We have been talking about discipleship in this series from Galatians 5-6. Paul is teaching what it looks like to follow Jesus. But Paul gets to the heart of discipleship in this final paragraph as he ends his letter to the Galatians. Lots of people can look like disciples. But there is a right motivation and there are wrong motivations. There are a lot of people who say that they follow Jesus. But there are also a lot of people who follow Jesus for all the wrong reasons. The apostle Paul is going to describe two motivations that are wrong that he sees in the churches of Galatia. Then Paul will describe his motivation which is the right motivation for following Jesus. So let us begin with the wrong motivations which are described in Galatians 6:11-13.
Paul takes the pen and writes with his own hand in large letters, likely to emphasize what he is about to say. In verse 12 he gives the first problem he sees. There are people who are claiming to be followers of Christ and they are compelling Gentile Christians to be circumcised. But listen to the reason why they are doing this. They are doing this “to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.” The reason behind their decisions is that they do not want life to be difficult because they follow Jesus. They are making decisions to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.
Friends, this is one of the main reasons why so many churches that claim to be teaching Christ and following Christ are allowing all kinds of false teaching. Why are they allowing adultery? Why are they allowing divorce? Why are they allowing sexual sins? Why are they unwilling to teach that something is a sin? They are trying to avoid the pain and the shame that comes from making such a stand. If we do not say that you are doing something wrong, then no one will have a problem with us. We will just be agreeable to the world. Everyone will like us. No one will have a complaint. Jesus will just accept us and we will ignore everything that says you have to change your life to follow him. You see that these Jewish Christians were going to have less resistance and less problems if they compelled Gentiles who came to Christ to be circumcised. They do not want to be persecuted for the cross of Christ. This is a common problem for people who claim to be disciples. Listen to what Paul told the Philippians.
For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. (Philippians 3:18 NIV)
Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. They are not against Jesus. They are against the cross. They are against the suffering. They are against the pain. They are against the shame. They are against the sacrifice. They live their lives avoiding hardship and suffering for the name of Jesus. So this is our first point. If we hear the word of God but then do not act on it because it is going to be hard or cause us difficulty in doing so, then we are not truly disciples. If we are thinking about worshiping God or ways to serve God, but do not because it is going to be hard, because it will not be comfortable, or we do not like the idea, then we are not truly disciples. Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den for praying. He did not try to avoid the difficulty that came from worshiping and serving God. Avoidance of discomfort, shame, pain, sacrifice, or even death cannot be our motivation or else we are false disciples.
There is another motivation that those who claim to be disciples of Jesus can be motivated by. Look at Galatians 6:13. Paul says that what these Christians were doing was imposing their rules on others so that they could boast in them. In short, they want to look good to others. Their discipleship is a show. They look pious and tell others to do things so that they can look like something before other people. It is all about the show. They want to be perceived as something they are not. It is a hypocritical faith. The only concern is to make sure that people think well of them. They want to make sure that they look like a Christian. Jesus repeatedly had to deal with this problem. He was dealing with people who claimed to be followers of God but had it all wrong.
They do everything to be seen by others. (Matthew 23:5 CSB)
It is all about the show. It is a good thing that our culture as advanced so much in the last 2000 years that we no longer care what people think about us. No, the human condition has not changed. Paul is calling for a heart check. What is your motivation? We cannot bring our worldliness into our walk with Jesus. When we are doing things and saying things for the glory of people rather than the glory of God, then we are false disciples.
The Disciple’s Motivation (6:14)
So what is the motivation for the disciple? Listen to what the apostle Paul says about himself as a model in verse 14. Paul says that he will never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The cross of Jesus was not something to avoid but something to embrace. Please remember that the cross was the method of execution for horrific crimes committed in the Roman Empire. For Paul to say that he is boasting in the cross would be similar to us saying that we will boast in the electric chair or lethal injection. How is Paul boasting in something like the cross of Jesus? Look at what he means in the rest of verse 14.
Through the cross, the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Please think about what Paul just said. Paul just said that the world is dead to him and that he is dead to the world. What does it mean for the world to be crucified to him? If the world is dead to you, then it does not have power over you. The world, with its concerns, values, and teachings, have no sway in your life. The world is dead to you. The world does not influence you. The world does not move you. To use the imagery that Paul uses to the Philippian Christians, you live as citizens of heaven and not citizens of this world or this culture or this country. The desires of the world, the cares of the world, the priorities of the world, and the values of the world are dead to you. You see that in verses 12-13 we are ready about people who are motivated by the concerns of the world. They are avoiding hardship and suffering from this world. They are concerned about having the glory of this world. But Paul says that all of those things are dead to him. The world is crucified to him.
To say this another way, Paul does not desire any of this. The world is crucified to him. It offers him nothing. He does not need it or want it. Let me illustrate this idea in this way. Brussel sprouts are dead to me. I have no care for them. I do not want them. I do not care what you do to them. I do not care what happens to them. They are dead to me. This is where we are to come to regarding the desires, cares, and priorities of the world. It has no power over me. I do not want it.
Paul then reverses the image. He is dead to the world. Paul’s devotion to the Lord has put him in the condition that the world has rejected him. Paul described it like this to the Corinthians:
Even now, we are like the scum of the earth, like everyone’s garbage. (1 Corinthians 4:13 CSB)
Paul is not something to the world. He is like the world’s garbage. He is truly in the world but not of the world. His concern is what God thinks of him, not what the world thinks of him.
New Creation (6:15)
This is all summarized with the truth declared in verse 15. What matters is a new creation. What matters is if we have been transformed like Paul has pictured. This is the essence of discipleship: transformation. Discipleship is the radical transformation from gratifying the desires of the flesh to being led by the Spirit, bearing the fruit of the Spirit. Paul told the Roman Christians to not be conformed to this world but to be transformed by your renewed minds (Romans 12:2). God wants you to be transformed. He wants you to be changed.
Now, it is time for personal honesty. Don’t you want to be changed? What does this world have to offer you? What is this world giving to you? Is it the temporary joy that quickly vanishes as soon as it is experienced leaving us empty and looking for more that keeps us alive to this world? Is it the chaos, pain, suffering, loss, and hatred that keeps us hooked? Is it weariness of life and the hamster wheel that makes another day as exhausting and as empty as the last that keeps us wanting to belong to this world? It is the cross that frees us from the worries of this world. It is supposed to be a new life where this world no longer has its hooks in us. We can use what Paul said earlier in this letter as the picture of our discipleship.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV)
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24 ESV)
You are a new creation. You are dead to the world and the world is dead to you. This is your calling. This is your purpose. Paul has expressed how this transformation occurs which we will recap as we conclude. Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh (5:16). Where the Spirit steps is where we step (5:25). We are in a winnable war. The works of the flesh are obvious and when we see them, we know we are not walking by the Spirit (5:19-21). If we are walking by the Spirit, then there will be visible fruit (5:22-23). Plant seeds of righteousness and goodness and you will have the harvest of eternal life as you have been transformed into the image of his Son (2 Corinthians 3:18).