The Problem with Ill Winds

They must be discerned.

Ill Winds (5)

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?
Galatians 3.1-3

The Galatian problem
Paul had conducted a fruitful ministry among the people of Galatia. Many had come to Christ. Churches were started. And new life in the Kingdom of God had taken root and was beginning to grow as a result of Paul’s careful, loving, and diligent work among them.

The problem that came into the Galatian churches was twofold. First, Paul was not able to remain among them; he was called to continue establishing Kingdom beachheads in other cities and places. The Galatians, it seems, were not careful to remember all that Paul had taught them, nor to search the Scriptures that were in their possession to trace out the true teaching of Christ and the Gospel of grace.

Perhaps they felt the instruction they’d received was sufficient. Or maybe once Paul left the excitement died down, and they never quite developed the routine of filling the sails of their souls with the true Word of God and the pure Gospel of grace.

That opened the door to the second problem: Smooth-talking teachers arrived in Paul’s absence and, using much of the language of the Gospel, turned the hearts of the Galatians away from salvation by grace through faith, to salvation by faith and keeping the Law of God: Christ plus the Jewish religious practices – that was the way of salvation these false teachers presented.

The people of Galatia were either too undiscerning to see the difference between what these Judaizers taught and what Paul had explained; or they were just careless about what teaching they received, attended to, embraced, and obeyed.

Either way, Paul said they were foolish. They’d been bewitched. They appeared to have believed in vain. They were sailing a different course, following different charts and tacking to different winds, than what Paul had set before them.

Ill winds are deceiving winds
The problem with the ill winds of false doctrine – half-truths, moral compromises, radical departures from grace and the Word of God – is that they don’t announce themselves as such. The father of lies knows better than to fit his various ill winds with some diabolical calling card. He uses the language familiar to Christians – grace, truth, obedience, Jesus, love, and promise – to get their focus off Christ and His Word and on to lesser, more self-interested matters.

And he mixes with these familiar words and messages other winds – from his own treasury of false breezes –to supplant the Wind of God so cleverly and deceptively, that many Christians don’t recognize any shift in course and direction.

Francis Schaeffer was asked once why it was that, for so many Christians, their faith just didn’t seem real. They professed to believe all the right teachings, and to love Jesus and want to follow Him. But there just wasn’t any joy or power or reality to their walk with the Lord. Why was that?

Schaeffer replied by saying that the reason our faith seems so shallow, empty, and unreal is “that while we say we believe one thing, we allow the spirit of the naturalism of the age to creep into our thinking, unrecognized.” We say we believe the Gospel and Jesus as Lord and King, then we live as if the priorities of this narcissistic, materialistic, and secular age were the defining values of our lives. We say we want to give all to Jesus; then we live acquisitive, self-indulgent lives, with little concern for our neighbors. We say that Jesus is Lord and works all things together for our good, then we live anxious, fearful, tentative lives, not daring to risk anything more for Jesus than a couple of days a week in some church activity.

We say one thing, and we live something else; and the reason is that the ill winds of our unbelieving age have found a nesting place in the sails of our soul, and we don’t even realize what’s happening.

Get your mind in action!
Sometime after Paul had written to the Galatians, Peter also wrote to them saying, “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Pet. 1.13-16)

Get your mind in gear! Stop being ignorant! Don’t conform to the lusts and deceitful winds of the world! That’s how you used to live, but as believers in Jesus Christ, you have a different hope, a new fount of truth, a new calling, and a holy course and objective. Peter continued: “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Pet. 2.1-3)

Get in the Word, Peter insisted, as Paul had before him. Realize that ill winds are blowing around you at all times, and the only way to defend yourself against these is, first, to be firmly and unmovably grounded in the Word of the Lord, and, second, to discern anything of deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking that may seek to gain access to the sails of your soul.

The Word of God, Peter wrote (1 Pet. 1.22, 23) is the only incorruptible and eternal fount of truth. Abide in that Word, and you will know the eternal life for which God has saved you.

For reflection
1. What sources of “ill winds of doctrine” are you daily subjected to? How do you prepare for these?

2. Why are we as Christians so easily distracted from our holy, righteous, and good calling in the Lord?

3. What’s involved in discerning ill winds from the Wind of God? 

Next steps – Preparation: What can you do to improve your time in God’s Word, so that by it you are able to discern the ill winds of our day?

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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