Archive for June, 2011

Conversion Starts With Change From Within

June 18, 2011

Title: Conversion Starts With Change From Within

Text: Galatians 6:11-18

Time: June 5th, 2011

 

Believe it or not, this is our last message in our study of the Book of Galatians. The other day I was looking back over the last ten months of sermons and found that outside of a few weeks for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, we’ve been in Galatians for the whole time. What a great way to hear what God is saying to us as a church and to us as individuals. By staying close to the actual Bible passage week to week we hear the clear voice of God and avoid a lot of extraneous human opinion. I hope you’ve gotten excited over what we’ve learned these past months in the Book of Galatians. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter around 50 A.D., and it’s one of the earliest of the New Testament books. It basically explains salvation by faith alone, as opposed to salvation by works or a mixture of faith and works. If you get only one thing out of the Book of Galatians, get this – salvation comes to us only through faith alone. That’s very important because it seems that there is the human tendency to mix faith with works and call that salvation. Well it’s not! Good works follow from salvation, but are not a part of salvation itself. Once you are saved by faith alone you should begin to express that salvation in obedience to Christ and the commands of God, but we shouldn’t confuse faith and works as if they are the same thing, they aren’t. Paul spends most of his time defining and explaining the difference between the two. Today, Paul closes out his letter to the Galatians with a personal note – “See what large letters I use as I wrote to you with my own hand,” Galatians 6:11. Now it’s hard to know exactly what he means. Does it mean he’s written the whole letter himself instead of using a scribe, or does it mean he uses a scribe for most of the letter but then closes it using his own writing for the last few lines? We don’t know for sure, but there is evidence elsewhere that Paul might have suffered from some eye problem, some disease or sickness, that made seeing and thus writing difficult for him. If that’s the case, then he probably let the scribe take down his words while he dictated most of the letter, but then at the end he wrote the last paragraph with difficulty just to let the people know that this is an authentic letter and not just somebody writing on his behalf. He summarized his basic point throughout the letter – salvation comes through a transformation of the soul through faith alone, not by external obedience or religious ritual. I hope this is a message that we, here today, will never forget as we continue on in the Christian life. Right standing with God comes through faith in Christ alone, not by obedience to God’s law or Religious ritual. Let’s explore Paul’s final comments in detail. (more…)

Doing Good Doesn’t Mean Being a Do-Gooder

June 1, 2011

Title: Doing Good Doesn’t Mean Being a Do-Gooder

Text: Galatians 6:6-10

Time: May 29th, 2011

 

We’re coming down to the wire, the finish, of the Book of Galatians. Only one more week to go before we finish our study of the entire book, which if you remember we started way back last September, in the summertime. Of course we took some time off from our study during the Christmas and Easter holiday seasons, but other than those few times we’ve pretty much been in Galatians most of the time. It’s been great because the Apostle Paul is so clear in teaching us the gospel of spiritual salvation by faith alone, not by works. That doesn’t mean there won’t be works or that there shouldn’t be good works in the Christian life, it just means that works follow faith, not the other way around. It also means that we aren’t saved by our good works, even though these good works should be present in our Christian life. But today as we near the end of the Book of Galatians, we’ll look at the topic of good works from a number of different angles – not any lengthy or extensive teaching – but just a number of quick comments Paul makes before he closes his letter to the Galatian Christians. Here’s today’s verse, Galatians 6:6-10, “ Anyone who receives instructions in the word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially in those who belong to the family of believers.” The Apostle is trying to throw in as many helpful instructions as he can because he knows that the letter is coming to an end. He also knows that he can’t go into detail and explain all these final instructions, but he’s hoping that the people will unpack them and carry out these instructions as best they can. That’s what we’ll be trying to do today – unpack and hopefully understand them enough to carry these instructions out in our lives, because after all, that’s the real point of Bible study, to live out the truth, not just carry it around inside our heads. But I don’t think we’ll have any trouble with applying these truths today because they are all of a practical nature as opposed to some truths that are more theoretical in nature. Those truths are important too, that is, the more theoretical truths, because some truths are needed to sit in our heads and influence the way we think and feel rather than specifically telling us what to do. But today’s truths will be more practical, more useful right away in our lives. So let’s get going and figure out what God is trying to say to use through this passage today. (more…)

Fellowship is More Than Coffee and Cookies After Church

June 1, 2011

Title: Fellowship is More Than Coffee and Cookies After Church

Text: Galatians 6:1-5

Time: May 21st, 2011

 

The first church I can ever remember attending was located in Ann Arbor. This church always had an after-church coffee, cake and cookie time in what was called the “Fellowship Hall.” I’m pretty sure that when I first started attending as a small boy they didn’t have the “Fellowship Hall,” but because someone suggested that the church needed more space for classrooms and fellowship, a new section of the church was built. There were room dividers that could be used to separate the long hall during the Sunday School hour, but then these dividers could be rolled back to create a place for fellowship after church. So as a boy growing up I always thought of this place when I heard the word “fellowship.” But as I got older – and I hope wiser – I began to realize that there is a lot more to Christian fellowship than simply having a place for people to gather after church for coffee, cookies and cake, as well as a place to talk and meet other people. However, even today, after all these years I still run into people with an idea of fellowship similar to the one I had as a small boy. They equate fellowship with something like a cocktail party – although I’ve never, technically been to a cocktail party, I know what they are, I mean, I know what I’ve seen on television. It’s a gathering were everyone talks superficially and about things that don’t cause controversy or division. It’s a place where everyone avoids any deep or heavy topic, but rather talks on the surface about the weather or sports teams or other harmless things. Everyone usually goes away feeling ok, not really good or bad, just pretty average. But it did get people talking and socializing at least. For many people, church fellowship is like a cocktail party where not much takes place other than small talk or chitchat. Nobody shares their deep sorrows or joys, nobody admits to doubts or fears, but just keeps all the important issues of life inside while appearing perfectly fine on the outside. How awful, but that’s what church is for many people. But as we learn from the Bible, Christian fellowship is a lot more than simply getting people together for a kind of Christian cocktail party. It involves more than just sharing the superficial topics of one’s life. It’s more than simply coming across happy and positive. It’s more than just encouraging people in whatever they are doing in life at the time. As we’ll find out from today’s passage, part of Christian fellowship is confronting people when they’ve fallen away from the faith in some area and carrying their burdens with them in life, and finally, refusing to compare ourselves one with another. Galatians 6:1-5, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.” Let me say a few things about this passage in respect to Christian fellowship. (more…)

The Fruit of The Spirit

June 1, 2011

Title: The Fruit of the Spirit

Text: Galatians 5:22-26

Time: May 15th, 2011

 

We’ve finally come to the most famous verse in the entire Book of Galatians, a passage that most people will recognize – the verse that lists the fruit of the Spirit. If you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time you probably already know that this passage talks about the “fruit” of the Spirit, not the more natural or obvious word “fruits” of the Spirit, since there is a list of not one but many items. So you’d think that we’d be talking about the “fruits” of the Spirit instead of the “fruit” of the Spirit. But, no, there’s an important reason why the Apostle Paul, the human author of this Book, wrote of “fruit” instead of “fruits.” He’s trying to show that where the Spirit is present a whole unified life results, although it expresses itself in these different ways. Ultimately, it’s the same Spirit producing the different holy expressions. Thus, it’s “fruit” not “fruits” being expressed. Is that a technicality? No, because there’s always a reason why God inspires the human authors of the books of the Bible to express themselves as they do for our benefit. We don’t always understand the whole message of what they are saying, but that just means we need to dig deeper and study harder to figure it out. That’s what’s great about Bible study – you can study the Bible for years, for decades, for an entire lifetime, and still continue to learn and grow in your knowledge of God and God’s Word, because it’s literally infinite in its scope. You’ll never get to the point where you arrive at a full and complete knowledge of God and God’s Word. There’s always more and more to learn. One of my goals is to get people excited about God’s Word. If people only knew how important the Word of God is for their lives they’d study the Bible more, yet we constantly underestimate the importance of God’s Word and overestimate the so-called importance of other things. Many Christians are deceived into thinking that following after the world’s agenda and priorities is important, while they neglect true Christian priorities such as prayer and the Word of God. It’s just a matter of getting our priorities straight. Hopefully, I can inspire and motivate people to get their life priorities straight and prioritize God and God’s Word above worldly activities. So today, after the Easter season, we are back into the Book of Galatians, finishing up this book in the next few weeks since we are almost to the last chapter. Today, we’ll be examining the fruit of the Spirit, or in other words, what should come forth naturally as the Holy Spirit influences our lives as Christians. These are things that your life should be producing if you are a Christian. Galatians 5:22-26 (read). Let me make a few points about this verse. (more…)