Spiritual Success or Distress?
Quarter 3, Lesson 5

Lesson Five

Surrendering Life
(Part 1)

Texts: Galatians 2:11-21; Philippians 3:1-12

Have you heard someone say, "He (she) surely is full of himself (herself)!" Being "full of self" is a common American phenomenon. Being "full of self" makes a person difficult to live with in marriage, difficult to respect as a parent, difficult to work with on the job, and difficult to associate with as a friend. In life's typical relationships, nothing is improved when a person is "full of himself (herself)."

While being "full of self" creates stress in typical relationships, being "full of self" also distresses Christian relationships (enormously!). Successful Christian relationships are based on humility, respect for others, service, gentleness, patience, kindness, consideration, and compassion. Being "full of self" actively works against each of those spiritual qualities.

A person can be full of religion and be "full of self" at the same time. Ironically, being religious seems to encourage many people to be "full of self." While it is simple to be "full of self" and be religious, it is impossible to be "full of self" and be filled with Christ.

Why? Being religious is often based on "my" achievements and accomplishments. "I overcame this." "I did this." "I know this." "I have this ability." "I had this experience." "I have been recognized by ..." "My religious credentials are ..." "My positions in the church are ..." "My qualifications in the church are ..." If my religious life is based on my achievements and accomplishments, then being "full of self" enhances me religiously.

Being filled with Christ is based on what Jesus Christ does for me, not what I do for Jesus Christ. He died for me. His blood cleanses me. His resurrection provides me assurance of my resurrection. He forgives me. I am justified, sanctified, and purified before God because he sacrificed himself for my sins. I am reconciled to God because he gives me access to God's grace. He intercedes to God for me. He is my personal mediator before God. Never is it what I do for Christ. Always it is what Christ does for me. It is impossible for me to be full of me and full of Jesus.

Read Galatians 2:11-21

  1. Why did Paul oppose Cephas [Peter] in person when Cephas came to Antioch (verses 11-13)?

  2. What did Paul say to Cephas (verse 14)?

  3. What did [and do] Christians need to understand about justification (verse 16)?

  4. If a Christian reverts to an evil existence, does he make Christ a minister of sin (verses 17,18)?

  5. Carefully examine verse 20.

    1. What had Paul done?

    2. What change did that produce in Paul's life?

    3. How did Paul currently live?

  6. If a person can be made righteous by keeping laws, Paul said that made what true of Christ (verse 21)?

Read Philippians 3:1-12 and note the contrast between the religious Paul filled with accomplishments and credentials and the Christian Paul filled with Christ.

  1. What are the three characteristics of the true circumcision (verse 3)?

  2. List Paul's accomplishments and credentials in Judaism that were the basis of his being religious prior to becoming a Christian (verses 4-6)

  3. What was Paul's Christian attitude toward these accomplishments and credentials (verses 7,8)?

  4. Paul gave his reasons for discarding his accomplishments and credentials in Judaism as though they were garbage.

    1. Where did Paul want to be and what did Paul want to possess (verse 9)?

    2. What three things did Paul want to know (verse 10)?

    3. To what did Paul want to conform (verse 10)?

    4. What did Paul want to attain (verse 11)?

    5. Why did Paul press on (verse 12)?

Paul's life was radically redirected in Acts 9. This radical redirection occurred because Paul's understanding of Jesus was radically altered. Read Acts 26:9-11. Even though Jesus was dead, pre-Christian Paul regarded him to be Israel's enemy. He channeled his hostility against Jesus' name by imprisoning Christians and voting for their deaths. He abused Christians he caught worshipping in synagogues in the attempt to get them to renounce Jesus. He described his pre-Christian behavior as "furiously enraged" against followers of Christ. He thought everything said about Jesus was a lie.

Then Paul met the resurrected Jesus. The certain knowledge that Jesus was resurrected to be Christ and Lord transformed Paul. The man who was zealously religious became the man who was zealously devoted to a compassionate Savior. Paul was as zealous prior to conversion as he was afterward. He had as much faith in God prior to conversion as he had afterward. He was as knowledgeable of scripture prior to conversion as he was afterward. BUT his understanding of zeal, of faith, and of the meaning of scripture were radically changed in his total transformation.

Prior to conversion to Jesus Christ, Paul was devoutly religious but very full of himself. After conversion to Jesus Christ, Paul was devoutly religious but full of Jesus. How full of Jesus? At conversion, Paul ceased to live. At conversion, Christ lived in Paul. What did that mean? Paul never again lived for Paul. Paul lived every day for Jesus. He surrendered self. He surrendered life. His existence was more than based on Christ; it was consumed by Christ.

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Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 3, Lesson 5

Copyright © 2000
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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