Back to school shopping is one of my favorite things to do! My children love choosing new backpacks, notebooks and folders. We get excited over the purchase of never-before-opened crayons, pencils, and highlighters. There’s something about organizing desk drawers and binders and books: it’s all so new and full of potential. “What will this folder hold? What will be recorded in this notebook? What will I create with these crayons?” Such a sense of wonder!
We see some of this same wonder in the book of Galatians. We don’t just sense the excitement of a new backpack or box of crayons, but rather that of a new life. Paul is a new man, a new creation! He reminds us of who he used to be: a persecutor of the church and one who tried zealously to destroy it. But God, in His rich mercy, revealed His Son to Paul, resulting in a truly miraculous conversion and Paul was given a new passion, a new purpose, and new potential.
Whereas his passion was previously found in the persecution of the church, Paul now had a passion to preserve the church. Paul fervently reminded the Galatians that people are not justified (made right with God) by the works of the law or anything that they can do but by faith in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we are not only saved by faith, but we are to live by faith! Faith in Jesus Christ, whether his own or that of others, was Paul’s sole passion.
This newfound passion led to a new purpose: Paul’s purpose was now found in Christ. He boldly proclaimed, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.(Galatians 2:20).” He no longer lived for the “old Paul” or for his old desires. Because of what Christ did on the cross, Paul was free from the law and free from the power of self. Christ lived in him and he lived for Christ. The purpose of his freedom was to serve Christ and others!
Here lies the dilemma. Paul knew his new purpose, and that with it came new potential. But how could he truly reach that potential, how could he adequately fulfill his new purpose? How can we rise above living for our old selves, our old desires, and our old goals? How can we truly live a life in freedom where we are free to serve Christ and others? Paul answered that for us in 5:16-17, “…walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.” The secret to fulfilling our new potential is being filled with and yielded to the Holy Spirit, moment by moment, day by day. It’s nothing we can force or make happen, striving in our own power and ability, but rather something that He works in us as we continually yield ourselves to Him.
As we do this, Paul tells us that we will bear “fruit” (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control). This fruit of the Spirit is clearly something that we don’t produce on our own, but is a result of the Spirit’s presence and work in our lives. This is the height of reaching our new potential because in displaying the fruit of the Spirit we are reflecting Christ Himself, the One who loved us and gave Himself for us, to a lost world around us.
This month as we see back to school sales and advertisements, let the newness of the supplies and the potential of what a new school year might hold turn our hearts and minds to Paul’s life and lessons. Like Paul, are you a new creation because of placing your faith in Christ alone? Are you trusting in Jesus only or are you trying to earn God’s favor or right standing with Him by your works?
If you have been saved by grace through faith in Christ, your old ways, desires, and self have been crucified with Christ; they need no longer control you. In light of that, are you living out a new passion, purpose, and potential like Paul? Ask the Lord to help you passionately live for Jesus, to fill you with the Holy Spirit that you might live up to the full potential of your new purpose: to freely serve Christ, love others, and display the fruit of the Spirit, His likeness, for all to see what a glorious Lord He truly is!