Be good by doing good! – Galatians 6:7-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 25, 2016

There are those in our world who actually think that by simply trying we can become good or that everyone is born good and only learn evil by the influence of others or society. This is insanity and has been proven wrong by thousands of years of human history. No matter how one meditates, concentrates, or venerates human wisdom, knowledge or achievement being good will never solve mankind’s inherent propensity towards evil.

However, the Bible teaches us that there is a way for mankind to be good by being good. Not in the way the world teaches but in the person of Jesus. No matter how good a person feels and no matter how good something sounds it is all infected by the inherent sin condition of creation. Our rebirth in Jesus solves this issue and our being good does not come from our trying but rather from a life lived for him alone. Paul relates how we are to be good by doing good; let’s discover how…

READ: Galatians 6:7-18

The notion of life’s reciprocity is addressed throughout the Bible. In fact, Paul teaches us that…

I. Goodness is to be a way of life for the believer! (Vv. 7-10)

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

1. Paul writes, “Do not be deceived” to the Galatians. They were not to fool themselves into thinking that they could thumb their noses at God and get away with it. Snubbing God has become a fulltime pastime in our day and age. Like Paul, I believe folks are just fooling themselves because “God cannot be mocked” in this way for very long – like instantly! The reason was obvious: “A [person] man reaps what he sows.” For Paul it was very simple “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” The Christian does this to mature spiritually. Paul may have been dealing with how believers were to financially support their pastors but it also applies to our entire lives. In doing so we “reap eternal life”. Our first seed we sow is to trust Jesus and then everything else we do in life contributes to that ongoing maturity. However, as we live good for Jesus we should “not grow weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up”! In our lives as believers we are to sow in order to please the Holy Spirit. Our reward may be long in coming but it is certain and sure. Paul would write the Corinthian church, “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. (1 Corinthians 3:12-14 NIV) “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Christians have a responsibility to do good to all people but especially to fellow believers! As live for Jesus we are to live good lives for him! Goodness is to be a way of life for the believer!

EXAMPLE: Much of the world has not come to Christ not because they do not know there is a Jesus, who is the Savior of the world but because they do not see Jesus in the lives of those who say they believe in him! Remember those “fruits” of the Spirit Christians are to display? How often do others see Jesus in us? It is a good question to ask ourselves. We are not to be good in order to earn brownie points from God as believers, we are good because the goodness of God lives in us! Therefore, goodness is to be a way of life for the believer!

I remember my Mom asking us that if so-and-so “jumped off a bridge would we jump to?” She knew that sometimes even those whom we think of as “friends” do things for ulterior motives. This is what was happening with the Galatians. Paul reminded them that…

II. A believer’s goodness comes from Jesus! (Vv. 11-14)

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

1. Just like when a parent asks their child, “Are you listening to me?” Paul writes the Galatians, “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” This is not a question but a statement for Paul. No secretary was writing this for Paul and he wanted the Galatians to understand he meant what he was writing to them. Those who wanted the Galatians to backtrack on their faith in Jesus alone did not have their best interests at heart and so he tells them, “Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised.” Paul wanted them to fully understand that it was faith alone in Jesus alone and there was absolutely no personal profit in their going backwards in their faith. “The only reason” these ungodly people “do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ”! They were spiritual cowards! They feared the world more than they feared God! Paul reminds them of these false teacher’s hypocrisy: “Not even those who are circumcised obey the law”, because they only followed what they thought was best for themselves for the moment and “yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh.” Like the deplorable practice of scalp hunters who kept personal trophies of the humans they murdered, these spiritual hypocrites kept “score” by boasting about how they confused the spiritually weak to be circumcised. Paul was not anything like these ungodly men and he bluntly tells the Galatians, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Paul was not a people pleaser, the life he lived he lived for Jesus! “For the Judaizers the Cross was an object of shame; for Paul it was the object of glorying. They gloried in the flesh; he gloried in the Savior.” (Bible Knowledge Commentary) A believer’s goodness comes from Jesus!

EXAMPLE: I asked a little boy on the playground the other day, “Can you be good for recess?” He responded, “I’m not sure I have it in me!” Another little girl nearby remarked, “He just doesn’t feel good today.” She did not mean he was sick but rather that he just did not feel like being good. At least they were honest. We live in a world that actually believes that if they just feel good about themselves or if they do good things once in a while then they are safe as far as eternity is concerned. Of course nothing could be further from the truth! If this were so, then Jesus did not have to die for our sins and then rise form the dead to prove to the world who he was. A believer’s goodness comes from Jesus!

Unlike the Christmas ditty that says we are to be “good for goodness’ sake” the believer is not to do so. We to live such good lives that people see Jesus in everything we do! Therefore, Paul writes that…

III. Only the goodness of Jesus matters! (Vv. 15-18)

Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

1. For Paul there was nothing else in life that mattered; only living for Jesus did. We hold onto such foolish things in our lives; beauty, material stuff, ungodly relationships, or financial gain. None of it matters for eternity. We have forgotten in our day and age that nothing in this life truly matters except Jesus. For Paul the same was true and so he reminds them, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” Paul would write the Corinthian church, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV) So, where does the sinner receive the grace of God? Only through Jesus himself. Paul concludes then, “Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule” and what “rule” was this; that the only thing that matters in life or in all creation is the “new creation”! Paul wanted everyone he wrote to or spoke to, to come to this “peace and mercy” and so he literally writes for “peace and mercy” to be “upon them and upon the Israel of God.” (Modern KJV) Some think that Paul meant that the church is now the Israel of God which is true however here he is referring to Israel and his desire that they come to know Jesus and be blessed by doing so! And so his letter to the Galatians comes to an end when he finishes it by not wanting to stir up any more controversy, “Finally, let no one cause me trouble”, and he reminds them that he also bore on his “body the marks of Jesus.” He had suffered for his stand of faith alone in Jesus alone. Paul only wanted them to know this glorious truth as well and finishes by giving them the blessing: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.” Let it be so as I have declared to you that only the goodness of Jesus matters!

EXAMPLE: Most everyone would like to be remembered for something. I honestly believe this is why Facebook or YouTube and the internet itself are so popular for some folks. You can write in your blog or post on your Facebook or on YouTube and have some notoriety with thousands of hits or likes. However as good as that might feel it is only pixels and Ethernet and only last until your deleted. All of life is actually like that for most of us. Paul would remind us that life it is not to be based on how we feel nor is it based on what we do; only the goodness of Jesus matters!

Conclusion:

Goodness is to be a way of life for the believer! A believer’s goodness comes from Jesus! Only the goodness of Jesus matters!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Bear one another’s burdens! – Galatians 6:1-6

Bear one another’s burdens! – Galatians 6:1-6
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 18, 2016

I don’t know about you but as I get older I have discovered that there are certain things I simply cannot do that I could do even four years ago. Age will do that to you. Of course as one grows older you realize you are more responsible for yourself more than you used to be when you were younger. Things like exercise, eating habits, and taking care of your overall health is one’s personal responsibility. I have also discovered that I as I have matured in Christ that while there are certain things I can no longer do there are other things I should be doing on a regular basis!

A lot of today’s believers never mature in their relationship with Jesus simply because they have no spiritual Christian history. In the past our society had a Christian influence that permeated every aspect of one’s life whether one went to church or not. Today this is simply not true. Many are being taught their spirituality by the media, movies, TV, or by public education. None do a good job. The Galatian church faced similar spiritual problems because they came from a paganistic society and were brand new believers. Paul writes them that there were certain things they should be doing in order to mature in Jesus. Let’s discover what Paul writes…

READ: Galatians 6:1-6

One of things that have fallen by the wayside within Christian churches is the discipline of its members. The church has adopted the politically correct attitude that no one at any time can criticize or say anything someone sees as negative to another person about their personal walk with Jesus. This is heresy and Paul writes that in bearing one another’s burdens…

I. You confront personal sin in fellow believers! (v. 1)

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

1. Paul begins this section with the term “brothers” meaning his fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. When we come to Christ we become children of God and part of his family (John 1:12-13). Therefore we are brothers and sisters in Jesus. As siblings in the Lord we are to bear each other’s burdens just like a regular family is supposed to do. Families that truly love one another encourage, love, and help one another and in this they are willing to tell fellow family members when they are doing harmful things in their life that affect others around them! So Paul bluntly addresses the fact that “if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him”. Notice that if they are caught in their sin, those of us who are spiritual are to restore them. The wording here means that if someone we love in the family of God is overtaken or influenced by the world of sin around them, those of us who have been divinely restored by Jesus should restore, mend, and repair those who are caught up in their sin! But also notice we are to do it in the spirit of gentleness, meaning with respect, dignity, and humility. Why? Because we know that but for the grace of God there go I! Make no mistake the church is never to back away from disciplining a fellow believer who is in sin. Paul would tell others, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” (Romans 15:1 NIV) James would write, “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20 NIV) The way they are “covered” is that the sinner is brought back to Jesus! Yet Paul warns the Galatians “But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” As a follower of Jesus you are to confront personal sin in fellow believers!

EXAMPLE: Recently Hillary Clinton has been criticized for not being honest about her health. She has kept her illness from the public out of fear of what people may think and it caught up with her when she fainted during a 9-11 remembrance. She stumbled, fell, and had to be bodily carried into her waiting motorcade where she was whisked away from the prying eyes of the media and public. Just as the personal illness of a Presidential candidate is extremely important to the electorate so too is the spiritual health of the body of Christ to fellow believers! Paul relates we are to confront personal sin in fellow believers!

Confronting a fellow Christian about their personal sin should always be handled with the mindset to restoring the one caught up in sin. In this it requires our personal participation in the life of the body of Christ, the church. And Paul reminds us that is sometimes requires that believers bear one another’s burdens by…

II. Helping to carry another believer’s load! (Vv. 2-5)

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.

1. Paul immediately tells his readers that in order to be a family of God they must “Carry each other’s burdens”. The idea here is that Paul wanted believers to share the heavy crushing and oppressive weight of temptation in life and the spiritual failure that results. In everything he did Jesus set for us an example in how we were to treat not just our fellow man but our brothers and sisters in Christ. When he washed his disciple’s feet, when he healed, prayed, had compassion and mercy, when he forgave, and when he sacrificed everything for us. Jesus taught in everything he did “A new command” that we were to “Love one another” as he loved us, “so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV) And so “in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” It comes from an attitude of humility from being born again, “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Pride has no place in the life of a believer. Paul writes that “Each one should test his own actions.” Any pride we may have or felt should be the Godly kind because we “can take pride in [ourselves], without comparing [ourselves] to somebody else”. Paul would write the Roman church, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” (Romans 12:3 NIV) In fact he would remind them, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:16 NIV) Paul finishes his comment here by reminding them that “each one should carry his own load.” This does not contradict what he taught earlier because that was a crushing load no one could carry by themselves and this is a reference to the knapsacks a Roman soldier carried. Just as a soldier was responsible to carry what he needed to sustain him on a march into battle, we are responsible for carrying what is necessary in our spiritual walk with Jesus. In the spiritual battle we are called to each day we are called to help carry another believer’s load!

EXAMPLE: Jesus was the first one to introduce us to the teaching of “no man left behind”! We find this to be true for military units when they are in the heat of battle that they do not leave a wounded comrade behind for the enemy to capture. Yet in today’s church few understand this spiritual concept. We live in a world of selfish indulgence. Like a crazed crowd caught in a fire far too many believers are willing to run over a wounded comrade rather than stop and help them to safety. The sacredness of church membership has been replaced with the idea church is a “ministry for me”. The body of Christ was established by Jesus so that his work and will would continue in a sin-fallen world until he returned. It was not begun as a fitness spa, coffee shop, or family fun center where one comes to get away from it all and relax for a Sunday. This is why church membership is so important; we are the body of Christ. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27 NIV) This is what the church does; each one helping to carry another believer’s load! Are you a member of the local church, the body of Christ?

Paul would relate that “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16 NIV) And the church is also responsible for their leadership. In bearing one another’s burdens Paul taught the Galatians that they were to…

III. Help shoulder the load! (Vv. 6:6)

Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.

1. Paul would often discuss the concept of compensation for those who were pastors of local congregations. He knew that men or women who had given up everything else in life; their regular jobs, much of their family time, and a lot of their personal time to shepherd or minister in some way to a congregation should be compensated for their sacrifice. In fact he would ask the Corinthian church, “Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk?” (1 Corinthians 9:7 NIV) He would go on to contend that even the oxen who helped with the grain wasn’t muzzled but was allowed to eat what it could as it worked and so too those who plowed the field and those who threshed the gain. “In the same way,” Paul related, “the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:14 NIV) The local church, the body of Christ, is to support their leadership appropriately. Therefore he wrote the Galatians that “Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.” Certainly we have examples of greedy ministers who have abused their congregations for monetary gain, but these are few and far between. Most pastors do not receive even close to the same benefits their counterparts do in the business world who do similar tasks or duties. It has often baffled me as a pastor how there are those who consider themselves “Christian” yet they do not tithe, never join a local church, and hardly ever serve. This is simply wrong. If the church needs painting, cleaning, greeting, teachers, helpers, new ministries — you as a believer in the Lord are to be the hands, feet, arms, legs, and such of the body of Christ! And you are to make sure those whom you wanted to lead you are properly compensated for their sacrifice! Believers are to help shoulder the load!

EXAMPLE: I learned a long time ago in high school biology that if one organism attached itself to another to gain a benefit from it without having to do hardly any of the work of survival it was known as a parasite. What then do we call some folks who every week head to a local church to enjoy the “program”, the preaching, the music, or the ministries but never join, give or serve? Perhaps they are spiritual sponges or feel good freeloaders? Now I do not mean to sound harsh but just painfully honest. It is time for the American Christians to begin acting like biblical Christians and help shoulder the load!

Conclusion:

You confront personal sin in fellow believers! Helping to carry another believer’s load! Christians are to help shoulder the load!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Live by the Spirit not by sin! – Galatians 5:14-26

Live by the Spirit not by sin! – Galatians 5:14-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 11, 2016

Semper fidelis is a Latin phrase that means “always faithful” or “always loyal”. In the United States it is best known as the motto of the United States Marine Corps. “Be Prepared” is the motto of the Boy Scouts and Washington State’s motto is “Al-ki” which means “Bye and Bye”. What life motto do you live by? For some it is “Get yours before they get theirs”, however for the believer it should be “Love God and love others”. Of course this come from what Jesus taught about all the commands of God being summed up into: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31 NIV) What is your life’s motto?

For Paul his motto for the Galatians might be to “live by the Spirit not by sin”! He was deeply concerned that the Galatians had lost sight of what their faith was to be all about. Sometimes we can do as well, especially in this day and age where so much faith is measured by emotionalism rather than what the Scripture actually teaches. As we get closer to wrapping up Paul’s letter to the Galatians we discover that he wants to remind them of what their life is to be truly about.

READ: Galatians 5:14-26

Many folks have left the church because they see Christians not living as Christians forgetting that believers are not perfect. We are called to be holy, not perfect. We will not be perfect until we see Jesus face-to-face. However, Paul tells his readers…

I. Live by the Spirit! (Vv. 14-18)

The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

1. When Paul was younger and under the influence of the Law of Moses he tried to live his life by following a myriad set of rules, guidelines, and rituals. Many were manmade and not from God at all because when people begin to try and follow Laws instead of living for the Lord, they end up trying to figure out just how they can do just what is required of them and nothing else. Yet Paul had learned that “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Paul realized if he loved others, he would love God first. This love is sacrificial and does not seek its own. Too many Christians spend far too much time trying to get others to agree with them rather than just loving them as Jesus did. Paul reminds us that “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” How is this possible? Paul wrote, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” There it is. If believers live by the Spirit there is no room for anything else! When one lives for themselves first they are feeding their prideful ungodly sinful nature and that nature is greedy and will continually war against your maturing in Jesus! Why? “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.” If you feel continually in conflict with the teachings of Jesus perhaps it is because your life is in conflicted for a reason. Stop doubting God, stop living in your old habits, and stop trying to justify yourself and instead live for Jesus! As Paul says, “They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” We are to live by the Spirit!

EXAMPLE: In our world today the motto is often seen as “live however you feel at the moment”. While this may be pleasing for the short term there are consequences, either good or bad, for doing so. We reap in life what we sow in life. It often baffles me that those who claim Christ are often angered when they live like pagans and then wonder why their life is not going better spiritually for themselves. One cannot simply show up once in a while to worship, give a few bucks when it feels good, carouse around and then expect God to bless them real good! Nor can one follow a set of manmade rituals and do a plethora of good things but have no relationship with Jesus and expect God to bless them! Paul wrote that a believer’s life is to be lived by the Spirit!

When you are walking with Jesus you will not live as the world does nor will you want to. No matter how loudly one protests their innocence one’s actions speak louder than their words, and Paul reminds us that if we live by the Spirit…

II. We will not live in sin! (Vv. 19-21)

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1. Paul wanted his readers to understand that “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious”. For anyone who claims Christ and yet continues in the world, they are not fooling anyone. And certainly they will never fool God. He sees us for who we truly are. Our sinful nature is noticeable and apparent. He lists many of them beginning with sexual immorality, (porneia), where we get the word pornography which included incest, sexual idolatry, and includes adultery. Today where people use web sites like Ashley Madison in order to hook up and excuse ungodly illicit extramarital affairs many see no problem with adultery. Yet the ruined lives of children and families say otherwise. The next word is impurity and refers to moral uncleanness in thought, word, and deed. A filthy mind is heard in the words one uses and seen in the actions one does. The word debauchery follows closely with the previous word because it suggests an open, shameless, brazen display of these evils. One no longer cares what they do or when they do it and is proud of it. Then Paul lists two religious sins of idolatry and witchcraft. One involved the worship of pagan gods by bowing to manmade idols and the other was the superstitious drug-induced worship of demonic spirits and speaking to the dead! Then Paul lists eight social evils of hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; which are pretty self explanatory. And interestingly he listed two final ones that dealt with alcohol and drugs: drunkenness and orgies. One we get the word methanol from and the other referred to the ungodly alcohol and drug induced parties, festivities, and holidays that people celebrated. Paul listed each of these as a word of warning, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” For Paul one’s actions spoke volumes about a person’s faith. Yet if we live by the Spirit, we will not live in sin!

EXAMPLE: Only in the board game Monopoly is there a “Get out of Jail Free” card. Therefore do not make the theological mistake thinking just because Jesus forgave you by grace that you can now live however you want and God will forgive you. In Romans Paul argued how the Law of Moses could not save him even though he knew what he should do he did not do it. Many think he is arguing about his walk in Jesus, but he is not. How do I know this to be true? In Romans 7:1 Paul writes that he is “speaking to men who know the law” and that “we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (v.6). Paul finishes by stating that “in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body” in that he wanted to live for God and do “good” but could not. He writes, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!” And then he concludes his remarks by saying, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 7:22-25; 8:1-2 NIV) When we live by the Spirit we will not live in sin!

While believers can and do sin they will not remain there if they love the Lord. In fact their lives will begin to display the very same characteristics Jesus displayed in his life because the Holy Spirit lives in them. And this is why Paul reminds us that if we live by the Spirit…

III. The fruits will be obvious! (Vv. 22-26)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

1. The wording here in the Greek for the next teachings of Paul is in a present and future tense. It applies to your life now and into the future. The believer who lives by the Spirit will continue to live in the Spirit. And as they do they will then display certain characteristics that will be evident for anyone to see. So Paul writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is” and then he lists the characteristics that will be displayed. These are not individual things or characteristics we as Christians are to “work on” but rather these are things that will be displayed in varying degrees in the life of those who “live in the Spirit” of Jesus! Why would I say this? Because Paul writes that it is the outcome of a life that is being lived in the Spirit, it is the “fruit” of one’s life being lived for Jesus! The believer who lives for the Lord will display “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Now will we flawlessly manifest each and every one of them? NO! We are not perfect, but they will be seen in the life of someone who claims Christ. The key here is that it is “the fruit of the Spirit” and not our fruit of self-effort, striving, or trying as hard as we can to pick or choose to do better. When one walks with the Lord one will display these beautiful wonderful gracious characteristics: The sacrificial love of Jesus, the inner joy of knowing God, the certain peace no matter the life circumstances, the easy patience even in frustration, a wonderful gracious kindness, an intrinsic goodness in an evil and perverse world, a steadfast faithfulness to follow God no matter what, inner gentleness of spirit and a self-controlled life where people matter more than things. Paul knew that “Against such things there is no law.” Why? Because Paul knew that “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” It was summed in the fact that: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” For Paul the fruits will be obvious!

EXAMPLE: Remember when Jesus went to the fig tree, what did he expect to find there? Figs! When I go out to my apple tree I expect to find apples, when I go out to my tomato vines I expect to find tomatoes, and the same with my green beans, squash and such. When I do not find the fruit or vegetables I desire, I either prune the tree, vine, or pull the plants up! When one claims Jesus others should see Jesus shining through them in the Spiritual fruit of a Godly life! There is something truly problematic when you see believers who are always sad, angry, hurt, ill-mannered, profane, prideful, ungodly, or just plain worldly in their actions! The fruit of the Holy Spirit should shine through sometime! For Paul the fruits will be obvious!

Conclusion:

We are to live by the Spirit! We will not live in sin! For Paul the fruits will be obvious!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Be free! – Galatians 5:1-13

Be free! – Galatians 5:1-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 4, 2016

It is interesting to see how many hospitals have become aggressive advocates for certain things regarding pregnancy, birthing, and the care of newborns. So much so it sometimes borders more on being politically correct rather than the actual health of the child or the concerns of the parents. For some hospitals and how they handle circumcision is a good case in point. In our day and age where circumcision is a personal choice and does not have any actual health benefit due to greater medical research and societal cleanliness. However, whether one wants to try and make the theological argument that it is healthier or not it is no longer spiritually necessary.

Jesus put an absolute end to anyone having to follow the law in order to be saved and to go back into the law one is willingly enslaving themselves to a system that will eternally condemn them. Paul knew this to be true and desperately wanted the Galatians to understand what the danger was from them disregarding their faith in Jesus and returning to a way that would condemn and enslave them. He wanted them to understand their spiritual freedom in Jesus. He would tell them to be free; let’s discover what he meant…

READ: Galatians 5:1-13

When one goes back to trying to please God instead of living by faith they are enslaving themselves to trying to please God with just one more action. Paul tells the Galatians…

I. Be free in Jesus! (Vv. 1-4)

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

1. Why would anyone want to deliberately enslave themselves after experiencing freedom? Yet some of the Galatians were willing to do just that. And sadly there are those today who are willing to do it as well. They forget what Paul wrote so many years ago that “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” This is one of the most tremendous spiritual statements ever written. Paul understood exactly what the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus meant for all mankind. Freedom from false gods, freedom from mindless idols made of wood, stone, and metal; and freedom from trying to please God by doing things. Paul therefore writes, “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” They needed to choose between bondage and freedom and to persevere in their faith. They were getting tangled up all over again with their old spiritual habits and so Paul warns them “Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.” They would not lose their salvation but they could nullify or weaken their faith by becoming dependant on doing things! “Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.” Would they really want that; to reburden their selves to the whole law after experiencing freedom? If they did those “who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” Again, for Paul the issue here is not the possible loss of salvation, Paul uses the word “grace” in reference not to salvation itself but rather to the method of salvation. They would be entangled again in the tentacles of the Mosaic Law instead of the freedom of faith in Jesus alone! Paul wanted them to be free in Jesus!

EXAMPLE: When folks decide to go back into the confines of ritual, the smoke of incense, or the chanting of meaningless words instead of Jesus alone they have fallen away from the grace God has richly given them. This is exactly where the Galatians were headed and where even some today go back to ceremony over grace. I am not trying to sound harsh here just truthful. The slavery of sacraments and sacrifices can never replace the freedom of faith in Jesus alone! Paul wanted them to be free in Jesus!

All parents understand that when their children begin to hang around friends that are a bad influence they can be swayed by those friends to do things they would not normally do. Paul tells the Galatians we are to…

II. Be free in our faith! (Vv. 5-9)

But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”

1. For Paul it boiled down to what a person was willing to put their trust in and so he reiterates that it is “by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” Faith is only tangible when one is willing to trust. Paul would write his young friend and fellow pastor Timothy concerning this kind of trust: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12 NIV) Paul and every believer can absolutely know whom they have placed their faith and trust in because we have the Holy Spirit living in us! Our righteousness is in our hope our faith in Jesus! Whether one did extra things truly did not matter nor does it today because “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.” So for Paul we discover that “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” which God displayed for us by coming and dying on the cross! Can you imagine Usain Bolt stopping in the middle of a race during the Olympics in order to allow someone else to run for him? That’s the picture Paul was verbally painting here! “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” Personal effort can never replace personal faith. It might make you feel good for a time, but it is based on nothing but your feelings and not faith! Paul knew where this kind of confusion comes from and it wasn’t from God! “That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.” We show our faith by what we do after we believe; we do not depend upon our works to save us. If one begins to allow one small thing to ease one’s guilt then what would be the next thing or the next? “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” Dependence upon one’s feelings always infects a person’s religion instead we are to be free in our faith!

EXAMPLE: I have been asked over and over as a pastor to define faith and the writer of Hebrews does it best when he writes, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV) Faith is based on who you are willing to trust with your life. The quantifier of faith for the believer is first and last found in Jesus Christ; either you believe in what he did or you do not, there is no in between. We are to be free in our faith!

Whether one is trying to add to their faith in Jesus by doing things or disregarding Jesus and trying to live in the world they are playing a dangerous game and Paul would tell the Galatians…

III. Be free and not sin! (Vv. 10-13)

I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

1. Paul was so certain that his argument made spiritual sense that he tells them “I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view.” It was inconceivable that the Galatians would not wake up and come back to their faith. Yet he also knew those who were trying to get them back into following the Law were doing so for their own sinful pleasure and they would be judged. In fact Paul writes that “The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be.” There may have been someone who had tried to tell the Galatians that Paul was still preaching they should follow the Law and circumcision. This simply was not true and Paul tells them, “Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted?” However it may have been a counter argument by Paul, namely why was he still being persecuted by those who preached following the Law if the Law could save anyone? “In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.” Jesus died for nothing! Yet, Paul knew otherwise and he firmly believed that the Galatians did as well. However he had strong words for those who were trying to spiritually stir them up and bluntly writes, “As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” If they believed so vehemently in circumcision then why don’t they just go all the way physically? Paul reminds them, “You, my brothers, were called to be free” and not enslaved again by the Law Jesus completed. There were those who evidently realized they were not winning the argument and so evidently were saying Paul was encouraging that his message of grace allowed them to sin, which was not true. In the believer’s freedom they were “not [to] use [their] freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” which is the basis of grace! We are to be free and not sin!

EXAMPLE: I have written about this and I have preached on the fact that there are those Christians who think that because Jesus loves them and forgives them they can do whatever they want whenever they want and there will be no consequences for their ungodly actions. Nothing could be further from the truth. Simply because we live by faith and not by works and are saved by the grace of God’s love for us does not mean we can live however we want. Peter would write, “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.” (1 Peter 2:16 NIV) Paul says it best: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (v. 13) — We are to be free and not sin!

Conclusions:

Be free in Jesus! Be free in our faith! Be free and not sin!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Don’t be a Hagar! – Galatians 4:19-31

Don’t be a Hagar! – Galatians 4:19-31
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 28, 2015

In the annals of history no one wants to be remembered as a Wrong Way Corrigan who was an American aviator who after a transcontinental flight from Long Beach, California, to New York, flew from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York, to Ireland, though his flight plan was filed to return to Long Beach. Nor do we want to be known as a Charlie Brown the cartoon character who falls for his friend Lucy’s duplicitous football fakeouts or who always blows the neighborhood baseball game. And in the Bible we would not want to be equated with Hagar — or, would we?

Paul in making his case to the Galatians has given them several examples of how they’re going back to their old faith habits was headed spiritually in the wrong direction and now he gives them the example of Hagar. She was a handmaiden, servant, of Sarah Abraham’s wife. Later after Sarah’s scheming to circumnavigate God’s plan Hagar becomes Abraham’s concubine and gives birth to Ishmael, the father of the Ishmaelites who were and are still a thorn in Israel’s side. Paul reminds the Galatians: Don’t be a Hagar! Let’s discover why…

READ: Galatians 4:19-31

Few remember Corrigan was one of the builders of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis or that Charlie Brown represents a steadfast constant in the cartoon lives of those around him, so what can the Galatians and we learn from Hagar? Well we discover that…

I. Hagar represents slavery! (Vv. 19-22)

My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you! Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.

1. Paul addresses his readers as “My dear children” because he saw them as such. Babes in Christ who needed to be spiritually guided and guarded and interestingly he continues by relating that “for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you”! He begins his illustration by talking about childbirth and then goes into how Abraham and Sarah circumnavigated God’s plan for their children! However Paul often felt this way for those whom he had brought to faith in Jesus. He related to the Roman Christians, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love… that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-17, 19 NIV) That was always Paul’s desire for those he had birthed in Christ — he wanted them to mature in Jesus! And so he goes on to tell them “how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!” Like any loving parent he was confused by his kid’s behavior and so he asks them, “Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?” Of course they were aware but they had forgotten what it had meant for them so Paul sets up his discourse by reminding them, “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman.” Which were they willing to be, a child of a slave or the child of a free woman? One carried no rights or privileges and the other was the heir of all Abraham had! In fact, Abraham’s “son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.” Had they forgotten the promise of God to Abraham? Sarah was convinced she knew better than God and persuaded Abraham to join her in her mischief. Yet Hagar was a slave! Hagar represents slavery!

EXAMPLE: There are few of us who would want to be slaves, however, when Gallup first asked Americans, “Do you, personally, believe in a God?” in 1944, 96% said they did. Between 94% and 98% of Americans said they believed in God in other surveys conducted through 1967. The same question was asked recently and 89% said they believe in God. And in another poll of those who had left Christianity 25% said they no longer believed in God or miracles. What does this tell us? 1) Too much easy believism is being taught, 2) less in depth discipleship is taking place, and 3) personal emotionalism is supplanting spiritual knowledge. Folks are not reading their Bibles. People therefore are willingly returning to spiritual slavery. For Paul Hagar represents slavery!

Interestingly when Mohammed was setting up Islam he did not like the idea that the people he was associated with, mainly Arabic tribes, were descendants of Ishmael. So like those who do not like certain aspects of their history, he simply changed it and made Ishmael Abraham’s rightful heir and in the will of God. Yet actual history and events show otherwise. And here Paul tells the Galatians that…

II. Hagar represents the old contract! (Vv. 23-27)

These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written: “Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.”

1. Like Jesus, Paul often used examples in order to make a spiritual point and so he admits that “These things may be taken figuratively”, however there was a purpose “for the women represent two covenants.” Paul wanted to get the attention of his readers immediately and he knew he would have with the example of Hagar he used. All Jews understood Hagar was a slave and suffered from her mistress’ treatment and schemes. Yet, Hagar was not completely innocent; she became arrogant and prideful of her son and was disrespectful toward Sarah. Paul related that the “One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar.” “What?!” would be his reader’s response. Do not forget Paul was making an example by using a graphic illustration. Paul explains that “Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children.” Those who willingly turned back to the Law of Moses instead of their faith in Christ were like the prideful slave woman Hagar! Wow! They were not children of the promise of God but spiritual slaves! As Hagar brought forth a slave, so does the Law. The real promise of God held a better outcome: “But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” The fulfilled promise of God through Jesus produces better offspring fit for a heavenly realm! Children born of God not according to the faded enslavement of the law! Paul then quotes Isaiah who prophesied the changing fortunes of Israel under a new contract, “For it is written: ‘Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.'” Captive Israel was spiritually barren but now enjoyed the rightful progeny of Sarah through Jesus! The new contract, covenant, was now made new through Jesus! Believers are children of the promise, the outcome of God’s new contract. Hagar represents the old contract!

EXAMPLE: The other day I had a phone call from a bank that wanted me to refinance my house. I was nice and patiently explained to them that I only have about a year and a half left on my home and that my interest rate was low. She was not about to give up and explained that their rates were at an all time low. So I asked her, “Do you think it would be wise for me to refinance my home when it is almost paid for at a low rate just so I could add more years to my loan?” She was stumped. I responded, “Neither do I” and hung up. Jesus is our contract that is fully paid, Hagar represents the old contract!

How would you like to find out that your parents were not your real parents? It has happened. Jesus related that there may come a time when some folks will discover that when they thought they were children of God he never knew them. Why, because they believed in the wrong thing: works over faith. You have to have the birth certificate; you must be born again. Paul relates…

III. We are not Hagar’s children! (Vv. 28-31)

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does the Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

1. Paul makes his conclusion plain by telling the Galatians, “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.” They were not children of Hagar and should not want to be, instead like those of us who have trusted Jesus; they were “children of the promise”! Ishmael was born under normal circumstances while Isaac was born to a barren Sarah in fulfillment of God’s promise! And Paul continued by reminding them again that “At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit.” Had things changed? Nope! He related, “It is the same now.” Nothing had changed so why were they going back to those “weak and miserable principles?” (v. 9) Paul compared Ishmael’s persecution of Isaac to the false teachers’ who desired they go back into slavery. Least they forget Ishmael mocked Isaac (Genesis 21:8-9), laughing derisively at the younger boy; why would they want any part of that? Pau tacitly reminds his readers how Sarah saw what happened and had Abraham get rid of Hagar and her son and so he asks, “But what does the Scripture say? ‘Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.'” Observing the Law of Moses no longer brought any inheritance to anyone! Trying to circumnavigate God’s promise was like trying to become a part of someone’s family simply by moving into their home without permission or approval! They were to “get rid” of anything that would enslave them again! Those who would falsely teach that salvation is by faith plus works should be thrown out! It is fundamentally incompatible for works of the Law and the grace of God to coincide, so Paul correctly concludes, “Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.” We are not Hagar’s children!

EXAMPLE: Have you ever noticed a family with unruly, whiny, or disrespectful kids and thought to yourself, “Man, I am glad I am not their parent!” Come on, you know you have. I know I have also noticed some parents who I am thankful that I was not their kid! You know what I mean; where every other word out of their mouth is profanity, where yelling is their solution to misbehavior, or where they continually plead with their kids to mind to no avail. Well you know what, I am glad along with Paul to know that we are not Hagar’s children!

Conclusion:

Hagar represents slavery! Hagar represents the old contract! We are not Hagar’s children!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Where’s your joy placed? – Galatians 4:13-18

Where’s your joy placed? – Galatians 4:13-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 21, 2016

A lot of folks do not understand that there is a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness can be fleeting while joy is more steadfast and sure, and in fact you can have joy even when everything around you in life is falling apart. Too much of today’s world has confused joy with happiness. Lasting joy is not found in things. True joy that lasts not just a lifetime but forever is that which is found in a relationship, not in sinful people but in the one who gave everything to give you everlasting joy!

Paul understood this and did not want the Galatian church to be deceived or lured away by the false, shallow, and momentary happiness of the world around them. I know it is hard for some of you to believe but sometimes people have ulterior or hidden motives. They want your friendship, your vote, or your physical presence in order to satisfy their personal lust for power, greed, or pleasure. Paul not only understood human nature he understood the gospel as well. Paul was tacitly asking the Galatians, “Where’s your joy placed?” Let’s discover where ours is placed this morning…

READ: Galatians 4:13-18

The last verse (v. 12) belongs with the following verses where Paul related how he was received by the Galatians on his first visit to them as found in Acts 13-14 and he lets them know that…

I. Joy is found in other believers! (Vv. 13-14)

As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.

1. Evidently the Galatians had forgotten how when they had first heard the good news “they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” And in fact “The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.” (Acts 13:48-49 NIV) In fact when Paul and Barnabas faced persecution by the very Jews who would pervert the Galatians joy, they just “shook the dust from their feet” and continued on “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:50-52) When Paul and Barnabas went to Iconium “they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed” (Acts 14:1) and because of persecution they fled to Lystra and Derbe. Because of a healing they did there the crowds mistakenly thought they were Zeus and Hermes. “Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.” (Acts 14:19 NIV) So here Paul kindly reminds the Galatians, “As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you.” Illness! They had tried to STONE him! However Paul continues by reminding them “Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn.” Some think Paul could be referring to his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7) and perhaps it was his eyesight, if so it was because of those who tried to stone him in the first place! “Instead” Paul reminds them, “you welcomed me as if I were an angel (messenger) of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself!” Why would Paul say this? Because he knew that joy is found in other believers!

EXAMPLE: Paul would write the Philippian church that they were to have the same attitude as that of Jesus. That ” If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” (Philippians 2:1-2 NIV) That is how believers are to behave toward one another! There is nothing more beautiful, nothing more powerful, and nothing more wonderful than when believers are pulling, praying, and encouraging one another! Some of the greatest joy I have had is in the toughest times of my life when fellow believers were praying for me and encouraging me to keep on keeping on in the Lord! Paul knew this to be true and would remind the Galatians that joy is found in other believers!

Our world so focuses on ourselves and how we feel that we often forget as believers that we are part of the body of Christ in the world. Christians physically and spiritually represent Jesus in a sin-fallen world! Joy is not found in what the body of Christ can do for you; joy is found in serving Jesus in the body of Christ! And Paul reminds the Galatians that…

II. Joy is found in recalling where joy comes from! (Vv. 15-16)

What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?

1. Perhaps Paul had suffered an injury to his eyesight in serving Jesus by being stoned by those he was trying to win to the gospel. And now those Paul had given his all for including perhaps his eyesight were “turning back to those weak and miserable principles”! How could they do such a thing? Paul is incredulous and asks them “What has happened to all your joy?” Where was their faith placed? Did they not remember what he had done for them; did they not remember what Jesus had done for them; and did they not remember what it meant to be the body of Christ in the world? At the time when Paul had witnessed to them and been with them they were more than willing to do whatever it took to serve Jesus! Paul writes, “I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.” Paul would write others, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us!” (1 Thessalonians 2:8 NIV) The Galatians, like many believers today, were focusing on the wrong thing! They wanted to be accepted, they wanted to feel good, they wanted three easy steps to being happy and successful! The Judaizers were whispering into their ears an easy believism of Jesus plus their guilt. It was ungodly then as it is now! Instead of coming to their senses they got offended and had hurt feelings. This is not what Jesus is about! A believer’s joy is not lost because their feelings are hurt! Paul bluntly asks, “Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Yet this is exactly how many believers in our day and age react when confronted with their sinful attitudes! “You took away my joy in the Lord, you are my enemy.” Argh! Joy is found in recalling where joy comes from!

EXAMPLE: I was incredulous as a new pastor that there were folks who considered themselves “Christian” who wanted to be treated with godly respect but who were unwilling to treat others the same way. Like the Galatians we can sometimes only think of ourselves first and to heck with everyone else forgetting that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 NIV) They had become so focused on themselves and how they felt that they had left their joy in knowing Jesus behind. So much so that they were treating the very person, Paul, who had first introduced them to the very joy they now had lost! This is why Paul wanted to remind them that joy is found in recalling where joy comes from!

True joy in Jesus is not found in momentary worship on Sundays, regurgitating a stream of meaningless scriptural platitudes, or in trying to message one’s guilty conscience. Jesus never taught his followers to “seek first your happiness and your well being and all the joyous things of God will be yours”. Quite the contrary, we are to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness because…

III. Joy is being enthusiastic for Jesus! (Vv. 17-18)

Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.

1. Paul would not put up with phony piety from anyone because Paul knew that “such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” (Romans 16:18 NIV) In fact Peter would also have strong words for those who would lead astray sincere believers by saying that “These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity–for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” (2 Peter 2:17-19 NIV) In a world where folks try to fill every waking moment with their own satisfaction it must be difficult to realize this is not what a walk with Jesus is all about. Paul put it into perspective for the Galatians when he told them, “Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good.” The Judaizers were not interested in developing the Galatians in their faith, quite the contrary. In fact Paul related that “What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them.” Paul did not have a problem with folks having strong feelings about God and tells them that “It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.” Being zealous, having strong feelings is fine but it can lead the spiritually weak away from the importance of following Jesus by faith instead of emotions. The Galatians needed to be strong even when Paul was not there with them! Paul would tell the Philippians that “this my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ”. Joy is being enthusiastic for Jesus!

EXAMPLE: So much of Christianity focuses on the individual in our day that we could be accused of spiritual self-indulgence. While Jesus came to seek and save the lost, we can forget that this also includes others as well. Like the YouTube musical parody that depicts a worship leader singing, “It’s all about me Jesus, it’s all about me!” Christians can become spiritually confused when they focus on the wrong person, themselves instead of Jesus. Joy is being enthusiastic for Jesus!

Conclusion:

Joy is found in other believers! Joy is found in recalling where joy comes from! Joy is being enthusiastic for Jesus!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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No turning back! – Galatians 4:8-12

No turning back! – Galatians 4:8-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 14, 2016

It is interesting to me how over the years I have met those who while they do not believe in God have sold themselves into other philosophies or people that in the balance of things are really rather odd. We live in the information age but it’s as if critical thinking has gone out the window. Far too many fall prey to what “popular” opinion teaches rather than what reality truly is. A good example of this is when those who lean towards progressive thought claim conservatives are “Nazis”. Nazis were socialist and politically progressive in their thinking; the problem arises when one does not know what the definitions of these terms are. As Forrest Gump’s momma would say, “Stupid is as stupid does.” My dad would say that “There is no turning back from being foolish.”

The Greek-thinking Galatians were not only being influenced by Judaizers (those who supported Jesus plus the Mosaic Law) some were also turning back to their old gods. While many today realize that Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, and Athena are just mythical, made up, they readily give credence to the millions of Hindu gods, the atheism of Buddhism, or the false philosophies of agnostics, Latter Day Saints, Islam, or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Why would anyone turn back to myths or things that were manmade? Paul did not understand this either and let’s discover what he taught about how there is no turning back…

READ: Galatians 4:8-12

Contrary to our politically correct thinking, there is only one way to the God. Paul knew this as well and wanted the Galatians to understand…

I. There is no turning back to false gods! (Vv. 8-9)

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God–or rather are known by God–how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?

1. Sometimes folks need to be brought back to reality when they are considering doing something really stupid. The Galatians were in this kind of a situation and Paul was not going to allow them to do something that could harm or weaken their faith in Jesus. And so Paul reminds them that “Formerly” in their past before accepting Jesus, they “did not know God” and in fact they “were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.” The gods they had trusted before were so much wood, stone, metal or clay. Before their conversion to Jesus and religious freedom they had been enslaved to manmade statues! Now there are those in our day who equate Jesus with the same false gods as a myth. However, we know historically, through archeology, and through personal eyewitness testimony that Jesus truly existed and did what he did! There is no mythos there. In fact the vast majority of academia understands that Jesus was a real person who walked this earth, taught what he did, and changed the world because of his message. Just because someone today wants to yell “Jesus is not real” or “God is dead” the actual truth is quite different. It is like yelling there was no such thing as the moon landing or the vapor trails jets leave behind are mind-altering chemicals. Science, reason, and evidence declare otherwise. The Galatians had left behind those pieces of wood, clay, stone and metal for a living Jesus! And so Paul writes them “But now that you know God” and also that they were “known by God–how is it that [they were] turning back to those weak and miserable principles?” The wording here means they intrinsically fundamentally knew and were completely known by God! They had heard the gospel from Paul himself, had believed it, and experienced it as well! Why then would they want to go “back to those weak and miserable principles?” They were giving up on Jesus and turning back to false gods! Paul asks them, “Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” Paul understood that there is no turning back to false gods!

EXAMPLE: I remember telling a man that he had willingly “given up on Jesus”. He had graduated from a Christian seminary, fell for a Mormon girl and left the teachings he knew to be true because he had gotten her pregnant. He was ashamed but I encouraged him that God loved him and to come back to what he knew to be true. Paul would be extremely blunt to the Corinthian Church about their wanting to turn back to false gods when he wrote them, “Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.” (1 Corinthians 10:19-21 NIV) He would tell them, “We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth… yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” (1 Corinthians 8:4-6 NIV) For Paul there is no turning back to false gods!

In our day and age we have been so poorly influenced by “correct” thinking and those who want you to falsely reason that finding the middle ground is actually a good thing. If you think this is wise when was the last time you compromised and let a restaurant serve you food that was served to someone else the day before? Most folks would not be so foolish and Paul wanted the Galatians to understand that…

II. There is no compromise where Jesus is concerned! (Vv. 10-12)

You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong.

1. For Paul the proof of their compromise was in the pudding of what they had actually been doing. He writes, “You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!” The Galatians actions smacked of wanting to be liked by their “homies”, their peers in their old way of life rather than following their faith in Jesus. The Bible Knowledge Commentary suggests that “They kept special days (weekly Sabbaths), and months (new moons), and seasons (seasonal festivals such as Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles), and years (sabbatical and jubilee years).” However they were probably also celebrating the festivals of their old paganism. They just could not let go. They would rather be accepted by their old friends than live for the Lord! There are those who constantly flirt with ungodly behavior in order to be accepted by the world. John would teach, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15 NIV) And Paul further reiterated to others that “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV) Paul therefore was kind of disgusted with the spiritual weakness of the Galatians and how they were way too willing to give up their faith and go back to idols! He bluntly tells them, “I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.” Remember how Paul had asked them if they were “so foolish” back in chapter three and if they had actually “suffered so much for nothing” (Vv. 3-4)? So he intensifies his argument and writes, “I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong.” Paul had become just like them after his conversion, leaving the Law of Moses and following Jesus by faith. He became just like the Galatians he addressed. For Paul there is no compromise where Jesus is concerned!

EXAMPLE: One of the greatest compromises that promised peace but brought about the deaths of millions and the enslavement, torture, and imprisonment of millions of others was when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed a peace pact with Nazi Germany and declared it provided “peace in our time”. While perhaps in some instances of marriage, raising children as parents, or finding a way out of a mutually disastrous situation compromise may be called for, but in spiritual things, never. One cannot compromise their faith and think it works for good. Even a little sin is ungodly. Paul understood this and this is why he taught that there is no compromise where Jesus is concerned!

Conclusion:

There is no turning back to false gods! There is no compromise where Jesus is concerned!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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