Sunday, September 29, 2013

How genuine are you? - James 1:19-27

How genuine are you? - James 1:19-27
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 29, 2013 AM

Sadly, some Christians look genuine; but on close examination, they do not measure up. They talk a lot about how much they love the Bible. They may brag about how they have memorized Scriptures. They may claim to believe the Bible from cover to cover. They may itemize how much time they spend daily in reading it, taking notes on it, and doing research. They may declare they are qualified to teach Bible classes or even to challenge others' biblical interpretations, including those of their pastors. The real test of loving the Bible, however, is none of these. Regardless of how much people say about the Bible, none of it matters if they do not live by it.

What makes a believer's faith genuine? In the case of manuscripts, carbon dating and chemical analysis of the inks used in them can help determine their age. Manuscripts can be compared with earlier verified discoveries to match identifiable characteristics and materials. Some prove to be genuine and add to our knowledge of the Bible; others are counterfeit and useless. Again, how can we tell if a believer is the real deal or not? James gives us some great advice in this area. Let's discover what he shares…

READ: James 1:19-27

How closely does the image you project as a Christian match who you know yourself to really be? We all want to think we project Christ, but do we truly display Jesus in our actions? Far too many Christians have little Bible knowledge. They misunderstand biblical teaching and misapply it to their lives. Some believers know a great deal about the Bible but fail to accept its truths and act on them. How can we live genuine lives in Christ in our world today? James writes that…

I. We need to accept God's Word! (1:19-21)

  1. James immediately writes, "My dear brothers, take note of this!" Take note of what? James wanted his readers to focus on what was most important in their lives, that which the world sees first! It is a command that signals the importance of what follows. James addressed three commands to each of these believers, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry!" With their Old Testament background, these believers quickly would pick up on the emphasis in the word "listen." Listen means more than taking in sound waves, it means acting on what is received. Like when my mother would ask, "Are you listening to me?" She did not mean simply hearing her voice; she meant doing what she asked! The second command is that believers are to be "slow to speak." James is cautioning his readers against acting too hastily with their rash mouths. My dad would tell us, "Think about what you are going to say before you say it." James's third command is that believers should be "slow to become angry." The Greek word translated "angry" means "wrath"—a deep, seething animosity. Why is it believers can excuse the dirt the world hurls their way, but become embittered over a fellow believer's perceived slight? Christians are not to harbor hatred for others, especially fellow followers, or have a desire for vengeance because of perceived wrongs. James knew that a believer's "anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." His answers was, "Therefore, get rid of all moral filth (literally shabbiness) and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." He is conveying the sense of being teachable. The implanted word refers to God's gospel message. What evidences are you giving that God's Word is implanted firmly within you? If we were saved by faith, are we reflecting that faith to the world around us? We need to be genuine and accept God's Word!

  EXAMPLE: Sometimes, Christians can reflect a truly shabby attitude toward others, especially fellow believers. Being ungracious, demanding, near-sighted, and wanting only what we can get out of a relationship whether it is a church or individuals. When we are open to the truths of His Word, we can know how to live as God wants. We will focus on obeying the Bible's teachings without chafing under its demands. We will engage in a determined process to remove the shabby impurities from our lives. As we study God's Word, we will nurture its truths in our lives in preparation for everlasting life with Him. We need to, but more than that, the world needs us to be genuine and accept God's Word!

James knew that only the person who acts on the basis of the Word of God will be blessed. He teaches that in being genuine…

II. We need to act on God's Word! (1:22-25)

  1. James was concerned that believers persevere in living out God's Word. He tells them, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." The phrase refers to believers who hear the Word taught, read, or preached and then put it into action in their lives. "Merely listen," describes someone who hears the words of Scripture without really listening to them. That person takes no actions as a result of hearing the Bible read and taught. A person who believes sitting through a presentation of God's Word as an end in itself is delusional, which is tragic! One who is content to only listen to God's Word and then take no action has no clear, precise, lasting perception of who they are. James drew an illustration from everyday life to drive home this point. The mirrors of that time were made of polished metal—bronze, silver, copper, or tin. He writes that, "Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like." Can you imagine such a thing, and yet Sunday after Sunday there are those who participate in fine sounding worship and sit in pews listening to great sermons and do nothing with what they hear! It has no impact on their spiritually shallow lives! James compared this person with someone looking at his own face (literally, "the face of his birth") in a mirror and forgetting immediately what he looks like! As we would say, "He looked and never gave it another thought." Such a person neglects to do the spiritual grooming the mirror reveals. In contrast James wrote that "the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this" and gives careful attention to the perfect law of freedom, "not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does." The Greek verb rendered "looks intently" has the idea of stooping forward to examine something closely. When we give careful attention to God's Word, we will act on what we've looked intently at! Just listening to God's Word is never enough, we need to be genuine and act on God's Word!

  EXAMPLE: I remember reading about how missionary Lottie Moon impacted the lives of the Chinese people. One man told her the secret to her success, "We have had a lot of people come and tell us about Jesus, but you showed us Jesus!" Studying God's Word is incomplete until we translate it into our lives with actions that are in accord with its truths. Participating in weekly Bible study classes are important because we learn from the example of others applying God's Word in how we should live. Personal reading and studying of the Scriptures are also essential to our spiritual growth. However, just studying God's Word is never enough, we need to be genuine and act on God's Word!

Believers can deceive themselves into thinking they are religious when in reality their religion is "useless." By applying God's Word, they give evidence their religion is genuine. James writes that in being genuine… 

III. We need to apply God's Word! (1:26-27)

  1. James gave practical aspects of following Christ to warn against self-deception. "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." A person, who "considers" himself religious, without controlling his tongue, is self-deceived. The word "religious" conveys the sense of outward pious acts, such as almsgiving, praying, fasting, and attending worship. These acts are good, but they are not enough. A person can diligently perform all external religious requirements and consider them self spiritually sound, but be completely wrong. James knew that "a tight rein on his tongue" meant "to guide with a bridle," "to hold in check," "to restrain" one's run off of the mouth! A person with consistently undisciplined speech but thinks he or she is religious is self-deceived. The word "himself" in the NIV really is "heart" and was considered a person's center of intellect, will or choice, and emotions. At the center of one's being; the supposed religious person is tragically in error. No matter how industrious we are in performing religious acts, if we are not disciplined in our speech; our religion is useless and empty. Such pseudo-religion produces nothing of lasting effect; it is worthless. It might allow us to feel good, but it cannot facilitate spiritual growth and refined character. However, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." Many interpreters have taken the words pure and faultless to mean "clean" and "unsoiled." The Greek term rendered pure, however, can mean "genuine." The word faultless can have the sense of being unimpaired, thus effective. True religion has an effect on the outcome of one's life. Widows and orphans were representative of the poor, helpless, and defenseless people. Christians who read or heard James's words were aware of the Lord's concern for all needy people, not just financially but more importantly those who were impoverished spiritually. James's positive portrait of genuine Christianity depicted personal moral purity. Believers are to keep themselves from being stained (polluted) by the world. Moral purity is evidence of a genuine relationship with Christ. Genuine believers apply the Word of God to every aspect of their lives!

  EXAMPLE: When people did not live as they said they believed a seminary friend of mine would say, "Their spiritual slip is showing." I am amazed at how easily some Christians today acquiesce themselves and their faith by fooling themselves into thinking God will excuse anything. Sexual relations before marriage, defiance to biblical obedience, and a stewardship of selfishness are just a few of the spiritual aberrations some willingly accept as "normal." When we apply God's Word to our lives, we will exhibit genuine Christianity. We will discipline our speech and our lives to make it constructive. We will be personally involved in ministry to those in need both spiritually and financially, and we will strive to maintain moral purity in a permissive society. Genuine believers apply the Word of God to every aspect of their lives!

  1. When we are open to the truths of His Word, we can know how to live as God wants.
  2. Studying God's Word is incomplete until we translate it into our lives with actions that are in accord with its truths.
  3. When we apply God's Word to our lives, we will exhibit genuine Christianity.

This article is the copyrighted property of Lee Hemen and may not be edited or redistributed without his written permission.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

When common sense isn’t! - James 1:2-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 22, 2013 AM

Jack was one of the smartest people I have known. However, while Jack was “book smart” he was pound-foolish. He did not use his knowledge to make himself wise. Ken, on the other hand, while not highly educated, used his godly wisdom to meet life’s challenges and to serve his Lord faithfully. Among God’s good gifts, He provides wisdom to help believers endure trials, resist temptations, and put material things in proper perspective. It is more than common sense it is Godly wisdom.

When people face trials, they may wonder, “How can I handle this situation?” People without wealth may wonder why they have so little. Individuals with great wealth may congratulate themselves on how much they have and concentrate on getting even more. When people face temptations, they may succumb and blame everyone including God. All these thoughts, however, reflect earthly wisdom rather than wisdom from God. People who think like this need to know God offers and generously provides us wisdom when we ask for it. Let’s discover what James teaches us about Godly wisdom…

READ: James 1:1-18

How do you respond to trials, temptations, or issues regarding material possessions? Often, believers faced with trials, temptations, and issues regarding possessions depend on their own intelligence. Many rely on past experiences, self-help books or seminars, and available resources without asking for God’s wisdom. Believers need to understand they can receive wisdom from God and ask Him for wisdom concerning trials, temptations, and wealth. James stressed that God offers believers wisdom so they can cope with times of trials and testing. James teaches us how…

I. To endure trials! (Vv. 1:2-8)

  1. James began by telling them to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds!” He wanted them to regard what he was sharing. His “brothers” in Christ were not to invite trouble but were to value trials when they occurred. Why? James knew that a Christian’s faith is not founded on how we feel or what we may be going through. “Joy” is a deep sense of being held securely in God’s grace no matter what. It is not the emotion of happiness, but the settled gladness of knowing nothing can separate us from God. “Trials” can be translated “temptations” depending on the context. Here, it has the sense of adversities, afflictions, or troubles—problems and difficulties that test a believer’s faith. These difficulties were of many kinds (literally, “many-colored”). Some might be unexpected adversity. However, God can bring something good through our trials. Believers can face testing of their faith with joy because it “develops perseverance.” The word “testing” was used in examining metals to certify their purity.  The idea is a faith, which has been tested and then results in a finished product! This is why James reminds us that, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” God intends believers to be “complete, not lacking anything”. In fact, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” Instead of going to the world for answers, we are to go immediately to God! Yet, “when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” Receiving wisdom from God hinges on total trust in and commitment to God. The doubter’s commitment constantly wavers between God and self. Such an indecisive, unsettled individual cannot “think he will receive anything from the Lord”. An indecisive believer is “double-minded” or “doubled-souled.” Such a person is completely “unstable in all he does”! Like a drunken, staggering sailor! However, Godly wisdom teaches us to endure trials!

  EXAMPLE: Enduring trials does not mean we are to simply put up with them and go on; rather it is an opportunity to grow in Godly wisdom. Having wisdom from God, we can tackle trials and tests with joy because they are opportunities for us to become more mature in our faith walk. On coming to the understanding that we need God’s wisdom, we can request it and be sure He will give it. We are to ask in total commitment, however. Our faith cannot be mixed with the indecision of circumstances or trials we are suffering. Godly wisdom teaches us to endure trials!

James goes on to admonished believers that only their relationship with God, not their wealth, was eternal. Godly wisdom teaches us…

II. “To put material things into proper perspective! (Vv. 1:9-11)

  1. James addresses both poor and rich people. He showed wealth could be a problem whether people had nothing, much, or something in between. Regardless of believers’ financial status, their earthly lives and any earthly wealth they have are only temporary. “The brother of humble circumstances” can become bitter and resent what others have. Instead, they are to rejoice in their spiritual wealth as members of God’s family and kingdom. Because God is impartial, all people—regardless of their financial status—stand on equal footing with Him. He values all His children. However, least pride should overtake those who have more materially, James immediately writes, “But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.” Those who are well-off needed to realize their wealth was temporary and perishable. They would wither and die like a “wild flower” in the summer’s heat and leave all their worldly possessions behind. “For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.” James’ illustration of life and wealth’s transitory nature should give all believers pause. As the day progresses, the sun’s scorching heat evaporates the dew from vegetation. In the same way, as the wealthy feverishly go about their business, they wither away. Riches might accumulate, but life will end. Let me ask you, “How do you view your material possessions? What dangers do they pose for you?” Godly wisdom teaches us to put wealth into proper perspective!

  EXAMPLE: When we look to God for wisdom, we can put wealth in its proper perspective. If we have little, He will help us avoid resentment and greed. If we have modest means, He will give us wisdom to manage well what we have. If we possess much, He will keep reminding us to trust in Him and not in what we have. Also, He will urge all of us to share whatever wealth we have with those in need. Remember, Jesus taught both the rich and poor, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it… And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:39, 42 NIV) Godly wisdom teaches us to put material things into proper perspective!

James clarified the source of temptations to sin. He emphatically declared that God never tempts anyone; temptations arise from people’s “own evil desires”. Temptations entertained and accepted lead to sin, which in turn issues in death. Godly wisdom teaches us…

III. To resist worldly temptations! (Vv. 1:13-15)

  1. Perhaps, some of these Christians may have blamed God for the temptations they experienced. Perhaps temptations arose because of trials, and people accused God of causing the trials and thus the temptations. James stated emphatically that believers are responsible for any pull to evil, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone!” Temptations to do evil do not arise from God. No pull to evil can touch Him because He has no such human vulnerability. The morally perfect God who is, at heart, a loving Father does not sadistically use temptations to evil to test His people. James squarely placed the responsibility for temptations on the individual, “but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” Temptations arise from within the person but in themselves do not constitute sin. Entertaining temptation, however, can set in motion a tragic process. First, the person is “dragged away and enticed” by his own evil desires. The term is taken from hunting where animals are lured away from their places of safety. It is the idea of being caught by a baited hook or trap—what we mean by the phrase “taking the bait.” A person’s own evil desires, lust, are the lure and bait that ensnare the individual. James then shifted to the metaphor of conception and birth, “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Joining one’s will with evil desire produce sin in embryo. If the fetus develops to the point of birth, full-blown sin emerges. Consistently giving in to sin’s attractions leads to spiritual ruin. Let me ask you, “With what temptations do you consistently struggle? What are you doing to overcome them?” Jesus taught, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33 NIV) The ungodly world runs after its lusts, we are to resists worldly temptations!

  EXAMPLE: Because God is not responsible for our temptations, we can look to Him for wisdom to resist. We all are tempted daily, yet those temptations are not sin. Rather than give prolonged consideration to any temptation, we are to immediately seek God’s help to reject it. Godly wisdom teaches us not to lust for the things of the world but rather to resist worldly temptations!

God is generous and gives only good gifts. James stressed this truth and pointed to future rewards we receive from God as we are faithful. Lastly, James teaches us that to gain Godly wisdom we are…

IV. To acknowledge God’s gifts! (Vv. 1:12, 16-18)

  1. Going back to verse 12 James reminds us that, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” The word for blessed means “happy” which is not happiness based on favorable circumstances but the joy God’s people experience as His children and members of His kingdom, the joy of shared life with God. The person whom “perseveres under trial” experiences the joy of a deepening relationship with God. When we have “stood the test” of our trials, we “will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him”! If the term crown refers to the garland that victors in athletic games received, James contrasted the garland that eventually withered to an eternal crown. He emphasized that genuine faith perseveres to the end, when the faithful believer will enter God’s immediate presence. God has promised the imperishable “crown of life” to “those who love Him.” They prove their love by using His wisdom to victoriously endure trials. In verses 16-17, James fondly tells us, “Don't be deceived, my dear brothers.” He did not want fellow believers to be led astray. God is the source of “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” The gift is free and full. The word perfect also can mean “complete.” God’s spiritual, physical, and emotional provisions for believers are exactly what they need. God does not change, like wavering humans do. He remains constant. His intention for His children is always good. Is your life in Christ a shining example of consistency or one of shifting shadows of sin and doubt? Never forget that, “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” The greatest of all God’s gifts is the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. People who respond positively to the gospel become the firstfruits of God. In the Old Testament the Israelites gave the first part of their crops as an offering to God. It acknowledged the whole harvest belonged to God and expressed faith that a greater harvest was to come. James saw Christians as consecrated to God and His firstfruits! Godly wisdom teaches us to acknowledge God’s gifts!

  EXAMPLE: We are wise when we recognize God is generous to us and when we give Him credit for all the good things, we enjoy in life. This calls for us to identify all we have received from God and to express gratitude to Him for these gifts. Godly wisdom teaches us to acknowledge God’s gifts!

 1. Godly wisdom teaches us to endure trials!
 2. Godly wisdom teaches us to put material things into proper perspective!
 3. Godly wisdom teaches us to resist worldly temptations!
 4. Godly wisdom teaches us to acknowledge God’s gifts!
This article is the copyrighted property of Lee Hemen and may not be edited or redistributed without his written permission.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Be Responsible! - Galatians 6:1-18

Be Responsible! - Galatians 6:1-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 1, 2013 AM

As a young boy, I went to work for my Uncle as he took care of my grandmother’s house and garden. I had to weed, water, and take care of a huge garden. It was a daunting task, but he expected a lot out of me and my age did not matter. I found that as I had more responsibilities, my earnings went up as well. I was rewarded for my consistency and willingness to be responsible to do the tasks at hand.

Many Christians give little or no thought to biblical admonitions to live in a responsible manner. In fact, not all believers are responsible Christians. They may not realize all the ramifications of following the Spirit’s guidance in how they live. Perhaps they shield one or more areas of their lives from divine guidance. Perhaps they have never thought about other ways they need to exhibit they are responsible Christians. Other possibilities are they do not know how to meet some expectations; they do not like some expectations; or they are too afraid to try to meet some expectations. Yet God does not exempt any believer from His expectations. Let’s see what Paul teaches us on being responsible.

READ: Galatians 6:1-18

Paul ended his Spirit-inspired presentation of the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit within believers with an exhortation. He called for the Galatian believers to follow the Spirit’s leadership and avoid destructive attitudes and behavior. We discover him reminding us to be responsible and to…

I. Bear one another’s burdens! (Vv. 6:1-5)

“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. Carry each others 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. Rather than exhibit destructive actions, Christians are to help one another. Paul calls them “brothers,” emphasizing their spiritual kinship and his warm feeling for them. He gave the example of someone who was “caught in sin.” Those who are “spiritual” are to “restore him gently.” Whatever the nature of one’s sin, spiritual believers are to restore the individual. The Greek term rendered “restore” means to do whatever it takes to bring back the one entrapped by sin. Mature Christians are to help a sinning believer regain spiritual fitness. It is to be done in a gentle spirit rather than a judgmental attitude. However, we are to “watch” ourselves, or we could “be tempted” as well. One way, Paul encouraged, was to “carry each others burdens” because “in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV) Believers are not to consider themselves to be superior to others. Such pride is deceptive: “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Jesus asked, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3 NIV) According to Paul, “Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else!” Believers are to be able to “carry” their own load first! This does not contradict verse 2 because the reference there refers to heavy, crushing, loads (barē) — more than a man could carry without help. In this verse, the Greek “phortion” is used to designate the pack carried by a soldier. It is the “burden” Jesus assigns to His followers, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30 NIV) Christians are to be responsible and bear one another’s burdens!

  EXAMPLE: Being responsible Christians includes assisting others with oppressing loads. We can help erring people face what they have done, assure them of our love, and find them meaningful tasks of ministry. We help bear others’ burdens by running errands for caregivers, spending time with lonely people, and giving toward financial needs. We must bear some loads ourselves, such as church ministry roles, family responsibilities, and ultimate accountability to God. We are to bear one another's burdens!

The Galatian Christians’ lifestyles were to be marked by doing good acts because of their faith in Christ. They were to do good things to others, especially to other believers, and particularly to individuals who taught them about Christianity! In being responsible, Christians are to…

II. Do good! (Vv. 6:6-10)

“Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. 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 seems to abruptly change the direction, but in reality, he does not. He is continuing by sharing that in bearing one another’s burdens believers will support those who teach them. They “must share all good things” with those who instruct them. Paul warned believers not to be deceived (literally, to “stop being led astray”), for “God cannot be mocked” without experiencing devastating results. Whatever seeds a person sows will yield a harvest in kind. If you sow sparingly in your time, talent, and treasure with your church or those who instruct you, you’ll reap what you’ve sown. In fact, “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.” Believers can choose to sow to their flesh. They can devote themselves and their goods to self-indulgence. If they do, their harvest will be corrupted. Today, people thumb their noses at God when they view salvation as personal liberty to sin freely, presuming on God’s forgiveness. Such an approach calls into serious question the genuineness of their commitment to Christ. Paul’s advice is, “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.” If believers sow to the Spirit and invest themselves and their goods in the Lord—the Spirit will produce the harvest of eternal life in them and the lives of those they touch!  And Paul meant not just strangers but “especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” In being responsible, Christians are to do good!

  EXAMPLE: Being responsible Christians includes doing “good” to others, especially to other believers. We are to provide financial and other support to all church staff and to express appreciation to Sunday School and other Bible study leaders and teachers. We are to live in the Spirit and to resist becoming slack in doing good. Instead, we are to create and follow through on opportunities to help others. Being responsible means we live good godly lives in the Lord!

In summarizing his letter’s message, Paul condemned the false teachers’ pride. He stressed that believers should boast only about what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Paul reminds us that if we are to live responsibly as believers, we should…

III. Avoid selfish motives! (Vv. 6:11-15)

“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. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.”

  1. Paul hated spiritual hypocrisy, as every believer should. He writes, “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” Paul wanted to emphasize to them the two-faced double standard his detractors were trying to force them in doing. “Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised.” He shares what their selfish motives were. First, they wanted to make a good showing in the flesh—to make a good appearance. If they could claim numerous circumcised believers, they could look good and be popular. Second, Paul asserted the real reason these Judaizers’ insisted on circumcision was their desire to avoid persecution for the cross of Christ—that His death alone was sufficient for salvation. This message contradicted the Jews’ system of works-righteousness and thus provoked their wrath, so the Judaizers chose an easier approach. The false teachers’ third selfish motive: They wanted to be able to “boast about” the number of those they could convince to be circumcised. They insisted Gentile converts keep the law, yet the Judaizers did not keep it themselves. Paul willingly told them, “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 wanted them to understand that “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation!” Only their salvation mattered! We should never seek to win the lost to fill the pews or to add another notch to our salvation belt. Responsible believers avoid selfish motives!

  EXAMPLE: Being responsible Christians involves avoiding selfish motives in what we do. At best, our motives are mostly mixed. We really want to be “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8); we want to have unmixed motives in what we say and do. Praying daily for God’s help and obeying the Spirit will move us toward that goal. Being responsible means avoiding selfish motives!

Paul concluded his letter with a benediction of peace. He also called for others to let him have peace. In being responsible Christians, we are to…

IV. Seek peace! (Vv. 6:16-18)

“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. Paul pronounced a benediction of peace on the Galatian believers. He wanted an absence of conflict among them, and he wanted them to be free from the Judaizers’ pressure. Even more, however, he prayed for their spiritual wholeness. Paul also prayed for God’s mercy on them as well and he included “even to the Israel of God.” Was this a backhanded blessing? I do not think so. I believe Paul wanted all of them, those who were following Christ and those who wanted to turn them back to works of the law, to truly have the peace and mercy of God! In fact, Paul goes out of his way to assert that no one was to cause him trouble. He probably had in mind having to defend his apostleship and the gospel. The phrase “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” probably refers to actual wounds, such as those he received from being stoned in Lystra during his first missionary journey (Acts 14:19). Depending on the letter’s date, he also could have referred to being beaten (2 Corinthians 6:5; 11:23-25). His battle scars were part of his street "creds" as an apostle and were marks that gave evidence he was Christ’s servant. Paul again called the Galatian believers brothers. In the Greek text the term comes immediately before the word amen as a final declaration of his affection for them. In spite of the extreme difficulty they had caused him, he cared for them as family members in Christ. Then Paul invoked Christ’s grace on their spirit. He closed the letter in much the same manner as he had begun it. Grace is Christ’s generous goodness in giving what people do not deserve. Paul wanted the believers to go on receiving grace. Responsible Christians seek peace.

  EXAMPLE: Being responsible Christians includes seeking the peace of Christ for our church, others, and ourselves. This involves avoiding conflict where possible and resolving conflicts that arise. Instead of having a contentious spirit, we are to allow Christ to make us peacemakers. Furthermore, we are to seek spiritual wholeness and well-being for our churches, others, and ourselves by following the Spirit’s leadership. Responsible Christians seek peace.

As responsible believers we are to bear one another’s burdens, do good, avoid selfish motives, and seek peace!