15 May 2016

FOOLISH CHRISTIANITY


Acts 4:1-31

I want to start off by saying something to you and I think it’s going to bless your heart this morning “You are a fool” Yes you and I are fools and tomorrow you will continue to be a fool and the next day and so on and so on. And you’re probably thinking to yourself “Our pastor goes away for 3 days to a “pastor’s conference” to be challenged, refreshed and encouraged and you come home to tell me that “I’m a fool.” But before you throw me under the bus and start complaining to Brent, Steve and John please let me continue. A “fool” by definition is “a person who lacks good sense or judgment: a unwise or silly person a harmlessly deranged person or one lacking in common powers of understanding.” That’s why you are “a fool” because this is how the world perceives you me today, tomorrow, the next day and so on and so on.

What does it mean be a foolish Christian in our postmodern world? It means that you and I are extremely different than those around us. This means! We foolishly can’t sit by and be silent when so many people are one foot closer to Hell. We foolishly can’t be silent in a world that wants us to go away and mind our own business. We are to take this message of foolishness to a broken and hostile world. As Paul said “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Cor 1:18. The Bible says.....Jesus and His message is to be our greatest passion above everything else in this world! Even above family, comfort, our jobs, education and wealth! Luke 14:26 we read "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Jesus even goes on further to say you need to count the cost for this foolish Christianity. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple." Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Luke 14:27-35

David Platt said in his book “Radical” Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of these eager followers of Jesus in the first century. What if I was the potential disciple being told to drop my nets? What if you were the man whom Jesus told to not even say good-bye to his family? What if we were told to hate our families and give up everything we had in order to follow Jesus? This is where we come face to face with a dangerous reality. We do have to give up everything we have to follow Jesus. We do have to love him in a way that makes our closest relationships in this world look like hate. And it is entirely possible that he will tell us to sell everything we have and give it to the poor. But we don’t want to believe it. We are afraid of what it might mean for our lives. So we rationalize these passages away. “Jesus wouldn’t really tell us not to bury our father or say good-bye to our family. Jesus didn’t literally mean to sell all we have and give it to the poor. What Jesus really meant was…”And this is where we need to pause. Because we are starting to redefine Christianity. We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with. A nice, middle-class, American Jesus” or we could say Canadian Jesus. God has called the foolish of the church to this task and we cannot be silent as many people today fall to the philosophy that we all get to Heaven on our own terms... in our own way! Shouldn’t we be foolish for Christ when every minute is precious to us? Isn’t that what it means to be a foolish Christian?

YOU ARE PROBABLY THINKING TO YOURSELF! Mike your beginning sound crazy with all this foolish and radical talk! What did Alistair Begg and D A Carson do to you these past few days. God used these men to open my eyes that were (I) am not being foolish enough for the precious gospel that saves. Was it foolish for two young Germans in their 20’s from the Moravian sect to offer their lives to be sold into slavery with the purpose to proclaim the gospel to lost slaves? You know what these two men said as the ship left the pier “The young men saw the widening gap. They linked arms, raised their hands and shouted across the spreading gap, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!” Shouldn’t our lives count for Jesus be as equally important to us as it was for those two young men? Shouldn’t we have zeal and passion as our brothers and sisters before us who gave their lives for Christ and the precious gospel? Did they die as fools? The world would say yes, but our Lord would say something different. What this world calls foolish, our Lord calls blessed beyond measure. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” 2 Cor 4:17. How can we be silent or not foolish, when Jesus went to the Cross to face the Judge on our behalf!

SERIOUSLY THINK ABOUT THAT THIS!

Was David a foolish Christian when he faced the Philistine Giant? Was Elijah a foolish Christian when he faced Jezebel the wickedest women to ever to walk the face of the earth? What about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego as they wouldn’t worship anyone else other than the Lord. Was Daniel a foolish Christian when he was willing to die in the lion’s den? Was Isaiah.....Jeremiah....Ezekiel....and the rest of the prophets foolish when they stood in front of kings.....rulers.....the rich and poor claiming “thus saith the Lord” Was Jesus a fool? When He stood before the religious and the most the powerful people of that day, meaning the Romans and proclaims to them that Abraham rejoiced for this day! And declares to them! “…."Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” John 8:58-59 Foolish Christianity is the one who have a passion for the Gospel and for people…….. Like Peter and John. Turn to Acts chapter 4Two foolish men who had a passion for the Gospel. Simple men who would be labeled in their day.......even in ours as “JESUS FREAKS or Fools” 

Some background that lead up to this encounter with the Religious Elites the so-called “wise men of that day” in chapter 4Peter and John can to the temple to pray and saw a man who was lame since birth begging for money as he did each and every day. Read Chapter 3 The people were amazed as the religious leaders.......but what’s more amazing is that John and Peter never once took the credit for this wonderful miracle (v12-v13) of chapter 3This brings me to Peter and John’s foolish encounter with the wise! Acts 4:1-3. Peter said something that struck a chord with all the religious types found in the temple area!! “they were greatly disturbed or annoyed” Why? Because according to them Peter and John had no reputation as teachers, no credentials, yet had gathered large crowds when they spoke. And also a certain name (Jesus) made them feel very uncomfortable, a name that they never wanted to hear again.....especially men like Caiaphas. The bible says they “laid hands” (NKJV) forcibly on them and arrested them for speaking in the name of Jesus Christ! Do you realize the same thing is happening today? In our love all and to be tolerant of all religions views and freedoms? But I love what Peter does! It doesn’t stop this foolish disciple of Christ to take full advantage of proclaiming Christ to a larger group of men who should have known better! (v8-v12). I wonder if Peter was reminding himself of what Jesus said as he walked with our Lord, in Mark 13:9-13 we read "But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

Peter being a fool….. Faced the firing squad with humility and bravery which only can come from the Spirit that lives in us? See! Peter chose to stand strong against the strongest opposition known to any believer and so should we! Peter stood his ground with this foolish gospel to the men who said to Pilate “…Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!" John 19:15. They even went on to say “His blood be on us and on our children." Matt 27:25

This didn’t stop foolish Peter to forsake everything for the sake of the cause of Christ and the gospel truth of Jesus Christ. Peter and John weren’t thinking about: 
There comfort and rest.
How this was going to affect their future relationships.
What his family might think him.
What that present culture thought about the topic of Jesus.
How to be more open and acceptable to other religious views.
The possibility of death or receiving major beatings. They only cared about one thing…. that Jesus gets the pre-immense in and out of our lives because of what He has done on our behalf.

What are we doing to be a fool for Christ like Peter and John?

Is it wearing a Jesus –t shirt?
Is it by putting a Jesus fish on the trunk of our car/truck?
Is it wearing a cross around our neck?
Is it coming to church on any given Sunday?

No! None of these make you a fool for Christ. Do you realize that! The name of Jesus needs to be proclaimed more today! In a generation that knows nothing about Jesus or cares to know about Jesus and His saving grace! Shame on us, for our lack of foolishness at it pertains to the gospel. When are we going to stand against this present world for Jesus Christ who loved us and gave Himself for us, without questioning what it’s going to cost us! When are we going to stand as Peter and John and say (v19-v20) We can learn some very important steps to living foolishly for Christ by what we see here in the fourth chapter of Acts

FOOLISH CHRISTIANITY BEGINS WITH A YIELDING TO THE SPIRIT OF GOD (V8)

Peter was yielding to the Spirit’s control. Paul spoke of this kind of control! “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” Eph 5:18. John MacArthur says “the filling of the Spirit occurs when the believer walks in obedience to the word and Spirit. Yielding to His control releases His power in the believer’s life. This principle is foundational to all the rest; yieldedness to the Holy Spirit is the key to successful handling of persecution and proclamation of the Gospel.”.......And he also goes on to say that “lack of being filled with the Spirit is the reason the church today has difficulty facing opposition” Unorthodox or foolish Christianity begins with a yielding to the Spirit of God!! Remember it’s not by our strength and wisdom but by His grace working of the Holy Spirit.
As Jesus said “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say." Luke 12:11-12 

FOOLISH CHRISTIANITY SEIZES EVERY OPPORTUNITY FOR THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL. (V8-V13)

Instead of compromise or being frightened….. Peter displayed great courage. Look at what Peter says in (v8-12) This presentation of the gospel in would have taken great courage and boldness in a society of religious pluralism that says “There is more than one way to Heaven.” This foolish gospel Peter preached astonished these so-called wise men of God. Look at (v13) They were uneducated men ....... not bible school students.....aren’t this those big dumb fishermen that we saw many times by the Sea? I like what Vernon McGee said “unlearned and ignorant...that is, these men hadn’t been to theological seminary. But the Sanhedrin noted that they had been with Jesus. How wonderful to have a life that somehow or other calls attention to Jesus.” A reflection of Christ seen in and through our lives is what the world needs to see….these men saw it in Peter and John. Peter and John were very radical in making such a statement to a powerful group of men who though much differently than they did.
  
FOOLISH CHRISTIANITY IS ALWAYS OBEDIENT TO GOD AT ALL COSTS (V14-V22)

How can I do such a thing when I KNOW my Redeemer lives? We need to ask ourselves which court is higher, Man or God’s? Peter and John are not saying that we don’t listen to those who rule over us according to Romans 13We as Christian’s must listen and obey our authorities.....but when government decrees are clearly contrary to God’s word......................God’s word must be obeyed FIRST. What did Daniel do? He went to his room and prayed despite the ruling from the king...found in Daniel chapter 6:4-10. What did Peter and John do? (v19-v20) All though they didn’t obey the Sanhedrin they nevertheless treated them all with respect! There are going to be times in your life and mine in which we are going to have to make a decision that might cost us our physical unrest, our job, friendships, even our life for the sake of this foolish message. But be of good cheer as Jesus said “I have overcome the world” “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." John 16:32-33. And as Peter and John said "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." Acts 4:19-20. But it’s no different than for Peter and John as it is today for you and me!

God must come first in our lives no matter what people say or might do to us! Peter and John weren’t frightened or discouraged...they were thankful. Why I say this! After this episode with the religious they went and found comfort and support by fellow brother and sisters which is also vital for each and every one of us (v23) When we have fellowship like that we are so thankful that we serve an amazing God! And what better way to show our gratitude to our God...then through praise and worship together (the family of God) This is what a foolish Christian man or woman looks like, to be filled with the Spirit to speak His truth. Courageous and bold to proclaim the love of Christ to a Christ- less world. Obedient to God because He commands it. We serve an amazing God who has and will never give up on you! Why? He has conquered all things for His glory! He doesn’t call us to save people ....He calls us to go out and proclaim to them that Jesus is the way the truth and the life. Vernon McGee once said “We are called to fish in the fish pond, not to clean up the fish pond..” We can’t change the world with our wisdom and own strength….but when God is at the helm or guiding our every step we can impact a fallen world by being foolish Christians for His gospel. My desire and I desire this for you….. that we be foolish Christians who are willing to stand at any cost for Jesus Christ. I want to be like that! I want to be not only foolishly in love with Him, but also for His gospel as well! THE Sunday QUESTION IS........Do you want to be called foolish?

13 May 2016

FIRMLY PLANTED BY GRACE PART 2


Gal 5:13-15

We are living in a culture that is yelling from the rooftop “We want freedom and more liberties” A culture that is demanding more personal rights and freedoms, just as the Israelites did from years past. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25

Whether it is what sex I want to be this week.
What washroom I’m allowed to us.
Who has the right to bake a cake or sell flowers?
Who has the right to take one’s life?

Those are just a few of the issues that plague under the freedom of rights act! But the freedom that Paul talking about is none of those things! It’s a supernatural rest and security the believer finds in Christ alone. If you are a true child of God you are FREE! I want you to think about this as we continue in this letter. Always understand and embrace the joy that grace is God giving us precisely what we don't deserve, and what we could not earn through the Law.

What does He give us? He gives us forgiveness from past, present and future sins. He graciously restores our broken lives back into His sovereign arms as adopted children. He gives us real peace, rest and future rest with Him in Heaven. He gives us inexpressible love that overflows and it’s unending for all eternity. He gives us Himself as Father, Friend, and Lord of our lives from the bondage of sin and death and the burden of condemnation. God liberates us with His grace though His Son rooted in the gospel! Warren Wiersbe said this "The Christian is a free man. He is free from the guilt of sin because he has experienced God’s forgiveness. He is free from the penalty of sin because Christ died for him on the cross. And he is, through the Spirit, free from the power of sin in his daily life."

What does that look like?

Romans 5:2 describe that amazing reality as “this grace in which we stand”. God moved His people from Law to grace, and now the Galatians wanted to move from grace back to Law. But God has called us to stand and walk in the freedom of grace (vs.1, 13)! As one writer said “Is that the freedom you celebrate above all others? As Canadians don’t you find it little ironic that we live in “The True North strong and free!” and “the land of the free”, like our brothers and sisters South of us. When in fact, most of our population isn’t free at all? Most people remain slaves of sin. Most people are still depending on their performance, still trying to be and believing themselves to be 'good enough'. But we all fall short of and turn from God's good and perfect and holy commands. That's why grace is so liberating! But I want us to understand! With freedom there comes great reward but also great responsibility. I think John Piper sums up what I’m trying to say with this statement “One of the most jarring sentences in the Bible goes like this: "If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3). It jars us because Jesus said, "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13); and he taught that one of the ways to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us and bless those who persecute us is to give freely of our possessions (Lk. 6:27-30).”

With freedom there comes great reward (eternal life) but this freedom comes with a new set of challenges and responsibilities. The challenge is this! There are two things Paul wants us to avoid about Christian freedom. Legalism trying to win or earn God’s favor by works for salvation and righteousness. License misapplying the doctrine of grace as a license to freely sin or do as you please. See with every promise you find (claim) in the Christian life, there is always something to forsake or to avoid. See! To some people to be free from the law meant that there was nothing standing in the way of self-indulgence and a free rein in sin. They understood the law to be the ONLY restraining power of sin in the lives of individuals and the world. But as Paul explains it shows us the freedom we have from the Law (That’s a promise to claim) but it doesn’t do away with holy conduct in one’s Christian life (an example to follow). When it comes to reading scripture and applying this truth to my daily Christian life, I always need to ask myself a series of questions. Questions that I have on my office wall beside my desk.
It’s an acronym Called SPEC ….ask yourself if there is a …….

Sin to forsake?
Promise to claim?
Example to follow?
Command to obey?
Stumbling block to avoid?

This portion of Paul’s letter points us to those simple questions. (read above)

Sin to Forsake (v13)

"Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh." This is bad for you and me by the way. It’s dangerous to fill the desires of the flesh. We are NEVER to use His liberty as an opportunity for the flesh,” “Flesh” does not refer to physical but to the sinful inclination of fallen mankind, its earthbound and still imprisoned in unredeemed humanness. Though we are not in the flesh through the “new birth” but the flesh is still in us. Sadly, under the blank of grace some professing Christians claim they are….. Free to get drunk on occasion.
Free to watch anything and everything. (Whether its sinful or not)
Free to enjoy worldly amusements and pleasures they once found enjoyable.
Free to feed their minds on smut in book form or magazine.
Free to live a lifestyle of unrestraint and rules.

But the Apostle Peter said this “not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” 1 Peter 2:16. I love what John MacArthur said in his commentary “Whatever Christian freedom is, it is clearly not the right of believers to return to that from which Christ paid with His own life to save them.” Paul had to confront this exact error when he wrote to the believers in Rome. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? [2] By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! [16] Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey...” Romans 6:1-2, 15, 16) And you might know that's not true, but we are still tempted by that thought. When our flesh, when the world, when our Enemy, seeks to entice us to do wrong, we might think to ourselves, “Well, I know it's not right, but I can always ask for God's
forgiveness afterwards. After all, I am standing in grace.” That's using grace as a doorstop when an opportunity for the flesh comes knocking. As Paul drives home in Romans 6, if we persist in that kind of thinking, we have to question whether or not we truly are free from the slavery of sin. In a nut shell “examine if your truly are born again at all.” Don’t make your liberty from the law a base of operations from which to serve sin. Liberty was not to be used as a spring-board from which to take off with the intention of sinning….so forsake the flesh and its desires.

Promise to claim (v13)

Paul say’s you were called to freedom” “Calling” is God’s divine intervention and grace in which He called you to Himself, though the Holy Spirit by the finishing work of the gospel. And based on that divine calling God has given the child of God a command. “Free to serve” is the very heart of the gospel and godly living. Now that you free from and not bonded by the Law, use this liberty to serve Christ and others with joy and ability that He gives freely to each and every one of us. Tell others of this wonderful freedom that we have because this world that screams for personal rights and freedoms are still slaves to this present world system. Through His calling God’s supernatural work in saving us we are to make known to this world His glory and not sit on the fence, but to serve and make Him known around the globe. As David Platt said “When you are tempted to coast through the Christian life—remember why God has left you here.” To tell our neighbor, co-worker, peers in school and our family’s there is a freedom, a promise to those who put their faith in trust in Christ alone.  Again remember what Paul said earlier? “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.” Gal 2:20. Claim that promise and share it with others.

Example to follow (Gal 4:12)

Though we don’t necessarily see that here in this portion, it is found in the context of this conversation Paul has with the Galatian believers. “Become as I am” means to follow suit or a blueprint to build after. We have and are surrounded by so many wonder examples of faithful children of God in the scriptures. “Therefore (referring to chapter 11), since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Heb 12:1-2. 

The example to follow like…

Abel
Enoch
Noah
Abraham
Sarah
Isaac
Jacob
Joseph
Moses
Rahab
Gideon, Samson, the prophets
David, Samuel 
…the Apostles…and the ultimate example Christ Jesus Himself.

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:2. God wants us to make right choices which honor and obey His authority over our lives. God loves us and wants nothing more than to see you walking in holiness by His grace. God wants nothing more than our obedience to His commands and He has left us examples of the faith, not to be like them personally, but to be like Christ! This is what I am supposed to live like under my new identity, walking in holiness and desiring the things that God desires. As Paul said “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2. Why live as a living sacrifice? Because holiness looks like the renewal of God’s image in us. So church family! Will you be the hands of Jesus? Will you be the feet of Jesus? Will you be Jesus to a world that is seeking liberty and freedom in the flesh? Let me ask you! Who in your life has best demonstrated a servant’s heart toward you? What can we learn from those who have served us so that we might “serve wholeheartedly as if we were serving the Lord?” Eph. 6:7. Live by example; proclaim this wonderful news, follow after godly examples so the world will see Jesus.

Command to obey (v14)

"Through love be servants of one another." This is good and it demonstrates an inward transformation of the heart. Your outward expression of this freedom should be demonstrated by the transforming work of the heart that God the Spirit does in the life of a new creation in Christ. "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself." “Serve” is the Greek word “Douleo” which means “to be a slave to” What Paul is saying is! “To serve one another in love is to be a slave to one another.” Yielding our selfish desires and wants to serve one another out of love. Serving one another is foundation evidence of a transformed life. Be attentive to the needs of others. When we serve one another, it is all about others – their needs, desires and preferences.  It’s not about us.  It’s all about them. As Paul wrote “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,” Phil 2:3-5 . Doing things without an alter motives. Doing things without seeking the praises of men or winning favor with men. And most of all trying win favor with God. Don’t get me wrong, He is well pleased when our hearts are  motived by His love to serve others. What does that look like? In the late 1800’s, a large group of European pastors came to one of D. L. Moody’s Bible conferences in Massachusetts. As was their custom, the European guests put their shoes outside the dorm rooms at night to be cleaned by the hall servants. Of course, this was America. No hall servants, no clean shoes. Determined not to embarrass his brothers, Moody first tried to enlist help from some ministerial students, but he was met with silence or pious excuses. Eventually, Moody gathered the shoes and cleaned and polished them in his room by himself. Moody was a man with a servant’s heart. It’s a genuine heart to please a holy God and love one another……and sometimes that means getting dirty (a wonderful way to serve). Sometimes like these students we make excuses not serve. 

Christians are the greatest excuse makers when it comes to not serving “I don’t get along with that person” “I’m too busy to help” I only like to serve if I can lead or run the show”. Many in the church want to be served but don’t want to serve. Paul has something to say to those people. A command to obey "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Be willing to perform tedious, mundane tasks. Our deep desire to serve will cause us to delight in even routine and commonplace jobs, tasks that might otherwise be considered outside of our scope of interest or responsibility. Serve others cheerfully.  We are often hesitant to serve others, so stop hesitating and be “eager” to serve as Peter said 1 Peter 5:2. Serving “wholeheartedly” as Paul said in Eph. 6:7. Serving with gladness” as Psalm 100:2 says Serve the LORD with gladness! The command for us to obey is serve one another out of love for the glory of the gospel.

Stumbling block to avoid (v15)

Paul says in (15) a warning statement "If you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another." The main point of the text is, "through love be servants of one another." If you do this, you fulfill the whole law; if you don't, you destroy yourselves. As Paul says “watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” And he uses two very strong words here “bite and devour” to make his point. “Bite and devour” is an imagery of a wild animals savagely attacking and killing one another. This is a graphic picture what happens spiritually when believers do not love and serve one another. When you think of this biting and devouring what person comes to mind? Satan “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8. 

Let me ask you! Are you more prone to devour or serve with a heart of adoration towards God’s goodness in your life? Are you helping or destroying others for the sake of pride or being right all the time? A loveless attitude towards one another is utterly destructive and according to Paul you will end up “consuming” one another. Consume means to utterly destroy one another to which there is nothing left to destroy.

Is how you want to live your Christian life?
Is this honoring to Christ and His precious gospel?
Is this what he saved you for to do with the remaining time on this earth?

No! So stop it and live your life by lovingly serve one another…no matter the cost or the outcome. You do it because you love them and ultimately you love God and His gospel. The grace of God does not set us free for a care-FREE life, but a care-FILLED life. Serve one another. The key word being “Love”  Understand…… Liberty + love = service to others.

Liberty- love = license to slavery and sin

Sin to forsake? Opportunities of the flesh.
Promise to claim? Called to Gospel freedom
Example to follow? Paul and those who walked before us.
Command to obey? Love one another unconditionally

Stumbling block to avoid? Killing one another spiritually

01 May 2016

FIRMLY PLANTED BY GRACE PART 1


Gal 5:1-12
There are many in the church today who treat the Christian life like is a race they have to try and win on their own or better yet by their own effort or standard of goodness. Out the gate they are excited and full of energy. They study well and have a real (so they thought) joy to read and worship privately and corporately. They had a on the surface a joy and seriousness to pray and have fellowship with other Christians. But, something happens along the way, and they begin to slow down to the point of giving up and to retreat back to the starting line again where it was comfortable and familiar. From the grandstand! You think to yourself or scratch your head, they start out so well, but you can’t believe what you’re seeing as they retreat to go back to their old ways. See, the problem isn't what we see on the surface; because from the surface we see a person who looks like you and me. We see a person who is possibly a church goer, a co-worker, a neighbor in the community, a peer in school. We see someone who is very capable to finish the race better than me at times. BUT what we don’t see, is the lack of depth or the lack of deep roots in their life. Everything up to now has been by their ability and strength, and not by the Spirit of God. Everything up until now has been all them, in their own strength and flesh. And according to the scriptures apart from Christ we will fail at this a 10 out of 10 times.

When I think of man’s attempt to please God, I'm reminded of what Paul Tripp said in his illustration of the apple tree. Take an old apple tree that has no healthy apples in your backyard; it looks fine from a distant but has no strong deep roots (just roots that are barely covered by the soil). It’s a tree that is all tense purposes is dead and you’ve tried everything to keep it alive to bare good delicious apples. But nothing is happening! So you come up with this great idea! You go to the store and buy the biggest and juiciest apples they have by the bushels. Then you stop by the Hardware Store for some heavy duty staples. Then you come home and grab your stable gun, your ladder and you proceed up the tree start by pinning those beautiful apples to the tree that couldn’t reproduce apples of its own or the way you wanted them too. When you’re finished stapling all the apples you stand back from a distance and the tree looks amazing! It has all the features and characteristics of a healthy apple tree, full of delicious apples.But as you get closer you begin to see that it’s still a dead tree without growing fruit, only stapled apples to a dead tree.

See, apart from Christ we can do many things, but in the end it’s still a dead tree. And next year it will still produce uneatable apples. Much of what we do to produce growth and change is no more than “fruit stapling.” As Jeremiah penned “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Jer 2:13 Jesus doesn’t want your stapled apples! The same truth applies to the Christian life! What does it mean to be firmly planted? Paul affirms that for us in this portion of his letter!

A. Freedom is grounded in Christ (Gal 5:1)

See our freedom is grounded in truth and Christ has set us free so live as free children. John records in his gospel the words of Jesus, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). If you know this but are not glorifying Christ deeply because of it, then it raises the question, Why not? The simplest answer has to be that you have forgotten how terrible slavery was. See, the gospel is not awesome unless you see the awfulness of your previous condition. Thomas Watson the Puritan said “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.” We need to embrace and understand what Christ has done in order to adore Him and not return to slavery. What do we need to know that sets us free from this bondage? The simple unchanging truth is that Jesus was God’s only begotten Son. He came into the world to reveal the perfect love of God for humankind. He died for a broken world in atonement for its sin. And all who believe in him will not perish but have everlasting life. Legalism on the other hand has a tendency to add more and more requirements to simple faith in Jesus Christ. Freedom is grounded in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone!!! To be firmly planted is to have deep roots that God Himself nurtures and waters through His word and the work of the Spirit in one’s life. James gives a portrait of the new life for the Christian “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:17-25

What does that mean to be free and firmly planted in Christ?

1. You are free from the fear of death “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Heb 2:14-15

2. You are free from the bondage of sin “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin” Rom 6:6-7

3. You are free from the bondage of men to joyfully serve “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;” 1 Cor 9:19

4. You are free because of the finishing work of the cross “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” 1 Pet 1:18-19

So why do you want to put the yoke of bondage around your neck again? Why do want that heavy burden to carry that you couldn’t carry in the first place? Why do you want to go back where you once stored up God’s wrath upon your life? Why? You’re free and anyone in Christ is “free indeed” The Law on Mount Sinai reveals our hopelessness and bondage, but Calvary reveals His grace and liberating freedom for sinners like you and me. Standing firm safeguards us against submitting to legal bondage. Paul says in (v13) “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh.” In a nutshell “standing firm” keeps you and your Christian life between the guard rails. As you walk in His sustaining grace in your life. WHY? This leads to me to my next point!

B. Freedom is constantly under threat (Gal 5:2-12)

“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from
obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.” What Paul is saying, "You're listening to the wrong people? You're allowing yourself to be influenced by the wrong crowd." They were not running in the truth, they were listening to the message of bondage…we see this in (v2-v12)

LISTEN TO PAUL’S WARNING!
If you accept this false message, then your view of Christ is insufficient (v2)
If you accept this message you must obey all of the Law (v3)
If you accept this message, then you are turning away from the doctrine of grace. (v4)
If you accept this message, you lose the hope of future glory (v5)
See, God revealed Himself to you, through His gospel and He never called you to be fooled by the trickery of men, but called you by His divine saving grace. Remember what Paul said to the Corinthian church “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.’ 1 Cor 2:1-5. Legalisms (the false teachers) were all about external rituals; Paul says the Christian life is all about faith that is demonstrated through loving service.

Is the church being influenced by this crowd today through works righteousness?

Absolutely she is! Influences such as you want and need…..
It’s all about morals and doing good things.
It’s coming to church to look good and please others (family, spouse a parent).
It’s focusing on numbers and not true spiritual growth in one’s life.
It’s serving and doing things in the church with the idea of winning favor with God. While your spiritual lacks!
It’s concentrating on appearances instead of their spiritual state.
Its faking it and playing church (putting on your Sunday super suit).
The warning here is this! God will not be mocked if you think you can win favor by going ahead or adding to the gospel. Paul said this “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.’ Gal 6:7-8. Paul said if you’re willing to listen to something or someone like this, because this was never taught by Paul and he calls out this perversion of the gospel with strong action. He called for drastic measures to take place to see that this doesn’t continue on disrupting the church. Something so serious that would cause any man to say “ouch” Paul said, “I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!”(v12) That word translated "emasculate" means literally "cut themselves off" and it refers to castration! Paul is obviously using a play on words. He’s literally calling for castration, and maybe he’s serious about that. He sounds serious to me. But he’s also saying he wants this party cut off from the church. It’s a picture or the idea of cutting the dead wood and throws it in the fire. Why? They are trouble. They are a cancer. This is not about a minor doctrinal difference. It's about the foundation of your spiritual life and the true gospel. Are trying to earn your salvation through obedience to the law? If so, then you are headed for a lifetime of misery and failure; or are you receiving salvation as a gift of God's grace?Understand you can experience a lifetime of freedom and victory. This was an important issue, and Paul didn't take kindly to the members of a legalistic faction coming in and destroying people’s freedom in Christ. This false message contaminates others and it’s not from God. (v7-v8) Why Paul goes on to say “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (v9) What does that look like to us; that little bit of leaven? Because a little leaven is something that is subtle, goes unnoticed or we turn a blind eye to at times….even worse we see no problem with it!


Just as a single cell of cancer can multiply rapidly throughout the physical body, a single false doctrine can multiply itself and spread throughout a body. A false doctrine and wrong view of salvation, grace can multiply itself and spread throughout the body of a believer. Just as a great forest fire can be started by one small spark…the same is true of the damage legalism can do to the bride of Christ. So, who are you going to listen to? The one who wants you back in bondage with a heavy yoke of sin or the one who offers you freedom through Christ alone? Trust in Christ’s atoning work alone for salvation. Find your righteousness in Him alone. And most of all resist anyone who points you somewhere other than Christ alone. Why? Christ as set us free, so live in the truth……Live free!