This week at Big Meadow Campground, I am finishing up the first chapter of Galatians.
Paul has spent his time so far in Galatians defending his ministry. His apostleship is under attack, so he started off defending the fact that the Lord called him as an apostle.
Next, he defended the Gospel, calling what the Judaizers who are bringing this attack a perversion of the true Gospel.
As we wrap up chapter 1, Paul now defends his ministry and shows us that the Gospel and his apostleship are so intertwined that to attack one is to attach the other.
First, he tells us that the Gospel he is preaching is not according to man. Obviously, this is a point of attack by his enemies in the Galatian churches. They are telling the churches that Paul is out on an island by himself and that they have the true gospel. Paul disputes this idea by saying that he neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. He goes beyond his salvation experience and says that not only was he saved through a supernatural revelation from Christ, but he learned the Gospel through the same means as well.
Paul gives further proof by reminding them of what kind of man he was before he came to Christ. He tells them that they have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God. Paul was growing and advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries.
God had other plans for him though. These weren’t plans that were new plans or spur of the moment plans. The Lord had set me apart even from my others womb and called me through His grace. Paul’s ministry of being an apostle and proclaiming the Gospel were decided by God, not man, before he was even born.
When God was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, something curious happened. We might have sought out a mentor or someone to disciple us. Paul didn’t . He did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me. Paul keeps hammering away that his Gospel is not from man, but from the Lord Himself.
He went to Arabia and then came back to Damascus. Then three years later, he finally made it to Jerusalem. It seems that he simply relied on the Lord. What did he do? Remember that Paul was on the path to becoming one of the major leaders of the Jews. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews and a Pharisee. He knew scripture. He must have spent time praying and meditating on that. With the Holy Spirit in his life, that scripture came alive for the first time. He must have seen how it all pointed to Christ.
Paul must have begun preaching and formulating the Gospel based on his new understanding of scripture and the revelation he was receiving from Christ Himself.
Finally, after three years of this, he went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas. He only stayed with him a hair over two weeks. The only other apostle that he saw was James, the Lord’s brother. And there is where Paul draws a line in the sand with the Judaizers. James was the leader of the Jerusalem church. The Judaizers would have come saying they were from James. Paul is in effect saying that James had no problem with me when I went to Jerusalem before. Why is he having a problem with me now?
Finally, he states that he went off proclaiming the Gospel in Syria and Cilicia. He was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea. However, he was knows by reputation. They heard that He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.
The result? They were glorifying God because of me.
We might read or hear this and say that’s nice, but what does it mean for me today? So what?
1. The revelation of God trumps the teaching of man.
You might say that the Lord has never given you a revelation. If you have a Bible, you have the revelation of God. Read it. Study it. Know it. Compare what preachers and teachers claiming to be from God with it.
2. What have you been set apart to do?
God had a plan for you. It might not be to be a preacher, but no matter what it is, it is to proclaim the Gospel in some way. Are you doing it?
3. Are people glorifying God because of you?
Are you living you life in such a way that people are giving praise and glory to God for you?
Last week I introduced Galatians to the folks that I met with in my campground ministry. This week we move further into the issue that Paul is facing as he writes to the churches he founded in the Galatian region.
In the first five verses, the main issue seemed to be the fact that someone is questioning Paul’s authority and apostleship. In verses 6-10, He takes up another aspect of the issue and, most likely to Paul, a more important one.
Paul states that he is amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him…for a different gospel. Someone or some group has traveled to these churches that Paul founded and loved. They are preaching some sort of gospel to them. There’s just one problem. It’s a different gospel than the one Paul preached. Something is different about it. It is close to the gospel that Paul preached, yet just different enough to not be the real thing. Paul is shocked that they are falling for it. He can’t believe it. He is in shock. And he is not going to just passively let it go. He is going to fight for the truth.
Paul also considers abandoning the gospel he preaches with deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ. This should probably give us a clue about the issue. Paul considers abandoning the true gospel to be abandoning God and Christ. Being one who persecuted those that followed the gospel before his conversion, Paul loves this gospel message that comes directly from the Lord. Quitting it is equivalent to quitting God.
Paul also gives us a hint at what the problem with this gospel is. The Galatian Christians have been called…by the grace of Christ. Paul already seems to be indicating that grace is not at the heart of this gospel that is being preached and taught. He is already laying down the direction he is going.
Paul even goes so far as to say that this gospel is really not another gospel. It is one that is disturbing the Galatians and Paul is upset about it. The people he loves are being affected by these people who want to distort the gospel of Christ.
Paul ups the ante on these false teacher as we look further at the scripture. He says that if anyone preaches a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you then they should be accursed. This is strong wording from Paul. The Greek word is anathema, which means to be cut off. So, Paul is saying that it doesn’t matter if it’s him or an angel, if a different gospel is preached then they should be separated completely from the Lord. It’s not enough that Paul says it once, but he says it again for emphasis. Paul is giving us a strong picture of how he really feels about what is going on in Galatia.
Paul finalizes in verse 1o what the motivation of these men is. He asks if he is seeking the favor of man, or of God? Is he striving to please men? Paul strongly denies this. He says that if he was doing so then he would not be a bond-servant of Christ. His motivation is to please Christ.
Paul indicates that these enemies and false teachers are really trying to please man rather than God. That is the heart of what Paul is telling the Galatians. He is saying that if you abandon the gospel you are abandoning God in an attempt to please man. Paul gives them and us a strong warning to not give up what we believe for something that will cause us ruin.
One of my favorite Twitter follows is Xianity. Whoever is behind this anonymous Twitter handle is a brilliant writer who mixes our faith and satire in 140 characters or less.
A few days ago this tweet was sent out: LOCAL: Area Sunday School teacher dismissed after refusing to use tried and true “bore the hell out of them” curriculum. As a former Sunday School teacher, this tiny statement resonated with me.
A pastor in one of my former churches would preach every Sunday. Each Sunday I would sit there bored out of my mind. I was hearing the most exciting news ever talked about in a way that would never appeal to me. There was no emotion in the dull, monotone monologues that were called sermons by some.
These sermons led to me to wonder if the man truly believed what he was saying. Interestingly, he even spoke against emotion coming into the church. It was almost that he was anti-emotion. Like he was trying to purposely downplay the Gospel and its effect on those who follow Christ.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not into emotionalism for the same of drawing a crowd. Many with some skill and training can learn to whip a congregation into frenzy.
However, there has to be more to it that simply delivering the news without any appearance of it affecting the emotions. Surely, you can’t just bore the hell out of people.
We have the most exciting Person that has ever walked this earth in our lives. His message is something that draws us to come to know Him and follow Him.
Let’s live like it.
Let’s live exciting lives in the name of Jesus. That doesn’t mean that you have to wave your hands or dance. I probably won’t. That’s doesn’t mean that the emotions that He gave me aren’t running high when I talk, sing or worship with my brothers and sister. I’m not going to stand there stone cold either.
Let’s not try to bore the hell out of people. Let’s proclaim Him in a manner worthy of the One we love and worship.
Have you ever been guilty of trying to bore the hell out of people? Does Christ and the Gospel excite you?
On Sunday, I wrote a post based on my first sermon of the year at a campground I preach at each year. It was called Rescued From This Present Evil Age. You can follow the link if you wish. This is a sequel of sorts to that one.
Christ has rescued us from the age we live in. The question that someone might ask is this: What do we need rescuing from. We can say our sins. That is what you find in Galatians from Sunday’s post. But there is another way to say it as well.
We need to be rescued from loving this present world.
Paul wrote his young friend Timothy two letters. Near the end of that second letter, Paul begins describing the state was in. Everyone had deserted him. One of them was named Demas. Demas had once been a loyal member of Paul’s roving band of missionaries. Something changed in Demas. He left for Thessalonica. Why? Because he loved this present world.
There doesn’t seem to be much difference to me in this present evil age and this present world. I think these are two ways of saying the same thing. Demas abandoned the ministry and his friends because he loved the world more than he loved Christ.
It would be easy to say that this was unique to Demas or people in his time. We would be wrong if we believed that. It could happen to us.
People swing in any one of two directions. They try to avoid this present world, this present evil age by totally avoiding it. The problem is that this doesn’t necessarily mean that they love the One who rescues us from this state.
Others swing in the opposite direction. They embrace the culture to the detriment of their relationship with Christ. Don’t dispute this. It has happened to all of us at one point or another.
The danger is that instead of loving Christ, we love the world, we love this present evil age instead.
Do you love this present world, this present evil age? Or do you love Christ?
I’m excited to share a new series with you over the next few months. I have the privilege each summer to preach in a campground ministry. I will be sharing with you basically what my message will be each week.
Today I am preaching Galatians 1:1-5. In the way of introduction, Paul has a problem. The churches of Galatia that he has founded are being led astray by false teachers called Judaizers. They have entered these churches and added the Law to the Gospel. They are telling these people that grace is not enough, but works must be added to receive salvation. Word has gotten back to Paul and he writes this letter. Nothing less that the integrity of what he has proclaimed to them is at stake: the Gospel.
Paul immediately asserts his authority in the opening of this epistle. We can surmise that Paul himself has been called into question by these Judaizers. He states that he is an apostle. Most likely these false teachers have told the Galatians that Paul never witnessed Christ’s ministry or even knew him like the other apostles. You can almost hear them scream the question: What right does Paul have to be an apostle?
Paul contrasts himself and these teachers immediately. He says that his being an apostle has nothing to do with any other person on earth. He says that his apostleship is not from man, nor from any agency of man. Instead it is through Jesus Christ and God the Father. Paul is summarizing the fact that Christ appeared to him on the Damascus Road and appointed him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles at that point. The Judaizers, on the other hand, came stating that they were representatives of James and the apostles back in Jerusalem.
Paul gives a familiar greeting in verse 3. Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a typical greeting from Paul, but it seems to pack an even greater punch in the context of the issues he is facing with the Galatians. In essence, Paul tells the Galatians that the message he brought them, the Gospel he preaches is one of grace. The false teachers is one of Law. The Gospel brings peace into your life. The false Gospel brings turmoil.
Paul continues by summarizing the Gospel. He writes that Christ gave Himself for our sins. In five words, Paul reminds the Galatians that Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. He wants the Galatians to understand that Christ died in their place so that they could have eternal life. He gets to the heart of the Gospel in that Christ did the work so that they could be right with God.
What is the result of Christ giving himself for their sins? He did this so that He might rescue us from this present evil age. The Judaizers brought a message that Christ, along with the Law, delivered the Galatians from their sinful state. Paul declares that Jesus, with no other help, does this Himself. He rescues us from the state they were in. He delivers them into the kingdom of God. Christ Himself with no help from the Galatians at all.
To further emphasize this, Paul states that Christ does this according to the will of our God and Father. All of the work that Christ has done. The Gospel that Paul preaches. The rescue of everyone that Paul describes. This is done according to the will of God. This is His plan. To alter it in any way to cross the Father Himself.
Finally, Paul states that the Gospel he preaches and the work of Christ is all done for the Father to whom be the glory forevermore. Paul is stating that his message of grace through the Gospel is one that glorifies God. The message that is leading the Galatians astray is one that cannot possibly do this because it includes the work of man in it. Paul’s sole aim in proclaiming the Gospel and founding the churches of Galatia was to glorify God. What is the aim of the Judaizers?
The question we must ask ourselves is so what? False teachers abound in today’s world. Paul’s message is relevant to us as well. We must keep the Gospel close to our hearts and minds in our lives. We must measure the words of anyone claiming to represent the Lord by the truths that Paul preached. Christ has delivered us from the present evil age as well. We cannot afford to be led astray by false teachers and doctrine. We must seek to glorify God in all we do.
Seven men from my church recently went to an event called The 4th Musketeer. The only way I can describe this event is to say that it was an intense hike with spiritual implications that lasted four days. Little food was eaten and little sleep was to be had based on the testimonies I heard.
The men said that the event was designed to break them down. It was designed to rid them of the pride that so often plague men. It also seemed to address another issue that men face in their lives.
Loneliness seems to be a common malady that men live with. Not many will probably talk about it or admit it. They might sing about. Waylon and Willie did back in the 1970′s when they told mammas to not let their “babies grow up to be cowboys.” Why? Because their “never at home and their always alone, even with someone they love.”
Men just seemed to be wired to be lonely. The question is why?
I can only base my answer on my own experience. I believe it’s traced back to that first word that the I said the men from church dealt with on their adventure. It’s a word that most of us are familiar with.
We men think we can handle things on our own. We believe that to depend on others is a sign of weakness. We don’t want to open up and share our fears, troubles and worries. Doing so would show that we aren’t real men. That we aren’t strong. That we aren’t tough.
We would rather be lonely and proud than to be free and have the weight of the world lifted.
When we come to know Christ we become new creatures. That means we who are men are new men. Let’s actually let that become a reality in our lives. Let’s show our vulnerabilities. Our Lord did so in the garden of Gethsemane. If He can, and He is our model for life, then we should strive to live like Him and not as we have always lived.
Are you a lonely man? Do you find it difficult to lower your pride and depend on others? Are you able to be vulnerable with others?
A post from a couple of years ago.
Last night I bought a CD. Yes, I bought a CD rather than downloading iTunes. It was an 80′s alternative rock anthology. What I realized after listening to it for a while was that I tried to live an alternative lifestyle for much of my life without realizing it.
When I was a teenager, I bought and collected comic books. At it’s zenith, my comic book buying reached around $100 per month. Put that in today’s dollars. It’s a good thing I had a job.
When I was in college, I sought out music that no one I knew was listening to. I was probably the only person at my college listening to the Bodeans.
What I realize now was that none of this satisfied me. Trying to live an alternative lifestyle for the sake of living an alternative lifestyle just wasn’t doing anything for me. It sure didn’t make me happy.
In 1994, all of that changed. I entered into an alternative lifestyle without really trying to . How did I do it? I came to know Christ. Once I came to know Christ, He made me into a new creation. I was different. I no longer had to live like the rest of the world. I could walk in His Spirit. I could abide in Him.
Now a lot people would say, “That’s not an alternative lifestyle, that’s what a lot of people who go to church do.” I didn’t mention going to church. Sure, I do go to church. But that doesn’t make me someone that lives an alternative lifestyle any more than spending time in a garage makes me a car. Knowing Christ. Seeking Christ. Loving Christ. Loving His Church. That’s alternative. Not just showing up in a building with other people two or three times a week.
How about you? Do you live an alternative lifestyle?
A post from a couple of years ago
At the time that I am writing this, I have just finished reading a guest blog over at Stuff Christians Like. My reaction to this is not what I thought it would be. I sat there thinking to myself, “Why can’t I write like that? Why can’t I be that funny? I want to write that kind of humorous blog.” I sat there for a while thinking back over the past few weeks of writing Deuceology. Several of my posts have been my attempt at humor. Others have been serious. Some have simply been about whatever I have on my mind at the time. A good number are doing my usual rant about what should change in our churches.
The point of this is basically something Popeye said a few years back. I am what I am. I just can’t force what I write about. I write what I write, even if I’m writing about my writing. Did that just make any sense to anyone but me? I mean, today I’m writing about my writing. Tomorrow may be a humorous take on something. The next day it may be about twenty-five things I love about my church and twenty-five things I don’t like about my church (thanks for letting me put that preview of an upcoming Twofer Tuesday in here). Basically, what I realize is that I’m just going to be me in this blog. And guess what?
We all need to do that. Quit trying to be like someone else. Quit expecting others to be someone else. Manage your expectations of
others. I read another blog the other day where a Christian couple tried to share their faith, unsuccessfully, to a waiter. He didn’t want to hear any of it. They couldn’t understand why he didn’t jump at the opportunity once he was told the truth. Their expectation was that he would jump at the opportunity to be saved and Christian like them. They don’t realize that the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (see 1 Corinthians 1:18 for the biblical reference). Their expectation is that it isn’t foolishness to them.
The great thing is that for those of us who know Christ, the opposite is true. For us, the word of the cross is the power of God. Our expectation should be that we would live according to this power. The expectation that I have of myself should be that I would live according to this power. What kind of should that be for us? A Great Expectation. Unfortunately, we have misplaced expectations.
My expectation should not be that I am a funny blogger like Jon Acuff all of the time. My expectation should not be that I live like the word of the cross is foolishness. My expectation should be that I live as though that word of the cross is the power of God. And that is transforming.
With what kind of expectations do you live your life? As thought the word of the cross is foolishness? Or as though it’s the power of God? Is your life full of a great expectation?
For whatever reason I’ve been thinking about these three things lately. Fruit, gifts and talents. The specific thought I’ve had about them is that many of us seem to confuse them and don’t really differentiate them. So let’s take a look at them.
Sometimes you will hear someone referred to as a “gifted” musician. The problem is that I have not met someone that from day one could automatically pick up an instrument and be world class from day one. Do I think that there are some people born with a talent that the rest of us don’t have? Absolutely. But they have to spend their time developing their talent to be as good as possible. And if they don’t use it, they tend to lose it. All of us are born with certain talents. Me? I was born with a talent of being able to run fast. I developed that for many years. I wasn’t the fastest person in the world, but I was faster than most.
Gifts are a different story. People are born with gifts as well. They are born with them as result of the second birth. The cool thing is that since these gifts from the sHoly Spirit, He can give you any gift that He wants whenever He wants. I don’t believe that He gives you one gift when you come to know Christ and then will never give you another.
One thing that that seems to happen is that He gives gifts that don’t necessarily coincide with natural abilities. For example, someone who may not be a natural public speaker may be given the gift of proclaiming the word of God. God seems to like to gift us in ways that put us in situations that are outside of our comfort zones.
Finally, there’s fruit. I am still trying to get my arms around this one. I have thought of this one much like I have thought of gifts. I don’t have patience? Well, then the Lord just hasn’t given me that fruit yet. Somehow, though, I’ve figured out that I’ve had it all wrong.
You have the fruit of the Spirit within you once you come to know Christ. The closer you develop your relationship, the more that fruit grows. How do you know? Your patience grows. So does your self-control, love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, and faithfulness. Your fruit is the characteristics of your relationship with Christ. As my pastor said recently, they are demonstrations of our spiritual maturity.
All of us who follow Christ have talents, gifts and fruit. The main thing we must focus on is to make sure that they glorify the Lord.
Do you know what your talents and gifts are? Is the fruit evident in your life?
As I write this post it is Easter Sunday. I have spent time at our sunrise service earlier today, followed by our regularly scheduled service a bit later in the morning. Our family then gathered, as perhaps your’s and many other did, for an Easter lunch consisting of enough food to feed a few villages around the world.
Judging by what I have seen, this is how many people spend their Easters. Going to church. Eating and celebrating. While many then spend their time hiding and hunting Easter eggs, I had a thought.
How many of those going to church and “celebrating” Easter really know Christ as their Savior?
Before He died, Jesus said that the days before His return would be like those of the days of Noah. There would be eating. Drinking. Giving in marriage. We know how that turned out, don’t we?
Noah spent one hundred years building his ark. God told Noah that it would rain and he needed to build a boat. God was patient enough to give Noah one hundred years before He flooded the world. What was everyone else doing?
Eating and drinking, leading and culminating in wickedness. They ate and they were still blinded by the god of this world Satan.
God gives us another option. Does he not want to enjoy life and live it up? Yes, I actually think does. Just in a different way.
God tells us in to taste and see that He is good. Eat what He has to offer. Have you eyes opened so that you can see. What do you find? That God is good.
That’s really what it boils down to, isn’t it? We are going to eat. We are going to enjoy life. The results really depend what our food is.
We can eat and drink and go about our normal lives as though there is no consequence to what our lives are made up of. We can live like there is no tomorrow, just like those in the days of Noah. It doesn’t matter whether we live twenty, forty, or eighty years. God is patient for a time. Then the time is done.
Or we can approach it like Noah. We can nourish ourselves on God’s word. We can believe, like him and like Christ, that we don’t live by bread alone, but by the very word of God. We can see. See that God is for us and that Christ is life. We can taste and see that He is good.
How about you? What are you eating?