Archive for the ‘Book of Galatians’ Category

Three Marks of Worldliness

September 22, 2011

Title: Three Marks of Worldliness

Text: 1 John 2:15-17

Time: September 4th, 2011

 

Last week I mentioned that we were covering one of the most relevant and important topics as Christians living in the midst of the modern, prosperous, secular world. We looked at the problem of worldliness. The Apostle John, that senior saint who wrote much of the New Testament including the Gospel of John, the Letters of John and the Book of Revelation, in all of these prophetic writings, which we consider the very Word of God, he warns us Christians about the fallen, sinful world system. Now in the old days, even in this country back before the 60s rebellion against authority and morality, it was common to hear messages in churches warning Christians about worldliness – or the attitudes and actions of the fallen world we live in. Believers were warned against following after the ways of the fallen world. Followers of Jesus were urged to resist the temptations to conform to the worldly crowd. Just because everyone is dancing to certain songs doesn’t mean we need to do it. Just because most people are talking about and going to see certain movies doesn’t mean we as Christians need to be joining the crowd in a mad dash to the theaters. Just because everyone these days is breaking all the old sexual moral and ethical rules doesn’t mean we should. Just because most people are chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and pursuing money and material possessions doesn’t mean we should do the same. In other words, it used to be the case that in the Christian church you’d hear warnings against the worldly life. For example, churches used to warn about the evil influences of Hollywood and certain fashion styles or the dangers of listening to particularly explicit music. It used to be a great concern among Christians, because the Bible warns us in both the Old and New Testaments to avoid the influence of the world. In the Old Testament, the children of Israel spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. Why? Because Israel was out of Egypt but it took that long to get the Egypt out of Israel. In other words, they needed to give up the worldly ways of the pagan culture of their captivity and to learn the ways of God as a new nation. Then, when the Jews entered the Promised Land they were warned to avoid picking up the sinful worldly ways of the pagan nations. In the New Testament, Christians are warned to “be in the world, but not of it.” Jesus prays for Christians not to be taken out of the world, but that they would resist the evil one, John 17:15-16 – “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” The Apostle Paul warns Christians not to let the world pour us into its mold, Romans 12:2 – “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing out your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – is good, pleasing and perfect will.” So the Bible gives us plenty of warning to watch out for and resist the fallen, sinful world. But today, we don’t hear that much anymore in churches and Christian teachings. It’s not popular. It upsets people. It steps on people’s toes. It offends. The problem is we are a lot more worldly than we admit. We don’t like to be told we are worldly. But it does us good once in a while to hear the warning God gives from the Bible about worldliness. We need to hear it so that we can protect our souls against the corrupt influence of the fallen world. So with that in mind let me read again from 1 John 2:15-17 (read) and focus specifically on verse 16 where three characteristics of worldliness are mentioned. We can test ourselves against these three things mentioned and make corrections wherever we need to in our lives. (more…)

Do Not Love the World

September 22, 2011

Title: Do Not Love the World

Text: 1 John 2:15-17

Time: August 28th, 2011

 

In our study of the Letter of 1st John, we come to a very important passage, especially for us modern people today living in prosperous America. 1 John 2:1-17, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” There is so much to say here, there’s no way I’ll be able to say everything this morning, but I’ll try as best I can. We’ve all heard of the term “worldliness.” As Christians we run into its usage now and again. We hear scholars and experts say things like, “The Christian church in the present age, generally speaking, is very worldly.” What does that mean? Or we’ll hear people talk and describe someone as “worldly.” What does that mean? Parents often worn their college bound children, “Study hard, but don’t get too worldly.” What does that mean? As Christians, we often hear that there are three main enemies of our souls – the world, the flesh and the Devil. The Devil is easy enough to understand; he’s that fallen angel that led an angelic revolt against God long, long ago, and who today is trying to recruit and tempt humans to join his rebellion against God. And the flesh we understand is our sin nature, our inherited sinful corrupt nature that leads us in the direction of sin and selfishness and away from God; that we understand. But what is “the world?” Well, it can mean a number of different things, and not all the definitions apply to this passage. For example, it can simply mean, the whole world of people on the planet earth. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” But what “the world” refers to in our passage today, and what we understand it to mean in connection to “worldliness” is it’s the fallen human system operating that makes sin and selfishness seem normal and that makes God and godliness abnormal. It’s the fallen system of man that makes belief in God difficult, but makes belief in our selves easy to believe. It’s the world system that makes it difficult to pray and read the Bible every day, but makes talking on the telephone and reading the paper everyday easy. It’s popular culture and common sense that makes real Bible faith difficult today, while at the same time making following the crowd and whatever is fashionable easy. It’s a system set against God’s will that we humans find easy to follow; while it makes following God’s will difficult or seemingly difficult. It’s something that the Apostle John wants to warn Christians about. The world is dangerous to our faith and we need to be aware of what it is and how it is harmful to us. We need to know how to avoid becoming “worldly.” Let me make three points from our passage today. (more…)

Children, Adults and Elders

September 22, 2011

Title: Children, Adults and Elders

Text: 1 John 2:12-14

Time: August 21st, 2011

 

John the Apostle is an elder statesman in the Christian church at the time of his writing the Letter of 1st John, so he’s writing as a grandfather might to the family. In today’s passage he addresses three specific segments of the Christian church – children, adults and older people. Or in other words, he addresses the whole church because everyone in the church is probably a child, an adult or an older person. You must remember that back in ancient times it was unusual for the average person to live a long life because there were so many sicknesses, diseases or injuries that could kill prematurely. Today we’ve grown spoiled by modern medicine, doctors and hospitals, but we need to remember that in ancient times they didn’t have these things. What was known as a doctor back then was really someone who knew less than the average person today about treating illnesses. What we stock in our home medicine cabinets is more than the best “doctors” knew or had in ancient times. So that means most people died prematurely in ancient days. The Apostle John, or any older person, was the exception in ancient times. They were looked up to for their wisdom. John especially was respected because he was an original disciple of Jesus and was one of the founding members and a leader in the early church. So this unique status gives John the right to address the whole church in general, and speak directly to certain segments of the church specifically. 1 John 2:12-14, “I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I wrote to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. I write to you fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” If we break this passage down we see the three audiences – children, men and fathers. Or, put differently, children, adults and elders. I take this to mean, John is addressing the whole Christian church, because the category “children” would include the youngest members of the church, the category “young men” would represent the typical adult population – still young compared to our adult and middle aged population due to the factors I mentioned before – and I understand the category “fathers” to represent the older members of the church. I can’t imagine John writing a letter to the Christian church and purposefully leaving out any segment. That wouldn’t make sense. So for our purposes today, I’ll be assuming that the Apostle is writing to all the members of the Christian church using these three categories, and that each one of us here today fits into one of the three categories. He has something to say to each of us today whatever category we are in – or whatever category we put ourselves in! Now another possibility is that John is using these three classifications to describe Christian spiritual maturity level, not biological age, and so he’d be addressing different levels of Christians not strictly related to physical age. But I’ll put that question aside for the moment and come back to it later. Let’s assume for now that he’s talking about natural life stages of Christians within the church. Ok, let’s see what he has to say. (more…)

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…)

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…)

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…)