Sunday, August 20, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "Not in Vain"

“Not In Vain”
Gospel Roots (1892-2017)
August 20, 2017 :: 1 Corinthians 15:58

To celebrate our 125th anniversary, we are looking back at the foundational values and practices that have shaped our church family for a century and a quarter. The root system that has fed us and formed us for all of these many years.

We call them “gospel roots” because that’s we’re all about–knowing Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We sing the gospel in worship, we take the gospel to the lost in evangelism, we pray about the gospel, we find the gospel in God’s Word (“Where Stands It Written?”), we send missionaries to take the gospel around the world, and we point to the gospel in the caring fellowship of our church, as we love one another we show Jesus love to others.

We exist to glorify God by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ through worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism....and which one haven’t we talked about yet?

SERVICE.

That’s our key word for today.

I want to encourage us to think about all of the acts of service that have made this church what it has been for the last 125 years of ministry.

Another word for “service” is “ministry.”

And today, I don’t want to talk so much about the ministry of the word or the ministry of prayer. We did that already this year.

Today, I want to talk more about the sacrificial acts of service that often go unnoticed and behind the scenes.

The work, the labor, the volunteering–serving in all of the more hidden areas of church ministry.

And of course, this is an appropriate day to do that following our sixth annual Good News Cruise, one of our biggest events of the year and one that requires a lot of volunteer labor.

How many people helped put on the Good News Cruise this year?

I don’t have any idea.

People taking pictures, people setting up tents, people serving hotdogs and chips, people taking out the trash, people gathering door prizes, writing a word of encouragement on a door prize, carrying a cooler from here to there, setting up a table, plugging in an extension cord.

Which of those were the important things?

They were all important!

As we said last week, the Good News Cruise is an “all hands on deck” kind of ministry, and it takes a big team to pull it off.

And there’s a cost to that!

We can give it away to our community because we give our time away to the Lord.

How many acts of service happened just this last week to put on the Good News Cruise?

I have no idea.

Now, multiply that times 125 years.

How many acts of service have been done to carry on the work of the ministry of Lanse Evangelical Free Church since 1892?

Only God knows!

But here’s what we do know:

It’s all worth it.

Each one of all of those acts of service whether they are known and counted by others or not are not done in vain.

God sees every one of them, values every one of them, and promises to use every single one of them for our good and for His glory.

That’s the message of 1 Corinthians chapter 15, verse 58. Have you found it? Pew Bible Page #1140.

It’s one of my all time favorite verses. It’s the one that I quote whenever I sign a copy of my book. I almost always write, “Stand Firm! 1 Corinthians 15:58, Matthew Mitchell.”

It’s been one of my key life verses, and it’s glorious.

1 Corinthians 15:58 is the very last verse of the Resurrection Chapter. The Corinthians had a bunch of questions about the Resurrection, and Paul takes up an entire chapter answering those questions and proclaiming the certainty and centrality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our resurrection still to come.

"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

Alright. I know you’re wondering what I’ve got here in the mystery box.

What artifact could we use to stand for all of the working and serving and giving and volunteering for the last 125 years?

Well, I could pull out this water bottle. It wasn’t just donated to the church by a generous vendor, but somebody took a picture of a classic car, somebody designed our Good News Cruise logo for the year, somebody uploaded the pictures to a label and printed it out, and somebody else wrapped it on the bottle. Our team did over 800 of these just this week.

How about this one. What is this? General Electric lightbulb. 60 watts. Here’s the kind we put up now. Only 13 watts, eco-friendly and supposed to last 10,000 hours.

This is one of the 300 watts ones that go up there in the ceiling.

Do you know what it takes to change one of those?

It’s work!

How many lightbulbs have been changed at Lanse Evangelical Free since 1892?

That’s something you don’t think about every week.

You only notice it when it doesn’t work, right?

Like our video projector system. When it’s working, you don’t think about it, but if the bulb goes out or other “technical difficulties” happen, everybody’s craning their neck to see what’s going on back there.

How many hours have gone into volunteering to run the tech stuff around here? The sound board, the video projection, keeping the computers running.

John Kristofits has been our IT department for like 19 years now! Thank you, John!

How about this? Anybody ever held on of these?

I stole this from the furnace room.

Anybody every painted anything here on our campus?  Raise your hand.

I know a lot of you have.

Thank you!

How about this one?

Here’s a story for you. I went 18 years as the pastor of this church without knowing where we kept the plunger!

Now, I’m glad to know where it is and (yes, I do know how to use it, I know very well where the one is at home), but I think it’s a wonderful testimony to the kind of servants that we have at this church that I went 18 years without having to know where this tool lives!

Thank you.

Thank you to everyone who knows where this lives and has used it for the church and for our Lord.

And let me say this to you.

It’s no fun to use this, but if you do it in faith, it is incredibly important ministry seen by the Lord, valued by the Lord, and promised by the Lord to be eternally worthwhile!

That’s the point of 1 Corinthians 15:58.

“Therefore, my dear brothers, [because of the resurrection] stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Too often we think that the “the work of the Lord” is the work that some religious professionals do. Like me. Like professional pastors and professional missionaries.

And I hope that our work is the work of the Lord, too.

But 1 Corinthians 15:58 is not written to a group of pastors and missionaries.

To whom is it written?

“Therefore...my dear brothers,”  This is written to the whole church family.

And it’s about every kind of work and labor we do for the Lord.

A couple of years ago we talked about how it applies to our work life in our daily vocations.

But I think the primary application is whatever you’re doing for the mission of the gospel and that includes all of your volunteer service to the local church and our shared gospel mission.

There are a lot of passages that I considered preaching on this Sunday, especially all of the ones about using your gifts in ministry. Romans 12 like Donnie preached on a couple of weeks ago. 1 Corinthians 12 with the body analogy. Ephesians 4. I got real close to preaching 1 Peter 4:10 and 11 which says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms [it doesn’t look the same from one person to another]. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”

Water bottles, lightbulbs, paintbrushes, plungers.

Vacuum cleaners, ladders, computers, carpet-cleaners, brooms, snow shovels, lawn-mowers, chain-saws, skid-steers, front-end loaders.

Did anybody notice the brush cleaned up across the street for the Good News Cruise.  Bob Gisewhite and Joey Matthew cleaned up a bunch one day and then Dave & Shane Michaels brought down their front-end loader and scooped it right out of there.

That’s ministry!

How many hours do our Facilities Team guys have in fixing stuff around here?

I think of all of the things I’ve called Charlie Weaver to do. Could fix my desk? Could you change the batteries in this? I can’t get my door open. There’s air coming in the cracks of my door.

And Lonnie, and Bryan, and Wally, and George, and Blair, and Art, and Alan.

And Cindy. And Anita. And Nesta. And Ruth.

And Vera. And Marilynn.

And we could go and on. I could go around this room and tell a story about just about every person here and something they did to serve the Lord, the work of the Lord at Lanse Free Church.

And I could go all day and not get the half of it!

One of the things I love about this sermon series is that I just get to brag on you. I get to brag on the Lord and brag on His people.

You folks live this out to a tee. We have a church full of servants.

They say there is an 80/20 rule for ministry. 80 percent of the ministry gets done by 20 percent of the people. But those numbers have never held true for this church in my experience.

This church is full of people who know how to give themselves to the work of the ministry.

And you know how to give.

Here’s another artifact that makes it all possible.

An offering plate.

How many times have we passed the plate over the last 125 years?

How many people have given, not just from their time and talents, but from their treasures?

And that’s enabled us to do so much ministry.

Thank you.

And speaking as the staff person whom you spend the most of those offerings on, I am very grateful and my family is very grateful for your generous giving. Thank you for giving to the Lord and His Church. We who serve you on the ministry staff here are very grateful for your ongoing generosity.

I know it’s a sacrifice. And I don’t take it lightly.

One of the things you’re giving and serving has enabled us to do is to sit in this very room.

Right?

The church is not a building, it’s a group of people.

But the church building is an important tool.

Our church has had 4 buildings in the last 125 years.

This is not the first one. It’s the second one. I don’t think there is a picture of the first one.

The first building was built in the first year of the church 1892.

Bea Johnson writes in our church history book, “Mr. Lansing Snyder donated an acre of ground to this little band of Swedish believers on which they could erect a building that would serve as a place to conduct their services. The tract of land was a wooded area, but by the spring and summer of 1892, the men had cleared land on which to construct a building” (pg. 5).

And I doubt that they used Husqvarna or Stihl saws!

“As soon as the land was cleared construction began. The building was 20 by 30 feet (600 square feet, smaller than our fellowship hall). The cost of the building materials was $100.00 and the moderator of the church, Alexander Gustafson, offered to construct the building for $27.00. The first meeting held in the new ‘edifice’ was on July 4, 1892.”

And Matt Modzel loves this little fact.

“Mr. Danielson offered to ‘landscape’ the new church plot–he planted rye on the yard with the condition that he could harvest the crop in the fall of the year–for two consecutive years the church lawn was a rye field.”

This church building was the second one from 1900, the turn of the century. They tor down the old building, and built the new one on the same location. 28 feet by 38 feet 400 hundred square feet larger. $300.

And like I said in June, the church spent more on missions that year than they did on the building!

Now, do you all know where that building was?  Over there Lanse proper right? It’s now an apartment building.

And that’s not the one here.

This is. In 1930 they tore down that building and built this one.

It was during the Depression and nobody had jobs but they had lots of extra time, so they built the third building. $4,038, and they moved in on Thanksgiving day 1930.

In 1972, they put an addition on it. A number of you will remember that.

(The picture looks better in the history book.)

And then the church just grew and grew.

And in 1974, the church purchased the campus of the Cooper Township High School for $15,000. That’s why that road over there is called “COTOHISC.” It stands for “Cooper Township High School.”

And they broke ground on June 20, 1976.

And the church moved into this facility in November of 1977.

And I’ll bet we’ll hear some stories about all of that from you all in October.

Some of you were here doing the work, some of you were running around watching while others of you were doing the work. And many of us weren’t here yet.

In July of 1994, there was as mortgage burning ceremony when this building got paid off for good. There’s a picture of it in the church scrapbook.

How many dollars?

How many hours?

How much labor and hard work has gone into building and maintaining these excellent facilities?

Think about the Good News Cruise! Isn’t it wonderful that we have this beautiful campus with acres of land for people to park their cars and trucks and bikes and tractors on?!

You know what though?

I’ll bet that at many times it didn’t seem worth it.

It didn’t seem worth all of the trouble and all of the cost and all of time.

I’ll bet everybody here who has served this church in some ways have hit a wall from time to time.

You got to the point where you were wondering if it was worth it to come to Kids for Christ...again...on a Wednesday night...in the Winter.

You wondered if anybody cared that you stayed after the family meal and meeting to wash dishes, put up the tables, vacuum the floor, take out the trash.

You wondered if made any difference if you showed up to be a greeter or to shovel the walk or lock up.

Yes, somebody had to do it or it wouldn’t have gotten done, but was it worth it for you to take that time?

Or yesterday, if the rain had come at 1pm instead of 6pm and we'd wrapped all of those water bottles and then NOBODY had showed up? Would it have been worth it?

Well, 1 Corinthians 15:58 says that is most definitely worth it. It’s not in vain.

Paul gives it to us in three simple steps.

#1. STAND FIRM!

Look again at our verse.

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.”

That’s a call to be perseverance.

The King James translate it, “Be ye stedfast, unmoveable...”

Stand firm. Don’t leave your post.

Don’t quit. Don’t give up.

Like we said yesterday, “Stay on the Smooth Route!”

Don’t take a detour.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to stay in whatever ministry you have for the rest of your life.

No, I love it how we share around the ministries here. Nobody is the church chairman forever. Nobody is the treasurer forever. Nobody is on the facilities team forever. Nobody has to teach Kids for Christ forever. Nobody is the historian forever. Nobody is even the pastor forever. I’m like the 26th pastor or something like that. And someday you’ll have another one if the Lord tarries.

This is not saying that we have to have the stay in the same ministry for our whole life.

It’s saying that we have to stay IN MINISTRY for our whole life.

Stand firm.

Stand on the gospel. Don’t swerve to the right or to the left.

Why? He says, “therefore” that’s because of the certainty and centrality of the resurrection. Because Jesus lives and so shall we, we are called to stand firm.

Do you need to hear that today?

Have you been thinking about bailing out?

Bailing out on Christ?

Bailing out on the church?

Bailing out on serving the Lord, doing the work of the Lord?

Don’t do it. Stand firm. Let nothing move you.

#2. SERVE HARD!

Work hard. Throw yourself into ministry. Look again.

“Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord...”

The King James says, “always abounding in the work of the Lord...”

That word “abounding” is a word that means “overflowing.”

It’s the root form of the word that I’ve illustrated before by pouring water all over this stage.

The NIV says, “give yourselves fully”

In other words, pour yourself out in the work of the Lord.

Don’t hold back. Don’t play it close to the chest.

Yes, that will mean sacrifices.

That’s what this means. Pouring yourself out in the work of the Lord has a cost to it.

Whenever you give something, whether it is time, talents, or treasures, you aren’t holding that thing back. You are giving it. And that costs something.

But the Bibles says that’s a good thing. That’s exactly what you should do.

“Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord.”

Don’t do it because somebody twists your arm.

I love it that there is very little arm-twisting in this church family.

Every once in a while, I’ve had to call in a favor or two [!], but we don’t twist arms.

But do open yourself up to being used by the Lord in service.

Pouring yourself out in the work.

The Greek word for “work” here in is “ergo” from which we get our “ergonomics” the shape of our work. It means “work, deed, action, task, undertaking.”

It’s those things we do for the church, for the mission of the church.

Maybe here on our campus or maybe out there in the world.

What ministries do you have?

What “ergos” are you involved in?

I know that I’ve missed some. I’ve tried to think of a whole bunch of ministries at this church, ways that people have served, but there are just too many for me to come up with them all.

In your bulletin, we used to call the Church Family News, the “Opportunities for Ministry.” Remember that?

The bulletin says we need workers for Kids for Christ at Family Bible Night. Heather Dobo needs you! There is a meeting this Wednesday at 8pm. Is that your ministry?

We need folks to join the Prayer Room Ministry, the Greeter Ministry, the Coffee Ministry, Children’s Ministry, MOPPETS. We have lots of places for people use their gifts and to serve.

Are you giving yourself fully to the work of the Lord?

Stand Firm. Serve Hard!

Because #3. IT’S WORTH IT!

Last phrase.

“Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

That’s a different word that is translated “labor.”

It’s the word “kopos,” and it indicates the hardness of work.

Toil, sorrow, work tinged with grief and sadness.

One dictionary says that “kopos” is “intense labour united with trouble and toil.”

Have you ever served on a ministry team like that?

Sometimes it’s a lot of “kopos.”

It’s not always fun.

It’s not always appreciated.

But it’s always worth it.

“...because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Now, for the Corinthians, they were wondering if they died and the Lord didn’t return, did they miss it? Did they miss the kingdom?

And did all of their hard work for the kingdom go to waste?

What if we die?

And so many of our Lanse Free Church people have died.

How many have died since 1892?

We have no founders left.

We were re-founded in the late 60's. Only a handful of them are left with us.

How many have we had to say goodbye to in the last 5 years?

Ann Kyler
Ann Neidrick
Lloyd & Dora Hampton
Brenda Plisco
Beatrice Johnson
Blair Murray

What about them? What about their labors in the Lord?

Are they in vain?

No way!  Because of the resurrection!

Because Jesus is alive again and because He has promised that we will be, too!

Because of the resurrection, we KNOW, we KNOW that our labors in the Lord are not in vain.

Do you KNOW that?

I love the implication of this.

It means that we can literally die doing ministry and nothing can stop us from seeing the return on our investment.

I mean, what’s the worst that can happen to us?  We can die, right?

We can have our heads cut off for doing the work of the Lord.

We can be shot for doing the work of the Lord.

So what?!

Is that the worst that Satan can do?

I’m coming back to life.

Kill me, I’m coming back.

So I can stand firm.

And I can through myself into ministry.

Because I cannot lose.

That’s what this verse teaches.

We cannot lose.

Now, that only applies to our work done “in the Lord.”

If you are not “in the Lord” then you yourself will not live a blessed resurrection.

Your work, your strivings will achieve nothing more than whatever you can grasp in this life.

If you are “outside of the Lord,” then I fear for you and I invite you to come in by faith to His salvation and His service.

And even for Christians, the things we do that are not “of” or “for” the Lord are spurious at best and sinful at worst.

We need to be asking ourselves about everything we do, why do we do it. Do we do it for the glory of God?

Missionary statesmen C.T. Studd wrote a little poem that has been quoted many times in the last hundred years.

It says, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Of course, he means only one short life in this fallen world.

Because there is a second life coming in the resurrection and what we do now will reverberate into eternity.

What we do now, for Christ will last.

Stand Firm!
Serve Hard!

“...because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."


***

Previous Messages in This Series:

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sunday, August 13, 2017

[Matt's Messages] “You Are All Sons of God Through Faith in Christ Jesus”

“You Are All Sons of God Through Faith in Christ Jesus”
Galatians: The Truth of the Gospel
August 13, 2017 :: Galatians 3:15-29

There was trouble brewing.

Paul was writing to these churches that he loved and cared about in the region of Galatia. Many of these of churches, he and Barnabas had founded on their missionary journeys.

But some bad guys with a false gospel had infiltrated these churches and cast doubt on Paul and Paul’s gospel and began convincing the Galatians to believe their alternate gospel which is really no gospel at all. Remember this?

That’s trouble.

So Paul picked up his pen and wrote what one commentator called “a tornado warning” of a letter.

Paul wrote to try to stop them from doing something very foolish and damnable–abandoning the truth of the gospel of grace through Jesus Christ.

This chapter began with the words, “O Foolish Galatians!

Paul was so concerned that these people would leave the truth of the gospel and end up imperiled in spiritual danger.

What was the error of the false gospel?

What did the false teachers want the Galatians to put their faith in?

It was the Mosaic Law, wasn’t it?

They didn’t have a problem with Jesus Christ and putting your faith in Him. They agreed that Jesus was the Messiah.

But they said you may start that way putting your faith in Jesus but that’s not enough. Faith in Jesus is not enough. You also have to begin obeying the Law. And doing the works of the Law.

You might get right with God by faith in Jesus, but you stay right with God by doing the works of the Law.

Is that the gospel?

Is that how you get right with God?
Is that how you stay right with God?

Is that how justification works?

That’s what Paul asked them in verse 2 of this chapter.

“Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law or by believing what you heard?”

Paul is writing this letter to convince the Galatians once again of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Not through the law. Verse 11, “Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because ‘The righteous will live by faith.”

Faith alone.

And last time, he brought up the person of Abraham.

Remember that?

Was Abraham famous for observing the Law or for his faith?

For faith, right?

The Law had not even been given when Abraham was already famous for faith.

Well, that’s what he’s going to talk about today in the last half of this chapter, verses 15 through 29.

There’s a lot here in this section and it gets kind of complicated. There are a few things here I just don’t understand or can’t explain very well.

But just keep this in mind. What Paul is trying to do, through all of this deep history and theology, is to convince the Galatians to NOT ADD LAWKEEPING AS THE BASIS OF THEIR JUSTIFICATION BEFORE GOD.

Not circumcision, not Sabbath keeping, not the kosher diet, not even the Ten Commandments.

Do not add works of the law as the basis of your justification.

That is a false gospel, and it is damnable because it sets aside the grace of God and basically says that Jesus died for nothing.

Everything we’re going to read this week and next time and probably the time after that has the same goal of stopping the Galatians in their tracks to keep them from going off the cliff. To keep them from making that fatal wrong gospel mistake.

But you can see why they might. Can’t you?

I mean the Law of Moses was a big important thing for the Jews, wasn’t it?

And rightfully so.

God gave them the Law at Mount Sinai. It wasn’t something that Moses made up.

We call it the Law of Moses because he was the leader at the time. He was the mediator of the Law Covenant.

But the Law was from God.

It was big and important for the Jews.

So you can see why they might have thought it was all important and important enough to impose on new Gentile, non-Jewish, believers.

So Paul has to explain to them why the Law should not take the place that they are tempted to assign it.

And how does he do that? He reaches back to something bigger than the Law and more permanent the Law.

And that’s the promise.

What is bigger and more fundamental than the Law of Moses? The promises of God given to Abraham.

Does anybody remember 2003?

2003 seems like a long time ago to me. That was 14 years ago.

That was the year that my son Peter was born.

That was also the year that I preached through the book of Genesis. Anybody remember that? That was the year that we met this person Abraham. We called him the best supporting actor in the book of Genesis.

Father Abraham.

And we learned back in 2003 that God had made certain promises to Father Abraham.

Do you remember what those were? There used to be a Pop Quiz every week about them.

What are the 3 main promises of the Abrahamic Covenant?

Offspring, Land, and Blessing.

Very good, class!

Back in 2003, we learned that our God is a promise-making God.

And we also learned that He is a promise-keeping God.

God Always Keeps His Promises.

I don’t know how many times we’ve said that and seen that.

Since 2003, we’ve trekked our way through a lot of the rest of the story, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, the Books of Kings.

And one of the key truths we’ve seen again and again and again is that God is keeping these promises He made to Father Abraham.

Offspring, land, blessing.

Do you see how that’s the Big Story of the Old Testament?

Well, that’s what Paul is talking about in this last half of Galatians 3.

In verse 14, he said that Jesus, by dying on the Cross, “redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to Gentiles (like the Galatians and like us here in this room) through Christ Jesus so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

But how does that relate to the Law?

That’s the question. So Paul answers it. Verse 15.

“Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.”

He means the case of the Abrahamic Covenant.

If two people make a binding agreement with one another and agree on all of the terms, can somebody else or something else come along and break up that agreement, change it on the two parties?

No. Not legally.

Or take the example of a last will and testament. Because this word for covenant could also be used for a will.

If I die, and my will leaves all of my money (both of my dollars) to Heather Joy, can the executor of my will, say my brother, come out and say, “I don’t like that idea. I’m going to give Matt’s two dollars to the Society of Coconut and Pineapple Lovers.” Can he do that?

Not legally.

How about God? Can God say, “I don’t feel like keeping these promises that I’ve made to Abraham? I’m tired of coming through with offspring, land, and blessing to that guy and his dumb children. I’ll just ignore those promises.”

Will God do that?

Not and stay God.

God is faithful. God always keeps His promises.

Now, whom did He make those promises to? To whom need He be faithful? V.16

“The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed [“sperma, offspring”]. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.”

Now, that’s tricky.

I’m not sure I understand it completely. Because “seed” can be a collective singular and often is. In fact, Paul’s going to use it like that in just a few verses!

But he’s got a point he wants to make.

The promises were made to Abraham and most deeply, most fully, most ultimately to Abraham’s ONE SEED, his chief offspring, the God/Man Jesus Christ.

All of the promises of God find their fullest fulfilment in Jesus Christ.

God always keeps His promises IN JESUS.

And TO JESUS!

Isn’t that interesting?

But what does this have to do with the Law?

Where does the Law come in?

Answer? Much later! And it doesn’t change anything in the Abrahamic Covenant. V.17

“What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.”

Yes, the Law was big, but it wasn’t that big!

The PROMISE is what’s big!

And the promise doesn’t change. V.18

“For if the inheritance [receiving the promises] depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.”

The Law was never the point.
The Law was never the big story.

The Law didn’t fundamentally change the big story.

It just got added to the story.

It’s like when you have your computer on and you have a window open with one program or app and then you open another app without closing the first one.

Does the second app stop the first one?

No.

Maybe it’d be better to say, does opening an app close down your Operating System?

It might, but it’s not supposed to! And it crashes the app, too, if does.

The promises of the Abrahamic Covenant were (and are!) the operating system of the big storyline of the Bible, and the Law was just an app that was opened for a time alongside the promises.

The Mosaic Law was another temporary covenant set up run for a time during the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Why? V.19

“What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.”

Now, that’s complicated.

I’m not sure I get it all or can explain it well.

But notice what is clear. The Law had a good purpose, but it was temporary.

“Until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.”  Who’s that? That’s Jesus.

The Law had an expiration date.

If you pulled it out of the fridge and smelled it to see if you wanted to eat it, you would check the expiration date on it, and it would say, “Use only as your covenant until the Seed had come.”

And if the Seed had come? Should you use it as your covenant? No!

Why would you?

Why would you when you have a better covenant being enacted right before you very eyes?

Paul says it’s better because it’s older and because it’s more direct.

The Law (v.19) “was put into effect through angels by a mediator (Moses).”

But the Abrahamic Covenant was direct from God to Abraham and to his Seed.

I think that’s what he means by v.20.

He might be pointing out that the Abrahamic Covenant was unconditional.

The Mosaic Covenant had lots of conditions in it. “Do this and this will happen.”

But the Abrahamic Covenant was really one-sided, wasn’t it?

What was Abraham doing when God made His promises to Abraham?

He was sleeping!

Remember that? He arranged the path through the sacrifices and instead of both of walking through the carcasses on God did, so to speak.

God made these promises unilaterally and will keep them no matter what.

All according to His grace.

Yes, Abraham was to obey God, but the promises were all of grace and not conditional on that obedience. They were all taken by faith.

The promises are HUGE!

So the Law is, relatively, pretty small.

And it didn’t save. Did you see why the Law was added? V.19 says, “because of transgressions,” and I think that actually means to increase transgressions.

The Law was given to show God’s people how sinful they really are and how much they needed a Savior. But it didn’t save. V.21

“Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? [Paul you sound like you think they are against one another. But Paul says...] Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.”

The promises are bigger than the Law, but they are not antithetical to the Law.

It’s just that the Law was never meant to save.

The Law wasn’t strong enough to save because of sin. V.22

“But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.”

There he goes again with the faith thing!

We saw this point back in Romans, you might remember.

I talked about a plate of brownies.

If Heather makes a plate of brownies, and then says to me, “Do not eat the plate of brownies,” what do I now want to do?

I want to eat the plate of brownies.

And what if I did eat the plate of brownies?

Did her law make me a transgressor?

Is there something wrong with her law if I broke it?

No, there was something wrong with me.

And her law just revealed it. It just showed me what a glutton I am and what a thief I am.

The Mosaic Law did the same thing. It showed that people are prisoners of sin and a need a spiritual jailbreak. V.23

“Before this faith [in Christ] came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”

That “put in charge” in verse 23 is literally that the Law was a “pedagogos” a guardian or a nanny or a big bad babysitter.

The pedagogos was a family slave or employee that was put in charge of the little kids to keep them out of trouble and make sure they made it to adulthood.

They were the big bad bodyguards and babysitters that went everywhere with the kids to make sure they made it from being minors to being adults.

Paul says that’s what the Mosaic Law was doing it. It was getting God’s people from childhood to adulthood. Showing them that they needed a Savior.

Remember how the Law functioned in the Books of Kings?

It told them whether the kings were thumbs up or thumbs down, right?

And it showed them again and again how thumbs down they were and how much they needed the Savior to come.

But now the Savior has come!  V.25

“Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. [What are we? Here’s the good stuff. Verse 26] You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus...”

So why would you want to go back to the Law?

Do you see how his logic is working?

Is the Law a bad thing? No way.

It was wonderful and did its job.

But we don’t need it as our covenant any more.

It’s not in force any more.

It’s not our law.

And it’s certainly not our basis for being right with God!

The Law did not set aside the promise (v.17)
The Law was added because of transgression (v.19).
The Law was temporary.
The Law couldn’t save.
The Law had us locked up.
The Law was a big bad babysitter.

It did its job!

But I don’t want a babysitter any more. Do you?

I don’t want training wheels any more. Do you?

And I certainly don’t want to put my faith in my law-keeping.

That’s just folly in every way.

Because Jesus has come and faith in Jesus changes everything.

In the last four verses Paul tells us that us about three things that we are because we are in Christ Jesus. And they are glorious. And they are so much better than trying to keep the Law.

#1. WE ARE SONS.

V.26 “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus...”

That is an amazing sentence.

Memorize it. Take it to heart. Repeat it to yourself every day.

I am a son of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

I know, ladies, that it might be a little difficult to think of yourself as a son.

So you can switch in “daughter” there, if it helps.

But don’t totally abandon the language either because in the cultural context, the sons were those that inherited from the Father and it reminds us that we are sons IN CHRIST JESUS who is The Son par excellence.

So when God looks at you and me, He sees us in the His beloved Son with whom He is well-pleased.

Think about this. God is your Father.

God is your Father.
God is your Father.
God is your Father.
God is your Father.

Not by law-keeping but by faith in Christ Jesus.

God is your Father.

Think about all of what that means in terms of your standing, your acceptance, how God sees you, what God thinks of you, how God feels about you.

This why the Kerlin’s motorcycle group has that name, because it’s just that amazing!

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus [v.27] for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

When you put your faith in Christ and you publicly symbolized it by going down into the waters of baptism identifying yourself with Jesus’ death and coming up out of the waters identifying yourself with Jesus’ resurrection, you were, in effect, putting on Christ Jesus like new clothing.

And now God sees you in His beloved Son!

Just think about that!

Isn’t that enough?

Isn’t that better than the Law?

We are sons of God.

And we are one.

#2. WE ARE ONE.

In Christ Jesus. V.28

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

So much has changed!

Now it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Greek (a Gentile), if you have faith in Christ Jesus you’re in! Circumcised or uncircumcised.

It doesn’t matter your social situation. Whether you are a slave or a freeman.

Your sex doesn’t matter. Only males could get circumcised but male or female can trust in Christ!

These distinctions do not define our salvation.

They still exist. These differences don’t disappear. It isn’t saying that there is no such thing as Jewish. Or no such thing as a freeman. Or no such thing as male or female.

Those things still exist. But they are not ultimate!

They don’t determine our worth or our value before God.

And they don’t keep us from being united to one another.

“You are all ONE in Christ Jesus.”

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, [American or Mexican, White or Black] for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The ground is level at the foot of the Cross.

And we ought to act like it.

We should never allow ourselves to think of ourselves as better than any other Christian.

And we should do everything we can to strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Because we are ONE.

Not on our own but IN CHRIST JESUS.

And law-keeping certainly didn’t do that!

We are sons. We one in the Son. And because of that, we are heirs.

#3. WE ARE HEIRS. V.29

“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

I love that!

In verse 16, Paul made it clear that the Seed of Abraham was ultimately Jesus Christ.

But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t the seed of Abraham in Him!

We are.

If we belong to Christ (by faith!), then we are in Abraham’s seed and are Abraham’s seed. Father Abraham is our father because we are in Christ.

And that means that we inherit every one of the promises that God made to Abraham.

Did you know that?

Did you know that you all kind of blessing guaranteed to come your way not because of anything you have ever earned or done but just because you belong to Jesus Christ?

Heirs!

“Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod.”

The spiritual offspring of Abraham because we are in Christ Jesus.

“And heirs according to the promise.”

It doesn’t get better than that.

The application, I hope, is obvious.

Put your faith in Jesus Christ and don’t add law-keeping to the basis of your justification.

If you haven’t put your faith in Christ Jesus, why not?!

Look what you’re missing!

Sons of God, One in the Son, Heirs according to the promise.

Why would you want to miss out on that?

And why would you want to add works of the Law to the deal when the Law has already done its job and there are promises to take hold of by faith?!

And if you are trusting in Jesus Christ then revel in it!

Meditate on those words, “Sons, One, Heirs.”  Every day.

Center your life on Christ Jesus because that’s where the blessing is!

If you have Christ, then you have everything.

“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

And God always keeps His promises!


***

Messages in this Series:
01. To the Churches in Galatia
02. Turning to a Different Gospel
03. Preaching the Faith He Once Tried to Destroy
04. So the Truth of the Gospel Might Remain With You
05. Acting in Line with the Truth of the Gospel
06. I Live By Faith in the Son of God
07. You Foolish Galatians!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Sunday, July 30, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "I'm So Glad I'm a Part"

“I’m So Glad I’m a Part”
Gospel Roots (1892-2017)
July 30, 2017 :: John 13:34-35

We’re going to take another short break from our study of Galatians to return to our reoccurring sermon series that celebrates our 125th anniversary as a church.

We call these messages, “Gospel Roots.” Where we return to the foundational values and principles that have shaped our church family for the last 125 years, and we hope will shape us until the Lord returns.

Each month, we’ve looked at a different facet of our church’s life over the last one and a quarter centuries: The gospel itself–Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. Singing the gospel in worship. Sharing the gospel in evangelism. Being devoted to prayer. Being devoted to the Scriptures: “Where stands it written?” And, last time, being devoted to the Great Commission–sending those people whose pictures are on our fridges to take the gospel to the whole globe.

Well, today, I want to talk about another important set of people. And they might be on your fridge. But they aren’t far away.

In fact, they are right here in this room today.

They are us.

Our church family.

When you saw the sermon title this morning, I hope you broke out in song (at least in your head).

The sermon title is “I’m So Glad I’m a Part.”

How does that line end?  “Of the family of God.”

Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote that song about 47 years ago.

Our hymnal only has the chorus, anybody know how the first verse goes?

You will notice we say “brother” and “sister” ’round here;
It’s because we’re a family and these folks are so near.
When one has a heartache we all share the tears,
And rejoice in each vict’ry in this fam’ly so dear.

Today I want to talk about loving one another as a church family.

Loving one another as a church family.

Another word for that is “fellowship.”

“Lanse Evangelical Free Church exists to glorify God by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ through worship, instruction, FELLOWSHIP, evangelism, and service.”

We accomplish our shared mission by sharing life with one another community.

The church is all about people. It’s all about relationships.

It’s all about loving one another.

Just like Jesus told us to. Do you have John chapter 13 in front of you?

John 13 is the night before the Cross. Jesus is in the upper room with his disciples, and He’s just told them that He is going away, and they cannot come with Him.

But He is going to leave them with some instructions.

Some very important instructions. John 13:34.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

So what do you think is in the mystery box today?

For each of these Gospel Roots messages, we’ve had at least one artifact that focuses our mind on an aspect of our church’s history.

Today, I have all of the church family directories since I became the pastor here in 1998. Maybe somebody’s kept all the ones before that, but I haven’t.

This is the one you sent to me when I was candidating to be your pastor almost 20 years ago. Under Pastor, it was blank, and so I wrote my name in when I got here.

It’s all marked up. There are little notes for me to figure out who everybody is. I added cell phone numbers as I picked them.

I had to write in some names that weren’t here until about half-way through the year.

Ken and Dawn.
Pennie.
John and Marilynn.
Russell.

Their names are included in this one from 1999!

I have 2 for 2000. This one with a snazzy cover drawn by my wife. It’s got little logos for worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service. My copy is just falling apart from using it so much that year.

And then we did a photo directory later in 2000. It’s got baby Robin in the front of it.  Awww.

A lot of people in there.

We don’t use these as much any more because most people have their “contacts” saved on their phones. We aren’t as dependent on a directory, as long as we have the correct information, like Vera’s new phone number.

Here’s another artifact that gets at what I’m talking about.

These photos may not be on your fridge, but they are on the wall out there outside of my office.

Since 1999, we’ve taken a church family photo once a year.

And this October, we’re going to take 2017 at our special event the first weekend in October. And we want all of you to be here and be in that picture!

The faces change. Some come and go. But the point is that we are a family.

There are lots more pictures than that, of course, of our church family. I’m sure we’re going to put a bunch of them out in October.

Think about all of the precious people that have been a part of our church family since 1892!

Here’s one from the third decade of our church’s life.

From left to right: Esther Leafgren, Mrs. Rudberg, Henry Nelson, Rev. Lundmark, Lard Danielson (a founding member), Andrew Leafgren, Charles Dahlgren, Gust Nelson (a founding member), Walfrid Johnson, Oscar Nelson, Axel Nelson, Sameul Emanuelson, Charles Freeman.

Here’s the whole Sunday School in 1932.

I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God!

So many precious people!

And we are joined together to each other as a family.

Ephesians 3: “I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (vv.14-15).

The Bible uses many metaphors to describe God’s people, God’s community. The Body of Christ. The Bride of Christ.

But also, the Family of God.

Young Timothy was told, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”

And how often does the New Testament talk about the brothers and sisters in Christ? Over and over and over again.

The disciples of Jesus Christ were to envision themselves as part of a new community a new family brought together by our elder brother, Jesus Christ.

Not just adopted, not just given a new birth to our heavenly Father, but included into a new family and joined to each other.

Joint-heirs with Jesus. That’s Romans 8:17, co-heirs with Christ.

I think that Jesus is alluding to that new family reality in verse 33 when he calls his disciples, “My children.”

And he tells them that he’s going away.

And when the parent goes away, what does he tell his children that he’s leaving behind?

Behave yourself, right?  And specifically what do you tell your kids to do with each other while you’re away?  Get along, right?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

#1. WE LOVE EACH OTHER AS JESUS COMMANDED US.

As a church family, we love each other because Jesus told us to.

If anyone asked you what the pastor said today, tell them the message was simple.

“I guess we’re supposed to love each other because Jesus says so.”

Look around the room right now.

Go ahead. Look around.

These are the people that Jesus is telling you to love right here in John 13:34.

Tell somebody that you love them, right now.

People might come to our church because of the preaching or because of the music or because of the great children’s programs.

But they stay because of the love of a church family.

Last Sunday, Shasta wrote this on social media and she gave me the permission to share it with you today:

I have been feeling pretty down about Jossy going to the nursery at church, knowing that it is for ages three and under. I didn't want her going there just because she is unique and may not seem older than three. It made my heart sad.

It can be difficult being a parent of a special needs child and figuring out how to best "fit in." We are so, so proud of her and how far she has come, but sometimes there are blaring moments of feeling sadness and defeat. Nursery versus children's church versus not going to church at all and avoiding the decision completely has been one of those blaring moments for me. I know that this sounds silly and ridiculous, but this was a complete reality for me.

Two weeks ago, it was Family Bible Week at our church. We decided to try Jossy in a class this year. To my amazement, she did fabulous (I knew in my heart she would). Today, was an even bigger milestone, she attended children's church with same age peers and she did amazing again.

I am so, so thankful to be a part of such a wonderful church. My fears were immediately relieved when she came out of class today happy. Every single person in our church is supportive, encouraging, and willing to walk on this journey with us. I am thankful that God has provided us with this church family and a place that I feel safe and comfortable to venture out more on this journey. Today, I was able to listen and absorb the message. For the first time in a long time, I didn't feel scared or sad about what was happening. My mind was in the right place. I was content and my heart was happy.

I have known for the past four years that this journey was given to us for a purpose, a reason. Whether it is to teach me, my family, or others something, there is a reason. I know many things along the way have been part of His plan, today was part of His plan. I am thankful that my heart is still moldable and willing and able to be changed. I am so very, very blessed.

Well done, Fam!

I am so proud of you.

We love each other as Jesus commanded us.

We care for one another and try to meet each other needs.

Here’s another item for you that speaks about this church.

Recognize that?

I love the mailboxes back there in the foyer. We want everybody to have one.

Write each other notes! Put cards in each other’s boxes. Tell people that you’re thinking about them.

And my favorite thing about those mailboxes is when they have one of these on them.

This is a casserole dish!

It is not a historical one. It’s just one from the kitchen back there.

I love it when the mailboxes are covered with these.

You know why?

It’s because you’ve been loving on each other!

Somebody was in the hospital and you made a meal.

You brought a dish to a church family meal and meeting.

You made a dessert for Family Bible Week or a funeral luncheon like we had this week.

These are signs of family life.

I love it when our church building gets that run-down lived in look. Like a living room.

Cindy might not like it, but it says to me that we have come together.

Thank you, hospitality team, for making and serving all of those years. 125 years of church family meals! That’s a lot of deviled eggs!

Thank you, Coffee Ministry team, for the last few years of serving us after church each week.  I love to see people hanging around and talking after church!

Thank you, Deaconnesses, for leading the charge to take meals to people in their homes.

When our first child died a stillbirth in April of 1999, there was a steady stream for like two weeks where a different family showed up on our doorstep with a dish like this.

We were so sad and sorrowful. But you were there and you brought us food.

Funny story. I don’t know if I’ve ever told in the pulpit, but one of those weeks, each lady brought us the same dinner. It was stuffed shells.  “I hope you like stuffed shells!”

You didn’t know everybody brought the same thing.

It made us laugh. I now I can’t eat stuffed shells without feeling loved by you.

How many people here can tell a story about how this church family was their family?

Our Link Groups function like that. Our Sunday School Classes have. Our various prayer groups during the years.

We love each other as Jesus commanded us to.

Now, let me ask you a question. Is that easy to do?

No, it really isn’t.

Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s easy to love.

But often it’s very hard to love others.

I’m going to tell you a secret.

I am sinner.

And so are you.

This room is full of sinners.

Our entire church family is made up of sinners!

And sinners can be pretty hard to love at times.

Do you know 1 Corinthians 13? The love chapter?

“Love is patient, love is kind,” and so on.

Do you know why Paul wrote that?

It’s because the church at Corinth could not get along!

They had to be reminded what love looked like!

1 Corinthians 13 sounds great when it’s read at a wedding, but it’s really hard work.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

That’s hard to do!

And how many times have we failed to do it?

I know that I have failed to love you all many times.

There are people who are no longer a part of our church because they felt that I failed to love them. And some of them were right. There faces are on those pictures. I have failed many times.

The hardest times that this church family has ever gone through were times of church conflict and even a split or two.

Some of you still have emotional scars that hurt from those times.

We have not loved each other perfectly.

We have not always obeyed this command.

But we keep at it.

We repent and apologize where we know we are wrong.

And we forgive, and we release bitterness and we practice patience and long-suffering with each other. And we hope for restored relationships in the future.

This love thing is hard, but we know that Jesus commanded us to do it.

And we know that Jesus showed us how to do it!

#2. WE LOVE EACH OTHER AS JESUS SHOWED US.

Do you ever wonder what is new about the new commandment?

“A new command I give you: Love one another.”

I don’t think that’s the first time that God’s people were told to love each other!

But that’s what Jesus says.

I think the key is the next sentence.

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

We have not just a new commandment but a new example.

Jesus has just washed their feet. John says that he showed them the full extent of His love. In just a few short hours, they would see love like never before!

Jesus was on the way to the Cross.

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Jesus showed us how it’s done.

“[Jesus] is patient, [Jesus] is kind. [Jesus] does not envy, [Jesus] does not boast, [Jesus] is not proud. [Jesus] is not rude, [Jesus] is not self-seeking, [Jesus] is not easily angered, [Jesus] keeps no record of wrongs.  [Jesus] does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. [Jesus] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. [Jesus] never fails.”

Yes, it’s hard, but Jesus has shown us again and again the way forward.

Think about this.

We don’t love each other because we like each other.

I like you guys...most of the time.

But the love that this is calling me to do for you is not a natural love that comes from lovability either my lovability or your lovability.

This kind of love requires the death of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of Jesus Christ to empower it. And to be the example that shows me how to do it.

Think about it.

Our church family is not a family by kinship and DNA.

We don’t love each other because we are one race.

We aren’t one race. We are multi-ethnic. And I hope we become more multi-ethnic over time.

We aren’t one political party. Some of you are Republicans. Some of you are Democrats. Some of you are Green Party. Some of you are Independents. We are all kinds of political stripes.

We aren’t one in one category of finances.

We aren’t in one school district.

We don’t all like the same music.

But we’re family.

We’re blood family because of the blood of Jesus.

We have Jesus Christ in common.

We aren’t “blood,” but we have “The Blood” in common.

And that’s why love each other. Because Jesus loved us first.

And He tells us to love each other as he loved us.

We were lovely?  Were we lovable?

No. We were stuck in our sin. We were rebels against His glory.

We were decidedly not lovable.

But He loved us anyway.

So next time you are struggling with loving me, and I know you must from time to time, just think, well Jesus loved me. I guess I can try to love Pastor Matt one more time.

And I’ll do the same for you.

And you do the same for the person sitting on the other side of church, too.

And they’ll do it for you.

This is what Paul said to the Colossians. Chapter 3.

“Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

And you know what that will do?

It will show Jesus to the world. V.35

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

#3. WE LOVE EACH OTHER TO SHOW JESUS TO OTHERS.

The gospel empowers our love and it is preached by our love for one another.

We love each other to show Jesus to others.

Jesus doesn’t say that people will know we are His followers because we said so.

Jesus doesn’t say that people will know we are His followers because we have a bumper sticker with a fish symbol on it.

Jesus doesn’t say that people will know we are His followers because we live clean, moral, upstanding, lifestyles.

Jesus says like the song Amy Jo played for the offertory, they will know we are Christians by our love.

When they see us forgive each other and bear with each other and be kind to each other and be patient to each other, when we don’t deserve it[!], then the world will say, “Those people show me what Jesus is like. And I want to know more about Him.”

It’s not good enough to just be friendly.

It’s not good enough to just say that we love each other, though we need to do lots of that.

The Apostle John says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

Because that’s how the world will know that our gospel is truly good news.

Love one another.

Here’s something else that new about the new commandment.

The stakes are new. They have never been higher.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

***

Sunday, July 23, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "You Foolish Galatians!"

“You Foolish Galatians!”
Galatians: The Truth of the Gospel
July 23, 2017 :: Galatians 3:1-14

Last time we were in Galatians together, our study culminated in our Hide the Word Verse, Galatians 2:20.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

That’s the truth of the gospel.

Paul says that he lives by faith in Jesus Christ.

And he’s been arguing all along that he is justified by faith in Christ and not by doing works of the Law.

He’s been preaching grace. And he will not stop.

He ended chapter 2 by saying, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

And Paul did not believe that Jesus died for nothing. He believed that Jesus died for his salvation.

And for the salvation of the Galatians. Those Gentiles from the region of Galatia to whom Paul had brought the gospel message.

The good news of grace in Jesus Christ.

But these same Galatians were in danger of losing the good news of grace in Jesus Christ.

Some false brothers had infiltrated their ranks, discredited Paul and Paul’s gospel, and had introduced what amounted to a similarly-sounding but actually completely different alternative gospel.

A gospel that was Jesus + Doing the Law.

Jesus PLUS doing the Law.

Yes, Jesus, but not just Jesus. Jesus PLUS.

Plus circumcision, plus kosher diet, plus feast days, plus law-keeping, plus law-doing.

Nothing wrong with those things in and of themselves, but they are not the gospel.

They are not what a Christian should put their hope in.

They are not something to rely upon for justification, for being declared righteous.

They are not a part of our salvation.

Paul insisted in verses 15 and 16 that “by observing the law no one will be justified.”

So, he’s got to the heart of his message in this letter. The next two whole chapters will be driving this point home. What the gospel of grace really is and why it's better than the false alternatives that are being held out to the Galatians.

And he’s going to be urging them to return to the gospel of grace and reject the gospel of grace plus works of the Law.

That’s what he’s been up to and that’s what he’s still up to.

In chapters 1 and 2, his approach was biographical. He told parts of his story and how they related to the issue at hand.

Chapters 3 and 4 are much more theological than biographical. He goes back in Scripture to make and prove his points.

But he starts out very personal.

Not about his experience, but about their experience. The experience of the Galatians themselves.

I can’t get over the tone of Paul in the first 5 verses. Can you?

I can’t imagine ever talking that way to a congregation.

I should. I should imagine it. This is God’s Word. This was exactly the right thing for Paul to say to these people.

And we need to hear it today.

But I shy away from confrontation whenever I can.

I might not sound like it when I’m up here preaching away, but I can be very fearful around others, even when they are clearly in the wrong.

Even when the gospel is at stake.

But Paul will have none of it. Paul is bold. Paul is rip-roaring angry.

Remember how astonished he was in chapter 1?

Well, it’s not over. He’s feeling it now. Righteous indignation. And total concern for these people and for the gospel of grace.

“You foolish Galatians!”

There’s an “Oh” there untranslated in the NIV.

“Oh, you foolish Galatians!”

He’s so furious with them.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a talking-to like this one?

When I was a teenager, some of my friends and I were out one night and we decided to play hide and go seek in a cemetery.

Now, that’s a bad idea.

It’s disrespectful, it’s dangerous–jumping over gravestones and stuff like that.

And it was probably illegal, too. We jumped a fence to do it.

And we got caught.

I don’t remember by whom, I just remember that a car drove up with some adults in it, and they stopped our game and sent us home.

And when I got home, I preparing what to say to my parents.

Ever think through one of those?

And I got their and parents had this look on their faces.

They had already heard. The other adults had called them while we drove home.

I don’t remember what they said to me. I just remember how I felt.

And I know how I would talk to my teens if they came home in the same situation.

It might sound a lot like Paul did in Galatians 3.

“Oh, you foolish Galatians!”

Now, Paul does not fly off the handle. Paul is in control of himself. And the Spirit is, too.

And Paul isn’t just venting to feel better because he’s expressed his exasperation.

Paul has a purpose for these words. He wants to persuade the Galatians.

He wants them to feel the fiery red hotness of his words, but be persuaded by them to return to and to stick to the gospel of grace that he had presented to them.

He’s pulling out these rebuking words and dressing them down, not to humiliate them not to just call them on the carpet, but to awaken them from their dangerous slumber and get some gospel sense into them.

“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?”

What are you thinking? Are you under some kind of a spell? What evil influence are you listening to?

How could you think that this teaching was an improvement on what I taught you? V.1

“Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.”

Paul is saying that he had one message when he was with them and that was Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.

He said it again and again. He presented, not Jesus and the Law, but Jesus and His Cross.

“Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.”

And that was enough! Wasn’t it? V.2

“I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?”

You know he’s like a parent there, right?

“I’ve got just one question for you, buster. And there’s no way you should get it wrong.”

“Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?”

What’s the answer to that one?

How did these get the Spirit?  How does anyone get the Spirit?

By circumcision? By dietary laws? By being a good Jew? By being a good person?

Does anyone get the Spirit of God?

By putting your faith in the good news of Jesus.

By faith alone in grace alone in Christ alone.

“By believing what you heard.” The gospel. V.3

“Are you so foolish? [So silly, so sluggish, so wrong?] After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? [Literally, by the flesh.]”

Is that what you’re going to do?  Is that how this works?

You know better than this. V.4

“Have you suffered so much for nothing–if it really was for nothing?”

Everything you’ve experienced as believers in Jesus, everything good you’ve received like the Spirit of God–that comes from faith.

But what about bad things you’ve endured because you’ve trusted Jesus. You used to think it was all worth it.

I believe it’s all worth it! But now you’re throwing it away.

“O you foolish Galatians!”

v.5 “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”

Which one is it?

You see how he wants to wake them up and see what dangerous ground they are on?

There’s two options on the table:

Observing the law or believing the gospel of grace.

Trusting in the your own work or trusting only in the work of Christ.

Those are the options.

Paul has presented one (that they started with), but they are now in danger of believing the other and rendering everything he’s said as null and void.

So, now Paul begins to contrast these two approaches to justification and to tease out some of their implications.

And he starts with one of his favorite Bible characters, Father Abraham. V.6

“Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’”

“The story of Abraham is on my side,” Paul says.

Remember when he did this in Romans 4? How he played the Abraham card?

I’m sure that the Judaizers (that’s the name we often give to the false teachers here) loved to talk about Abraham.

He was the model of obedience. Remember, how left Ur of the Chaldees and how he was willing to sacrifice Isaac at the command of God?

But Paul says, “What does the Old Testament say?”

Before he was noted for his obedience, Abraham was noted for what?

For his faith!

In fact v.6 is quoting Genesis 15:6 and that happened before Isaac and before circumcision and before the Law!

Abraham “believed God, and it was credited [reckoned] to him as righteousness.”

That’s the book of Genesis.

Justification (righteousification) is by faith and not be works of the Law.

And it always has been, even back in Abraham’s day! V.7

“Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.”

Not through biology.
Not through circumcision.

But through faith.

Really?  Is that in there in Genesis? Paul says, “Yes!” Verse 8.

“The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles [like the Galatians, like us here at Lanse Free] by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ [Genesis 12:3, Genesis 18:18, Genesis 22:18] So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”

There’s so much there!

And it raises all kinds of questions, of course.

But the point Paul is making is clear.

The blessings of justification come (not by works of the Law) but by faith, trusting in the promises of the gospel. Just like Abraham did.

Now, of course, we know more about the promises of the gospel than Abraham ever did. But the gospel was announced in advance in seed form in the Abrahamic covenant, “All nations will be blessed through you.”

Through having the same faith as you do.

Faith eventually placed in your greatest descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ.

So much blessing!

If we put our faith in Jesus, we get blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Isn’t that amazing?

Of course, the opposite is also true.

If you follow the alternative gospel, you will not get blessing but cursing. V.10

“All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ [Deuteronomy 27:26. Scary words.] Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ [Habbakuk 2:4. You see how he’s dipping back into the Old Testament to make his points? He loves Habbakuk 2:4. He used it in Romans, as well. “The righteous will live by faith, not by doing but by trusting. V.12] The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, ‘The man who does these things will live by them.’

Sure. If you keep the law perfectly then you will have eternal life.

Only one problem: Nobody but Jesus ever kept the law perfectly.

And now in the New Covenant, the Law has been fulfilled and doesn’t even sit in the same place it did. We’ll see that next time.

‘The man who does these things [the Law] will live by them.’

But nobody does.

So we’re under a curse.

Verse 13. But “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written [Deuteronomy 21:23]: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’”

He did that for us!

Jesus became accursed for us.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

There is power in the blood.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’”

Why did He do that?

“He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles [in Galatia, in Central Pennsylvania] through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”

You see that Spirit there? He’s big in this book.

We get Him by faith.

Just like we get every one of God’s blessings in Christ.

By faith.

And not by doing the Law.

That’s what Paul is trying to drive home.

It’s foolish to think that you’ll get all of these blessings by adding circumcision or by adding obedience to the 10 Commandments.

If you rely on observing the law, you are under a curse.

Cursed God.

But you don’t have to be!

Rely on Christ. And Christ alone.

Because “He redeemed us.” That means He bought us back to set us free.

That’s what it means to be redeemed. Bought back to be set free.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us...”

And we get into that by faith.

Let me give you four quick points of application from this passage.

Paul’s not done with his argument, but we’ll pick it here next time.

Let me suggest four implications and applications from these fourteen verses.

#1. START BY FAITH IN CHRIST.

If you have you not yet, then I urge you today, to put your faith in Jesus Christ.

You see what it’s worth!

You see what Jesus did.

You see what blessings come for those who trust in Jesus and Jesus alone for justification.

Jesus became a curse to bring His people blessing.

Joint His people today by faith.

I’ll bet you can guess what point #2 is. It’s what Paul is trying to get them to do.

#2. STAY BY FAITH IN CHRIST.

Don’t move from the gospel.

Don’t try to add anything to grace.

Don’t allow yourself to be betwitched.

Don’t get taken in by another gospel.

So many people think they can move on past the gospel of grace.

They turn to something else, often while still thinking of themselves as Christians!

Stay awake to the gospel of grace. And don’t deviate from it.

Any other way is cursed!

#3. SHARE YOUR FAITH IN CHRIST.

Don’t keep it a secret.

Be like Paul in verse 1 and clearly portray Jesus Christ as crucified.

That’s what our church is all about.

We exist to glorify God by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Tell other people about Him.

Have you done that recently?

What He went through for us?!

He became a curse for us.

And we can’t bring ourselves to tell other people about Him?

Oh foolish Pennsylvanians!

#4. STAND UP FOR FAITH IN CHRIST.

Don’t be afraid to confront false gospels when you have to.

I chickened out this week.

I was in a social setting where the gospel was probably at stake, and I didn’t compromise, but I also didn’t speak up.

I couldn’t figure out what to say.

I just sat there with my head down and my brow furrowed.

I normally had a lot of words, but I didn’t right then.

In this particular situation, I should have said something like, “My conscience won’t allow me to go along with this because of the gospel.”

But I just shook my head, “No,” at one point when asked a question and waited for the moment to pass.

And then I had to preach this passage.

Oh foolish Pastor Matt!

You can do better than that.

When Martin Luther was called before the gathering of church leaders at Wurms, he was asked to recant (to repent of) his gospel of grace.

He was given time to consider his response.

And he was shaking in his boots.

Sometimes Luther was bold, but this was a big deal.

He probably could have lost everything, including his life.

All he had to do was say he was wrong.

But Luther believed that he had correctly understood what Paul had taught the Galatians.

So he basically said, “Here I stand on the gospel. That’s all I can do.”

I want to be more like that.

And I want to be more like Paul who cared enough about these churches to light into them when they threatened to careen off the cliff.

“Don’t go there! Don’t leave the gospel of grace! Don’t be a fool!

Every other gospel leads to cursing.

But faith in Jesus leads to blessing. The blessings given to Abraham. The blessings of justification. And the blessing of having the Holy Spirit of God.

Let’s stand up for that.

Let’s sing about it, too. Let's sing "At Calvary.”

Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
(Not by works of the law!)
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty
At Calvary.

Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span
At Calvary!


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Messages in this Series: