21 February 2016

DON’T BUY INTO SATAN’S LIE


Gal 3:1-5

There is something about us that causes us to want to take control of our lives rather than walk in step with God’s will for us. This is even true with our spiritual growth. For example! “There was a young man who was powerfully touched by the Holy Spirit of Christ at his salvation. He was so excited about his new relationship with the Lord Jesus that he wanted to do all he could to please Him, and that was great. However, as time went along he felt like he had to start paying the Lord back for all the things he had done wrong. That is when he started losing his joy and started relying upon his works to obtain favor with God. His walk with the Lord started to become a burden to carry, rather than a walk that revealed the grace of God in his life. The good news is that it was not long before he allowed the Holy Spirit to replace his joy by reflecting on the grace of God.”

Sadly though this doesn’t always happen! And many are still lost in the bondage of works and traditions of man’s way to please a holy God. What’s worse it could lead abandonment from the gospel all together which has eternal implications. See! Defection and abandonment are disgraceful because they involve disloyalty and betrayal. Few things are more tragic or disappointing than a so called Christian who deserts the purity of the gospel for a false form Christianity that presumes to improve on the finishing work of Christ. As we have seen! Legalism’s most destructive effect is that it cancels the effect of the cross. Man centered religion does the same thing. But the truth is that we have been crucified with Christ and the life we know live we live is by faith in the Son of God alone. The Galatians churches were in danger of ignoring that wonderful and freeing truth as they were reverting back to the traditions of men. They were in danger of buying into a system of legalism and works righteousness that promised more, but only produced doubt and deception. See some of them were falling prey to……

“Formalism” is a method, style, way of thinking that shows very careful attention to traditional forms and rules; it’s the practice or the doctrine of strict devotion to prearranged or external forms as in religion. J C Ryle said this about formalism “First, formal religion is not true religion, and a formal Christian is not a true Christian in God's sight. Secondly, that the heart is the seat of true religion, and that the true Christian is the Christian in heart. Thirdly, that true religion must never expect to be popular.  It will not have the "praise of man, but praise from God." It’s the same idea when Jesus said this in Matt 15:8 This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;…” But they were also substituting external ceremonies and rites for personal growth in the Lord. Others fell to Legalistic systems of dos and don’ts, who proudly hoped to improve their standing with God by not doing or doing some things to please Him. Some looked for a second blessing; a spiritual secret to unlock some higher plane of spirituality….which is also an addition to grace. It’s the idea of hoping to receive more of God than already received. But how can you receive more than what’s already given? “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. Do you realize that Satan never ceases his efforts to destroy God’s way of salvation? Because God’s way is by His grace working through faith which God gives in Christ alone? Satan is the opposite…. the way of man’s salvation is by your effort and your works.

Remember he sinned against God first. “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning.” 1 John 3:8

Remember he is the author of the fall. Gen 3:1 “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?"

Remember he is the one who works lies. 2 Thess 2:9-10 “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”

Remember he is the one who opposes God’s work. Acts 13:10 “Paul said, "O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?”

Remember he is the one who wears many masks. 2 Cor 11:14 “And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.”

So what does Paul do? Paul cries out in his opening remarks “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” Gal 3:1-7

He asks the churches a series of questions as a reminder we are justified by faith through Christ by the Holy Spirit.

First one being…..

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?

Who has caused you to fall back and to retreat to such foolishness? “Foolish” refers to those lacking in the power of discernment. It does not mean mental deficiency, but mental laziness and carelessness. It came from a lack of faith that clouds sound judgment. Jesus used the same word with the two men on the road to Emmaus. "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” The Galatians had foolishly fallen into Judaistic legalism because they had stopped believing and applying the basic fundamental truths of the gospel. They followed after impulse and rather than God’s revealed truth. By doing this they compromised the gospel of grace….which was frustrating for Paul to see. See! The Christian life is not based on good feelings or attractive predispositions, but on the sole basis of God’s truth founded in Christ. This caused a pile of mix emotions for Paul when he saw what they were doing….for example: anger, love and surprised“who has Bewitched you?” means “to charm or fascinate in misleading way, as by flattery, false promises, or occultic power ” It’s the idea they use their feelings or emotions over clear understanding of truth. As John MacArthur said “Who tickled your fancy?” Who could have dragged you away so easily because this word “bewitched” doesn’t indicate they were victims of a magical spell or incarnation! They were willing victims who submitted to the flesh to pleasing works of man righteousness. They bought it; hook line and sinker to the Judaizers words over Christ. See, lack of discernment and living on emotions can have its way with a seasoned believer just as much as a new believer. We are so easily drawn away with messages that fluffy, nice and easy to swallow. This is why Paul said to Timothy “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” 2 Tim 4:3-4. This is why Paul said “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” 2 Tim 4:2

Which brings me to the next question?

"Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?"

Did you have to fulfill some further requirement, go through some special ceremony or perform some additional rite? Or did you not receive the Spirit at the point of God’s saving power in your life? We read in Romans 8:14-16 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, See the gift of the Holy Spirit is the believer’s most unmistakable evidence of God’s favor. The Holy Spirit is inseparable from the new birth. At no time before salvation can a person have the indwelling Spirt and at no time after salvation can he not have Him. Through Christ and the gospel we are sealed and accepted into His family through the Holy Spirit residing in us. Again as Paul wrote “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Eph 1:13-14. Are you saved by your works or is it by grace alone? Many today try to add special requirements to ones salvation to seal its approval!

For example:

The gift of speaking in tongues, slaying in the spirit, must be in the church in order to keep ones salvation.

Some say it’s the result of a process that begins with baptism, and includes good works, along with sacraments.

See! The Holy Spirit is not the goal of the Christian but the source…..He not the product of faithful living but is the power behind it. Trying to achieve God’s blessing in our own strength is foolish! But the simple truth is this! “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Rom 10:17. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Rom 8:1-4

This leads me to Paul’s next question!

"Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?"

How could you think that your weak, imperfect, still sinful flesh could improve on what has already been done for you in the gospel? It’s that person swaying to works righteousness over the grace that has been poured out through Christ alone. But people get confused and usually try and fight you with a certain passage. “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” James 2:14-20. “Works” by implication is “an act, a deed, doing, labour, work. James is not talking about works righteousness” or “contradicting” Paul’s writings to the church. Actually James is reaffirming or complimenting what’s already been said by Paul and the Apostles. We need to understand it’s by God’s sovereign grace and work that we are saved, not our works or our own righteousness. But through His saving grace our lives are transformed and changed to do His will and make Him known through our works of faith to those outside the family of God.

For example: You take an automobile that is empty. It has no gas whatsoever and then you take a gas can that is filled with gas. Neither one can work without the other……. The vehicle cannot run without gas……….the gas is useless until it gets poured into the gas tank. Our Christian walk is very similar. Our genuine faith in Jesus Christ is an action and a reality in the life of the believer. That’s the fruits of Christ righteousness being displayed in the believer. Our works are done through faith, because our desire is to please the one that enlisted us into the family in the first place. You cannot have one without the other! Just like an automobile needs gas to go……our Christian life requires a working faith to produce fruit of Christ righteousness. John Selden says "As in the candle I know there is both light and heat, but put out the candle, and they are both gone." Gil Rugh said "faith is a living restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works, but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith. It is quite impossible to separate works from faith as to separate heat and light from fire.”

The genuineness of our works is dependent on whose power they are done in and for whose glory. When they are done in the Spirit and for His glory they are beautiful and accepted by God. But! When they are done in the flesh and for the sake of personal credit and merit they rejected by God. A beautiful picture of this is told by Jesus in one of His many parables….“Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:  "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:9-14

Which leads to the final question for today?

"Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?"

Paul asks first! “Did you suffer..” the word “suffer” cares the idea of experiencing pain or hardship. Paul’s was reminding them what they came out of (bondage and legalism) for the sake the gospel. When the Gentiles first trusted in Christ they were exposing themselves to bitter persecution, possibly by the Jewish zealots who hated the gospel of grace. The same question could be applied each and every one of us here in this sanctuary. Do you forget whom you serve and love? Do you forget the cost or the payment for our sin…the punishment was death on a cross. As Jesus said “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 16:33. Paul is reminding them! Have you run in vain and forgot what we have gone through so far to get the good news to people like yourself? It has taken many lives for the glory of His glorious name? What Paul is saying is “If it be yet in vain. That is, “I trust it is not in vain.” I hope you have not so far abandoned the gospel that all your sufferings in its behalf have been of no avail. Again as Paul said “Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” Gal 3:3 “

An article in our local newspaper told about an inmate in a penitentiary who had lived all but sixteen months of his thirty-nine years in various penal institutions. Born in a women's reformatory of a convict mother, he spent the first fourteen years of his life in prison as a ward of the court. When he was released, he committed a succession of crimes. He explained his behavior by saying, “I don't know how to live on the outside. My home is inside, and I want to stay here for the rest of my life." This unfortunate man found security in his bondage.” Likewise, observing to external religious restraints can be easier than serving God in the liberty of the Spirit. This is why some first-century believers in Galatia wanted to live under the Mosaic law, even though in Christ they were no longer bound by it. Apparently they discovered that "freedom" can be frightening.

Many Christians follow a similar pattern.

They look for security by placing themselves under a legalistic system that calls for no more than good external behavior. In many instances, the do's and don't s are merely cultural, not biblical. Although their outward conduct may be honorable, they are actually escaping into a subtle kind of bondage. Obedience to accepted standards has value only when our actions reflect a changed heart and express gratitude to God for His salvation. As one writer said We must not hide behind the walls of legalism to avoid the freedom of life on the outside”…….. This is ONLY grounded in Christ alone.

15 February 2016

THE GREAT PRETENDER


Gal 2:11-21

Way back in the 1950’s a singing group named The Platters had a hit song called The Great Pretender.  The first verse goes like this:

Oh yes, I'm the great pretender, Pretending I'm doing well.

My need is such, I pretend too much, I'm lonely but no one can tell.

The apostle Peter could have sung that song with a couple of minor changes:

Oh yes, I’m the great pretender, Pretending I’m just like a Gentile.

My need is such, I pretend too much, I’m a hypocrite and Paul can tell!

Here in this portion of Paul’s letter we see Peter doing something that God never called Him to do! To pretend to be someone you’re not and to change others to be like you in order to find grace and peace with God. Peter was a man who had a right belief/faith, but wrong practice at times to fit in. See! On one hand Peter preached the clear gospel faithfully and on other hand he reverting back to the traditions of men out of fear. This isn’t something new but an old tradition engraved on the heart of sinners. The battle of the Church today and the battle of salvation has always been works to earn favor; versus faith and grace which is a gift from God.

What do I mean by that statement! Ever since that time of Cain and Abel there has been two distinct lines of works and faith in man’s religious life. Whosoever follows the way of man (like Cain), whatever it is, follows Satan’s lie. But, the person who follows God’s way follows the way of Abel. In Peters case we would say “Well he should have known better.” But let’s take a moment in Peter’s shoes and see what would cause him to do what he did and to be rebuked for it. First off! Antioch was made up largely of Gentile Christians. When Peter first arrived there everything seemed good! Peter came to the church and he began to eat and had wonderful time of fellowship with them. We would say “That’s good Peter, keep it up buddy.” This is a big deal for Peter….especially since he is of Jewish descent. See…..for centuries Jews were known for their strict Laws and separation from Gentiles. Under the Old Covenant God had established certain dietary Laws and other Commandments intended to keep the Jews from intermingling with the Gentiles.

Gentiles ate food that were forbidden or considered unclean to the Jewish people. But it wasn’t only food! To even sit with a Gentile at the table was considered unclean or impure. So Peter was doing very well up to this point! For Peter to sit and dine with a Gentile was more than just food. It was considered a sign of approval or acceptance. This is why the Jewish Leaders questioned why Jesus ate with such unclean people. “And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." Mark 2:16. What Peter was doing was exactly what Jesus preached to the Religious leaders about.

This all began for Peter when He met a God fearing man named Cornelius in Acts 10:9-36. Peter went to his house and dined with him and Peter preached the gospel to Cornelius and his household. In Acts 10:44-48 we read “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles…..” When Cornelius and his family heard the Good News they embraced the gospel with joy and adoration. In Acts 11:18 we read “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life." So according to Peter’s ministry, everything was going great! But something happened to Peter that caused him to according to Paul’s letter to “Draw Back” and separate himself from the people in Antioch. The action of “Drawing Back” gives a strong message to the Gentiles that they may not be fully accepted before God. This man (Peter) who faithfully preached the truth of the gospel was now “withdrawing” or to disengage himself in fear of something or someone!

Why? The answer is found in (v12) “the Circumcision Party” These were Jews who professed faith in Christ, but were self-righteous hypocrites…… whose doctrine were heretical and there tactics were down right deceitful. Peter knew the gospel and believed the gospel but his actions didn’t reflect the gospel. But before we throw Peter under the bus once again. Peter was not unlike most Christians in finding it difficult to be consistent in spiritual commitment. How could an Apostle be so faithful to the gospel and so easily compromise? Because what Peter did caused a ripple effect in the fellowship. (v13) The bible says they were “carried away” or “led astray” Why though? There would have been numerous times of Barnabas hearing Paul preach the gospel. There would have been numerous times Barnabas himself would preach the clear gospel that salvation is through Christ alone. So why was Barnabas and the others so easily pulled away from the fellowship with the Gentiles? 

Let me ask you!  Why are we at times so quickly carried away?

Why are we at times so easily led astray when someone says the “bible isn’t trustworthy” Why we are so easily led astray……. When it comes to making a biblical stand on the covenant of marriage with a man/woman only. When it comes to defending a life (at the point of conception) even though it might have been conceived though a terrible situation like for example: Rape and even incest. Why we are so easily led astray……. When it comes to your rights to share your faith anywhere at work or on the streets, or even being a voice to your local MP. When it comes to defending the biblical worldview against same sex marriage and LGBT movements. When it comes to telling someone of another religion that Jesus is the only way to God.

Why are we (why are some) so easily led astray out of fear of what man thinks? The same idea can be applied to something as so simple as a teenager who forsakes his or hers convictions for the approval of their peers. Or an Adult who compromises family and spiritual priorities for professional success. See just like Peter, we know what we are to do but we fail at times to do when confronted with this world or our peers. But, we are never to compromise for the sake of peace and acceptance. For Peter he compromised and became a hypocrite to the Gentiles and at the same time causing his brothers to pull back fellowship as well. Do you realize! That Seventeen times in the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus refers to the Pharisees as hypocrites. He doesn’t hesitate to pronounce woes upon them and warns the disciples of the evil of hypocrisy. And now the apostle Peter is guilty of this very serious sin.

“Hypocrite” is a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc. The Greek term behind “hypocrisy” is referred to an actor wearing a mask to indicate a particular mood or character…..it’s the idea of someone who masks his true self. The Evangelical churches act the same way especially when it comes to doctrine

"Oh yes!  We believe the Bible.  But the Bible most definitely does not teach election and predestination to salvation!" 

"Oh yes!  We believe the Bible.  But the Bible definitely doesn't teach a literal, eternal hell!" 

“Oh yes!  We believe the Bible.  But the Bible certainly doesn't teach that Jesus is God!" 

"Oh yes!  We believe the Bible.  But the Bible certainly doesn't teach inerrancy and infallibility!”

May this never be said of us! See, what Peter did was bring doubt and bondage to the Gentile brothers and We, the church, do the same thing from time to time. This is why this portion of Paul’s letter is one of the most dramatic recorded passages in the New Testament. Paul confronts and rebukes a fellow Apostle in front of the whole gang. He did not do this too openly to embarrass Peter in front of his peers. He did this so everyone could hear the right standing and positon that we all to have in Christ…. Whether you Jew or Gentile…..whether circumcised or uncircumcised. And you can understand the concern Paul had with Peter, especially after what Paul already said to the churches in his opening remarks of chapter one.

How does Paul rebuke Peter? He rebukes him with the truth of the gospel! The same truth Peter proclaimed to the people after Pentecost to some 5000 people. (v15-v21) This public rebuke of Peter by Paul should serve as a warning to all church leaders who either put themselves forward as pastors or elders or deacons, or who are legitimately called of God for leadership in the church as was the case with Peter and all the apostles. No one is above correction for sin in the Body of Christ. A minister of the gospel is never above being confronted for his sin, and if his sin is public that confrontation must be made in public. Paul rebukes Peter solely on the basis of biblical doctrine taught throughout the word of God. Paul rebukes Peter for denying 4 major doctrinal truths based on the fact he drew away out of fear of the Jews (the Judaizers).

See by Peter’s actions he was denying……

Unity of the body of Christ (v14)

Peter was in a sense forcing the Gentiles to live under the Law in order to have genuine fellowship with the Jewish believers. Which lead to destroying the freedom and unity established by Christ’s death on the Cross? In Eph 2:14-19 we read “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,” By Peter withdrawing himself and placing regulations and rules to the Gentiles…What he was doing was preaching and practising a different gospel….and that has Damming implications.

Justification by faith alone (v15-v16)

“Justification” refers to the act whereby God declares sinners righteous through their faith in Christ on the basis of Christ’s “perfect” blood and righteousness. The righteousness that only Christ’s accomplished by His perfect obedience in life and death. This act is solely based on the grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. In order to be justified one must be saved by God’s calling out grace. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Rom 5:1-5. It’s through His suffering and life that He becomes our perfection. 2 Cor 5:21 it says “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Our righteous standing is solely by grace through faith in Christ alone. When Paul refers to Peter in (v15) “Jews by birth and not “Gentile sinners..” What he is saying! Regardless of a Jew or Gentile origin, our justification comes by the same means through Christ alone. Peter needed to be reminded of this…especially after what he stood for and proclaim to the Council in Jerusalem. “Peter stood up and said to them, "Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will." Acts 15:7-11. Peter, why are putting a yoke around the Gentiles necks then? Why do we at times put yokes of bondage around each other’s neck?

Liberty from the Law (v17-v19)

By giving the impression that it was sin for a Jewish believer to eat with Gentile believers, Peter was making Christ “the minister of sin” (v17) Why I say that? His freedom to eat with a Gentile was given to him by Christ. Eph 3:6 says “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Paul goes on to say in this letter “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Gal 3:26-28. By going back under the Law Peter was guilty of building up again the barriers that Christ tore down through His death and resurrection. By Peter drawing back out of fear made himself “a transgressor” by placing himself back under the Law. Because he feared man and it that it would jeopardize his freedom. Church family our liberty if grounded and secured in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

All-sufficiency of the indwelling Christ (v19-v20)

Peter forgot this truth because we are indwelt by Christ. Which means Jesus is our sufficiency…which means “we are complete in Him” We see this wonderful truth when Paul said “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Col 2:6-14

Do you realize we frustrate the gospel of the grace of God by adding Law to it?Why? If righteousness could come by keeping Law and our justification comes by my merit, than Christ died for nothing. “There was this woman who had a sick child. The child was in need of some fresh fruit. It was wintertime and fresh fruit was hard to find. She was by the Kings Palace one day and looking into the house, she saw some fresh fruit. She went into the Palace with only a few coins and offered to try buying some fruit. The daughter of the King said no I will give you some fruit. You will take them free or not take them at all.” You know everyone comes to Lord the same way. We can come with our coins and works but salvation to the soul is free and cannot be bought.

No works of man can earn salvation. Jesus has already paid it with his life and it was sufficient once and for all. All who come to Jesus receive the free salvation and are set freeDo you know Jesus? Better yet, does Jesus know you? Believe the great gospel of Christ and do not fear what men can do to you. Believe the great gospel of Christ and do not play the hypocrite. Hold to your Biblical principles and be willing to suffer the consequences. There is great security and comfort in the gospel. Believe the great gospel of Christ and do not nullify the grace of God. So let make it personal for you this morning as we read the closing verses of this chapter together! Because we have been declared righteous by God’s standard, not ours. Read the passage (Gal 2:20-21) together and add you name where you see “I, me,”

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. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (ESV)


As Paul said “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Gal 5:1

08 February 2016

Battle Of Prayer


Psalm 61:1-8

Have you or do you ever feel defeated when it comes to your prayer life? If you’re having a hard time answering that question, looking back to your prayer life from this past week or month.
  • How many times did you pray for the list of people and things in your bulletin?
  • How many times did you pray with your church family?
  • How many times did you pray with your children?
  • How many times did you pray with your spouse?
  • How many times did you pray for your spouse or child?
  • How many times did you pray for a stranger you saw or meet at the local store?
  • How many times did you seek God through prayer with your personal spiritual problem?
  • How many times did you see the value and blessing in prayer?
I’m not here to hurt your feelings or to make you feel guilty…….I ask those questions because we’re all guilty of this….myself included; there are many days when I fail at the privilege that we have been given in prayer. I want to look at some things that hinder us from praying genuinely and effectively. But we need to understand what the word “hinder” means! By definition it’s the “act of hampering or restraining motion.” Where have we seen this in the scriptures? A prime example is found in Mark’s gospel, when the disciples hindered certain individuals from coming to Jesus. Who were those individuals? Children In Mark 10:13-15 we read “Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it."

Hindrance is something that plagues us all when it comes to prayer!
  • It holds us back when we fall into sin and carnality.
  • It holds us back when the word is not central in our lives.
  • It holds us back to blessing that is found in His fellowship with the saints.
  • It holds us back to endure under pressure.
  • It holds us back to an unforgiving spirit.
  • It holds us back from communion that is found in prayer. 

I want to look at 6 SPECIFIC obstacles or difficulties that hinder our prayer life! Maybe you’ll be able to relate to one of the six and maybe, just maybe the chains will be broken for you today as you and I fight the battle for our depleting prayer life.

SPIRITUAL WARFARE

We need to understand the more you pray the more you will experience spiritual warfare. Satan and his fallen angels will fight to keep you from praying. The Bible makes a fascinating statement in 1 Thess 2:18 when the Apostle Paul states, “Satan hindered us.” This naturally raises the question! Why would God allow Satan to hinder trouble and persecute God's children? Jesus said in Revelation 2:10 “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. “ Sadly though, we have a tendency to fear what surrounds us and we forget who truly is in control of our lives! It’s like the story I came across of a man crossing the ice“He had to cross a wide river on the ice. He was afraid it might be too thin, so he began to crawl on his hands and knees in great terror. He thought he might fall through at any moment. Just as he neared the opposite shore, all exhausted, another man glided past him nonchalantly sitting on a sled loaded with pig iron. How like some Christians! Headed for Heaven, they tremble at every step lest the divine promises break under their feet. See! By resting completely upon Him and taking His promises at face value, we can drive out the paralyzing fear that hinders our effectiveness in serving Christ.” Satan hates when you pray! David Wilkerson said this is His plan from the beginning! “all the devil wants to do is get the fight out of you and kill it. So you won't labor in prayer anymore, you won't weep before God anymore.” We need to remember ourselves daily that we have Helper in the midst of our battles; and we have access to seek His face through prayer at any moment to fight our spiritual battles.

UNFORGIVENESS

Unforgiveness in the heart of a Christian is a major problem that hinders his or her prayer life. A grudge, a root of bitterness, or even hate has the power to affect our prayer life. In read in Matthew 6:9-13 we are given the model prayer, or the Lord's Prayer. And in that model prayer the Saviour taught us to pray daily "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." And when the prayer was finished Jesus added this plain, sharp word of warning, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matt 6:14-15. John Rice in his commentary on Matthew 18 when Peter is confronted with Jesus about forgiveness! He said “How many times shall we forgive one who sins against us? Peter thought seven times would be the perfect number; but Jesus answered back, "I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." And when you have forgiven the same person 490 times, no doubt you would have lost count and would have conquered that wicked disposition to temper and bitterness in your own heart!” In order to have genuine prayer we need to be able to forgive one another….if not your prayers will be hindered according to His word……not me. “I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” Psalm 66:18. In Prov 28:9 it says “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination [which means disgusting or detestable],” So if need be! Repent and reconcile so your prayer may be heard.

FEAR OF INTIMACY

We tend to protect ourselves from becoming to close with any one especially God at times. Prayer makes us vulnerable because we are expressing what’s in our hearts and sometime we want to build walls around our heart so that no one can see in. Just like the Watchtower Group who have no windows on their buildings. [What’s up with that any ways? Seriously though! If you don’t believe me that is a major issue….Then look back to this past week and ask yourself how many times have you sought His face through your trials of life! Or who have you confided in to pray with you about your situation? If you can’t, think of any time in your week… then may I suggest that you may be fearful of opening up with others through prayer when it comes to your life. It’s that attitude “I’ll keep it to myself, because I don’t want anyone to know that I don’t have it all together or that I’m struggling in my Christian life at this moment!” God saved us and called us out so that we could care, love, encourage, challenge, and defend one another as we fight the good fight that Paul told Timothy before he lost his life. We need to remove the pride and humbly seek one another as we go through different circumstances of life. Remember God wants us to be intimate with Him! We read in scriptures that it’s good to draw near to Him. “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” Heb 10:22. God also wants us to be close to each other as a family……….and prayer is an avenue that we can come together on. As Paul wrote from a Roman’s prison cell! “always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy,” Phil 1:4

MISGUIDED MOTIVATION

We view prayer as a back-up plan to our already perfect plan….so we think! We have a tendency to treat prayer as a way to manage our affairs by giving God instructions to how we want things to turn out or go. It’s that idea “my will be done, not yours LORD” James penned these words “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:3. As one writer said “when one tries to use a hammer to baste a turkey or a light bulb to brush our hair, the results is frustration and failure…..He went on to say “it’s imperative that we have a clear understanding of the foundation and focus of prayer as found in the “owner’s manual” the WORD OF GOD.” Prayer is not a list of demands…………. its coming to throne in worship and giving Him the praise even if He chooses not to answer our prayer list.


BOREDOM

Do you find prayer is boring by yourself or with others? Some of you have been Disciples of Christ for many, many years! And there are also some here who have only just staring out their discipleship in Christ. But I think at large in the church we have given up our high expectations about prayer. Sadly for many, prayer has become a real yawner to take part in. As one preacher calls this problem “sleepy prayer meetings” Where have we seen this in the scriptures? In Matt 26:40-41 we read Jesus rebuking His disciples “Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
  • Many, good intentional Christians however find prayer to boring
  • Eyes go half-mast because they don’t take prayer seriously.
  • A chore to hurry and get done.
  • Done only out of obligation otherwise the preacher is let me have it.
  • That “Drowsy Prayer” a ritual to be rushed and ended, which in reality has no power in it.

For prayer to be truly meaningful….we must look at prayer as a means to a relationship!
  • Speaking to out towards our Heavenly Father.
  • Developing a friendship with God.
  • Getting to know the way He works in and through our lives.
  • Getting to know His character, His precepts and His desires for our lives.
  • Spending time with Him, letting Him speak to your heart through His word and prayer.


This isn’t supposed to be boring and if you find that boring I challenge you to examine your faith this morning. Prayer is not to be boring …..Its life giving and liberating because of what Jesus did for us on the cross of Calvary.

LACK OF POSITIVE ROLE MODEL

Maybe you have never had a person in your life where you see the example of prayer so passionate expressed. Has there ever been a person in your life that has infected in that way when it comes to the power of prayer? Maybe…

  • A mother
  • A father
  • A sister
  • A brother
  • A aunt, uncle
  • Grand parent
Maybe the reason you have such a hindered prayer life, is because you have never had that affluence from someone close to you. I think the greatest role model is found in the person of Jesus Christ. Numerous times Jesus would go off to pray! Praying and praising God that we would know Him “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.” Matt 11:25. Jesus praying before he raised Lazarus "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me." John 11:41-42. If you struggle in this area seek someone to mentor you so that you can find blessing and power in your prayer life. Since we are surrounded by such a great many who have gone before us, let us follow in their footsteps of these faith servants who saw prayer as a vital organ to life giving spirit.. D A Carson said “many facets of Christian discipleship, not the least prayer, are more effectively passed on by modeling than by formal teaching. Good praying is more easily caught than taught.” Do you know someone like that…if so follow after, if not keep looking! There out there.

How do I look for that? Well maybe this will help! Early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the brush where he would pour out his heart to God. Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, "Brother, the grass grows on your path." Let me ask you! Is your path worn over or is it growing over? What is hindering your prayer life?

Has it been or is still one of things I’ve addressed this morning?
  • Is it spiritual warfare that is keeping you prayer?
  • Is there Unforgiveness that is keeping you from prayer?
  • Is it a fear of opening up that is keeping you from prayer?
  • Is it a misguided focus that is keeping you from prayer?
  • Is it a sense of boredom that is keeping you from prayer?
  • Is it a lack of role models in your life that is keeping you from prayer?
There are many times when I feel all these points in my life! But one things for sure though……..we have a Heaven Father who cares about you and he desires that we seek Him with not just our problems but our joy as well. Prayer is an avenue for that to bring blessing and maturity for everyone no matter how old or young you are. Don’t let the things of this world hinder you as you cry out to God. Don’t let your busyness hinder your ability to pray. Don’t let your pride hinder you from the blessing of prayer! Remember! Our daily life in the world is the best indication of our power in prayer. God deals with my prayers not according to the spirit and tone which I exhibit when I am praying in public or private, but according to the spirit I show in my daily life.