of truth. Anything that is not con- sistent with God's Word - the stuff that's easy to take and the stuff that's not so easy - is a "different gospel."
RESPOND: What can you tell about Paul's sense of purpose from his opening remarks in verses 1-5? How does Jesus' sacrifice "rescue us from the present evil age" (v. 4), and how should this affect your attitudes, choices and behaviors? Why were some of the Galatians "turning to a different gospel" (v. 6)? (See 1:6 note.) In what way were false teach- ers distorting the true message of salvation through faith in Christ? (See 1:6 note.) Why is Paul's warning so strong against the false teachers, and in what way is this a warning to us? (See 1:9 note.) How and with what attitude should you respond to false teachers and their teaching? What are some key elements of the message of Christ and spiritual salvation that we must never compromise? (See 1:9 note, sub point 3.) Why can't we be effective in influencing others for Jesus if we are overly concerned about what they think? (See 1:10 note.) In what way are each of Jesus' followers "set apart" to serve His purposes and to spread His message? (See 1:15 note.)
PRAY: Ask for discernment regarding how ideas, messages and behaviors measure up to the truth of Jesus. Pray for a proper balance of firmness and gentleness in dealing with situations and people that distort the truth of God's Word.
ACT: Who are the most significant influences in your life - whether they follow Christ or not? Do their words and lifestyles set a worthy example and support the truth of Christ? Do something to encourage those who have a positive, godly influence on you. Do something to positively influence those who might cause you to compromise your commitment to Christ.
THINK: Can you recall a time when you knew what was right, but gave in to pressure and did otherwise? Or have you ever tried to do the "right" thing, but with wrong motives? God wants you to do the right things for the right reasons. Most of all, He wants you to serve Him out of love and gratitude. And He doesn't ask you to do it in your own capability. Instead, He enables you to fulfill His purposes as you trust Him. Knowing God isn't a matter of following rules and routines; it's about a personal relationship with the One who gave everything for you. If you could gain that relationship by your own efforts, Jesus wouldn't have had to pay the price to make a way to God.
RESPOND: How can false teaching enslave people spiritually (v. 4)? (See 2:4 note.) What does "legalism" mean in regard to spiritual salvation? What legitimate and necessary role does God's law serve regarding salvation and a relationship with God? (See 2:4 note.) What should your motivation be for following God's standards? In what ways do God's judgments differ from our impressions of people, and how should this affect our responses to others? (See 2:6 note.) Why is it important "to remember the poor"? (See 2:10 note) Why did Peter begin to "draw back" (v. 12) from Gentiles (non-Jews)? Why was he "clearly in the wrong" (v. 11) and "not in line with the truth of the gospel" (v. 14)? (See 2:12 note.) What was the key issue in Paul's letter to the Galatians? (See 2:16 note.) What does it mean to be justi- fied by faith and not by observing the law" (v. 16)? Does this make God's laws obsolete for Christians today? Why or why not? (See Matthew 5:17 note.) What does it mean to be "crucified with Christ" (v. 20), and how does that enable Christ to live in and through a person? (See 2:20 note.) How would you define God's grace and how it relates to His mercy and justice? (See 2:21 note.) How does true "righteousness" develop in Jesus' followers?
PRAY: Pray that you won't be swayed by people's opinions and behaviors, particularly in how you treat oth- ers. Give God thanks for His saving grace and for enabling you to entrust your life to Him.
ACT: Are you compromising your Christian influence or setting a bad example for anyone by how you treat them or what you expect of them? Take notice if your attitudes and actions stem from worrying about what others think of you. Don't be a hypocrite. Adjust your behavior so that it honors Jesus and encourages others.