Archive for March, 2011

Live By the Spirit

March 29, 2011

Title: Live By the Spirit

Text: Galatians 5:16-21

Time: March 27th

This week we’re getting into the more well-known and famous passages of the Book of Galatians, dealing the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. We’ve covered a lot of ground in this biblical book by Paul the Apostle, and we’re only weeks away from completing it – although we probably won’t finish it until after Easter because I definitely want to give some Easter sermons next month. But today, we’ll be talking about such things as being led by the Spirit and resisting the sinful nature. I’ll also explain what it means to live by the Spirit and not by the law – what that really means, not what it sounds like! Because whenever you hear someone say, “Oh, I live by the Spirit, not by the law,” you’d better watch out because nine times out of ten they are try to justify living in sin. But in this passage, there really is a sense in which the Christian is called to live by the Spirit, or focus on being led by the Spirit, not focus on the law or trying to give one’s full attention to obeying the law. I’ll explain that today, because it takes some explaining in order to get it right. I’ll also try to explain the passage here in Galatians that says those who live by the sinful human nature or the sinful flesh will not inherit the God’s kingdom. On the surface, that might give the false impression that we aren’t saved by grace but instead by works – but that’s not what it’s really saying. I’ll explain that further today. So as you can see, we’ve got a number of different questions that are raised by the passage for today in Galatians. Let me read the passage, Galatians 5:16-21 (read). As you can see, the most famous part of this passage is the list of works of the flesh. I’m sure we’ve all heard the list, or we remember reading that list before. If you look at the list of works of the flesh, you’ll immediately identify a number of items that you are familiar with, sins that you’ve committed before. I hope you haven’t committed all of those sins, but even if you have, thank God, the blood of Jesus can cleanse you from all of them as well. But the point that the Apostle Paul makes here – and which we’ll see as I explain in detail – is that we don’t have to live with those sins in our life if we open ourselves up to being led every day by God’s Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will inspire us to rise above our sinful, selfish human nature and live a life far beyond anything we could achieve with our own human effort. It’s the difference between getting across a lake using a rowboat or a sailboat. I’ve been in both and let me tell you, it’s a lot easier and more enjoyable using a sailboat than a rowboat. Paul wants to show us how to live our Christians lives as people sailing in a sailboat rather than rowing in a rowboat. So let’s get into the nitty-gritty details of this teaching. (more…)

Advertisements

Don’t Abuse God’s Grace

March 29, 2011

Title: Don’t Abuse God’s Grace

Text: Galatians 5:13-15

Time: March 20th

Last week I talked about this new book by Jay Bakker, the son of Jim and Tammy Bakker of PTL fame, where the Book of Galatians is taught from a confused and mixed up angle. Jay Bakker is now the pastor of a church named Revolution in New York City that meets in a bar called Pete’s Candy Shop. What does he teach the people of this small church of two dozen? He teaches them that the Apostle Paul in Galatians says that since we are saved by God’s grace through faith alone the Law no longer applies to us as Christians. In other words, salvation by grace alone through faith alone means we no longer have to obey or follow any of the moral commands of the Bible. That’s Law, he says, and we are now no longer under Law but under grace. He quotes from the Bible but also criticizes the Bible. For example, in the Book of Acts in the account of the Jerusalem Council where the leaders decide that Gentile converts don’t have to conform to the Jewish laws for salvation, only they must obey the basic moral commands, such as sexual morality, Jay Bakker criticizes this decision as “adding extra laws to God’s grace.” He thinks the early Christian leaders got it wrong! He also criticizes the Apostle Paul for instructing the church in 1 Corinthians 5 to excommunicate an unrepentant immoral man. Jay Bakker thinks Paul slipped back into the Law in that case and forgot about grace in that instance. He thinks Paul should have let the man be, just as he was. And so on. What’s happening here? Jay Bakker is typical of many people today, many who would call themselves Christians, who think that grace is a license to sin. That’s what it boils down to for many people today, including many Christian leaders and pastors. Grace, to them, basically means that God is ok with whatever we do, since Christ died for our sins, there’s nothing we can do that’s wrong today. If that’s the case, we should just live and let live. Notice how that sounds an awful like the general popular culture today. Isn’t that what non-Christians, modern, secular, relativistic, immoral, pagan pop culture is saying – live and let live? Don’t judge anybody in their sins because after all you don’t want anybody judging you in your sins. Only for people like Jay Bakker, they take a religious tone to the whole popular culture belief of “live and let live” and add this, “We should live and let live, because anyway if Christ died for our sins and we are no longer under the Law, then what difference does it make how we live, God still loves us anyway.” Well, today, we’re going to answer that question, because it just so happens our verse of the day deals with that topic. Galatians 5:13-15 (read). (more…)

Don’t Go Back to Slavery

March 28, 2011

Title: Don’t Go Back to Slavery

Text: Galatians 5:1-12

Time: March 10th, 2011

Jay Bakker is the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of PTL fame, and he’s the pastor of a small church in New York City. He’s also just written a new book on the topic of Christianity that I had the chance to thumb through while I was in the Border’s Express bookstore in Jackson last week. In this book Jay Bakker makes the astonishing claim that while reading the Book of Galatians – the book of the Bible we are currently studying – that God opened his eyes to the amazing truth that Christians are no longer under the Law of God and therefore are no longer required to obey biblical morality. Since the Apostle Paul teaches in the Book of Galatians that we are saved by grace through faith alone, not by obedience to the Law of God, then that means we are no longer obligated to follow the morality of the Bible. As an example of this, in the book Jay Bakker says that homosexuality is no longer a sin because we are no longer under the law, but under grace. As I read a little further in his book I thought to myself, “What a massive misreading of the Book of Galatians this is.” We’ve been studying Galatians for about six months now and I’ve never gotten the impression that Paul is teaching that morality no longer applies because we are saved by grace through faith. Have you thought that? According to Jay Bakker, son of Jim and Tammy Bakker, Paul teaches in the Book of Galatians that Christians are now free from the Law of God and therefore obedience to God’s Law is optional. Now what’s wrong with this picture? Here’s what’s wrong. Jay Bakker is misunderstanding the Apostle Paul in Galatians by imagining that it’s saying since we are saved apart from morality that morality is optional. He thinks that because we are saved by faith alone apart from the law, then that means we can live our lives apart from the law as well. But this is a great big misunderstanding of what Paul is saying in the Book of Galatians. The Apostle isn’t saying that salvation by grace through faith does away with right and wrong – or does away with God’s moral will for our lives. No, we aren’t under obligation to keep the moral law in order to be saved – we are saved by grace through faith alone, apart from the law. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t under obligation to keep the moral law in our daily living. Murder is still a sin, it’s still wrong. Adultery is still wrong, is still sin, it’s prohibition is still a moral command we are obliged to obey. What we see happening with Jay Bakker and others is a great big confusion over the law and grace, a confusion of salvation with morality. That’s how he and other Christians can justify homosexuality and same sex marriages – and other things that the Bible clearly teaches are wrong. He thinks grace makes these things ok today, but he’s wrong. Let’s learn a little more about what Paul is actually teaching in Galatians today. Galatians 5:1-12 (read). (more…)

Second Thoughts on the Christchurch Earthquake

March 28, 2011

Title: Second Thoughts on the Christchurch Earthquake

Text: Matthew 16:2-3; 21:12-13, 18-20,

Time: March 4th, 2011

If you remember, last week I spoke on the recent earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. One may question my response to the earthquake, or one may even question the need to respond at all to the earthquake. I responded because I think it’s important that Christians answer the questions that people are asking – and there were a lot of questions concerning the earthquake, such as, “Is it an act of God?” I felt that it was important to speak from a biblical perspective on the subject after I heard so many church leaders speak falsely on the topic. For example, I quoted a Bishop in New Zealand who said, “And it is also of course wrong to imagine that God is punishing people by disasters when they come. I mean Christ taught us very clearly that that is a false understanding of God.” I wanted by my sermon to correct this bishop’s misunderstanding of the Bible. The fact is, it isn’t wrong to imagine that God punishes sin and sinners through natural disasters. It is wrong to assume automatically that God is punishing sin and sinners when a natural disaster strikes, but it isn’t wrong to ask the question. Why would it be wrong to do so? Isn’t the Bible full of illustrations of God punishing sin and sinners through natural disasters? How can one ignore the biblical witness and call himself a Christian? How can a supposed teacher or leader in the Christian church omit the biblical witness concerning God’s judgment and natural disasters? So I wanted to show that the bishop and other Christians who automatically reject the possibility of any connection with God in respect to the earthquake are wrong. I’m not saying that God is directly connected, or that God is even indirectly connected, but only that he could be, and that the idea isn’t silly, absurd or ridiculous. I also challenged that bishop’s idea that the New Testament teaches that Jesus taught God never punishes sin or sinners with disaster. Again, the bishop gets it wrong, not totally wrong, but partially wrong. Jesus did teach that not all trouble is caused by God, but Jesus never taught that God never brings trouble into the world over sin. Or in other words, Jesus never taught that God never punishes sin or sinners through natural disasters. I pointed out and illustrated that God can and does sometimes bring trouble into this world, on the earth, because of sin and sinners. Again, the Bible is full of such illustrations, so again, I’m not sure where the bishop is getting his theology – certainly not from the Bible. I ended my message by stating I don’t know why an earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand. There’s nothing apparent, no notorious sin that the people of that region do or did that brought it on them. The only peculiar thing about the whole earthquake was the name of the city where it struck – Christchurch, or Christ Church. I’m still convinced that there’s nothing the people of Christchurch did that brought the punishment of God upon them, but upon closer examination of the circumstances of this event I’m beginning to think that if it’s from God, it’s aimed at the corrupt Anglican Church specifically and the whole Christian church generally, not any people in particular in New Zealand. Let me explain what I mean. (more…)

Choose Freedom

March 28, 2011

Title: Choose Freedom

Text: Galatians 4:21-31

Time: February 27th, 2011

It’s not normally a good idea to allegorize or overly spiritualize a Bible passage, but when a prophet or apostle does it on occasion it’s acceptable. I say that because in today’s passage, Galatians 4:21-31, the Apostle Paul does just that – he allegorizes an Old Testament passage dealing with Hagar and Sarah in order to teach an important spiritual truth. What do I mean by allegorize? What does it mean to use allegory in interpreting a biblical passage? To allegorize is to spiritualize a passage, or in other words, to make it highly symbolic, when the context is straight-forward narrative. The problem with allegory is that it’s so subjective that anybody can make anything into any kind of spiritual message. I can take the words of any Bible passage and find some invisible or spiritual or symbolic meaning – and there’s nothing to stop me from taking the interpretation in any direction. A real imaginative person could find any meaning in any verse at any time. This can lead to all kinds of abuse in using the Bible. You come up with strange and bizarre messages from the Bible if you take allegory too far. The proper way of reading and interpreting the Bible is to study the context of a passage and interpret it in its most straight-forward way. The intent of the author is very important. Now that doesn’t mean from time to time we can’t be inspired to apply a Bible verse in a way that the original author never intended, or that God can’t speak to us from a passage that has nothing to do with something we are dealing with in life. The Holy Spirit can use anything to speak to us at any time. But in respect to doctrine and morality and Christian practice we must stick to interpreting the Bible in its plain sense meaning. We can’t use allegory whenever we feel like it, because it’s much too relativistic, meaning, it’s too subjective. It can take us way off track. But if you are a biblical prophet or an apostle, and God gives you special permission to use allegory, that’s permissible. So we see Paul the Apostle making use of allegory in order to teach us an important spiritual truth. He uses symbolism to communicate something important. What’s the symbolism he uses? It’s comparing and contrasting the Old Testament women Hagar and Sarah. You probably remember the story of Abraham, that God promises him he’d be the father of many nations, only he had no children. Sarah gave her handmaid Hagar to Abraham to bear him a child, which she did, Ishmael. Then, eventually, Sarah herself bore Abraham a son, Isaac. Paul uses this story to illustrate his point, which I’ll explain today, this morning. Galatians 4:21-31 (read). (more…)