You Before Me

Passage: Galatians 3:14-25

Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection

Sermon Overview

In Galatians 3:7-14, Paul draws upon the rich biblical history of blessing and curses to show the Galatians that only through trust in Christ will they obtain the blessing that they have always longed for.

What, then, is this “blessing” we long for? In biblical terms, blessing is a fullness and richness of life—a state of affairs where both our inner lives and the world around us are “as they should be”—full of physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological health and wholeness. Because God designed us to experience and extend this kind of blessing in our lives, we all instinctually seek after it, without even realizing it.

When God created the world, he graciously “blessed” humans along with the rest of the creation, speaking into being the very fruitfulness he desired of them. He also gave us the charge to have dominion over the rest of his creation. Humanity went astray, however, by seeking to gain God’s blessing by themselves, rather than trustingly receiving it from him as a gift. By doing so, we invited a curse into the world, as all of the harmony of creation began to unravel. Ever since then, humanity has been seeking the blessing that was lost at the Fall.

Paul chastises the Galatians, then, for seeking this fullness of blessing—this sense of being “completed” or “whole” (3:3)—by their own fleshly efforts (“by works of the law”). This is a profound mistake because, as Paul has argued throughout the letter, this blessing only comes by grace. To bolster his argument, Paul points to Abraham as the prime example of someone who received God’s blessing as a gift, through trusting reliance on him, rather than through his own efforts.

Paul then describes two different ways of living in light of this truth: We can be people who “rely on works” (literally people who are “of works”), or people who rely on Christ through faith (people who are “of faith”). At the core of our life, we will either be full of trust in Christ or full of trust in ourselves and our works. We will make our way through life by means of one trust or

another. If we are full of trust in ourselves, we will bring more of the curse into our lives and into the lives of others because we will turn all of our endeavors into crushing idols. We would do well, then, to discern what we’re “living by” in each area of our lives.

Jesus, however, is the one who rescues us from our slavery to living under the curse: “Christ redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (3:13). On the cross, Jesus became the very manifestation of the curse on earth, and so broke its power over us, so that all who rely on his finished work on our behalf can receive the ultimate blessing from God.

So then, we must choose our way of making it through life. Will we continue to bear the burden of “relying on works”, and all the curse it brings, or will we turn and rely on the one who bore the curse for us?

Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide:

Re-read the passage(s): Galatians 3:7-14

The Meaning of Blessing and Curses (3:1-9)

1) INTRO: At the beginning of the sermon, Pastor Bobby described God’s “blessing” as a state of fullness—the world around us, and our own internal world, “as it should be”…health and wholeness physically, spiritually, psychologically, etc. Can you think of a time in your life when you tasted a glimpse of the “blessing” of God, and it made you long for the full experience of it? What were you doing and what was it like?

2) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby said that all of us are seeking after blessing (see definition above), whether we realize it or not. What are some ways that you see people in our world today seeking after a state of “blessing”, even without realizing it?

3) Re-read Galatians 3:7-9. Why was Abraham put forward in these verses as an example of someone who received God’s blessing by faith (trust), rather than by works? What details do you know about Abraham’s life that illustrate this truth? What were the Galatians supposed to learn from Abraham?

The Loss of Blessing and the Life of Curse (3:10-12)

4) Re-read Galatians 3:10-12 and meditate on these verses together. Consider:

· What are the two ways of life that Paul is contrasting in these verses? What is different about them? What is the effect, or result, of living one way, and what is the result of living another way?

· What does it mean, practically, to “rely on the works of the law” (or literally, to “be of works of the law”?) What does it mean, practically, to “live by faith”?

5) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby said that being “of works of the law” or “of faith” describe two different ways of making it through life—two different “centers” out of which we can live. One way is full of doing it all ourselves and the other is full of trusting in Jesus. One is a posture of receiving and the other is posture of laboring. What are some symptoms that, in a particular area of your life, you’re “relying on the works of the law? What are some symptoms that you’re “living by faith”?

6) What is one area of your life where you’ve found yourself living “by the works of the law” recently? What has that looked like? What have been the negative effects (the “curse”) of doing so? And what would it look like to repent (i.e. turn around your trusting) and transfer your trusting back to Jesus in this area of your life?

7) Can you think of an example of someone in your life who has lived “by faith” in a difficult season in their live? What did that look like in their lives, and where did you see God blessing them in it?

8) What would it feel like to be a part of a local church whose members were growing in living by trust in Jesus? What effect would this have on the church’s…worship? Relationships? Fellowship? Sense of mission and calling?

How Jesus Brought the Ultimate Blessing (3:13-14)

9) Re-read Galatians 3:13-14 and meditate on these verses together. Consider:

· How did Christ “become a curse” for us? And how did doing so “redeem us from the curse of the law”? (vs. 13)

· How did Christ’s becoming a curse make it possible for everyone to “receive the blessing of Abraham”? And how is this connected to “receiving the promised Spirit through faith” (vs. 14)?

10) CASE STUDY: You’re talking with a close friend in your Small Group who is a newer Christian. Exhausted, she admits to you, “I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Everything felt so special when I was first converted. I felt like I had this beautiful trust in God, but it’s like something changed. I’ve been working so hard for God, trying to improve my life so that I can earn this great gift he gave me…or, I know I can never earn it, but at least pay God back a bit, you know? But my circumstances feel like they’ve only gotten worse. I just don’t get it.” Based on this week’s passage and sermon in particular, how might you continue the conversation with your friend? What would you want to ask her? What would you want to tell her?

Additional Application Questions

Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?

Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?

Prayer

Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.

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