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Sunday, December 1, 2013

More than a "Dear Sir" letter

Have you ever received a letter which appears to be "handwritten" on the outside of the envelope, only to find it was a clever "computer" version of address which just made it look like it was specifically for you?  They get more clever all the time in marketing their advertised specials, credit offers, etc., by using technology to make it look like they want you "personally" to be aware of their "event".  God doesn't use the "clever tactics" of marketing to get our attention - he selects individual who will speak into our lives.  Why?  He knows there is something powerful about a living, breathing testimony for us to pattern our lives after.  These guys who write using their clever technology don't really have any authority to speak into your lives, but God does.  He even creates specific encounters just for us so we will have those things spoken into our lives which we most need to hear in the moments of our lives when we are open to hearing them the best.

I, Paul, and my companions in faith here, send greetings to the Galatian churches. My authority for writing to you does not come from any popular vote of the people, nor does it come through the appointment of some human higher-up. It comes directly from Jesus the Messiah and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. I’m God-commissioned. So I greet you with the great words, grace and peace! We know the meaning of those words because Jesus Christ rescued us from this evil world we’re in by offering himself as a sacrifice for our sins. God’s plan is that we all experience that rescue. Glory to God forever! Oh, yes!  (Galations 1:1-5 MSG)

In writing to the Galations, Paul laid out several key concepts we should not miss.  We often just glance over these introductory words of a letter, skipping down to the "meat" of the letter, but when we do, we just might miss some important things we need to know:

- The authority of the one writing to you.  Authority can be thought of the power to influence you.  It carries the idea of being able to sway your thoughts, opinions, or behaviors as a result of their influence.  The "right" to speak into our lives doesn't come because someone "elects" someone to speak into our lives.  The other person may possess talent, charisma, and even a popular appeal, but if the authority to speak into your life is not God-ordained, their influence could be dangerous.

- Who commissioned the individual writing.  Commissioned individual actually have the authority to action on behalf of the one who has commissioned them.  If we get a letter announcing someone is a tax collector acting on behalf of our government officials, we would want to see evidence of this before we just hand over money to this individual, wouldn't we?  We want to see their credentials, for those credentials establish the fact of their commissioned work.  They are working on "behalf of" - not "in place of", but because the one commissioning them has designed their role and ensures they continually act on behalf of the one doing their commissioning.  

As we get into the letter a little further, we finally get to the greeting portion. We might think a letter cold and impersonal if it just got right into the "business" of the letter, so this transition between establishing the authority of the writer and the reason for writing is often joined with a greeting.  The greeting puts us at ease and gets us involved in the letter.  In this case, the greeting is one of "grace" and "peace".  It is important for us to know we don't warrant the "favor" of the one writing to us, but the "unmerited favor" has been given nonetheless.  Grace can be thought of as unmerited assistance to received what we could not otherwise have the capacity to obtain - such as salvation and sanctification.  Peace is the freedom to actually enjoy what we receive, for nothing helps us enjoy the blessings in life more than a settled and undisturbed heart.

Now, we get to the meat of the letter.  This is the "why" of the letter - the reason for writing.  God's plan is that we all experience the rescue he has prepared for us.  It would be like us getting a letter today saying we were granted the special privilege of having all our debt totally and completely wiped off the slate - owning nothing moving forward - all back-debt taken care of and provision made for all we'd encounter in the future.  Now, most of us would not hesitate to make immediate contact with the one who promised this, right?  Perhaps we don't really get this "gift" because we don't ever read to the purpose of the letter - we just stop short of opening it, don't get past the greeting, or just don't ever pick up our mail in the first place!  Isn't it a shame, since what is promised within the letter is the total provision of all we need to achieve the release we all so desperately desire!

God never intended for his kids to be bound in sin.  We were originally created to enjoy the freedom of intimate relationship with God, nature, and all his creation.  Sin entered and perverted that enjoyment.  Sin resulted in our bondage to a nature that strives for its own way, struggles for recognition, and demands fulfillment, often in ways which actually do us more harm than good.  God offers the freedom from the grip sin has - we are to personally and directly participate in this freedom.  Salvation is an ongoing participation in the grace and mercy he provides - but to experience it, we have to understand the authority of the one who gives the gift!  It is the authority to speak into our lives.  It is the authority to provide for our every need.  To deny this authority, or gloss over it, would just be plain silly.  Just sayin!