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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!


***

Messages in this Series:

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Timothy George on "Hot Orthodoxy"

"One of the most dangerous dichotomies in the Christian life is for the spiritual to be divorced from the doctrinal, experience from theology." - Timothy George on Galatians 3:1

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sunday, July 16, 2017

LEFC Geocache Letter

Today at our Family Bible Week Finale, the skit was about a geocaching family who discovered a cache hidden on our campus. Inside the container was a letter from me which they read as part of the drama.

And then during the Finale Picnic, we had a presentation on geocaching by a real-life couple who do geocaching as a hobby. They told us about their experiences and then led groups of students around our campus finding small items they had temporarily hidden for them to find using a GPS.

And then we hid a bona-fide long-term geocache on our campus for hobbiests to find. And we put a copy of the letter in it. It will be neat to hear if people find it. I'll be praying for folks who are on the hunt.

Here's what the letter says:

Dear Explorer,

Congratulations! You found our stashed cache at Lanse Evangelical Free Church!

I hope it was a fun challenge for you to find it. We’re glad you’re here on our campus.

Did you know that God is also Someone who hunts for hidden items? Sometime when you have a chance, read the Gospel of Luke chapter 15 where Jesus tells 3 stories about desperate searches. Each search (for a lost sheep, a lost coin, and two lost sons) reveals to us a picture of the heart of God.

God is on the hunt for people like you and me who have lost their way in life (the Bible calls that “sin,” read Romans 3:23, 5:8, & 6:23 to learn more).

And when those lost people get found, there is a big party. Jesus says about one of those celebrations, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).

Here’s how we get found: We find Jesus Christ as our biggest treasure in life.

Jesus is God’s own Son who lived a perfect life, died on a cross to pay for our sin, and then came back to life to give us life (read John 3:16 to find out more). A Person like that deserves all of our trust and worship! 

Have you trusted Jesus as your King and Rescuer? He invites you to seek Him today. 

That’s what our church is all about–helping people to find Jesus Christ as their greatest treasure. We’d love it if we could help you move one step closer to Him.

The coordinates are in the Bible. Navigate to Romans 10:9-10!

In His Grip,

Pastor Matt Mitchell

[Matt's Messages] "Hidden Treasure - Family Bible Week 2017"

“Hidden Treasure”
Family Bible Week 2017
Matthew 13:44 :: July 16, 2017

As you can tell, we’ve had a great Family Bible Week. Lots of good food, good fun, good fellowship, and a really good time the Word of God.

Every single one of our classes, including the teens and adults, have spent the week studying some of the greatest short stories ever told in human history.

The Parables of Jesus Christ.

The kids back there are studying their fifth and last parable right now.

Jesus’ parables are earthly stories with a heavenly meaning, that is to say Jesus told these stories to illustrate spiritual truth.

They aren’t just nice stories, but stories with punch.

I call the parables “short stories with a shove.”

Imagine being in the audience when Jesus told His parables. There you are just listening to Jesus tell an engaging story, and then all of sudden, you realize that the story is about you!

Jesus was the greatest storyteller in history, but he didn’t just entertain with his stories–he grabbed his listeners and turned them upside down...with his stories!

When was the last time you heard a great story that pushed you in a new direction?

Well, in our verse for today, Matthew 13:44, Jesus tells a very short story.

A very short story! In the Greek, it’s just one sentence. In most of our English versions it’s just 2 sentences.

And it’s a short story about “Hidden Treasure.”

In fact, I believe it’s the earliest known story about geo-caching.

Or maybe not. But it is about hidden treasure.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

Now, this may be a very short story, but Jesus packs an awful lot in there.

“The kingdom of heaven.”

Our adult class learned this week that the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God (same thing) was Jesus’ favorite topic to teach on.

Whenever He got a chance to teach, Jesus was always teaching on the Kingdom of God–the righteous rule of the rightful King over His redeemed people and His restored realm. The Kingdom of Heaven.

If you were in our adult class this week, shout out the answer to these questions:

Has the kingdom come already?

Yes and no, right?

The kingdom has come because the King has come. Jesus Himself.

And yet, the kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. This is not as good as it gets.

But Jesus taught that the Kingdom will come when the King returns. And we’re supposed to be ready for it.

Next question. Is the kingdom big or small?

It starts out small (mustard seed, anyone?), but it will one day cover the world!

Next question. Is the kingdom somber or joyful?

The kingdom is a party!

It’s joyful to the ultimate degree. We saw in the parables this week incredible joy when someone found the kingdom. When someone was found in the kingdom. The kingdom is a party!

Question. Who is welcome in the kingdom? Who are the citizens of the kingdom?

Surprising Answer: Sinners who repent. The citizens of the kingdom are those who have been rebels against the King but lay down their arms and accept His gift of amnesty, His gift of forgiveness.

Not people who think they are worthy of the kingdom, but those who know they are not.

That’s who’s welcome!

The kingdom is so surprising. No wonder Jesus loved to talk about it.

This whole chapter, Matthew 13, the context of our parable for today, is chock-full of parables about the kingdom, some of which we looked at this week in their parallels in Luke. Verse 34 says that “Jesus spoke all these things [about the kingdom] to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them [during that time] without using a parable.”

Just like the Old Testament had predicted (v.35), “So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet [in Psalm 78]: ‘I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.’”

That’s where we got our theme for Family Bible Week this year.

Jesus is unearthing spiritual truth after spiritual truth about the Kingdom of God.

And we get to listen and learn!

Now, let’s look specifically at the story of the kingdom that Jesus tells in verse 44.

“The kingdom of heaven is like [there’s a correspondence between the kingdom and...] treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

Do you get the picture?

A treasure is hidden in a field.
A man finds it in the field.
The man (like a good geo-cacher) hides it again in the field.
The man sells his stuff and buys the field.
End of story.

Now, isn’t that an incredible short story? There is so much in there.

It’s got buried treasure in it.
It’s a got a very surprised and very happy man.
It’s got a twist at the end.

What more could you want?

What does it mean?

What is Jesus teaching?

So, let’s ask our adult class what is the first thing that we should look for to interpret this parable?

We need to ask, “What is what?”

Right?

What things in the story correspond to what things outside the story in real life?

And we learned this week that not every detail in a story directly relates to something outside the story in real life.

It’s easy to go wrong if you try to get too many details to match up.

That’s now how these stories of Jesus work.

So, what is what?

Well, we know that the kingdom is like treasure hidden in a field.

Now, sometimes that opening sentence can be misleading. Like in the next verse, it  says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.”

That does mean that the pearl-seeking merchant himself is the kingdom of heaven.

The phrase is basically saying that the “reality of the kingdom” is like this story I’m now about to tell you about.

But in the case of verse 44, I think it’s actually a direct correspondence.

The kingdom itself is like the treasure.

Hidden, yes. And valuable. So incredibly valuable.

The hiddenness of the kingdom is present throughout this chapter. Our adult class learned a lot about context this week, and the hidden nature of the kingdom is a theme throughout the context of this chapter. It can be easily missed.

And then the emphasis here in verse 44 is on how valuable that hidden treasure really is.

How about the field?

What do think the field is in this story?

Earlier in the chapter, there is another field in another parable.

And when Jesus 3 explains that parable, he says (v .38), “The field is the world.”

So do you think the field here in verse 44 is the world?

Class?

No. We learned this week that the correspondences in one parable do not automatically port to another parable.

No, I think the field in this story is just a field in this story.

But what about the man?

Who is the man in the story in a real life? What is his external referent?

I’m not sure that he really has one.

In a story so short, I don’t know that the man has to have a corresponding reality.

Some people have thought that the man is Jesus Christ Himself.

And that is a remote possibility.

In that case, the parable is teaching the truth that “for the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the Cross.” Jesus gave His all, His precious blood to purchase the Kingdom to give it to us.

And that is certainly true. He sure did.

But I don’t think that’s what this parable is talking about.

I think that’s looking for too much correspondence.

I think the point of the parable is simply that kingdom is supremely valuable.

The Kingdom of God is worth everything.

Absolutely everything.

Because that’s the kicker, isn’t it?

I mean there isn’t much time in this story for there to be a twist, but what a surprise ending?!  Verse 44 again.

“When a man found [the treasure], he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

All he had?!

That’s a twist, isn’t it?

What all do you have?

Do you own a car or two, a house?
Do you have a bank account?
Do you own some land?
Do you have something in your wallet?
Do you have something in storage?
Do you have some things in your closet?

Now, imagine liquidating all of that.

You go to the bank, and you withdraw all of your money.

You sell your house, your vehicles, you cash in your retirement plan.

You put every single thing you have into one cashier's check, and you go to the realtor’s office, and you put it down on that one field.

You slide all of the chips you have across the table for that one field.

Because it has that one treasure that’s worth it all!

Do you see the joy there?

The kingdom is a party.

This guy is so overjoyed to get this treasure for himself.

He has hit the jackpot.

He has won the lottery without even playing it!

Now, in the next story in the next verse, there is another man. This guy was actually searching, but he finds something similar. V.45

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

Same lesson.

The kingdom of heaven is worth absolutely everything.

It’s worth jumping at the chance to get no matter what it costs.

Now, I think we could also go wrong in thinking that we can somehow buy the kingdom.

If we give enough money.

If we just give away all of our money, we can buy the kingdom.

But I don’t think we’re the man in the story either.

I don’t think Jesus is the man.
I don’t think the disciples are the man.
I don’t think we are the man.

This parable is not teaching us HOW to find the kingdom.

It’s teaching us that the kingdom is supremely valuable.

The kingdom is worth everything. Absolutely everything.

And one other way we can go wrong is by getting stuck on the ethics of the man in the story.

Anybody feel that question as we read it?

I mean was this ethical for him to do that?

I understand that he didn’t lift the treasure. He didn’t steal it. He didn’t find it and run home with it.

He just put it back where he found it and then bought the whole the field so that it was unquestionably his.

What he did was probably legal.

But I wouldn’t want somebody to do that to me!

What do you think, class?

I think it’s not the point.

Jesus isn’t teaching ethics here. He does elsewhere.

The other night, we studied the parable of the Shrewd and Dishonest[!] Manager. He was not commended for being dishonest, just for looking ahead and exhibiting shrewdness.

Jesus is not necessarily commending this course of action.

He’s just showing how much this treasure was worth to this man.

The kingdom is worth whatever it takes!

The merchant, he had found the be-all-and-end all of pearls.

And he was willing to part with every other thing he had of value to gain that pearl.

That’s it! That’s what this story is teaching.

The kingdom of heaven is supremely valuable.

It’s worth risking anything and everything to possess!

So here’s the shove:

Is the kingdom this valuable to you and me?

And you know what makes the kingdom so valuable?

It’s the King, of course.

It’s the Kingdom of Christ!

So here’s the shove again:

Is the King and His Kingdom this valuable to you and me?

No, we don’t buy it. We never could.

We couldn’t rub together enough money to earn this kingdom.

That’s what we’re learning in Galatians, isn’t it?

We get into the kingdom by grace through faith.

Faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul got it. He said Philippians 3, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”

Paul gave up everything He had to gain Christ.

Because everything He had was nothing.

Christ Jesus is the only thing worth everything!

Is the King and His Kingdom worth everything to you?

Let me ask it this way:

If the King and His Kingdom was this valuable to you, what would change?

What would change in your priorities?

What would change in how you spend your time?

What would change in how you spend your money?

What would change in how you worship?

What would change in you work?

What would change in your relationship?

If the kingdom is worth everything to you and me, what needs to change to reflect that?

Where is your treasure?

What is your treasure?

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

What needs to change in your life to reflect the fact that you have found the be-all-and-end-all? The pearl of greatest price.

The treasure that relativizes all treasures.

Is there a sin that needs confessed and repented of?

Is there a relationship that needs to change?

Is there some forgiveness that needs to be granted?

Is there a shifting of your time or money or some other thing you need to move?

If Jesus and His Kingdom is worth everything, absolutely everything, then what needs to change in your life and mine?

I believe that’s the question that Jesus’ story is pushing us to answer in each of our lives today.

Can I ask you to do something as we close?

Would you write down what you think needs to change?

And would you pray to God that you will make strides by faith to change in that area this week.

I think it would be very sad if we all said, “No, I’m good. I’ve heard that story before. It’s interesting. But I’m not listening. I’m not changing. My life already reflects the appropriate amount of value that I give to the kingdom.”

That would be so sad.

But he who has ears to hear, let him hear.

And let him respond appropriately.

Because “[t]he kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sunday, July 09, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "I Live By Faith in the Son of God"

“I Live By Faith in the Son of God”
Galatians: The Truth of the Gospel
July 9, 2017 :: Galatians 2:15-21

Our sermon series is called “The Truth of the Gospel” because that was what was at stake in Galatia.

The Apostle Paul has written what we called a Tornado Warning Letter. He has broken the glass and sounded the alarm because these churches were on the brink of abandoning the truth of the gospel of grace.

False teachers had snuck into the churches that Paul had planted on his missionary journeys and sowed false teaching, a false gospel, another gospel which really is no gospel at all. 

And they’ve discredited Paul as a faulty apostle, preaching a derivative and defective gospel. Derivative of Jerusalem’s apostles and defective because it doesn’t say enough about the Law of Moses.

And Paul was shocked to find out that these churches had been entertaining the ideas of these false teachers, so he picks up his pen and writes them the Epistle to the Galatians.

Paul uses some of the strongest language of all of his letters for this letter because he was concerned that these churches he cared so much about might flounder and sink into heresy and ruin.

So for last two chapters, he’s been setting the record straight on where he got his gospel.

Where did he get his gospel? Peter, James, John?

No, directly from Jesus Christ.

Paul wasn’t looking for the gospel, but Jesus came looking for him!

But even though he didn’t get his gospel from the apostles based in Jerusalem, he had the exact same gospel as the apostles based in Jerusalem.

They met once and agreed on everything central to the gospel!

Peter, James, John, and Paul all had the exact same gospel.

Which made it kind of awkward when the apostle Peter came up to Antioch and acted inconsistently with the truth of the gospel.

That’s what we looked at last week.

Peter came up to Antioch and, at first, lived up to his theological convictions of what he could eat as a Christian and who he could eat with as fellow Christians, equal in the gospel.

And then...certain men from James came up and Peter all of sudden chickened out.

He stopped eating with the Gentile Christians which sent the message that only those who were Jews were truly acceptable Christians.

Peter didn’t say that in so many words, but that’s the message that was being conveyed.

So Paul opposed him to his face. He called Peter out in public. Remember this?

He said that Peter was not acting in line with the truth of the gospel. He was a hypocrite. V.14

“You are a Jew, [Pete!] yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. [And that’s okay because of your freedom in Christ. But...] How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” To become Jews, in essence?

“That’s not right!”

Now, he wasn’t saying that Peter was teaching a false gospel, but that you could get the wrong idea of what the truth of the gospel was by how Peter was acting.

Peter’s life was sending the message that you had to take on the Law of Moses to be a good Christian.

Is that how it works?

Last week, we read through verses 15 and 16 but we had run out of time to really dive into them. So it’s fitting that we start with them today.

This section is really the heart of the letter. Paul has finally got to what he really wants to say to the Galatians.

He’s finishing up the history that brings him to this point and is transitioning into the theology that desperately wants the Galatians to get.

I’m not sure where the report of what he said to Peter ends and where his further reflections begin, but it doesn’t really matter. By chapter 3, he’s speaking directly to the Galatians and addressing their folly.

But here he’s making his central point and waxing eloquent on what it means to be united to Jesus Christ.

For the last 25 years, Galatians 2:20 has been one of my favorite Bible verses, and I’m excited that it is our new Hide the Word verse to learn together.

Let’s say it together.

“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.”

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Here’s one of those places where the Bible tell us how Jesus loves us.

He “loved me and gave himself for me.”

I love Galatians 2:20.

When I was a student at Moody Bible Institute, we had to memorize this verse for a class, and it just jumped off the pages at me.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

There is a mysterious connection between Jesus and me.

He has identified with me, and I have identified with Him.

Enough that there is something about me that no longer lives.

And Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, lives in me.

There is still a sense in which I do live, but it’s by faith.

“The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God...”

That’s our title for today.

What a precious truth!

But Galatians 2:20 doesn’t exist out there on it’s own.

It was written in a certain particular contexts in a certain particular letter of Paul to the churches in Galatia.

Paul says what he says in Galatians 2:20 a part a bigger point he is making, a more complex argument.

And it is very...complex.

I admit that the logic of a few of these verses (especially verses 17, 18, and 19, the logic of them) escapes me.

I’ve read and read the commentaries, and I have a vague idea, but I’m not sure I can adequately explain them.

It helped me that D.A. Carson, one of the leading evangelical Bible scholars of our day and one of my former professors at Trinity says that these are a “bit hard to understand.” I feel like I’m in good company there.

And Douglas Moo, another one of my old professors from Trinity, and an amazing Bible teacher himself, has end-notes that have footnotes on these verses in his commentary! Notes on the notes!

So there is some complexity here and some ambiguity on the details.

But at the exact same time, the main points are simple and obvious.

And precious.

I’ve got two points of application for you today and they are very personal for Paul and for us.

Point #1. I am justified by faith in Jesus Christ.

Point #2. I am living by faith in Jesus Christ.

If you’ve got that, you’ve got it all.

Let me try to show you what I see here.

#1. I AM JUSTIFIED BY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST.

Do you remember what it means to be justified?

It means to be declared in the right. To be counted as righteous.

To be recognized as right with God, possessing a right standing with God.

How does that work?

How does one be justified before God?

Paul had a lot to say about this in the book of Romans which we studied together in 2014, 2015, and the first part of 2016.

The Greek word is “dikaioo.”  “To be justified” or “made just” or “righteousified.”

How does one become justified before God?

Well one way is to be perfectly righteous every second of your life.

Like Jesus Christ.

When God the Father looked at Jesus Christ, His Son, He could easily say, “That Person there is justified! That Person there is just. He is righteous. I can declare it!”

“He is my beloved Son with Whom I am well pleased.”

But unfortunately, there is no one else, by nature, in that category.

Is there anyone here who has been perfectly righteous every second of your life?

If so, I want to shake your hand.

So if I can’t be justified by possessing a perfect righteousness on my own, how can I ever be?

That was the question that plagued Martin Luther, a Bible teaching monk in the 16th century.

He knew that God was perfectly righteous, and he knew that he himself was not, and he feared the righteousness of God.

And rightly so.

Because without being justified there will be no salvation, no eternal life, no enjoying the kingdom of God when it comes in its fullness.

There will only be what we learned about in Sunday School this morning, the judgment of God. The justice of God. The full payment due for un-righteousness.

You see why this letter is so important?

You see the stakes? You see why Paul uses such strong language?

Eternal life is on the line.

How does a sinner become justified?

Paul reminds Peter in verse 15 that they know the answer to that question.

It’s the gospel of grace. It’s the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we know that they both believe that. V.15

“We who are Jews by birth [Peter and Paul] and not 'Gentile sinners' [our little pet name for those who didn’t have the privilege of being born a Jew, WE] know that a man is not justified by observing the law [or literally, “by works of the law], but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

Did Paul just repeat himself?

I believe so.

I think he said the same thing three times in a row!

This is that important!

Paul is contrasting two different approaches to justification.

One is right and one is wrong.

Which one is wrong?

Last phrase, “by observing the law [by works of the law] no one will be justified.”

What law is he talking about there?

Well, the obvious one is the Law of Moses.

The Law God gave to Moses back in the Old Testament.

So the 10 commandments and the sacrificial system and the dietary restrictions and the purification laws and the civil justice code and the feasts and all of that.

Signified for the newborn males by receiving the sign of circumcision in the flesh.

“You, my son, are now under this Law.”

Now, was the Law a bad thing?

No, it was a wonderful gift to the people of Israel.

But...doing the Law, obeying the Law, observing the Law was never intended to be the basis of anyone’s justification. V.16

“...by observing the law no one will be justified.”

That’s not how it works.

How does it work?

Paul says that he and Peter (v.16) “have put [their] faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ...”

That’s it?
Just faith? Just trust?
Just putting your faith in Jesus Christ?
That’s it?
That’s all?
Nothing else?
Just putting yourself in His hands?
Trusting in Who Jesus is and what Jesus has done?
That’s all?
And then I’m declared righteous before God?
I’m declared righteous BY God?!

Just by faith in Christ and Christ alone?

Yes, exactly.

And that’s what Martin Luther rediscovered in the book of Galatians and the book of Romans back in the 16th century. And it turned the world upside down.

Here’s what we know: I am justified by faith in Jesus Christ.

Are you sure?

Don’t you think we have to add some works of the Law in there?

Don’t I do something? Don’t I add some good works? Don’t I clean up my act? Don’t I become a good person first?

Pastor Jonathan Edwards once said, No, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.”

Because Paul said, “...by observing the law no one will be justified.”

Well, that’s not what everybody thought. Paul’s enemies had an answer for that an accusation. They, apparently, said that this gospel of sheer grace makes Jesus a promoter of sin. Look at verse 17.

“If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!”

Now, I’m not sure that I understand Paul’s logic here.

There are multiple ways of construing it.

My best guess for today is that he’s saying that if you trust Christ for justification and then you still end up sinning (which you still will!) then whose fault is that?

The circumcision folks say that it’s all that grace that’s being thrown around.

If you tell people that all you have to do is believe in Jesus, then they are going to sin, and sin and sin all the more so that grace may abound.

“Hey, come over here, there’s free sin!”

“Jesus is giving away grace, so He’s okay with us sinning!”

Does that sound familiar? Like something we read about in Romans 6?

What was Paul’s answer for that back then? In Greek, “May Genoita.”

“Absolutely now! No way, no how. That’s not how it works.”

People who have genuinely come to believe in Jesus Christ do not go crazy with sinning!

How about you?  Do you want sin a lot more now that you have trusted Christ?

Yes, I know you want to sin sometimes.

But do want to sin more because Jesus has been gracious to you?

I don’t think so. And Paul says, even more, in verse 18.

“If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker.”

I’m not totally sure what that means either. But I think he’s saying that if put the Law back in the place where these people wanted it to be (something we trust in), then it would only provide more judgment, more condemnation. The law only kills. It doesn’t bring salvation. V.19

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.”

And I really don’t know what that one means!

I think he’s saying that the law kills, and it killed Jesus. Because He took on the curse of the Law (we’ll read more about that in chapter 3), and when He died fulfilling the Law, you and I died to the Law.

We are no longer under the Mosaic Law.

And, paradoxically, now we can live for God!

So, the opposite is true. I am not justified by observing the Law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.

Do you see that? I’m sorry I can’t explain it better.

It’s following that statement that “through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God” that Paul gives us Galatians 2:20.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

What a powerful way of saying it.

When Jesus died, somehow, we died with Him.

Now, not physically, of course. We did not take the nails that we deserved! He did.

But somehow in spiritual reality, we were co-crucified with Jesus.

And we are still in that state. The Greek tense here is the perfect tense.

So you could accurately say, “I am in the state of having been crucified with Christ.”

And I no longer live.

The old me.

The old “I”.

The “I” that is a sinner who loves sin.
The “I” that was trying to justify myself.
The “I” that was an enemy of God and destined for Hell.

That “I” no longer lives.

Not really.

Not in the most meaningful sense.

That “I” still has a zombie life, of course. We’ll learn more about the flesh and indwelling sin when we get towards of the end of Galatians.

But the old me has been rendered virtually powerless by my co-crucifixion with Jesus.

And now “Christ lives in me.” I have resurrection life. I have the personal presence of the Son of God through the Spirit of God.

I was not just joined to Him in His death, but I am joined to Him in His new life!

So, I still live. The new “I,” the new me.

“I live by faith in the Son of God.”

#2. I AM LIVING BY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST.

This is the living dynamic at work in life.

I am trusting in Jesus Christ and He is my life.

I am trusting Him daily.

I am trusting Him moment by moment.

I have a life-changing relationship with Him.

I don’t live by faith in my own good deeds.

I live by faith day to day, by faith in the Son of God.

Everything has changed.

Living by faith is not just nodding your head that some facts are true.

It is placing yourself in the hands of Jesus and trusting your whole life and your whole eternal future to Him.

It is trusting that you have been united to Christ and share in everything that He has.

You know what that means?

It means when God the Father looks at you, He sees the righteousness of His Own Son.

I think that’s part of why Paul calls Jesus, “the Son of God” here.

Because you and I are, by faith, united to God’s beloved Son.

And He can easily say, “That person there is righteous. They are in my Son.

They were crucified with Him. And He lives in them now!”

I don’t think that you and I disappear as persons in Galatians 2:20. We are still ourselves. It’s not saying that the person of Matt Mitchell got crucified and now I’m some kind of a puppet.

I’m more “myself” than I have ever been.

Because I am now united to Jesus Christ.

And now I am living by faith in Jesus Christ.

“...who loved me and gave himself for me.”

I love that Paul uses the personal pronouns here.

Jesus didn’t just love everyone.

Jesus didn’t just love His chosen people.

Jesus loved even me.

He “loved me and gave himself for me.”

And that gift of Himself was not in vain. V.21

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

Do you see his logic?

Paul is not going to budge on this gospel of grace.

He will not nullify the grace of God.

He will not change his tune on what gospel he preaches.

He will not give in for a moment to the idea that we are justified by works of the law.

Because if he did, then he would be saying that Jesus never had to die.

Right?

I mean if I could get myself justified by simply obeying the Mosaic Law, then why did Jesus have to die? He didn’t.

I could have just done it on my own!

How insulting that is to Jesus!

“Why did you bother to give yourself for us on the Cross, Jesus?”

“Thanks but no thanks. I’ll do it my way.”

Paul says, “May it never be.”

“He loved me and gave Himself for me.”

I will not set aside the grace of God.

Does that make sense?

The application is obvious, I hope.

Put your faith in Jesus Christ.

And Jesus Christ alone.

I know that all of this is familiar to you.

At least, I hope it’s familiar to you! This is the gospel that we are trying to preach here at Lanse Free Church.

This is the message that we are going to give each day to the children, youth, and adults that come to Family Bible Week.

So, I hope it’s familiar.

But it’s not obvious.

Most people think that the gospel is about being a good person.

Go down to the Pumpkin House or Key Largo and do a survey. Ask them what it takes to be justified before God.

And so many will say, “Be a good person. Keep the 10 Commandments. Do more good than bad. Go to church. Give your money. Do good things.”

Those are all good things to do.

But “by observing the law no one will be justified.”

You’ve got trust in Jesus Christ.

You’ve got to trust in what He did on the Cross when He loved you and gave Himself for you.

Be justified by placing your faith in Jesus Christ.

And then live that faith every single day.

Because when you believe in Jesus, everything changes.

Your relationship with sin.
Your relationship with the Law.
Your relationship with God. You can now live for God!

Because you have been crucified with Christ and no longer live, but Christ lives in you.

The life you now live in the body, LIVE BY FAITH in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you.


***

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

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Friday, July 07, 2017

And the Winner Is....

.... Drumroll please! ...

I'm pleased to announce that Todd Dobo has won a signed copy of The Wild Man and Wild Mountain Tribe by Zeke Pipher!

Congratulations, Todd. I look forward to hearing how the Lord uses them in you and your boys' lives.

Thank you, everyone who participated!

If you want to buy your own set, visit the Wild Mountain to order your own copy of The Wild Man and/or Wild Mountain Tribe today!

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Thursday, July 06, 2017

Wild, Man

5 Things I Appreciate About the New Books on Manhood from Zeke Pipher

All this week, I’ve been promoting The Wild Man fable and Wild Mountain Tribe by Zeke Pipher [read our interview here]. In fact, I’m giving away a signed set tomorrow morning (enter by 11:59 tonight!). I’m pleased to do this because I applaud what Zeke is trying to do with these new resources for followers of Jesus Christ.

I haven’t had the time or mental bandwidth to write a full review, but here is a quick list of some of the things I appreciate the most about Zeke’s “wild” books:

1. In writing The Wild Man and Wild Mountain Tribe, Zeke is doing his part to raise up godly men.

It’s easy to bemoan the lack of godly men in this world. I could quickly dash off a paragraph about the pitfalls and failings of “failure-to-launch” males, no problem. But it’s much more difficult to see the problem and then do something constructive about it. Zeke has “manned-up” and done the harder thing, creating something valuable that can be used by others to raise up godly men. I love that he wrote the simple, creative story for his son Aiden in the first place as an exercise in faithful fathering. As the father of 3 growing boys, I am encouraged by Zeke’s example to do my own part.


2. Zeke’s books are a valiant attempt at capturing masculinity.

It’s also hard to get the message of manhood right. Not only does the world offer many false and twisted versions of masculinity, but even when you’re trying to be biblical, there are various extremes that are tempting to fall into. I’m glad that Zeke has taken up the challenge of leading the expedition through the minefield. I love that he calls it the “quest to capture masculinity.” We won’t get everything right, but we are aiming in the right direction. And we’re doing it together.

3. Zeke knows that masculinity is not one-size-fits all.

People who write about manhood often try to pigeonhole all men into one mold. But God didn’t make us that way. He’s much more creative than that! I get frustrated when I read books on biblical masculinity that miss out on the inventive and diverse variations of faithful godly masculinity that are possible. Not all men look or act the same. And a lot of what we think is “masculine” is actually just culturally condition preferences.

Zeke gets that. So while his main characters in the fable do some “traditionally” manly things like hunting, fishing, or sleeping outdoors, he is also careful to not stereotype, especially in the guidebook.

In fact, Zeke has a introductory word on masculinity in Wild Mountain Tribe that says it really well:
In The Wild Man fable, masculinity is represented by hair and physical strength. However, you do not need to have a beard or large biceps to be masculine. Many of the young men who read The Wild Man and Wild Mountain Tribe are several years away from being able to grow facial hair or bench press impressive weights. Likewise, many of the older men who read these books have lost the thick hair and physical abilities of their youth. Neither situation limits a man’s opportunity to be wild. Many authors and speakers have reduced the definition of masculinity down to haircuts, clothing styles, and physical accomplishments. This narrow, external-focused explanation of masculinity pushes many of our manliest men out of the category, and that is a sad loss. To be masculine is to carry the right vision, do the right things, and follow the right King. Being masculine does involve being strong, but strength takes many forms. For this reason, the fraternity of wild men is varied, abundant, and multi-sided. You will find that it has plenty of room for your style, abilities, and skill-set as a man.
4. Zeke’s vision of manhood is biblical, not cultural.

Another way of saying this is that the vision of manhood that Zeke is developing and promoting is biblical, not cultural. If it’s not about being a one-size-fits-all kind of man, what kind of man is Zeke trying to get us to be?

In a word: Christlike.

Look at the list of manly virtues that Wild Mountain tribes will discuss when they get together and you will find a very counter-cultural set of values, including grace, honesty, humility, self-control, responsibility, proactiveness, protectiveness, courage, faithfulness, wisdom, discipline, submissiveness. Oh, what the Lord could do with a generation of men like that!

5. Zeke’s vision is the raising up of a generation (or more!) of wild, but not savage, men.

To tell you the truth, I was not “wild” about the adjective Zeke used to sum up his project.

I told him so when I first read it back in March. For me, “wild” came with too much baggage from other books with similar themes (but different visions) and sounded too...I don’t know...“wild.”

But Zeke has won me over to using this language by doing three things:

First, Zeke reminds me that God Himself is not domesticated. In the words of C.S. Lewis about his stories’ Christ-figure, Aslan is not a “tame Lion.” He is not safe, but He’s good.

Second, Zeke paints a picture of what “wild” means in the context of his fable and the guidebook, and it’s really good. I want to be like Zeke’s Ancient Man and Wild Man. They may seem scary at first, but I actually want men like that around me and walking with me through life. If that’s “wild,” then sign me up!

And third, Zeke explains in the very first week of Wild Mountain Tribe the difference between being savage men “brutish, rude, and cruel” with being wild men “powerful, and even at times fierce, but they are always kind and self-controlled” (pgs. 17-18). That contrast was really helpful for understanding what Zeke was trying to convey.

So, I’m glad that Zeke worked in a few of my suggestions for improving these books–his humility is another mark of manliness!–but I’m also glad that he’s retained the adjective “wild.”

So that now I can tell guys who ask me what I thought of Zeke’s new book, I can honestly say, “It’s wild, man, truly wild.”