Saturday, July 30, 2016

Freedom! - Galatians 3:23-29

Freedom! - Galatians 3:23-29
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 30, 2016

Americans do not truly understand what slavery is all about. Even those who decry it as a part of their family history have no idea what it means to be enslaved. You are not your own person, you cannot go where you want when you want, and you are a piece of property that can be disposed of, sold, or traded at the whim of your master. Those gained their freedom from slavery would never willingly go back to being enslaved, yet many who desire that others pay their way, give them something for nothing, or want a handout are just as enslaved as the slaves of Paul's day.

When Jesus came he saw no racial, gender, societal, political, or financial barriers. For Jesus all lives mattered and in his statement "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16 NIV) proved this fact. God desired to set people free, not from individuals or governments but from their enslavement to sin. Paul understood this and was frustrated that those who had claimed their freedom in Jesus were going back to being enslaved. Paul reminds them of their freedom; let's discover what he said…

READ: Galatians 3:23-29

If you place yourself under the influence of someone else or something else you are enslaved by the choice you made. The Law of Moses only pointed to how tough it was to be holy and the price our sin demands. It had once had its purpose but no longer. In fact Paul related…

I. Freedom is found in faith! (Vv. 23-25)

Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

  1. In his continued teaching on the Law Paul uses two figures of speech. He shows how the Law was like a prison and how we become free as children of God (More about the latter later.). Paul relates that "Before this faith came", meaning our faith in Jesus as Messiah and the fulfillment of the Law; "we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed." The Israelites were protected by God from the evil and ungodliness of the societies around them as they followed his Law. And in that they were held, imprisoned by it until Jesus came! They had to follow all the guidelines, nuances, and intent of the entire Law or they were guilty in breaking the entire Law! Paul reminds us "So the law was put in charge" of us. The NASB relates the wording here as "tutor" and the KJV relates it as a "schoolmaster", but the word in the Greek "paidagōgos" is where we get our word pedagogue from and it is more like an educator who teaches his way and no other way. If you disagree it is the highway for you! The Law was a strict teacher keeping its adherents under its control "to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith." The Law was their disciplinarian until Jesus was revealed! The sole purpose of the Law of God was to lead the Israelites to the knowledge of faith in Jesus! This is why that "Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law." We no longer need a tutor or nanny with a switch that would smack us back into line if we messed up because salvation comes by faith in Jesus, God's one and only Son! Our chains are gone, our shackles removed, and we are free from mindlessly following a set of rules in order to be right with God. Freedom is found in faith!

  EXAMPLE: The term "paidagōgos" literally means to beat one into line until they conform. I had a drill instructor in the Navy who did this quite well. My mother was another pedagogue in my life because often it was her way or the highway for us as kids. She would pull her petite five foot frame up and tell us miscreants that we had "Better shape up or ship out!" If we cried too long she would tell us to "stop crying" or she would give us "something to cry about!" Now lest I make my mother out to be a harsh mistress, she wasn't entirely. She did it to protect us. You have to remember she had two wild and woolly boys and a rebellious teenage daughter growing up in a tiny town. The Law of Moses was like my Mom. It protected and punished, but now that Christ has come, our faith in him sets us free from this hash mistress. Freedom is found in faith!

The world often makes the mistake in thinking that Jesus just taught about love, love, love and never bothered with our sin at all. This simply is a lie. Jesus did not come as some Buddhistic philosopher spouting confusing platitudes and passing them off as wisdom. He lived and died to make us new creatures in him! In fact, Paul relates that…

II. Christ's freedom makes us children of God! (Vv. 26-29)

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

  1. If we are no longer under the Law's supervision, are we free to do whatever we want whenever we want? The answer is a resounding "NO!" Paul tells us that things have changed since Jesus came and redeemed us. He bluntly relates that "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus". Believers are made God's children not by following the Law of their enslavement but rather by their faith! How is this possible? Paul taught that "for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." The Law was a discipling pedagogue, and those under its supervision were spiritual babies. However, now that Christ had come, the Galatian believers were sons through faith and were no longer under a "Jewish slave-guardian." (Bible Knowledge Commentary) Like newly set free slaves they had been given a new wardrobe; they were now "clothed… with Christ"! In fact there no longer existed any spiritual gender, class, or racial distinction: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Make no mistake Paul was referring only to those who have believed in Jesus and not everyone in the world! Why would I say this? Paul writes, "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." This is why John would write that "all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." (John 1:12-13 NIV) People are not naturally born children of God but can become so by receiving the gift of the new birth by faith in Jesus! Christ's freedom makes us children of God!

  EXAMPLE: Few of us would like someone constantly hanging over us telling us what to do every moment of every day of our lives from the time we wake up until we go to sleep. You know, from the womb to the tomb. Now I know it is natural for teenagers to test the boundaries of the perceived confinement. This is part of growing up but what I am talking about lasts a lifetime with no break and no freedom. This was the Law of Moses. When one woke up and until they went to sleep they were constantly under the watchful eye of its mandate. There was truly no rest for the wicked because we are all wicked and as Paul would write, "For no one is put right in God's sight by doing what the Law requires; what the Law does is to make us know that we have sinned. But now God's way of putting people right with himself has been revealed. It has nothing to do with law, even though the Law of Moses and the prophets gave their witness to it. God puts people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. God does this to all who believe in Christ, because there is no difference at all: everyone has sinned and is far away from God's saving presence. But by the free gift of God's grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free." (Romans 3:20-24 GNB) Christ's freedom makes us children of God!

Conclusion:

Freedom is found in faith! Christ's freedom makes us children of God!

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

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The law fulfilled! - Galatians 3:13-22

The law fulfilled! - Galatians 3:13-22
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 24, 2016

There are those in our day and age who would have you do a lot of things in order to please God. Eat certain foods, read certain books, do an undetermined amount of penance or rituals in order to gain God's grace. I have often stated that I believe it is often used to cement their own power or control over folks who allow their guilty conscious to dictate their faith instead of the facts of the gospel narrative. When we do this we begin to wonder if we have done enough in order for God to like us let alone love us.

Paul wanted his fellow Galatians to fully understand that their holding onto an old way of life simply because it assuaged their guilt was foolish. In fact they were placing themselves back under a curse instead of being free in their faith in Jesus alone! The no longer meant anything for those who had placed their faith and trust in the one who meant all the requirements of the contract of God. Let's discover for ourselves this morning how the law was fulfilled.

READ: Galatians 3:13-22

I remember when I was younger there was an old grouchy man, who was probably the same age I am now, who used to come out of his house and yell at us for walking across his yard. He lived on the corner and I used to think he laid in wait to jump out and curse us for doing so. However, the curse Paul related to was the curse of the Law of Moses and he tells the Galatians that…

I. We are redeemed from the Law's curse! (Vv. 13-14)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

  1. Here we discover that Paul uses legal terms in talking about the Law of Moses. The reason was obvious for Paul and any of his fellow Hebrews; the Law of Moses was a contract between God and his people! And we discover Paul reminds us that "Christ redeemed us from the law by becoming a curse for us"!  We are redeemed from the Law's curse because of Jesus! The curse was the fact that no one could keep the law and would therefore be guilty all the time in breaking it! James, Jesus' half brother would write, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it."(James 2:10 NIV) Yet Jesus took the curse (guilt) upon himself "for it is written" Paul related that "cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree"; the "tree" here refers to the cross Jesus was nailed to. The Jews considered anyone who was crucified as "cursed" or guilty because of this and deserved what they got. Why then would God decide to come as Jesus and take this curse? Paul reasoned that Jesus did this "in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles (all of us) through Christ (Messiah) Jesus"! "The positive side of Paul’s argument emphasized that there is hope for all who have broken the Law and are therefore under its curse. That hope is not in man but in Christ who redeemed us from the curse of the Law." (Bible Knowledge Commentary) What the Hebrews could only hope for and what David had longed for now came by faith "so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit." The contract of God was paid for and the guilt taken away by the promise of Jesus. The Holy Spirit in the lives of those who believe proves we are sealed in Jesus our Redeemer! We are redeemed from the Law's curse!

  EXAMPLE: Money is a necessary part of life. Without it, we couldn't secure the necessities or luxuries of life. But there are things money can never buy. Money can buy things but it cannot buy the presence of God. Money can be used to bribe one's way into political and preferential treatment but it will not buy the respect of God. Money can buy phony accolades and grease the palms of the corruptible but not one's way into heaven. Money is used to redeem its worth for goods and services and is a promise of payment. The Law of Moses could make one feel better for a period of time but it could never redeem one from their sins. It could never make one holy before the Lord, but Jesus could and did pay the debt we could never pay through his redeeming death on the cross! We are redeemed from the Law's curse!

My father hated it when one of us kids lied. For him lying was one of the worst things a person could do. In fact, when he said he would do something, he would try his hardest to get it done. That is what a promise is all about and when it comes to the promise of God, it truly means something. The law was simply a shadow of things to come and God had promised something far greater. Paul relates…

II. Jesus is the Promise we need! (Vv. 15-18)

Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

  1. Paul’s opponents might argue that Abraham was indeed justified by faith, however, the Judaizers would then argue that the Mosaic Law which was later entirely changed the basis for achieving salvation. So Paul related, "Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life: Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant (contract) that has been duly established, so it is in this case." Just as a properly executed contract was legal and binding, so are the promises of God! God made a contract with Abraham and these "promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed", Paul patently wrote them. He then explains what he means by using the term "seed". "The Scripture does not say 'and to seeds,' meaning many people, but 'and to your seed,' meaning one person, who is Christ", meaning the Messiah. Was Paul using semantics in his argument? Yes he was because what he meant was that "The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant (contract) previously established by God and thus do away with the promise." The Law of Moses was a contract which promised the Messiah would come through him; he would be Abraham's "seed", his inheritance, his future promise fulfilled! And like any seed that is planted (promised) it bears fruit. In this case, Jesus Christ! So Paul rightly argues that "if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but in his grace (God) gave it to Abraham through a promise"! And God's promise is as good as and therefore even more binding than any legal contract because it was done by God's grace! Jesus is the Promise we need!

  EXAMPLE: It is that time of the year when politicians promise the moon and forget them as soon as the ballots are cast. I find it truly depressing that we hear the same tired promises and things never change. This is why so many have supported candidates who are outside of the mainstream. They are tired of hearing the same tired promises without seeing anything getting done. Instead of one proclaiming "I'm with her!" perhaps it would be better to hear, "I'm for you!" I do know one thing for certain; nothing will change until people change. Like Paul I believe Jesus is the Promise we need!

Some concepts are tough for people to understand and they just do not seem to get them. What happens if you break the law? You will be punished for it, unless you're like some modern politicians, then you can run for President! Paul gives his readers a lesson in exactly why the law of God was given to Moses in the first place and he should know, he was a legal scholar! He relates that…

III. Our faith is the promise of the law fulfilled! (Vv. 19-22)

What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one. Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

  1. Like a good school teacher Paul then asks his readers a question they would have to try and find the answer for, "What, then, was the purpose of the law?" For those who continually skirt the law or break the law they would tell you it was there to make their lives miserable. But Paul is speaking about the Law of Moses handed to him by God himself. He answers that "It was added because of transgressions (our sins) until the Seed (Jesus) to whom the promise referred had come." We needed the law to show us just how horrible sin was and to show us how impossible it was for us to live holy lives! Add to his that the law was inferior because of the way it was given! "The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator." Angel here does not mean heavenly beings but rather God himself and the earthly messenger Moses! In continuing his legal lesson Paul reminds us that "the mediator (the contract), however, does not represent just one party; but God is one." Contracts or covenants always represent several parties and here it was God and mankind! The Judaizers would argue that God gave Moses the law and that was all there was to it, but Paul knew what they knew. Namely no one could keep the entire law and that in fact God did not give it to us to save us! So Paul asks, "Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law." And the final answer for Paul was that "the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe." Paul knew that "Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith." Our faith is the promise of the law fulfilled!

  EXAMPLE: Recently we panted vegetables in our garden. Every day we go out to see if the seeds we planted are growing and producing a crop. The beans we planted were supposed to be bush beans but came up pole beans instead. So you cannot even trust the packets the seeds came in! The Law of Moses was merely a seed of what would come to fruition in Jesus. God's Law was a contract that he would never break, but he would fulfill it and he did in Jesus! What the Law could never do Jesus did and the promise was completed in him through our faith. Therefore our faith is the promise of the law fulfilled!

Conclusion:

We are redeemed from the Law's curse! Jesus is the Promise we need! Our faith is the promise of the law fulfilled!

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

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Submerged! - Psalm 139

Submerged! - Psalm 139
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 17, 2016

How confident would you be to have someone follow you around for a month and write down everything you did and then publish it online for the entire world to read? Now I know some of you are thinking, "They would be really bored!" Some of you might say, "Who cares?" And then there are those of you who already do this, it is called Facebook and Twitter! Yet even these social media sites are not the same as having someone expose your every waking moment. And what if they included your private thoughts as well? Now that is a whole different matter, isn’t it?

Yet the Psalmist David was willing to have God do this very thing. How in the world could he be that confident with his life? I mean if we read what has been written about David you would think he would have been a bit more circumspect about wanting God to search him and know him. David was not always a nice person nor did he always honor God so how in the world could David ask God to know him in this way? I believe it has to do with how David viewed God, how God views us, and if we are truly willing to be submerged in God!

READ: Psalm 139

David understood that if one desires a life that is rich and full in the Lord it must starts with…

I. Knowing that God knows you! (Vv. 1-6)

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

  1. David understood that God was omniscient that is all knowing. God knew David completely just as God knows each of us completely. David writes, "O Lord, you have searched me and know me." Now this was not some kind of doddering old dude who kind of smiled at David and his mischievous ways, but rather a holy all knowing being who intrinsically knew David thoroughly. God had searched David! Could you say like David that God knows you this way? David says, "You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways." Wow! David is readily admitting God's knowledge of him as if he had scoured every detail of David's life and thus knew him intimately. In fact, before David spoke, God knew what he would say: "Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD." How could God know this much about David, because God hemmed David's life completely! "You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me." Being known by God is not confining, rather it is freedom for those who love God! This is why David concludes, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain." Being submerged in God begins in knowing that God knows you!

  EXAMPLE: In the books by Tolkien we discover an evil presence in the country known as Mordor. Mordor was a black volcanic ash plain located in the southeast of Middle-earth to the East of Gondor surrounded by three mountain ranges. Supposedly there existed an all seeing eye of evil known as Sauron. Sadly, there are those in our day and age who actually see God in this vain; as some all seeing eye who looks for only the bad in people in order to punish them for their impudence. God is nothing like this because for David God was the Creator who knew him intimately and loved him in spite of his personal faults. For David being submerged in God began with knowing that God knows you!

There are those of us who fool ourselves into thinking that God is not aware of every area of our lives, this is simply not true. If one wants to be submerged in God David relates it begins with…

II. Knowing you cannot go where God is not! (Vv. 7-12)

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

  1. After stating what he did about God searching him completely, David laments the same accusations those who are caught in sin often do, they begin to blame God! David asks, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?" Of course the answer is nowhere because God is everywhere: "If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there." While we may want to escape God's presence in our lives the truth is we cannot, ever. There are those who think that by running away into deeper sin, they can escape God; just like the prodigal son thought. Surprise, God is already there waiting for you! In his hypothetical assertions David knew that heaven is not too big for God nor is death, Sheol below. My mother used to quip, "You have to get up pretty early to fool God!" Of course she meant you could never get up that early and David understood this as well, he writes, "If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." No matter where we try to flee into sin or where we fall into sin, God is there. His calming, protecting, and strong "hand will hold" us "fast". Trying to escape into further sin does not hide a person from God's presence: "If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,' even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you." David knew that we are already submerged in God! This understanding comes in knowing you cannot go where God is not!

  EXAMPLE: Jesus would later tell his disciples that God loved the world so much that he sent his Son to die for them! And that in fact if they believed this then no one could snatch them from the Father's hand because he and the Father were one and the same. Jesus is God. Just as God understood the Israelite's plight in Egypt, just as he understood David's weaknesses, he understood ours and sent his Son to redeem us! David would rejoice and declare, "If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there." This was a comfort to David in that knowing one cannot go where God is not!

In today's world there are those who falsely think they are not accountable to anyone; so much so that their view of the sacredness of life has been lost. They do not care what they do with their lives and so they do not care what they do to others. David knew this was not true because being submerged in God begins in…

III. Knowing God created us! (Vv. 13-17)

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

  1. For David God was unknowable because he was God. He was always present, he was all knowing, and he had always existed. And as David looked at what Moses and others taught about God with his own experiences with the Lord, David could only say, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." God knew all about David when he created him in his mother’s womb. As David pondered this he could readily say, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Every person has value and each of us is unique to God because he has made us so! David knew this "full well", completely because of what he understood about God. David realized that his "frame", his body, was not hidden from [God] when [he] was made in the secret place". All life is sacred because God sees us as "wonderful" and each of us are "wonderfully made"! God has "woven" us all "together in the depths of the earth"; the idea is one of being embroidered or knit by God's own hand. Of course this is metaphoric but David wanted to emphasize God's creative nature and his individual love for us because when this occurred God "saw [David's] unformed body"! Added to this that God knew "All the days ordained" for David and they "were written in [God's] book before one of them came to be"! This therefore led David to conclude, "How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!"  Knowing God created us!

  EXAMPLE: As we study more and more about the world and creation around us we learn that there is great knowledge at work. From the chromosomes in our DNA, from the smallest cells to the largest animal ever existed we find the handiwork of a wonderful being at work. An all knowing God knows his creation. Just as an artist knows each work they lovingly sweated over, agonized through, and joyously presented. David understood that if we wanted to know God more and be submerged in him it begins with knowing God created us!

David was far from perfect but we know that David was a man after God's own heart. If you want to be submerged in the Lord as David was...

IV. You must know God! (Vv. 18-24)

Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you. If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

  1. Knowing God created him led David to conclude that the Lord’s plans for his people are most precious and in fact those plans are infinite so David concludes that "Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand." Just as Paul would one day understand that for him to "live is Christ or to die is gain", David finally realized that "When I awake, I am still with you." Whether he was alive or dead, God was there. Yet David incorrectly concludes that if God is there with him and knows him, then why doesn’t he destroy those who personally hate him? David laments, "If only you would slay the wicked, O God!" Rightly so David wanted nothing to do with evil people and he cries, "Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!" And if they were his enemies weren't they also God's enemies? David tells God, "They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name." While David understood God loved him, he misunderstood God's nature. If the enemies of the Israelites enslaved them and tried to get them to worship pagan gods, God was jealous and would respond; but often God allowed his people to be punished for their own sin. This is why, like a petulant child David whines, "Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you?" Yes, David did, but David was just as guilty of his sin even though he declared, "I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies." Like many of us David is tacitly bargaining with God. It does not work. I believe David knew this to be true and in the midst of his lamenting, he realizes his condition and openly confesses to God, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." If one wants to be completely submerged in God, bargaining with him never works. Only open and honest confession does. David understood that you must know God!

  EXAMPLE: I find it kind of humorous that there are those who call themselves atheist, meaning "no god", yet they are so concerned that others would believe there is a God. Of course they will say they do not want others to live in the ignorance of believing a myth. Yet if this "myth" is true, what then? And hasn’t this "myth", by their definition not mine, has in fact created a far better world? Of course they would try to tout the wars or evil done in the name of religion and would want you to forget all about the horrendous things done by mankind in the name of science or humanism. Where racial, political, or societal genocide was endorsed, millions slaughtered through abortion, and whole populations unknowingly experimented on in the name of science and knowledge. Only when one is honest about their nature can one understand the true nature of God. It begins with asking, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." To be submerged in God one must know God!

Conclusion:

To be fully submerged in God it begins in: Knowing that God knows you! Knowing you cannot go where God is not! Knowing God created us! You must know God!

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

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Abraham our example! - Galatians 3:6-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 10, 2016

My Dad stood in the water of the pool and asked me to jump into his arms. I was scared to do so but I also knew that my father would catch me and nothing would harm me. So I took the leap and jumped into his waiting arms. Our faith walk is very similar in that we are asked to walk with Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. We just have to take that first step and trust him to lift us up and carry us through life.

We marvel at another's faith and wonder how in the world they can live so full throttle for God. What we fail to realize is the fact that these great men and women of faith were and are just like us. They have the same fears, the same doubts, and the same failures and yet have learned that the righteous will live by faith. Paul fully understood this and wanted the Galatians to understand it as well. Let's discover what this means for all of us this morning…

READ: Galatians 3:6-12

Paul knew that if the Galatians had allowed themselves to fall back into their old way of life instead of their confidence in Christ they were in danger of losing what they had gained. Paul reminded them that…

I. Abraham gives us the example of faith! (Vv. 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.

  1. Paul knew that the Galatians would need an example they could not only understand but that they could also see themselves in as well. Abraham fit the bill for Paul for several reasons: Abraham had faults like each of them, Abraham was respected by the Jews because he was the founding father of their religion, nation, and faith; and Abraham was before the Law of Moses yet he loved and followed God. Abraham was known for his faith! So Paul told them to "Consider Abraham: 'He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.' Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham." If they believed this then they were Abraham's children! Being the founding Patriarch of the Hebrew nation Abraham was the father essentially of them all! They needed to understand then that their faith made them children of Abraham more than their history did! In fact, Paul relates, "The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham". Paul then reminds them exactly what the Scripture said about Abraham, that in fact "All nations will be blessed through" Abraham! But was it for their biological connection? Paul did not think so, and "So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith!" Paul would eloquently write another church struggling with this, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law." (Romans 3:28-31 NIV) For Paul, Abraham gives us the example of faith!

  EXAMPLE: Galatians and Hebrews are two of my favorite books of the Bible, why, because they go hand-in-hand together in teaching that one is to live by faith. Hebrews reminds us that, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for." (Hebrews 11:1-2 NIV) Hebrews goes on to explain that Abraham left his home in Ur of the Chaldeans because God asked him to and by "faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents… For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:9-10) And lest we forget it was "By faith Abraham, even though he was past age--and Sarah herself was barren--was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore." (Hebrews 11:11-12 NIV) Abraham gives us the example of faith!

For Paul any retreat in one's faith was an abomination especially after one had experienced the grace and mercy of God freely through Jesus. Those who had put so much trust in the Law of Moses had forgotten that in fact that…

II. Abraham gives us the example for life! (Vv. 10-12)

All who rely on observing the Law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Clearly no one is justified before God by the Law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." The Law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them."

  1. For those who think they could massage their guilt away by doing more and more good works, they have forgotten the eternal truth that the grace of God through Jesus did away with all that. James, Jesus' brother, would write "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (James 2:10 NIV) Jesus came so that we were no longer held by the demands of following all the rules, regulations, and nuances of the Law! The Law of Moses was finished, completed in Jesus therefore "All who rely on observing the Law are under a curse, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.'" The curse was found in the fact that a person had to keep the Law in its entirety or they were guilty of breaking all of it! When we allow ourselves to fall back into record keeping we enslave ourselves to others who want to control our lives and to our emotions instead of the truth of Scripture. "Contrary to what the Judaizers taught, the Law could not justify; it could only condemn. Paul quoted Deuteronomy 27:26 to show that the Law demanded perfection and that a curse was attached to failure to keep any part of it." - (Bible Knowledge Commentary) Therefore, clearly no one is justified before God by the Law, because, "The righteous will live by faith", just as Abraham did! Yet there are those who think that if they combine the two, the grace of Jesus and following the Law of God then isn't that better? The answer is absolutely not! You pervert what Jesus accomplished! Jesus came to show that the scheme that anyone can gain God's acceptance by their human effort is bogus. Why? Paul explains, "The Law is not based on faith; on the contrary, 'The man who does these things will live by them.'" One would continually have to watch what they do, when they do it and why they did it in the first place! And then, make sure they were doing all the strict obligations required of them to momentarily do away with any sin until they sinned again! Either one lives by faith or they don't. Paul knew that because of who Abraham was and the model he had given to all Hebrews and all believers that Abraham gives us the example for life!

  EXAMPLE: There is the story told of an older man who accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord, and as he made his way forward to publicly proclaim his faith, he was overheard whispering over and over, "I am dead. I am dead. I am dead." Afterwards as he made his way back to his seat he clearly and loudly proclaimed, "I am alive! I am alive! I am alive!" When he was facing his death for his faith in Jesus, Paul would write the Philippian church, "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Paul was no longer under the curse of the Law but was found alive in his faith! (Philippians 1:20-21 NIV) This is why for Paul; Abraham gives us the example for life!

Conclusion:

Abraham gives us the example of faith! Abraham gives us the example for life!

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

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Foolish or wise! - Galatians 3:1-5

Foolish or wise! - Galatians 3:1-5
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 3, 2016

Did you know that at the beginning of the Revolutionary War less than 20% of the population was supportive of our being a free nation no longer ruled by a king? It sounded foolish to many who saw themselves as loyal monarchists and supportive of their king in England who could not have cared less for their security. Yet as those who saw this as a means to throw off the tyranny of a king were able to present their case and as the results of heavy taxation, suppression of free speech, and the confiscation of private property in the name of the king the populace began to see what it meant if they lost their inalienable rights to be free people. Was it foolish or wise?

There are those today who would use their political office to suppress the free speech of its citizens; perhaps we need another revolution? Not necessarily a violent one but a political one. There were those who were foolishly returning to the tyranny of spiritual slavery in trying to garner God's grace after tasting the freedom Jesus brought by faith. Instead of being wise they were being very foolish. There are those today who would have you do the same thing and give up your freedom in Christ. What does this mean?

READ: Galatians 3:1-5

Why would anyone want to throw away freedom for slavery? Yet there were those who willingly do so every day. Whenever we try to appease God and give up our freedom in Jesus, we are foolish!

I. Paul wrote it was foolish to return to spiritual slavery! (Vv. 1-3)

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?

  1. It can be frustrating to try and talk with someone who thinks they know what is right for their lives and yet are making a huge mistake in taking the unwise course they are. Sometimes you want to yell at them, "How stupid can you be?!" Yet this often does not have the desired affect one wishes, however, Paul does not pull any punches in writing to the Galatian church that he had invested so much of his time and effort in. He was not going to let them go down without a fight. Paul bluntly confronts them, "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?" The only explanation to the Galatians spiritual culpability was that they had to have been "bewitched" somehow. The idea is one whereby they were distracted, kind of like the dog Doug from the Disney movie "Up" is when he thinks he sees a squirrel! Paul relates, "Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified." They had heard and seen for themselves how Jesus had died on the cross to gain their freedom by faith, yet they were willing to return to their old spiritual slavery. Paul is incredulous and bluntly asks them, "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?" Their blind obedience to following the law had lead them only to their own spiritual death and they had seen and learned for themselves what Jesus had freely done for them! They had once believed in Jesus! "Are you so foolish?" Paul continues. Evidently they were. "Squirrel!" See what I mean? "After beginning with the Spirit, [were they] now trying to attain [their] goal by human effort?" Yes they were! Wow! They readily threw off their freedom and willingly wanted to be chained back to the law of sin and death! Hebrews reminds us that " The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God." (Hebrews 7:18-19 NIV) Paul wrote it was foolish to return to spiritual slavery!

  EXAMPLE: "The American Revolution was a civil war based on who would rule in the Thirteen Colonies. Families were often divided as war forced colonists to choose sides in a conflict that remained for many years uncertain. Colonists, especially recent arrivals, often felt themselves to be both American and British, subjects of the King, still owing a loyalty to the mother country." At the time they were often called Tories, Royalists, or King's Men. "Historians have estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of the 2.5 million whites in the colonies were Loyalists, or about 500,000 men, women and children." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loyalist_%28American_Revolution%29) Patrick Henry expressed the Patriot viewpoint when he stood and cried, "Give me liberty, or give me death!" Henry knew returning to the fold of Great Britain was no answer. Why return to the slavery of tyranny when one had experienced personal freedom? Paul understood the spiritual concept and one's freedom in Jesus. Paul wrote it was foolish to return to spiritual slavery!

Why do folks think they can do something better than God, yet there are those who do! Perhaps they think God will look the other way and excuse their foolishness? The Bible tells us otherwise and this is why…

II. Paul related it was wise to stay free in Christ! (Vv. 4-5)

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?

  1. We do not know what it means to truly suffer for our faith. Being rejected by our family, friends, or co-workers for our faith is not the same thing no matter what we think. Yet there are those who willingly give up on their new found spiritual freedom only to return to the spiritual enslavement of rules, regulations, and requirements. I always laugh when someone knocks on my door and wants to share with me about Jesus only to discover that what they want to share is spiritual enslavement. Either they want you to worship a con artist as a prophet, rewritten manmade Scripture, or their own convoluted addition of certain days of worship or the inclusion of not eating certain foods! The Galatians were going backwards in their faith practice. Peter would later come to his senses and call these people "false prophets" and "springs without water and mists driven by a storm". (2 Peter 2) In fact, Peter would write that "They promise… freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity--for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: 'A dog returns to its vomit," and, 'A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.'" (2 Peter 2:19-22 NIV) Paul asks the Galatians, "Have you suffered so much for nothing--if it really was for nothing?" because they had suffered from their own Jewish brethren. They had seen how believing Jesus had worked among them: "Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?" These miracles were not the result of the works of the law of Moses but from their faith in Jesus! Paul related it was wise to stay free in Christ!

  EXAMPLE: There is an old saying that states, "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know." For those caught in the midst of the fighting between the Sons of Liberty and British Loyalists this might have brought them some kind of comfort but the reality was totally different. On October 1, 1774, in response to the deteriorating relationship between the American Colonies and Britain, the First Continental Congress decided to prepare a statement to King George III of Great Britain. The goal of the address was to persuade the King to revoke unpopular policies such as the Coercive Acts, which were imposed on the Colonies by the British Parliament. It became evident that the Crown had little interest in forming good policies that would benefit both sides. Why let go of a cash cow when the cow was so far away? Perhaps it would do us well to remember General John Stark's motto, "Live free or die!" Paul related it was wise to stay free in Christ!

Conclusion:

Paul wrote it was foolish to return to spiritual slavery! Paul related it was wise to stay free in Christ!

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