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Behavior Modification Sucks

This morning at our 6am bible study we read from Galatians. It was pretty cool. One thing that stuck out to me today was a verse I've heard preached out of context so many times.

Galatians 2:17-21
17"If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

I can't tell you how many times I've heard this verse as being a verse to get people to stop 'living like the world'. I get frustrated when the church is more about behavior modification and less about the Gospel. Paul's entire letter (especially the first two chapters) talks about the power of the TRUE GOSPEL. We have allowed the Gospel in some cirlces to be nothing more than group therapy and behavior modification.

Paul wasn't writing this verse as an argument for staying away from 'sinners'. He was arguing about dying to the law. The law doesn't have power to save. He refers to living under the law as 'being cursed'. Paul's point with being crucified with Christ was to say that we are no longer captive to the feeling of inadequicy under the law. The law showed us our faults and the law needed a sacrifice. Jesus is the living sacrifice and the lamb that was slain for us to be made right with our 'Abba, Father'. He goes on to talk about how we no longer look at God as merely a 'master' but as a 'Abba' Father. This is powerful stuff.

When we allow teaching about this verse to be used as behavior modification we miss the point. We in fact strip away the redemptive power found here. We hold Paul's argument for Grace as nothing more than a new version of the 'curse' of the law.

As much of this surfaced today I couldn't help but to be frustrated and think back to the teachers I've heard use this verse out of context to justify something 'good' (positive behavior). I desire however to be a Pastor who doesn't use God's word to 'modify' people... I don't want to personally use God's word for anything. I want to be faithful in sharing his word and allowing the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to take over our church.

posted by Tally Wilgis @ Wednesday, May 24, 2006

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