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!

18 April 2016

DO WE NEED TO GO BACK?


Gal 4:12-20

Why is the Christian life so hard? Why couldn't He just make easy for us simple folks? For example: Why couldn't He just implant the word of God in my brain like a computer and I then I could know it off by heart? Why couldn't He give us the right words to say in every conversation whether it be confrontation or just simple fellowship or day to day conversations with people around us. Why couldn't He just make my life easier and simple, instead He complicates things by allowing struggles, temptation, decisions and learning about Him and His attributes. You know why He does all this? So that you savour and long for Him as the highly exalted Lord that He is. So that you be challenged and pushed in your faith to see Him as He should be “my sustainer, provider and protector. As David said “I will love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:1-2. This is why! So the all-sufficient supreme Lord, who desires, demands my adoration and worship directed to Him, with every part, cell and fabric of my being.

Who remembers the childhood game “Simon says”? Maybe playing in the playground during lunch hour at school when you were a little girl or boy. Maybe a birthday party or a group of friends over for a sleep over. Maybe an activity at a summer camp. Let me ask you! What was the premise of that game? Whatever Simon said? You did it, right? If Simon said pat your head in a circle you did it otherwise you’re out of the game. If Simon said jump up and down you did it otherwise you’re out of the game. The game would go until there was? The last person standing because you obeyed Simon’s commands.

Now flip this same principle to the Christian life! Does God say the same thing? He tells us to…….
  • Pick up our (my) cross.
  • Deny ourselves
  • Be disciples of the Word.
  • Be a people who pray continually.
  • Proclaim the good news of the gospel.
  • Flee from all forms of evil in this present world system.
  • Walk in holiness daily out of adoration and thanksgiving.
  • Walk in serving others and especially the church family.

But do we really obey Him as you did when you played Simon says as a child? We may study it, memorize it, work it out in our heads, and maybe even learn it in the Greek. The sad reality is that we have a tendency to never really apply His truth to our lives or live it out the way God intended us to. Why? Maybe because He’s too demanding and it’s a lot of work. It requires me to change too much in my lifestyle to fit His demands. Its hard work and the bible doesn’t come easy for me to understand or do at times. John MacArthur says "obedience to the Word is the most basic spiritual requirement and is the common denominator for all true believers. The bottom line of true spiritual life is not a momentary feeling of compliance or commitment… but long-term obedience to Scripture.” Listen to what Jesus says about the privilege and importance of His word! John 8:31-32 says “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." God’s word is liberating and amazing…it’s not meant to be a burden or a hindrance for you to never pick up. Many say I’m not a reader! Where I would say ok, but you’re a Christian and this isn’t some book or novel that sits on a shelf. It’s God breathed! Paul in this portion of his letter demonstrates to us his frustration with these believers…but we also see he deep passion and concern for them to be formed into the image of Christ. Why do I say that? READ(v12-20) He begins by saying…..

“Become as I am” (v12-v16)

What is Paul saying here? He pleads when them to be free of trying to earn salvation by keeping the Law and the outward symbols of ceremonies, rituals and restrictions. Remember what Paul already said “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 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 2:19-20. The problem for these believers was this! You started out so well according to Paul’s letter that they would have laid their lives down for him. According Paul, they would have gouged out their eyes and given them to Paul if he couldn’t see. (v16) So what does it mean to become as I am? Well……

DOES MY CHRISTIAN LIFE EXEMPLIFY SELF DENIAL?

Have I really denied myself? What do you mean by that Mike? I’ve given up lots of things in my life for the Lord? You might say! I don’t……. gamble, drink, smoke, swear, watch lustful movies, steal, I’m much kinder to others, I give to charities and I serve and tithe in my church. That all sounds great, and please keep doing those things, but that’s not the denial I’m speaking of. The denial I’m speaking about is the kind of denial that happened to Peter in the courtyard where he denied the Lord 3 times. It’s a total disregard of oneself; it’s a turning away from something. Referring to my old sinful nature of selfish wants and desires. Listen to the Apostle Paul about how he explains self-denial. “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,” Phil 3:7-10. Paul finally saw the wrong attitude in his life; we need to recognize the same. It’s not about me, being happy and getting what I want when I want it. Paul finally saw that everything he thought was righteous in his life was worthless, meaningless; we need to do the same. It’s not about my good works earning favor to attain salvation or Heaven. Paul finally saw his life as it once was a Legalist still in bondage to sin and death, we need to do the same. It’s only by His unmerited grace that we escape the pit of Hell. Paul finally counted everything loss (all things loss) for the excellence of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, we need to do the same. It’s what we know about Him and His goodness towards us. I want to know more about Him and excellence as walk each and every day. That’s what self-denial looks like and that’s what it means to be “like I am” as Paul said.

DOES MY CHRISTIAN LIFE EXEMPLIFY A LIFE THAT LOVES THE THINGS THAT GOD LOVES?

Do I care about holiness and righteousness? As Paul said “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, Eph 1:4  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,” Eph 1:3-4. Our single greatest desire is to be holy for He is holy. So what am I doing to protect my life from the immorality that is before me?
  • What I watch
  • What I listen too
  • The magazines/books I read
  • The movies I view as acceptable.
  • The people I chose to hang out with our court.

Do I love holiness more than feeding my mind with filth and garbage? As the old saying goes “garbage in garbage out” We must test everything with discernment that is put before us and stop buying into what the world is swindling with its propaganda. Even if it means this world looks at you as weird or strange. I think when it comes to the things of God do I mirror holiness and right livingHow can I know? Phil 4:8 says this to help youFinally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue  (good worth) and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these thingsGod not up their saying “I do not want my children to have any fun” I remember what James MacDonald said in a message when it comes to our wrong choices “chose to sin, chose to suffer. What God really means is don’t hurt yourself I love you” God wants us to make right choices which honor and obey His authority over our lives. God loves us and wants nothing more than our full attention. God wants nothing more than our obedience to His commands. This is what I am supposed to live like under my new identity, walking in holiness. Because holiness looks like the renewal of God’s image in us..


DOES MY CHRISTIAN LIFE HATE THE THINGS THAT GOD HATES?

As a Christian do I hate sin and the perversion this world system is trying to indoctrinate into our children and our homes? As a Christian do I really care about what people say about Jesus and the Bible and His true church. As a Christian, do I hate the lack of Bible preaching from our pulpits? As a Christian, do I hate the false teaching of our generation and destruction it brings to people we love outside the genuine church? As a Christian do I care about those who are going to Hell? As a Christian do I care that there has been more death through abortion than all wars combined. As a Christian do I care at all any more? Because it seems the voice of the church is silent in these last days.

Paul was greatly concerned for these believers, otherwise he wouldn’t be saying this at all. If he was confident and found peace in these believers, he would have wrote this … “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thess 1:2-3. But he doesn’t……he says “Brethren, I urge you (beg, beseech) to become like me, for I became like you.” (v12) When Paul came to Christ he tore away every shred of legalism and found the true grace that God gives to sinners. Paul never represented himself nor thought of himself as anything but a sinner saved by Christ and His redeeming grace. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Gal 3:28. But something else troubled Paul! Not only does he say this but something else that would cause us to say “ouch”

I am again in anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you (v19)

The question I keep thinking as I read this portion of Paul’s letter is this! Do we need to go back to the basics in the church today? What do I mean? Do we need to start over and go through the study of God? This is “Theology” it has been the called “the Queen of all sciences.” That’s why Theology by definition is “God’s words" Theology is the study of God--His nature, attributes, character, abilities, revelation, etc. True theology is found in the Bible which is the self-revelation of God. As a child of God you are a theologian, though many of you never attended bible school or seminary………You are a Theologian.

Why study Theology?
  • God has revealed Himself in the Scriptures.
  • Theology is the framework of the Christian life and the church/leadership.
  • It protects us from false values, philosophies and sin.
  • Our beliefs are shaped by the scriptures.
  • We may use it to expose cultic teachings.
  • Theology gives the believer strength, focus and direction to His grace and glory.

Paul’s concern here is painful to see. He equates this with “child birth” What he is saying? “you make me feel like a mother who has to deliver the same baby twice.” You have already experienced the new birth, but know you are acting as if you need to be spiritually born all over again. Do we need to go back and start over again? Paul wasn’t trying to mean as if he didn’t care…..he cared too much for God’s children. They forgot this through the trickery of the Judaizers and their works based false teaching. See, Paul was a man who loved the gospel and the church. Remember what he said to the church in Thessalonica? “For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” 1 Thess 2:1-8

He wanted them to see the great God we love and serve as he did. Christlikeness is the goal of the believer’s life. We have been predestined to become conformed to the image of the Son as it says in Romans 8:29. We also see this truth in 2 Cor 3:18 “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” The gospel saves us from ourselves and gives us a new identity and that identity is the image of His Son. And as John wrote “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” 3 John 1:4. That’s why you are theologians…..we are His children who….
  • Read His word
  • Study His word
  • Memorize His word
  • Speak his words
  • Sing His words

Why? It brings Him joy to see you standing firm and growing under His grace through Spirit. If this is not prevalent in your life then I’m afraid for you as Paul is here with these believers. As John Piper says “swim in the bible”. This is my prayer for you. Why? My greatest desire for you is the same desire Paul has and ultimately God has for His children. (v20) that you be formed into the image of Christ. It’s not an outward shaping but an inward transformation to Christ like character.

How do I do that? Simple…..
  • Study your bible and live in it continually.
  • Remind yourself of the truth of the gospel and be saturated in its promises.
  • Commit and used for Him, stop sitting on the fence and get involved and grow as a disciple for Christ.
  • Humble yourself under His grace and walk as He walked.



“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,” Col 2:6

10 April 2016

THE ADOPTING GRACE OF GOD PART 3


Gal 4:1-11

What does it mean to be an heirs according to promise? (3:29) The simple answer is this! You are no longer a slave, but a son or daughter of God. This means you have been purchased from the slave market with a promise that cannot be stolen or taken away from you if you are a genuine child of the Living God. This statement that Paul makes is not referring to the promises given to Abraham regarding the Land in (Gen 12:1). “Heir” “Under the patriarchs, the property of a father was divided among the sons of his legitimate wives (Gen 21:10; 24:36; 25:5), the eldest son getting a larger portion than the rest. The Mosaic law made specific regulations regarding the transmission of real property, which are given in detail in Deuteronomy 21:17 ; Numbers 27:8 ; 36:6 ; 27:9-11 . Succession to property was a matter of right and not of favour.

What it’s referring to for you and me is this! The spiritual blessing that come to all who being justified by faith just as Abraham was. “And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” Gen 15:6. In Romans 4:3-11 we read “For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Christ is the "heir of all things" (Heb 1:2; Col 1:15 ). Believers are heirs of the "promise," "of righteousness," "of the kingdom," "of the world," "of God," "joint heirs" with Christ (Gal 3:29; Heb 6:17 ; 11:7 ; James 2:5 ; Romans 4:13 ; 8:17 ).

This inheritance is not by the obedience of the Law; it is by faith. From salvation of unmerited grace to justification to adoption, we possess new identities in Christ, but not only that, we are heirs in this blessing founded in the gospel. Here is the catch or the conditions of this promise! This inheritance is only for the genuine believer…those who have been transformed by the gospel through Christ alone. It’s not gained by man’s merit or works but solely by God’s sovereign grace working through man’s faith. The literal meaning of heir is “someone who has been appointed to receive an inheritance.” But we see something here that should cause us to ponder in (v7 of chapter 4) Let me ask you! Are you afraid of freedom? They were (v9) “how can you turn back again...” Have you forgotten what slavery and bondage did to you? Let’s examine this! 

1. You did not know God (v8) 

What is Paul saying here? Before the gospel penetrated your wicked heart you never knew God (ever). The only god you knew was yourself! Not only did you not acknowledge God as God but you praised those who practice wickedness. Why do I say that hurtful statement, because Paul said it first! “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Rom 1:28-32

Paul even goes on to say in Rom 3:10-12 “as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." Paul even goes on to say what we were like before Christ transformed our lives. "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." Rom 3:13-18

Do you want to go back to that way of living again my Galatian brothers and sisters? This is what Paul is asking. Do you want to go back to that this morning church family? Living your life, not knowing truly the God that allows us to walk, talk, smell, and see and everything else. See Paul doesn’t let them stew it that too long! He quickly reminds them that our salvation and relationship with God isn’t based on our knowledge or ability of knowing God. (v9). What does it mean to be known by God? John Piper said this “Deeper than knowing God is being known by God. What defines us as Christians is not most profoundly that we have come to know him but that he took note of us and made us his own.” Being known by God is another way of talking about election. God freely choose us for Himself, in spite of our not deserving it. Amos 3:2 says ‘you only have I known of all the families of the earth.’ God had chosen Israel as his people, though they were no better than any others. And Paul is reminding these believers the same truth to us today “God freely choosing us for himself, in spite of our not deserving it.” Paul was reminding them of this wonderful gift of life and to be known by God is a blessing not a curse or a burden to carry. Isn’t this liberating and exciting that our freedom is not based on my ability or faith, but in Him who gives me the faith to believe and find rest in His Son alone. As Peter said in his letter “Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:” 2 Peter 1:1. When we accept the finished work of Christ on our behalf, we act by the faith supplied by God’s grace. That is the supreme act of human faith, the act which, though it is ours, is primarily God’s—His gift to us out of His grace.

2. You were enslaved in bondage by man-made things…religion. (v8)

We were all slaves at one point time to gods who were not gods at all. Unredeemed people are not only slaves to Law but also to idols. Jesus is not a quick fix pill or genie in a bottle, like some little fat Budda seating on your shelf. So many people are entangled with this present world it consumes them (literally). Leaving them blind and ignorant to their eternal things and freedom in Christ. As the Law reveals our inability and sin, this world blinds us to those truths. This is why John warns us in his first epistle. In 1 John 2:15-26 it says “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.

So many people are listening to the lies of Satan and his fallen angels of death. The freedom that the gospel brings scares you back into bondage and slavery..It’s like the Israelites complaining to Moses. Moses do you forget we were happy in Egypt. We had food, shelter and everything else to survive. We know this to be a lie from the ignorance of the Israelites “And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness,” Exo 16:2. In Numbers 14:2 “And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!” We are no different at times….I liked it the way it once was, change is hard but complacency is easy. Change is hard and so is freedom…..this is why so many ex-cons return to the jails. They only how to live the way it’s always been and change scares them so they are always reverting back to what they know.…..this is why many ex-cons return to the jails. They only how to live the way it’s always been, and changes scares them so they are always reverting back to what they know. Just as many here were attempting to do and we see that today in the church. Thinking I need to do something in order for things to go better in life and in my Christian life. When all we need to do is submit and humble ourselves under His sovereign hand and right over our lives. As Samuel said to King Saul “And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” 1 Sam 15:22. Do you want to go back to enslavement and rot in your sin awaiting God’s flaming wrath and judgment?

3. You were entangled with elementary principles of this world. (v4, 9b-v11)

Just some here in the church were returning to ritualistic performances of the days and months and seasons and years. Why are we/you living for this world?
  • Why are we so concerned about what others say and think about God?
  • Why are we so concerned to argue about non-essentials found in the scripture?
  • Why are we so easily tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine?
  • Why are we so scared of change for the good?
  • Why are we so ignorant to the simple truth found in the scriptures?
  • Why are we no different at times like the Galatian believers?

This is what Paul was trying to get into their think heads. Stop this madness and listen to what was preached to you from the beginning. See freedom gives us access and everlasting joy knowing God personally and intimately. How? God made himself known to us through the gospel by the Holy Spirit. First He gave us the Law to show our inability to save ourselves and so in the “fullness of time” (v4). Which means at a pre-appointed day Jesus came to save us from the bondage of the slave market. As Jesus said to His disciples “I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn't confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” John 15:15. Jesus Christ came at the right time appointed before the foundations of the world were put into place. See, God was neither too soon nor too late, but right on time. And Paul’s fear was that they were afraid of this freedom by reverting back to the traditions of men. Where have we seen this “appointed time” in scripture? The life of Abraham with the birth of his son Isaac. The life of Joseph when He became the right hand man to Pharaoh to save the Israelites from starvation. The life of Job when he was having his best life now and how quickly it was taken away from him to test the genuineness of his heart. The life of Rahab who was preserved during the fall of Jericho as her walls stood and everyone else’s didn’t. The life of Ruth, a widow and outcast to the Israelites, became the wife to Boaz the Kinsman redeemer …the linage that lead to David’s birth and ultimately Christ’s. The life of Mary when the Holy Spirit came upon her and gave her a son to save her and many from their sins.

So! Are you still afraid of freedom? Or are you free in Christ? (4:4-7) You might recall a man named John Newton, who was nurtured by a devoted Christian mother who dreamed that her only son would become a preacher. But she died when John was a child, and he followed his sea-captain father to a sailor's life. John didn't care for the discipline of the Royal Navy: he deserted ship and eventually was discharged. He then headed for regions where he could "sin freely," and ended up on the western coast of Africa, working for a slave trader who mistreated him.

Newton's life during that period bore the appearance of a modern Prodigal Son "a wretched looking man toiling in a farmstead of lemon trees, his clothes had become rags, no shelter and begging for unhealthy roots to relieve his hunger." After more than a year of such treatment, he managed to escape from the island, in 1747.

The following year his ship was battered by a severe storm. Newton had read “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas Kempis and during the life-threatening voyage he became a Christian. Ironically, Newton then served as captain of a slave ship for six years. He gradually came to abhor slavery and later crusaded against it. Newton became greatly influenced by George Whitefield and the Wesley brothers. He married his long-time sweetheart and began studying for the ministry and preaching in whatever vacant building he could obtain. Known as the "old converted sea captain," he attracted large audiences. Newton felt dissatisfied with the hymns of the traditional psalter. He began writing "Amazing Grace!" He also befriended poet William Cowper, and they collaborated to produce Olney Hymns, which became the standard hymnal of evangelical churches.
The hymnal, which includes Newton's hymns "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken" and "How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds," was reprinted in England and America for the next century. In his old age, it was suggested that Newton retire because of bad health and failing memory. He replied, "My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior!"

He was a man who was lost, in bondage and slave to sin….but Christ came to set him free as He did for you and me. My Sunday question is this! Do you want to be set free or do you want to retreat back into bondage and death?

03 April 2016

THE ADOPTING GRACE OF GOD PART 2


Gal 3:21-29; 4:1-11

God’s adopting grace is a beautiful truth and expression of His love that He displays to each and every one of us who are children of God…..the sons and daughters of God. What we have seen over the past few months is….
  • We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
  • We are justified, we are right (standings) before God the Judge.
  • We adopted into His grace by His love alone.

Again as a reminder! God sent His Son so that we might receive the position of sons/daughters. Adoption required someone who comes at the right time. Adoption requires someone who possesses the right qualifications. Adoption requires someone who has the right resolution. By doing this God sent His Spirit so that we might experience the wonderful privileges as sons and daughters.

This means…..We live with NEW identities before a holy God. We know get to taste and enjoy intimacy with God. We are assured and guaranteed an inheritance from a holy God. But! Before all this happened, something was wrong, not with the Triune God, but with us! You were a slave to sin, before God the Father adopted you though the grace of the gospel. Why do I say that? (v21-v24). What is the purpose of the Law if it cannot save us? What purpose does the Law serve then? If salvation has always been by faith and never through our merit of good works. If the covenant promise of Abraham was fulfilled in Jesus, what purpose did the Law have? The Law was and is intended to reveal sin in its true character as transgression towards a holy God. The Law shows the depth of man’s transgression against God. Sin existed before the Law, but man did not recognize it as transgression until the Law came. “Transgression” is a violation of known Law. (v19)

Paul said this in Rom 3:19-20 “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” We read in Rom 7:12-18 the battle we all face “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. You know what you’re to do and you don’t do it….because you can’t apart from the finished work of Christ on the cross who became a curse for us and the Holy Spirit’s work in your life. Until Christ came we were all blind to our lawless deeds and sins before a holy God. Like this illustration I came across! “In 1992, a Los Angeles County parking control officer came upon a Cadillac illegally parked next to the curb on street-sweeping day. The officer obediently wrote out a ticket. Ignoring the man seated at the driver’s wheel, the officer reached inside the open car window and placed the $30 citation on the dashboard. The driver of the car made no excuses. No argument ensued-and with good reason. The driver of the car had been shot in the head ten to twelve hours before but was sitting up, stiff as a board, slumped slightly forward…..He was dead. The officer, preoccupied with ticket-writing, was unaware of anything out of the ordinary. He got back in his car and drove away.”

Many people are unaware to the fact that many are ‘dead in transgressions and sins.’ What should catch our attention most is their need, not their offenses. They don’t need a citation; they need a Savior.” The Law reveals our desperate need of a Savior. The Law is meant to show men what hopeless sinners we are without Christ. The Law reveals our hopeless state so that we would cry out to God to save us from our selfish destructive ways. The Law demonstrates the unworthiness of man to receive free and unconditional blessing…for man to be to blessed it must be by the good grace of God. The Law as Paul said is our “Guardian” until Christ came. (v24) Other translations say “Tutor or Schoolmaster”

What does that mean Guardian, Tutor or schoolmaster? The law has never saved anyone, and it never will. God did not give it to redeem us from sin but to show us our need of salvation. That's why the apostle Paul called it "our tutor." This is a better translation of the word. The word “tutor” in the Greek is “paidagogos” was more than just a teacher or schoolmaster as other translations go. But rather a slave employed by Greek or Roman families whose duty was to supervise young boys in behalf of their parents. John MacArthur said this in his commentary “they took their young charges to and from school, made sure they studied their lessons, and trained them in obedience. They were strict disciplinarians, scolding and whipping as they felt necessary.” Paul told the Corinthian believers we often behaved like spoiled children. 1 Cor 4:14-15 “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Because as a tutor the Corinthian believers were warned about this! “What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?” 1 Cor 4:21. We even read in the Old Testament the importance of the rod. “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.” Prov 23:13

The Hebrew writer said this “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.
Heb 12:6  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” Heb 12:4-8
See a tutor plays a big part in one’s life. The duty of a tutor was never permanent…it was a great day when a boy finally gained freedom from his tutor, guardian, schoolmaster. Understand the purpose of the tutor was to take care of the child only until he grew into adulthood. And as John MacArthur said “though the two of them might remain close and friendly, the tutor having completed his assignment, had no more authority or control over the child.” As I’ve said already the sole purpose of the Law to lead men to Christ, that we might be justified through His adopting grace. The law was our custodian to bring us to Christ. And having been brought into a right relationship through Christ Jesus, and relying on Him alone for justification and salvation, we become sons of God. Because we have been purchased from the slave market of grace as we put on Christ (26)

What does these mean for us His adopted children? If the Law doesn’t save us and it’s our tutor that points us to Christ and our desperate need of His grace. What does this mean for us?

We are baptized in Christ (v27)

This is a beautiful picture of immersion into the life of Christ. This is what water baptism symbolizes and signifies. As Paul wrote “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Rom 6:3-4. Keeping in mind that Paul is addressing Judaizers and confused believers when he said “baptized into Christ.” Paul talks about the picture of baptism, which in certain ways replaces circumcision. See baptism is an important identifying marker of the Christian. Paul was in no way saying that you must baptize in order to be saved. Or speaking of Spirit Baptism that one receives at the point of salvation. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” 1 Cor 12:13. What he was saying is this…….baptism is an outward picture (expression) of an inward reality.

That reality being, a transforming identification with Christ. Baptism plays a very important part in one’s transformation. Why do I say that! Baptism is not just an optional thing to consider. If you are a follower of Christ, this is an extremely important step of obedience. Baptism is public expression to Christ’s leadership and authority over ones life. It’s not necessary in order to be saved, but it is a fruit of obedience commanded by God. And Jesus said to the Apostles (leaders) "…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matt 28:18-20

We are clothed with Christ (v27)

Paul speaks of putting on Christ like a garment. In the Old Testament culture, when you passed from childhood into manhood and received your full rights as a son, you would literally put on different clothes. The rule applies to us (those) who are God’s sons and daughters “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Col 3:1-10. Paul also said “and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.’ Eph 4:24. Our old self in Adam is removed and discarded when we become new by faith in Christ. You are His adopted children………..Now Talk, Live, and Walk like It.

We are united in Christ (v28)

There are so many barriers that separated people in the first century…and sadly these are barriers that still separate people today. This refereeing to ethnic and racial barriers….in this time frame, the Jews and the Greeks. Jews considered anyone outside their camp unclean and not worthy of fellowship. This is why the Judaizers were telling them that they need to become like them in circumcision. They never understood the freedom and unity we have in Christ. For us! Experiencing unity in Christ is one of the greatest joys especially when you’re on vacation or visiting a different country. To attend another bible believing church somewhere else, is wonderful to worship with other believers who are hidden in Christ. Traveling around the globe or on vacation there are so many differences that would separate us:
  • Different political views
  • You approach life differently
  • You might speak a different language
  • Eat differently

But one thing unites all of God’s sons and daughters….the bond we have in Christ. See! It’s not a socially, politically, or economically manufactured unity……it’s a unity that comes from each person being in Christ. Our union in Christ automatically establishes our genuine communion with other genuine Christians. Not one of us is better or worse, we all need grace and we find it in Christ alone.

We each belong to Christ (v29)

Do you realize what Paul is saying here in (v29) “And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.”

We belong to…..

  • Abraham
  • Isaac
  • Jacob
  • Moses
  • Joshua
  • Samuel
  • David
  • Solomon
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
We belong to Christ. We live new identities in Christ and that brings an intimacy with God. Why do I say that? By what we read in Gal 4:6 “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" See before this happened we were held captive by God’s Law. Apart from Christ, we were held prisoners by the Law….meaning locked up in sin and death. We were slaves under the elemental forces of this world……but know everything has changed. (Gal 4:3) “Abba Father” It was a term of endearment used by young children of their father and could be translated “daddy” or “papa”. We also see this expression being used in Romans 8:13-16 “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God," This is what the Holy Spirit does for the son or daughter of God. Bringing us into a personal intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father whom we may approach at any time, under any circumstance knowing He always hears us and lovingly cares for us. You and I had a tutor set in place before the foundations of the world. For some of you it came quick and relatively painless. For others like me, it took 30 years of discipline and correction to see the desperate need for a Savior. And I saw that need, when He adopted me by His grace into His family through the gospel.

My Sunday question is this! Who here is still under the authority of the tutor? Because the answer to that question is the adopting grace of God. Stop fighting and come home. Humble yourself at the feet of the Christ and repent and believe as the prodigal son did when he returned.