Saturday, September 24, 2016

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

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

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

READ: Galatians 6:7-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Bear one another's burdens! - Galatians 6:1-6

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

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

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

READ: Galatians 6:1-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Saturday, September 10, 2016

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

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

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

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

READ: Galatians 5:14-26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Be free! - Galatians 5:1-13

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

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

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

READ: Galatians 5:1-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusions:

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

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