Sunday, July 28, 2013

Receiving the Gospel - Galatians 2:15–3:9

Receiving the Gospel - Galatians 2:15–3:9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 28, 2013 AM

Recently, the Dali Lama was in Portland. He held a conference with adherents of various other religions. Many of the Buddhists who attended were in a posture of meditation. Many of individuals who were interviewed by local TV declared all religions are equally valid in helping people experience genuine life. How tragic that some people choose a dead leader’s teachings or an esoteric lama rather than a relationship with God through faith in a living Savior. How would you answer someone who insists all religions are equally valid?

Many people today contend truth is relative—what is true for one person may not be true for another. They say one religion is as good as another is; any religion is equally effective in showing the way to God and eternal life. Unfortunately, even some Christians accept this false philosophy and say the gospel is not necessarily true for others. They need to realize this idea contradicts the Great Commission and thus blunts missions and evangelism. More importantly, it denies the Christian gospel’s basic truth. The truth of the gospel, however, is not relative and shows the only way to God and eternal life.

READ: Galatians 2:15–3:9


In Galatians 2:11-14, Paul recounted his confronting Peter in Syrian Antioch. When Jerusalem believers came, Peter withdrew from table fellowship with Gentile Christians. Paul publicly renounced Peter’s action. In verses 15-16, Paul emphasized justification comes by grace through faith in Christ, not “by the works of the law”. Paul insists that we…

I. Believe (Gal. 2:15-16)

"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
(Galatians 2:15-16 NIV)

  1. Paul had recounted his confrontation with Peter in Antioch in which Paul rebuked his fellow apostle for withdrawing from table fellowship with Gentile Christians. Now Paul reflects on that experience. What began as words directed to Peter, now moved to the emphasis as to what the Galatian Christians needed.  He uses the royal “we” to refer to the fact that he was a Jew by birth with access to God’s revelation. He had God’s law and once had tried to attain righteousness by keeping it. The term “Gentile sinners” has quotation marks to indicate Paul was quoting the Judaizers’ reference to non-Jews. Although Paul was Jewish, he understood that nobody is justified by the works of the law. Paul knew from experience that attempts to attain righteousness through keeping the law are futile. The word justified means “made right with God.” The phrase “observing the law” refers to keeping the Ten Commandments and the oral rules and regulations attached to them. Obeying the law does not produce a right relationship with God. Only faith in Jesus Christ makes people right with God. Faith is total trust in and commitment to Christ. Faith is the means, not the source, of salvation; it is openness to receive God’s great grace-gift. Paul’s then uses Jesus’ name and title to emphasize that Jesus of Nazareth is the Savior and God’s Messiah. Paul used the verb form of the noun rendered faith to stress that Jewish Christians (and all believers then and now) had been and are justified by faith in Christ! They could not be saved by works of the law, for keeping the law cannot justify anyone. The statement “because by observing the law no one will be justified,” probably represents an interpretive quote of Psalm 143:2. No one can do enough good works to earn a relationship with God. We have to believe in Jesus Christ to be justified!

  EXAMPLE: Do some of you remember the “The ABCs of Salvation” we were taught during VBS? We receive salvation only by placing faith in Christ. Our understanding of this truth is crucial. Christians need to be clear about it so they can express it lovingly and kindly to unbelievers. Non-Christians need to hear this truth so they will not depend on false concepts of salvation.

Paul described his life before and after his conversion (vv. 17-21). His Christian life was totally different from his previous life because it was under Christ’s control. He tells the Galatians to…

II. Behave (Gal. 2:17-21)
"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! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 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. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (Galatians 2:17-21 NIV)

  1. This verse may reflect the criticism the men from Jerusalem leveled against Peter. Jewish Christians from Jerusalem viewed Peter’s action of eating with Gentile believers as forsaking the law and thus as committing sin. Paul then raised the question, “does that mean that Christ promotes sin?” Paul absolutely rejected such an idea. For Christ to promote sin would contradict His character. “Absolutely not” literally is “let it not be so,” or “may it not happen.” It has the sense of “God forbid!” To Paul, the real sin was legalism. Paul’s reference to rebuilding what was torn down expresses a return to legalism after leaving it. If he went back, it would prove he was a lawbreaker. Paul emphatically states, “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.” The phrase “through the law” likely refers to the law as the beginning point for Paul’s conversion. He came to recognize the futility of law keeping as a means of being made right with God. Paul died to the old way, the old law, on the Damascus road! It marked his complete break with legalism so he could live to God. His living to God involved following God’s will, living in such a way that honored Him, and no longer living for self. At conversion, Paul began to live under God’s direction. Paul described his conversion as his having been crucified with Christ. The tense of the Greek verb for crucified expresses an experience in the past, that continues in the present, and into the future! He was stressing identification with Christ. Mainly, Paul referred to his dying to the law and being freed to live for God. His experience involved dying to self—replacing self-rule with God’s will. “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,” he completely identified with his Lord. Having died with Christ, Paul was raised to new life—resurrection life! Paul did “not set aside the grace of God,” as the false Judaizers claimed he did. In fact, “if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Jesus’ death would be nothing more than a tragic, insignificant martyrdom. Instead of invalidating God’s grace as the Judaizers did, Paul proclaimed it as the only way to be saved. Paul not only believed in Jesus for salvation, he behaved in such a way as to promote it with every fiber of his being!

  EXAMPLE: When we place our faith in Christ, He radically transforms our lives, giving us the inclination, guidance, and power to behave, as He wants. He lives in us and expresses Himself through us. Knowing He loved us and gave Himself for us should inspire us to demonstrate His character in our behavior.

Paul urged the Galatian believers to be consistent in their theology and ethics, quizzing them about how they experienced salvation when he first preached to them. He also asked about their letting someone deceive them and about the Spirit’s presence and work among them. Paul says…

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

  1. Paul’s strong address, “You foolish Galatians,” expressed his dismay at their readiness to abandon the good news of grace. He incredulously asks, “Who has bewitched you?” The Judaizers had “put the evil eye” on believers, as sorcerers were thought to be able to do. The false teachers had bewitched the Galatian Christians. Yet, “Before your very eyes, Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified!” Paul bluntly reminds them. The Greek wording vividly portrayed means “to write (or ‘paint’) before the eyes” or “to post or placard.” Paul had presented the good news of Christ’s redemptive death graphically, as though he had posted a public notice in large letters. Paul asked, “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?” The Galatian believers definitely did not receive the Spirit by works of the law. No good work had earned them the Spirit. When they heard the gospel of grace and placed their faith in Christ, they received the Spirit. Now, they were being inconsistent in their faith! Were they that “foolish”? Evidently, they were! Could they attain their goal of righteousness by “human effort?” the answer was, “NO!” Turning to legalism to attain righteousness instead of relying on the Spirit’s presence and power made no sense to Paul. Had they “suffered so much for nothing?” Paul’s question likely focused on believers’ facing opposition because of their faith. Paul’s final question was designed to cause these Christians to reflect on their experience with the Spirit, whom they had received at conversion. They had not earned this immeasurable gift by works of the law. God had supplied the Spirit. The Spirit’s presence and work produced the miracles. The gift of the Spirit and God’s miraculous activity among them came by hearing with faith—hearing the gospel and placing faith in Christ. They needed to stop being so stupid and instead be more consistent in their faith!

  EXAMPLE: When we receive salvation through faith, we also receive the Spirit who wants to lead us to consistency in our beliefs and actions and to move us toward maturity as believers. We need to be sensitive to His presence, and we need to cooperate by acting obediently to His prompting within us.

Paul also contrasted living under the law to living in faith. And finally, he emphasized the permanence of God’s promise to Abraham. Paul related that we can also…

IV. Be Blessed (Gal. 3:6-9)
Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:6-9 NIV)

  1. What was faith? Was it that important for the believers to grasp this concept? Paul immediately referred to Abraham, the father of the faith, and quoted Genesis 15:6 to stress the truth that people are made right with God through faith. Abraham “believed God”—he trusted in and committed himself to God. As a result, his faith was entered in the positive side of the ledger as righteousness—a right standing with God. Before God gave the law and before Abraham was circumcised, he was made right with God through faith and not following the law! Paul emphasized that people who place faith in Christ are Abraham’s spiritual descendants: “Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham!” Circumcision and works of the law have nothing to do with real righteousness and being Abraham’s true descendants. Faith has everything to do with both. We are Abraham’s children as well! Next, Paul personified the Scripture and quoted Genesis 12:3b, a reference the Judaizers likely qualified by insisting it carried the requirement of circumcision. Paul contended that God’s promise, “All nations will be blessed through you”, was a prophecy of good news to Abraham. The Lord would make the Gentiles right with Him in the same manner Abraham was made right: by faith. Thus, everyone who exercises faith as Abraham did shares the blessing he received: right relationship with God.

  EXAMPLE: What does sharing Abraham’s blessing mean to you? How do you define faith?When we become Christians, we receive the blessing God promised Abraham and that countless multitudes have enjoyed. This blessing is available to non-Christians through faith in Christ. When believers talk with others about becoming Christians, we give them the opportunity to participate in fulfilling the Scriptures, to receive the blessing God promised Abraham’s descendants.

Conclusion:
 1. We receive salvation when we believe by placing our faith in Christ.
  2. When we place our faith in Christ, He radically transforms our lives, giving us the inclination, guidance, and power to behave, as He wants.
  3. When we receive salvation through faith, we also receive the Spirit who wants to lead us to consistency in our beliefs and actions and to move us toward maturity as believers.
 4. When we become Christians, we receive the blessing God promised Abraham and that countless multitudes have enjoyed.
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 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.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Talking about the Gospel - Galatians 1:6-9, 11-12, 15-16; 2:1-6

Talking about the Gospel - Galatians 1:6-9, 11-12, 15-16; 2:1-6
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 21, 2013 AM

One test of being a good student is to understand the instructions for an exam. Once in seminary, our class gathered for a final exam in a Greek language course. We received the test paper with its instructions. Unfortunately, several students misread the directions and translated the wrong Scripture passage. As an act of grace, the professor did not give the students failing grades or automatically lower their grades. Instead, he evaluated their work on the passage they mistakenly translated. He pointed out, however, that they did poorer than they probably would have done on the assigned passage. Their lack of a clear understanding of the instructions cost them.

Without being aware of what they are doing, folks often reveal they do not clearly understand the gospel. They make such comments as, “I hope God will let me into heaven.” Or “I hope I'm good enough to get into heaven.” Or “I may not be a good Christian, but God has got to love me anyway.” Or even, “I study my Bible and I know a lot about it.” Statements such as these do not reflect the true gospel of Christ. They reflect a false gospel of salvation based on works or on knowledge. The true gospel is that salvation is by faith alone. God wants people to understand this is the only gospel. Unless Christians are clear about the true gospel, they may be deceived about its content.

READ: Galatians 1:6-9, 11-12, 15-16; 2:1-6

Like all biblical writers, Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit as he wrote this letter. He began with a salutation in which he identified himself and the letter’s recipients. Then he wrote a greeting that included a prayer, a statement concerning Christ’s sacrifice for our salvation, and a doxology that we adhere to even today. Like Paul, we need to…

I. Recognize the true Gospel! (Gal. 1:6-9)

  1. Usually, Paul followed words of greeting in his letters with an expression of thanksgiving for the recipients. In his Letter to the Galatians, he moved quickly from greeting them to addressing their critical situation. Paul expressed surprise and perplexity at the Galatians’ actions. He was shocked and dismayed that they were so quickly turning away from Jesus. God had called them to salvation by the grace of Christ. Their redemption had come as a sheer gift from God through Christ’s atoning self-sacrifice. Yet they were in the process of deserting God! The phrase “so quickly” may indicate soon after these believers’ conversion, soon after Paul’s departure, or soon after the false teachers’ arrival. In any case, believers displayed a readiness to turn away from the gospel that Paul preached to a “different gospel”! The Greek term rendered “different” means “another in kind or nature.” Paul quickly asserted no other gospel of the same kind existed, only the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone! Any gospel other than the one Paul proclaimed was bogus. These false teachers were Jewish Christians who insisted Gentiles had to become Jewish converts to be full-fledged Christians. They wanted to require Gentile males to be circumcised and all Gentiles to strictly observe the Jewish law. These “Judiazers” acknowledged that faith in Christ was needed but said it was not enough. Paul flatly rejected their view as salvation by works of the law, declaring legalism has no part in a person’s redemption. Salvation is by grace; it is God’s gift received by faith. The false teachers were trying to pervert or corrupt the gospel of Christ. Paul expressed his anger by presenting a hypothetical case in which he or an angel proclaimed a different gospel contrary to the one Paul had preached to the Galatians, they should be cursed! The Greek word for curse (anathema) describes people or things so detestable to God that their destruction honors Him! Paul emphasized his distaste by repeating his curse! He consigned to destruction anyone whose message contradicted the gospel of God’s grace in Christ. Believers need to recognize the true gospel!

  EXAMPLE: When we are clear about the one true gospel, we will reject all efforts to change or add to it. We will reject false gospels such as salvation by works, through knowledge, or through mere identification with any religion. One test of any teaching is whether it strengthens Jesus' church. We must examine carefully any teaching that threatens a church’s peace. Generally, we will reject them; but we should accept no such teaching without careful, in-depth consideration. Those who would teach anything other than what Jesus taught in the gospels, should be condemned because they hinder the lost from coming by faith to Christ, this is why believers need to recognize the true gospel.

Quickly, without an expression of thanksgiving for the Galatian believers, Paul addressed the threat to these Christians that deeply concerned him. He rejected the idea that anything could be added to the gospel of salvation by faith alone, through Christ alone, and warned that such an effort produces a false gospel. Paul knew that believers needed to…

II. Realize the Gospel is divine! (Gal. 1:11-12, 15-16)

  1. Evidently, the Judaizers accused Paul of saying what people wanted to hear in order to win their favor. In their view, he preached an easy salvation of grace rather than a more difficult righteousness based on works. Paul countered that he sought to please God, not people! The phrase “I want you to know” is literally “I certify to you” and calls attention to what follows. Paul stressed that the gospel he preached was not “man made up”. The good news of salvation by grace through faith in Christ is not the product of human ingenuity. It was not Paul’s idea, he “received it by revelation from Jesus Christ”! He did not “receive it from any man”! The gospel differs from any human message in character and content; but of more significance, it is divine in its origin! No human source relayed the gospel to Paul. No apostle or other early Christian taught him the gospel’s content. Paul received the gospel he preached by a direct revelation from Jesus Christ. Paul probably referred to his encounter with Christ on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-9). Paul briefly reviewed his “previous way of life in Judaism” and “how intensely (he) persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.” He was near the top of his class in Judaism, “extremely zealous” for his ancestors’ “traditions” (v. 14). First, God set Paul apart. The Greek term rendered set apart means “to select” or “to appoint.” Paul had been a Pharisee—a “separated one”—but God had separated him for a better purpose “from my mother’s womb”. Second, God had called Paul to salvation and special service by His grace. Third, God revealed His Son in Paul. God revealed Christ to Paul so He could reveal the Savior through Paul. Specifically, God selected Paul to proclaim Christ to the Gentiles. Paul’s salvation and his commission as the Apostle to the Gentiles were at God’s initiative. Paul reinforced his assertion that the gospel he preached came from Christ, not from a human source. Following his conversion on the Damascus road, he did not immediately consult with anyone. He received no human instruction. We dare not add to its content or its teaching. For Paul the gospel was and is divine!

  EXAMPLE: Messages claiming to be ultimate religious truth from divine sources continue to proliferate today. When we are clear about the true gospel’s being from God, we will reject these other so-called gospels. They wrongly thrust their leaders or their ideas above God, or above the teaching of Holy Scriptures, or above both. ?Christians today need to understand clearly that the message handed down from the saints, the gospel, is divine!

Paul resisted any idea that the gospel he preached came from another person or represented a human point of view. He emphasized it came only from Christ. Because Paul treasured the gospel he preached, he refused to do anything that could be understood as a compromise after presenting it to the church’s leaders. In fact, he received their affirmation of his gospel. Like Paul, we must…

III. Refuse to compromise the gospel! (Gal. 2:1-6)

  1. “Fourteen years later” from Paul’s conversion, he “went up again to Jerusalem.” Paul not only defended this gospel to the Twelve, but they also recognized “the grace that had been given” to Paul. (2:9) Paul took Barnabas and Titus along with him. Barnabas was the leader in this church who had persuaded the apostles to accept Paul. Later he enlisted Paul to assist in the work in Antioch of Syria. They also worked together on the first missionary journey. He “took Titus along also.” Barnabas would have great influence among Jerusalem Christians, while Titus would have directly challenged the Judaizers because he was a Gentile convert and was not circumcised. Paul said he “went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.” Paul was concerned that opposition from the Jerusalem church’s leaders would severely hamper his work. Such disapproval could lead to a sharp division between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Paul acted prudently to prevent misunderstanding. Paul emphasized that the Jerusalem church accepted Titus, an uncircumcised Gentile convert, without demanding that he be circumcised. Paul’s implication was clear: The Judaizers who were perverting the gospel did not have the Jerusalem church’s approval. However, some of their sympathizers who had entered the discussion uninvited insisted that Titus and all other Gentiles be circumcised. They may have been looking for evidence that Jewish Christians were disregarding the law. Their purpose was to discredit Paul and his message of grace so believers would be enslaved again to legalism. Salvation by grace frees people from legalism. Paul refused to budge on his insistence that circumcision plays no part in salvation. He did not knuckle under to the Judaizers’ demands “for a moment.” He refused to yield on the crucial issue of how people are made right with God. Paul’s refusal to compromise was so that the truth of the gospel would remain for all Christians. To him, the gospel’s integrity was at stake. Paul stressed that the church leaders “added nothing my message”. They imposed no new requirements, conditions, or limitations on his ministry. Thus, the gospel remained the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus. Like Paul, we should refuse to compromise the gospel!

  EXAMPLE: Gaining a fuller understanding of the gospel is important. We can grow in our understanding by talking to, listening to, and studying with others as well as reading Christian materials. Yet we must test any idea batted around in such venues by the true gospel, not by what is most popular or pleasing or by what is presented most effectively or forcefully. When we are clear about the true gospel, we will oppose ideas or actions that compromise it.

Conclusion:
When we are clear in our understanding of the gospel, we will recognize the true Gospel, realize the Gospel is divine, and refuse to compromise the gospel.
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 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.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Commitment: A path to fulfillment! - Micah 7:1-7, 18-20

Commitment: A path to fulfillment! - Micah 7:1-7, 18-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 14, 2013 AM

"Jim" is a committed Christian who works in a large real estate office. He has been reprimanded more than once by management for being "too candid" about problems with the properties, he shows. Most of Jim’s fellow workers either are not Christians or are spiritually shallow. He does not join their conversations about movies because they usually discuss movies he avoids due to their content. He is not invited nor does he want to join them after work at the local bar. Because of his commitment to Christ, he feels lonely and isolated in this ungodly environment. Jim shared his frustrations with his pastor, who suggested he join a men’s support group that met each week for encouragement. Jim agreed and there he found other men who shared his frustration at their places of work.

Does anything in your work environment cause you difficulty as a Christian? If so, how do you handle it? Christians increasingly find themselves living and working in an ungodly and immoral culture. Government, educational institutions, and media do not support a Christian worldview. Some Christians surrender to the temptation to compromise their faith in order to advance or just get along with their unspiritual companions. Others make a conscious decision to live faithfully for Christ no matter what the cost financially or socially. In today’s passage, Micah gives us an apt description of being a godly man in an ungodly culture. Micah succeeded in resisting the temptations of his day, and through commitment to the Lord, he was effective in the ministry God called him to accomplish Let’s discover how Micah could remain committed to God in an ungodly world.

READ: Micah 7:1-7, 18-20

Micah lamented the increase in wickedness in his culture. The numbers of people disobedient to the Lord increased and the magnitude of their sins increased. Micah described a society growing more and more violent. People treated one another as animals of prey. The prophet also lamented the lack of order in society and the corruption of officials who failed to uphold justice. Micah found a path to fulfillment in a…

I. Depressing Culture (Mic. 7:1-6)

  1. Micah laments, "What misery is mine! I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave." Micah expressed his personal experience as a godly prophet living in a nation that had turned away from God. He knew that "The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man remains. All men lie in wait to shed blood; each hunts his brother with a net." Fellowship and friendship are based on shared values. Micah’s commitment to the Lord isolated him from the disobedient citizens of Judah where he lived. They would not repent and join him in obeying the Lord, and he would not compromise his loyalty to God and join them. Micah, like many godly individuals in a corrupt society, lived a lonely and isolated life. Micah described a violent society where the wicked preyed on the helpless like animals. Their sins were premeditated as they waited in ambush to shed blood. They used deception to catch their unwary victims. The word for net refers to a device used by hunters. Wicked predators lured victims with temptations and false promises that appealed to the sinful nature. He confessed, "The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge. The day of your watchmen has come, the day God visits you. Now is the time of their confusion." Micah even related that they should not "trust a neighbor" or to "put no confidence in a friend." Even families could not be trusted, "For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man's enemies are the members of his own household." The breakdown of morals in society inevitably leads to a breakdown of order in the family and vice-versa. Each feeds on the other in a vicious cycle. Wow! What a totally depressing culture!

  EXAMPLE: Micah’s description of his culture reflects the current direction and characteristics of our own society. For example, many in the secular academic world promote theories or philosophies opposed to biblical precepts. Many in secular entertainment continue to challenge biblical authority and truth through glorification of sin and depravity. When unsaved and unspiritual people control the culture, virtues are despised and vices are praised. Godly Christians increasingly are isolated and criticized for their convictions concerning these and other important issues of today. Christians also face personal morality issues in the world of business. Abstaining from alcohol amid its widespread use for entertaining and socialization is certainly one challenge. Also, Christians are sometimes pressured to participate in immoral conversations or acts by others. The pressure to get along with others can wear down even faithful believers. Christians today need to realize the pressure they feel from the world to compromise their convictions is not new. Godly men and women have faced similar temptations throughout history. We are facing an old challenge that Jesus warned us about. He told us a world that hated Him also would hate us (John 15:18). We must be careful to follow His command to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:15-16) We can find fulfillment in a depressing culture when we follow God!

Micah also condemned religious leaders who failed to act as watchmen and warn the people of the coming judgment from God. Selfishness and sin destroyed the natural affections of friends and family. In fact, it was replaced by betrayal and conflict. Micah, however, pledged loyalty to God and obedience to His Word. He spoke as if the judgment on Judah already had occurred. He predicted not only God's judgment but also a future restoration when the people would turn their hearts to repent and obey the Lord. Micah found a path to fulfillment by making a…

II. Determined Choice (Mic. 7:7)

  1. "But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD," Micah pronounced, "I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me." In a depressing culture, Godly people "wait for God." Faithful believers today can identify with Micah. He too faced cultural pressure and temptation to conform to low standards. "But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD," signaled he would continue a course of faithfulness despite the moral defectors around him. Micah’s pledge of obedience to the Lord is similar to the statement by Joshua that he and his family would serve the Lord no matter what choices those in his audience made, "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15 NIV) In the course of biblical and church history, many faithful saints have had to stand alone or with a small minority. The standards of political and religious leaders in Micah’s day had been lowered, but he did not follow them. He knew he was accountable to the Lord. The phrase "I wait for God my Savior" expresses Micah’s abiding faith and hope. Evil people were having their way for the moment, but the prophet knew their time of judgment was coming. God’s wrath would be on the wicked, but God would bring salvation to the righteous. The phrase "my God will hear me" reveals Micah was a man of intense and persistent prayer. He called on the Lord for strength and help in those difficult days. Micah determined to choose to follow God no matter what the world did.

  EXAMPLE: Christians today face powerful pressures to conform to the evil practices of this world. As just noted, Christians in the business world are often asked to take actions that are either illegal or unethical. Also, Christian singles are tempted to stop waiting for a godly mate and settle for immoral behavior or an unspiritual spouse. Gambling, profanity, pornography, and greed are representative of the bait Satan often places in his traps for Christians. Paul urged believers to surrender their bodies as living sacrifices and warned that since they served God they were not to conform to the world (Romans 12:1-2). Faithful Christians today can take courage from heroes like Micah who stood firm in faith against the temptations of an ungodly society. We know the importance of church and Christian friendships. We should seek out others who will encourage us to stand firmly for God’s principles. We must be willing to do what is right, however, even if we stand alone in doing so. The choice is ours.
Micah concludes the chapter by calling on the Lord to shepherd the people of Israel. The prophet asked the Lord to deliver them as He had delivered the people from slavery in Egypt. Micah prophesied that the nations who opposed a regenerated Israel would be humbled and forced to submit to the Lord. Micah marveled at the grace of God in forgiving sinners and praised God for His faithfulness and loyal love for His people. In finding his path of fulfillment, Micah had a…

III. Distinct Confidence (Mic. 7:18-20)

  1. Micah knew that when God returned and redeemed his people the nations that had subjugated them would "be ashamed, deprived of all their power. They will lay their hands on their mouths and their ears will become deaf." In fact, "They will lick dust like a snake, like creatures that crawl on the ground." Micah reminds his listeners that there was no God like his Lord. He related, "Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy." Micah did not imply the Lord would not judge His nation. He knew a devastating punishment would come, but he also knew the Lord would forgive His people when they repented. The blessings of mercy and forgiveness would be experienced by the remnant of His inheritance. Micah praises God by stating, "You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea." depicts God as a conquering Warrior who tramples our sins underfoot. We cannot defeat sin through our efforts. Only the Lord can destroy our sins and defeat Satan, who encourages us to sin. Only the Lord can give us power and victory over the sinful nature within all of us. Micah pictured the Lord taking our sins and casting them into the depths of the sea! Micah closed his prophecy with praise to the Lord for His loyalty and faithful love to Jacob and Abraham, who represented the nation that descended from them. "You will be true" literally refers to the attribute of truth and stability in God’s nature. The word translated "mercy" also emphasizes God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises. Together God’s loyalty and love provided the basis for Micah’s hope about the future. The prophet was confident the Lord would restore His people after the devastating judgment. Micah knew his own faithfulness would be rewarded because of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling His promises. Micah knew God to "be true to Jacob." God had always shown "mercy to Abraham" because God had "pledged on oath to (their) fathers in days long ago." In his path to fulfillment, Micah had confidence in his God!

  EXAMPLE: Christians today have a more complete understanding than Micah did of God’s mercy and forgiveness. We know what God did in the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus defeated Satan and makes possible the removal of our sins by God’s grace and through our faith. Wise Christians know the pleasures of this world are fleeting and that God will discipline believers who succumb to its temptations. We can live confidently knowing God will reward those who remain faithful. We know that Jesus Christ will return to bring all His people into His glorious kingdom that will never end. In our commitment to God our fulfillment comes from our confidence in Him!

Conclusion:
1. We can persevere in living for the Lord even though rampant violence, selfishness, greed, corruption, and disloyalty may depress us.
2. We can persevere in living for the Lord by choosing to wait patiently for His help.
3. We can persevere in living for the Lord by confidently and consistently praising Him for who He is and what He is doing.
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 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.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Facing fear! Trusting God! – 2 Timothy 1:7

Facing fear! Trusting God! – 2 Timothy 1:7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 7, 2013 AM

When John Kennedy’s speechwriters wrote his famous words, “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country”, they were borrowing from the thoughts of our Nation’s forefathers. George Washington wrote, “Nothing is a greater stranger to my breast, or a sin that my soul more abhors, than that black and detestable one, ingratitude.” We live in a day and age whereby folks seem to be more interested in what they get out their relationship with Jesus than what their responsibility should be in their relationship with Jesus.

Paul wrote his young friend Timothy two letters of instruction and encouragement. Paul cared deeply for Timothy, but for some reason, he kept not quite living up to the expectations Paul had for him. Like many believers today, Timothy was often embarrassed of not only Paul and his bold and outgoing witness, but he was often ashamed of his own relationship with the Lord! Christians, both young and old face fears and uncertainties in life concerning their faith. What does Paul tell his friend to do when he doubts himself and others as he tried to face his fears and trust God? Let’s find out…

READ: 2 Timothy 1:1


In life, we can be afraid of a lot of things. As children, we may fear a dark room or a bully down the street and as adults; we may fear a boss or what the future holds for us, however, Paul shares that…

I. God did not give us a spirit of timidity!

  1. The wording here means one of fear, where the person is not just afraid but acting cowardly. Often times, young people can fear their friends rejection. They are sensitive to how they are viewed by their peers, and thereby act cowardly in sharing their faith. However, this isn’t just confined to the young. Believers of all ages have become fearful of what others think about them and are not sharing their faith. Perhaps, this is what Timothy feared as well. Paul had faced a similar situation with John Mark, who would later write the gospel of Mark. Mark had been on fire for his faith at first, but soon tired of the road, longed for home, and also displayed an attitude of cowardice in sharing his faith! Timothy needed this reminder of his ordination, and the confidence in his own gifts he developed as a result of it. While even Moses, on the occasion, acted in fear and trembling, the Gospel was given to us in a much milder manner. Everything was placed on our human level of understanding and within the reach of every human being. Nothing was terrifying, forbidding but all was compassionate and inviting. Paul would write the Roman Christians, who faced far greater hardships than most of us do today, wrote, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Romans 8:15 NIV) Paul and the other disciples understood that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18 NIV) In fact, Jesus taught, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” (Luke 12:4-5 NIV) We should not be afraid of sharing our faith. We need to remind ourselves that God did not give us a spirit of timidity!

  EXAMPLE: Perhaps we do not share because we feel guilt that we do not live the consistent holy lives in Christ we should, and if we do share then those we are trying to win would point out all of our faults. We would be exposed for the religious hypocrites we actually are. Perhaps we need to reexamine our commitment, but more likely, we need to remember that we are not made perfect in our life in Jesus; we are just made holy in him. This is what Paul was trying to teach Timothy. This is why he told him, “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.” (2 Timothy 1:8-9 NIV) God did not give us a spirit of timidity but one of power because of his grace!

The world has a survival of the fittest mentality. If we appear compassionate, kind, or gracious the world may see it as weakness. However, we need not be fearful, Paul shares that instead…

II. God has given us a spirit of power, of love, and self-discipline!

  1. The wording Paul uses in the next part of the verse is one of immense energy, a violent force that completely changes the individual; kind of like a spiritual explosion. You were once this way and God came in and completely and totally changed you! As Paul would write about his own experience, “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.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV) He continues his encouragement to Timothy by reminding him that God also gave him a spirit of love. The word is one used for a continuation of love in that God keeps on heaping on his love for us and we should then live like it. It is a sacrificial love, a feast for the soul. We can come to worship, join a church, and even turn our car radios to the local Christian music station but then we are like the Pharisees Jesus warned, “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” (Luke 11:42 NIV) We think that by doing the right religious things, we are living for God, but Jesus demands we display his love, his grace by giving it away into the lives of others! John would ponder, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:16-17 NIV) And this brings us to the final encouragement Paul gave his young protégé, namely to remember God had given him a spirit of self-discipline as well, literally, a “sound mind” in Jesus. We are not to be sophomoric, which is a derivative of this word, but rather live in such a way as to display the mind of Christ in our lives. Paul would write the Roman Christians, “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:6-9 NIV) They call a person who has two conflicting minds a schizophrenic. Some believers are walking spiritual schizophrenics! We are to have the mind of Christ and not the world! Like Timothy, perhaps this morning we need to be reminded that God has given us a spirit of power, of love, and self-discipline!

  EXAMPLE: Maybe we should take another look at what Paul wrote Timothy, not just this one verse, but the context of it. Paul wrote, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:7-12 NIV) Let me ask, “Can you honestly say the same thing this morning, or do you live your life in Christ in fear and shame?” Makes one wonder… God has given us a spirit of power, of love, and self-discipline!

Conclusion:
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
(2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 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.