Galatians 4:12-14 NIV
“I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.”
It is wonderful when the body of Christ comes alongside us to encourage us in our walks of faith and to join in unity of fellowship with us in Christ. I have many good memories of such growing up as a child, as a youth, and as a young adult in the gatherings of the church.
I have such happy memories of days gone by when the church was on fire for the Lord, and where holiness, purity and godliness were taught every week, where we saw prayers being answered, and people being healed, and people coming to genuine faith in Jesus, which resulted in changed lives.
We had church services twice on Sunday and prayer meetings every Wednesday night. The preaching on Sunday was so Spirit-filled that I sat in the front pew just to drink it all in. Our pastor preached 45 min to an hour, but it was never too long for me. I always wanted more.
And then there were children’s Bible studies, and youth group, and then small group Bible studies where we actually studied the Bible, instead of books written by men in the flesh, and where we learned to apply God’s word to our daily lives, and where we encouraged one another in Christ.
It was a time when godly living was not taboo. It was not looked down upon by the church, in general. It was not openly criticized by others who also believed in Jesus. It was a time when we were encouraged to walk in faithfulness to our Lord and to encourage one another to do the same.
It was a time when Christians would call each other on the phone and actually talk about Jesus and our walks of faith and not about TV shows, football games, or the latest movies or video games that just came out.
We would pray for one another over the phone and share Scripture verses with each other. It was wonderful! God was moving and people were coming to faith in Jesus Christ, and the church was growing in numbers and people were walking by the Spirit and not according to the flesh.
I am not saying that all was perfect or that everyone who professed faith in Jesus Christ lived like this, but this kind of Christian living was way more prevalent back in the 50s through the early 80s than it has been since then, at least in my experience, and from what I have read.
Galatians 4:15-16 NIV
“Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?”
But then people change, and times change, and so our circumstances can change, too. I went from attending church gatherings like I described above, due to the fact that we moved multiple times, to attending church gatherings void of the Holy Spirit, where church seemed more like a social gathering, and where “Christian fellowship” was just eating a meal together.
The Christian fellowship I had experienced previously in my life was now gone. “Christians” didn’t seem to want to talk about Jesus except in Sunday School classes or Bible studies, but not outside of those specific gatherings. Now “Christian” conversations didn’t sound any different than non-Christian conversations, for both groups talked about the same stuff.
Then church services lost their holy and spiritual emphasis, too, and they became more like theatre productions on a stage, performing for the masses so that they could draw in the people of the world into their gatherings, so they could grow their “churches,” i.e., man-made businesses.
And pastors turned into clowns, comedians, actors, and entertainers in order to attract the world and to keep the world coming back, clamoring for more of the same. The first “church” like this we attended had a portion in each service called “The CR Show,” named for the pastor, and it was just like a game show.
The hymns were mostly discarded for modern Christian music, some of which is good, and some of which is worldly and/or very empty. And the musicians had to be professional sounding or have a particular secular and/or even seductive sound to their singing or playing.
Movie clips now took over for sermon illustrations, and many of those clips came from movies which included sexual immorality, filthy language, adultery, and even nudity. The clips themselves were safe, but the clips were the tantalizers to get people to want to see the whole movie, and that is where it got really bad, for it led them to what was morally impure.
Thus, those who are still walking in holiness and purity, who are listening to the Lord, and who are following him in obedience, though not in absolute perfection, have come to be the rejected, the outcasts, who are being attacked for still teaching the gospel of repentance as Jesus taught it.
We have now become the enemy of much of today’s modern church, which is following a diluted gospel message, for we are teaching the truth in opposition to the lies, and in contrast to this false diluted gospel which is permeating the church of today.
Galatians 4:17-20 NIV
“Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!”
So, the message that the Lord wants to get out to his church is what Paul was sharing with these believers back in his day. Those who have turned the church upside down, who have turned the house of the Lord into a marketplace, which they are marketing to the world, are not your friends. They are your enemies, for they want to win you over, but not for good.
They want to lead you away from Jesus, and away from the truth of the gospel, so that you will follow them and believe their adulterated cheapened grace gospel, which is a lie, so that you will continue living in sin, so you will not obey the Lord, and so you will not submit to Christ as Lord.
And they will promise you salvation from sin, freedom from judgment, and eternal life with God, while what they teach you, and what you accept, will lead you straight to hell, not to heaven. For the Scriptures are clear on this subject.
If we walk (in practice, in conduct) according to the flesh (in sin), it will end in death, not life everlasting. It doesn’t matter what we have confessed with our lips or think we believe in our hearts, or what prayer we prayed. What matters is how we live.
If truly we have died with Christ to sin, and we have been reborn of the Spirit to new lives in Christ, that should be evidenced by how we live (by our deeds, by our walk). We must walk according to the Spirit, in obedience to our Lord, and in humble submission to his will for our lives if we want to be saved from our sins and have eternal life with God (Lu 9:23-26; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6).
But we don’t do any of this in our own strength. If the Spirit of God lives in us, by faith in Jesus Christ, he empowers us to live godly and holy lives, pleasing to God. He comforts and encourages us in our walks of obedience, too, even when fellow Christians abandon us. And he may provide other avenues of Christian fellowship for us, too, like on the internet.
So, no matter what happens, know that God loves you, but his plan and his purpose for your life is for you to leave your lifestyles of sin behind you to follow him in obedience and in surrender to his will for your life, that you might have fellowship with him in the Spirit and have life everlasting.
You Loved Me
An Original Work / December 3, 2019
A song based off the poem by the same name
When I was lonely and afflicted,
You were there to pick me up.
You took me in Your arms,
And You held me tenderly.
Your love embraced me.
Your grace sustained me.
When my heart cried out to You
In my fear and my despair,
You never turned away,
But You let me know You loved me.
Your grace forgave me.
You did not shame me.
Then, when I answered the call,
“Here, Lord, send me.”
You sent me to where I must be.
Your mercy held me, did not fail me.
All this, You had planned, to use me.
And, when all trials and scorn
Came to test me.
You gave me all that I would need.
You strengthened me so I’d not fail You.
Your kindness blessed me, it touched me.
And, when I needed the church
To lift up me,
To hearten me so I’d not fail,
You blessed me with folks who would love me.
Their presence with me, Your praise hailed!
And, when I walked through the valley
Of the shadow of the death,
And tears flowed from my eyes,
Still Your kindness was there for me.
Your touch, it healed me.
For I believed You.
When now I think about the ways,
Of the many, many ways
That You in Your great love
Show me that You’ll always care for me,
My heart, it thanks You,
And gladness fills me, fills me.