Sunday, July 29, 2007

Falling Away: What Paul would say...


Once the Grace of God makes you free, you could fall away but that is where Grace comes in again to restore you.

For a letter that is six chapters in the English Bible, Paul had a great deal to talk about. The letter was sent to the churches in the area of Galatia and not one certain church. It seems that the problem Paul writes about was - almost epidemic - in the entire area. And what was that problem? Falling away.

True love cares enough to confront. Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. (Proverbs 27:5-6)

Paul cares so very much about the situation in these churches that he tenderly confronts them because of their error.

To be precise, they were adding to the already full Gospel. They did not deny the Lord. They did not deny the authority of God's Word. They did not question the Work of Christ on the Cross-per-say. They just wanted to add to it. The Gospel that Paul and the Apostles preached was not enough. It needed more. More human hands! Works! Something from the Jewish past.

Problem is that the new believers are Gentiles and the established believers are Jewish believers. How do the new believers relate to the established Church that wants to include Old Testament Law for proof of conversion? These new believers were struggling with a dual identity. On one hand there is a strict heritage, which held to a very tight, and no compromising Jewish law and on the other hand a new faith based on the liberty of Love and not on the Law. Remember back to the Jerusalem Council who sent a letter to the new believers in Antioch. Don't worry about the Law; Stay away from blood, food offered to idols and stay sexually pure.

Now, they were to add to the Full Gospel of Jesus the one thing that keep some Jewish believers at bay with the main teaching of Paul: circumcision. That being, the one physical act that tied man to the Promise of the Covenant of Abraham. In one way of saying this, to get Salvation takes work to become complete. Paul calls the whole question foolish!

In fact, Paul is so surprised that they were so quickly led away from the Truth.
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the Grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- 7 which is really no gospel at all.

There was a deliberate attempt to bring confusion to the faithful and to pervert the True Gospel of Christ. That same effort is still around today under different words and terms.

Today, there is a book out that is entitled The Secret. This book is #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. What the author is saying in the book is that success is up to YOU and you alone! From your thoughts, if positive and not negative at all, you will find what you are looking for in life. If you want to be wealthy, you must think about it continually. If you want to loose weight, decide what weight you want to be and you will get there. How can that happen? The book says: “Thoughts are magnetic, and thoughts have a frequency (like a radio signal). As you think, those thoughts are sent out into the universe and they are magnetically attract(ed) all like things that are on the same frequency. Everything sent out returns to the source. And that source is you.”

You never thought you could be that powerful as to move the universe at your own thoughts, did you? Truth is, you don't.

Man is never satisfied with Truth. They always want to add to it or change it or try to manipulate it somehow. Paul sees that in this region of present day Turkey.

There are three main reasons why this system does not work in the real world.

#1 is that any system that focuses on SELF breaks down big time.

The appeal of this book is that it is all about ME. I become the all-powerful one who determines my future. It goes well beyond taking responsibility for my life-this is making MY life all about what I want, no matter what. Extremely self-centered.

According to what Paul writes in Galatians 2:17~20, I am not at the center of my existence but Christ IS!

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! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 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.
The world systems promise sure-fire ways to success and power. They promise happiness but selfish people are the ones who are the least happy in the world. Who cares about the other persons or that there are needs outside my little world? The promises of profits are the only thing that drives such people. The life turns inward and becomes cold. Detached. Isolated. An island. While it made a great song in the 60's, “I am a rock, I am an island” just does not really make it in the real world. We are to live in Community with each other. We are even responsible for the people who are dying in the Sudan. If the only reason to be kind is to further my goals, than I will be using people all my life to support self.

Jesus tells that the opposite is true and we know that in our heart of hearts. Deep within, we are sure to ask ourselves, “What is the reason for my being here?” Jesus takes us to another level when He challenges us to give our lives away in service to God and to others. When that rich man asked Jesus what he must DO to get eternal life, Jesus gave him the answer He gives us today:

“Go sell all your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. THEN, come follow Me.” Matthew 19:21.

Paul reminds the Galatians that the Gospel that was preached by himself and the Apostles is the Truth and that it is based on the complete Work of Christ on the Cross. Other teachings were trying to pervert the truth and were not gospel at all. Not real good news. It was based on self and not on the eternal things of God. See from

Gal 3:1-5. 1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 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? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4 Have you suffered so much for nothing-if it really was for nothing? 5 Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

Not by human hands did this Gospel come but by God's Free Gift of His Son. Based on Him NOT on me and what I could DO!

#2: The World around us, the universe, has no power.

According to the people around the Galatian churches, if you would only plug into the world system (that being the Jewish law of separation by means of circumcision) you will experience freedom.

Problem was, that action only gave into slavery. One would NEED to follow ALL the Law! Christ came to fulfill the Law's requirements through His Sacrifice on the Cross.

The lie comes with the false thought that the universe, once plugged into it, will show itself as a benevolent force that wants to grant you your every heart's desire.

But, the Universe is a created thing. It has no Power within it's self. Remember when Job asked his questions of the Lord, God's answer was a question:

“Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?” Job 38:4.

The Universe does not tell God nor man what to do; God holds complete sway over the universe. It is at His Command, not the other way around! We are powerless to TELL the universe to do anything!

ILL: King sat in a chair near to shore and told the tide NOT to come in. When his royal robes got wet, he said that even a king could not pull that off!

Jesus teaches us this lesson in John 16:33

"I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

He could hold back the tide. He can do it all. He calmed the sea. He is in charge and He is the One who holds all things in His Hands.

#3: Bad things happen because of evil, not because of bad thoughts.

How would you explain these sorts of ideas the Korean hostages in Afghanistan? Many thousands of people suffer on a day-to-day basis because of the evil others are inflicting on them. If those who suffered from having family members brutalized before them had only used positive thoughts, they would have lived? Not so. These things happen because of evil and of evil men, not because these victims thought in a negative way.

Ps. 14:6 You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the LORD is their refuge.

Once Paul followed that way of life. He too was caught up in the legal life of a Pharisee. He had even fought against the Way of Jesus! He understood the emptiness the Law held for them. He was changed. He was set free to know and experience the Grace of God. He was no longer a slave to the Law but now Free to serve the Lord Jesus in all His Splendor. He understood their past.

In 4:8-11, we see Paul's heart once again. He reminds the Church that they USED to live that way. It was in the past. No longer do they OR US need to return to that way of living OR way of thinking. We are under Grace now. That is real freedom! Read it:

4: 8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 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? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

What happened to their joy? They were zealous but for the wrong reason. Paul says:

18 It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.

They had drifted over to another gospel that was not a gospel at all.

The lives the followers of Christ were now leading was way below the level they should have been. They were living in slavery to the Law. Their lives had turned around to follow the Lord but someone came with a different message that caught them unaware. It drove them far from the place where God wanted them to be. The Cross of Jesus set them free but this new teaching had them tied all up once again. The Gentile believers were being forced to become Jews to become Christians! The Jewish Christians made the bar very high for them! These new believers WANTED to belong. They wanted to be set free but the teaching of those Jewish Believers forced them out of the Gospel of Grace and into the bondage of the Law WHICH they, wished to be free of themselves.

5:4-5. 4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.

Paul reminds them that they were really doing well for a time.

5:7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?

We are called to be free! Not tied to the bondage of works. See Paul's warning in 5:13-15?

13 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. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Not the picture of Christian unity, is it?

Paul then shows them a better way. Live your life by the Spirit of God!

5:16-18 16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 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. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

Paul encourages them to live a life worthy of the calling they have in Christ Jesus. Those things that he writes about in 19-21 are not to be found in our lives.

19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 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.

Jesus has set us free to be all we can be IN HIM ALONE!

But rather:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Paul ends with what really counts in life:

15b what counts is a new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.

And to end with his closing:

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

Next week: Dealing with Death