Sunday, January 15, 2017, 8:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Sheep.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Galatians 1 (Select vv. NASB).
From this Present Evil Age (vv. 1-5)
Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.
Paul did not go into the ministry because he had a Bible college or seminary degree from a particular church denomination’s institution of higher learning. He also did not become a preacher of the Word of Christ because he went through the process of ordination, and was, thus, ordained by a particular church denomination, after having been examined thoroughly by a group of people assigned to the task of examining him. In fact, he most likely would not have been approved because he had been a persecutor and a murderer of the saints of God and a strong opponent of the gospel of our salvation. The only reason he became an apostle and a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ was because God called him, by his grace, setting him apart even from his mother’s womb (v. 15). Thus, he who once persecuted the church was now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy (v. 23). Amen.
So, what was the gospel that Paul then taught if he was not trained by humans in how to preach and in what to preach? He taught Jesus Christ – God incarnate – crucified, buried, risen from the dead, ascended to heaven and coming again. He taught what was in total agreement with the prophets of old when they prophesied concerning the coming of the Messiah. And, he taught the gospel message in the power of the Holy Spirit, who was the one who then taught him what to say. Thus, what he taught were the words of God. So, they are truth. And, the truth is that Jesus didn’t die just so we could escape hell, be forgiven of our sins, and have the hope of heaven when we die. Jesus gave himself up for us to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father in heaven.
So, what does it mean to be rescued from this present evil age? Let’s look at some parallel scriptures. We read in scripture that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, and that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15). He died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Ro. 8:1-14). He died that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:21). Jesus also died that we might die with him to sin and be resurrected with him to newness of life (be born again), “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:17-24; Ro. 6:1-23; Gal. 2:20). And, He “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” (Tit. 2:14).
A Different Gospel (vv. 6-9)
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
So, what is this “different gospel” of which Paul spoke? It was a man-made gospel, i.e. created in the minds and hearts of humans, not in the mind of God. So, it can apply to any human-created gospel teaching. Yet, he was specifically referring to a teaching that taught that we could gain merit with God via human effort. More specifically he was referring to a false teaching which was convincing many believers in Jesus that they had to still follow Jewish ceremonies, traditions, celebrations, and/or laws in order to be saved. Today we call this legalism, i.e. when rules of men are added on to the grace of God as requirements for being in right standing with God. Yet, if it is not taught in the Word of God, we don’t have to obey it.
Nonetheless, the Spirit of God will call us to specific areas of ministry or will lead us to go places, or to speak to certain people, and we must obey, but we must make certain the voice we are hearing is God’s voice, and that what we believe we are being called to do is in line with the teachings of scripture.
Ok, so on the flip side of legalism is libertinism. Both of them are human-created, and both of them are opposed to the true gospel of our salvation. One adds human rules to God’s grace, and another subtracts Christ’s commands from the gospel and distorts the truth of God’s grace. God’s grace is not given to us just so our sins are forgiven, but so they are eradicated (cleansed, purified) from our daily lives. Jesus didn’t die just to forgive us our sins, but he died to deliver us out of slavery to sin so that we would now become servants of his righteousness (Ro. 6:1-23). God’s grace, which brings salvation, is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt or remorse. No, his grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for his return (Tit. 2:11-14).
If we hold on to our old lives of living for sin and self, we will lose them for eternity. But, if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin and self), we will gain eternal life (See: Lu. 9:23-25). Paul put it this way: If we walk according to our sinful flesh, to fulfill its lustful desires, we will die still in our sin, without Christ, and without hope. But, if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity (Ro. 6:1-23; 8:1-14). John said that if we walk in darkness (in sin), and yet we claim to have fellowship with God, that we are liars (1 Jn. 1:6). He also said:
“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 Jn. 2:3-6).
In other words, we are not saved by our own human effort, or by doing good deeds, or by following a set of man-made rules. We can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation. We can’t even come to Christ unless the Father first draws us to him, and even the faith to believe in Jesus Christ is a gift from God, as is the ability to repent of our sins and to obey Christ and his commandments. Yet, we must act on that gift from God and apply it to our daily lives in the power of the Spirit within us. In other words, faith is not a mere confession of Christ as Savior, but it is the reality of his Lordship in our lives. True salvation results in transformed lives of the Spirit of God, being turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that we can receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified (made holy) by faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 26:16-18).
Again, if we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin, wickedness), but we claim to be in fellowship with God, we are liars. If we walk (conduct our lives) according to the flesh, we will die in our sin, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity.
A Bond-servant of Christ (v. 10)
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
So, it all comes down to this: Who am I living to please? – The flesh of humans, including my own, or the Spirit of God? Am I more concerned with what humans will think of me, or is my concern with pleasing God? Do I conform my life to the ways of this sinful world in order to be accepted and included by humans? Or, do I conform my life to God’s ways, to follow in his truth, even if I am hated, rejected, persecuted and ill-treated by humans, in return? If I live my life to please my own flesh or the flesh of others, I am not a bond-servant of Jesus Christ. But, if I live my life to please God, though not perfectly, but I daily walk in his steps, putting to death the deeds of the flesh, by the Spirit, then I am a vessel useful to his service. I am in Christ, and he is in me. I listen to his voice, and I follow (obey) him.
My Sheep / An Original Work / June 24, 2012
Based off John 10:1-18 NIV
My sheep hear me. They know me.
They listen to my voice and obey.
I call them and lead them.
They know my voice, so they follow me.
They will never follow strangers.
They will run away from them.
The voice of a stranger they know not;
They do not follow him.
So, I tell you the truth that
I am the gate, so you enter in.
Whoever does enter
Will find forgiveness and will be saved.
Nonetheless whoever enters
Not by the gate; other way,
He is the thief and a robber.
Listen not, the sheep to him.
Oh, I am the Good Shepherd,
Who laid his own life down for the sheep.
I know them. They know me.
They will live with me eternally.
The thief only comes to steal and
Kill and to destroy the church.
I have come to give you life that
You may have it to the full…
They know my voice, so they follow me.