Category Archives: Galatians

Galatians 1:1-2:10: A message made in heaven

One of the first things we do when we go shopping these days is to CHECK THE LABEL. Where’s it MADE? Is it Australian made, or not? We want to be supporting Australian jobs and companies.

Who owns the brand? Who’s being employed? Where are the profits going?

Check the label. Is the toothpaste made in Australia, or Vietnam? Are those kiwi fruits from land, or California?

But sometimes it’s not so easy. When Vegemite’s owned by an American company. And X is owned by New Zealand!

Is that orange juice Australian-made from Australian oranges, or just bottled here from imported orange concentrate? Is that washing machine Australian-made, or just ASSEMBLED here, from parts made SOMEWHERE ELSE.

I even saw a toy koala with a big Australian flag in a souvenir shop. And the tag said DESIGNED in Australia. Which is deceptive, isn’t it? Could have been made ANYWHERE!

Sometimes you’ve got to look pretty closely to avoid being TRICKED. Tricked into buying something you THOUGHT came from ONE place/ when IN REALITY it came from somewhere else.

But as much as we can, if it’s not Aussie-owned and Aussie-made we DON’T BUY IT.

Which is exactly the point the Apostle Paul wants to make about HIS MESSAGE. His GOSPEL. In the face of a team of FALSE TEACHERS who are working their way around Galatia, ing a DIFFERENT MESSAGE, Paul wants to say DON’T BUY IT. Unless you check where it comes from.

Which he emphasises right from his very first words. Where he says as AN APOSTLE, as an Ambassador of Jesus, he’s hasn’t come FROM men with a message made BY men. He’s come from Jesus Christ himself. And God the Father. With a message MADE IN HEAVEN. A message MADE by God. And Owned by God. See it there in v1?

Paul, an apostle-sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the –

Paul’s holding out HIS label for everyone to see. Check the label, he says. APOSTLE – which means commissioned by Jesus himself.

It’s a point he keeps coming back to, again and again. Whether he’s talking about HIMSELF as a divine appointment, or he’s talking about HIS MESSAGE. Like down in verse 11 and 12 of chapter 1.

11 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is NOT SOMETHING THAT MAN MADE UP. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it BY REVELATION FROM JESUS CHRIST.

Which is ONE STEP UP from simply being APPOINTED by Jesus. He’s even been given THE MESSAGE TO PRESENT / by Jesus.

Sometimes someone will be APPOINTED. But then they’re given the freedom to make the job their own. But not here. Paul is APPOINTED, then told EXACTLY WHAT MESSAGE he’s to present.

Check the label says Paul. Designed and made by God. Chosen by God. Owned by God, distributed by God. The copyright’s all his.

And you can see what that message IS back up in v4. The good news Paul’s declaring.

the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

It’s GOOD news because we needed RESCUING. We were headed down a long, slippery slope to judgment and . Sin had us caught. But the good news from God himself is that he provided a RESCUER. His son Jesus. Who threw himself in the path of God’s just wrath, and deflected it away. Saved anyone who accepts his rescue offer.

And so, even though we keep living in this world. We’ve been SAVED from it. We’re citizens of ANOTHER world. Another AGE. With whole new priorities. And new directions.

And down in v13, Paul describes how that worked for him. And all the way through to the end of the chapter it’s got a point. Paul gives us his biography, not because he likes talking about himself. But because his life is LIVING PROOF that his message, and his commission to preach it, come straight from Jesus himself. There’s no other explanation.

He was headed in the completely opposite direction. Arresting and punishing anyone who followed Jesus. Ruthlessly hunting them down. On the fast-track to the top of his career path.

But then Jesus hunted HIM down. Listen to Paul as he takes up the story. V15.

15 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.

He didn’t get his message from the other apostles. He didn’t head off to study for his introductory degree in Christian studies. He was off in another country, preaching the message Jesus had already given him. Doing what he’d been TOLD – telling the Gentiles (the non-Jews) the good news about Jesus.

Obviously some people didn’t believe him. They reckoned he was preaching a SECOND-HAND MESSAGE he’d picked up from the REAL Apostles. That he wasn’t the real deal. See how Paul has to defend his position in v20?

20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

Grace plus (1:6-10)

And the reason Paul’s going to such pains to spell out where HIS message came from, is that ANOTHER message is doing the rounds. A counterfeit. A cheap import.

And the Galatians are being TORN BETWEEN TWO GOSPELS. Pulled in two directions by TWO CONFLICTING MESSAGES. About how to get right with God. And live a life that pleases him.

I guess Paul’s saying to you and me too, “If that’s YOU, if you’re not sure where you’re standing with God, if you hear one thing, then you hear another thing… ask the question. Where’s the message coming from? CHECK THE LABEL. How’s it measure up to the made-in-heaven gospel – that says The Lord Jesus Christ GAVE HIMSELF FOR OUR SINS to RESCUE US? There’s no list of rules. There’s no set of pre-requisites. Pure GRACE. Not grace PLUS”.

And yet the Galatians are deserting it. Hop back up to verse 6 and you can see the problem. The problem that underlies the whole letter. Verse 6 and 7 here in Galatians 1 sum up what the letter’s all about.

Funny, you can look through all Paul’s other letters in the New Testament, and none of them start quite like this one. Usually you get to this point in the other letters and he’s saying how much he’s PRAYING for them. How much he wants to be WITH THEM. How much he THANKS GOD FOR THEM. But with the Galatians there’s nothing to celebrate. Straight down to business. V6.

“I am ASTONISHED,” says Paul, “I can hardly believe that YOU ARE SO QUICKLY DESERTING THE ONE WHO CALLED YOU by the GRACE OF CHRIST and are turning to a DIFFERENT GOSPEL – which is really NO GOSPEL AT ALL. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion, and are TRYING TO THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.”

Paul’s been to their towns. They’ve heard his GOSPEL, his message about THE GRACE OF CHRIST, his generous mercy in taking God’s CURSE on the cross.

And now some OTHER guys have come along saying something new. A DIFFERENT GOSPEL. A slightly reworked Gospel. Not so much CONTRADICTING what Paul might have said. Just adding a little. A few finishing touches. A sprinkle here. A garnish there. Which Paul says means it’s really NO GOSPEL AT ALL.

It’s dangerous to think that adding a few subtle modifications to your salvation can IMPROVE IT. It’s ly to think it’s like your CAR. Add a big stereo, or mag wheels, or some fluffy dice on the mirror. And that will make it BETTER.

Adding stuff to how you’re saved is more like adding stuff to PETROL. It’s DANGEROUS. Some people are EXPERIMENTING these days – trying to stretch their petrol dollar FURTHER. But you can’t add cooking oil, or sugar, or paint thinner/ just because you think it will make the petrol BETTER. Might be tempting, with petrol the price it is/ but it’s just asking for an explosion, or a car crash.

Paul’s point is that adding ANYTHING to the simple message of the gospel, and you’re not preaching a gospel AT ALL. Because news that says you’ve got to DO something to EARN your salvation/ well, that’s not GOOD news at all. Which is what GOSPEL means. And you can’t grab hold of SOMETHING ELSE unless you LET GO OF Christ TO DO IT.

And Paul goes on to say, it doesn’t matter WHO tells you otherwise.

I want you to imagine for a moment. Something EXTRAORDINARY happens at church this morning. (Not that hard to imagine – church is ALWAYS extraordinary). But just imagine that a huge hole opens up in the roof. A shaft of brilliant light beams down, and an angel floats down. All wings, and pure white gown, gleaming white halo. Perhaps there’s trumpets blasting too. And you can hardly believe your eyes.

And just imagine. He’s got a message for us here at Western Blacktown. And the Angel says, “Wait a minute. You’re not really saved by the SACRIFICE OF JESUS AT ALL. You’ll need to do some EXTRA STUFF AS WELL. You’ll need to – I don’t know, make up your own bits here. Perhaps some rituals… observe some Angel Days. Once a month. And s can only wear dresses. And guys have to grow beards. And only read the King James.

Add this. Do that. And whatever you do, you need to make sure you don’t eat Green Vegetables. Or else. No problem for the kids, they’d sign up straight away. And don’t drink Coke.

You can only be saved if you do THOSE THINGS.

What would you DO? Let me tell you, my guess is you’d go out from here, raving to everyone. SO WOULD I. We’d be sucked-in in a flash, wouldn’t we? Western Blacktown – tourist attraction. Right up there with Featherdale Wildlife Park. We’d sell souvenir angel tea-towels, we’d talk about it for years. Phone the papers. A Current Affair.

Terrific. And we’d say, God’s revealed himself in a NEW WAY. Which we’d around everywhere. Wouldn’t we?

Play let’s pretend again. Pretend you’re back in Turkey. One of the churches Paul’s writing to here. You’ve just been to church – the church Paul founded; and you’re home eating your Turkish Kebab for dinner. There’s a knock at the door. Dusty, road-grime on his face, there’s Paul. He’s BACK.

And he says, Oh listen, wait a minute, about the GOSPEL. The good news I preached to you FIRST time round? CHANGED MY MIND. Got it wrong!

What are you going to say? What should you do?

Verse 8; read it. Paul says, there are people who are trying to throw you into confusion about the gospel of Christ. But verse 8, he says, even if WE… or AN ANGEL FROM HEAVEN… should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, LET HIM BE ETERNALLY CONDEMNED.”

Which is the slightly more polite way of saying, if an angel lands in the middle of church with a different message, if I myself, says Paul, come back and say I’ve changed my mind, you can say “GO TO HELL” – let him be eternally condemned.

You don’t get anything more serious than messing with the message of salvation as we’ve got it from God himself in the Bible.

Messing with the gospel of Christ is messing with THE MESSAGE FROM GOD. And so Paul says it again, verse 9… as I’ve already said, I’ll say it again… if anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, the gospel I preached in the first place, let him be eternally CONDEMNED.

Grace alone (2:1-10)

If you pick it up into ch 2, Paul starts to get a bit more specific about the false teachers. He heads up to Jerusalem, finally, 14 years later. To check that the gospel he’s been preaching to the GENTILES / agrees with the JEWISH Christian head office. James, Peter, and John.

And the key issue comes in / there in v3. He’s taken along Titus who’s NOT a Jew. And the end result of the meeting/ is that there’s no decree that Titus should get circumcised.

And that’s the crucial extra the false teachers want to add. “Yes, it’s great Jesus died for our sins. Great that he’s even died for GENTILES. As long as Gentiles do all the things that JEWS do. Keep the Sabbath, get circumcised, don’t eat pork. And so on.

See there in v4.

4[This matter arose] because some FALSE brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us SLAVES.

They want to make the new Gentile Christians/ slaves to the law just like the Jews are. But Paul’s gospel says, No, we’re not SLAVES. We’re FREE. Jesus has done it all. “There’s no extras required. It’s all included in the original quote!”

Grace alone. Nothing ANY human NEEDS to add to what Christ’s done, or CAN add. Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone.

And James, Peter and John AGREED. (end of v6). “These men ADDED NOTHING TO MY MESSAGE.” The good news of the gospel is that it’s GRACE PLUS NOTHING.

The message that’s made in heaven is that the work of Jesus BEGINS the job, and FINISHES it. And that means we’ve been SET FREE.

Evangelical Christians keep going on about THE GOSPEL because it’s so easy to FORGET this. To let go of Christ and reach out for EXTRAS TO ADD. It’s the human way. And it’s the way every HUMAN religion ever invented works.

But it’s just as easy for it to happen with Christianity too. Let me tell you two ways we forget it. Forget that’s it’s only about what Jesus has done. Opposite really. But two sides of the same coin.

First, you’re having a GOOD day. You remember to read your Bible and pray before work. The traffic’s clear, you get to work on time. Even get to listen to 103.2 on the way. Over coffee you get to tell your workmate about the Christian conference you went to, and how good it is being a Christian. He asks some encouraging questions, and you agree to meet to study the Bible. You get home that night, and before you go to bed you pray, full of confidence, “Praise God, how GOOD it is to be chosen by you and saved by grace!”

You know it’s all about JESUS, but you can’t help thinking that God’s just that little bit EXTRA pleased with us, and our salvation’s that little bit more SECURE/ because of how GOOD we’ve been today.

That’s wanting to add things to Jesus.

Or think about THIS day INSTEAD. The garbage truck wakes you up early, the kids are y, there’s no milk for breakfast. You miss your quiet time, trip over the cat, and reverse into the letter box. The traffic’s terrible, you forget your notes for the presentation, the boss blames you, you sulk and mumble under your breath. Your workmate, the one you’re meeting to study the Bible with, says, “I thought Christians weren’t supposed to act like that!” You bury your head in your hands, and wish you were back in bed.

That night you lie in bed and try to pray. But you can hardly string two words together, and feel too embarrassed and gutted to even BEGIN.

That’s forgetting that you’re saved by Christ alone. And that you DON’T add anything. That’s thinking that when you fail, that your salvation is somehow at risk, or that God will give up on you.

Christ has FREED us from that CONSTANT PERFORMANCE REVIEW. DAY after DAY. Always being about our performance.

That’s the FREEDOM we have. That’s the message that’s come from God himself. Through the messenger of Paul.

The fact of your salvation is FIXED in what Jesus has done. That’s where our ASSURANCE comes from. Cling to it. Don’t let go of it. Whatever the temptation might be. When you DO let go of it, then assurance goes out the window TOO.

BE CAREFUL you don’t ADD anything to the work of Jesus.

WATCH OUT for those who want to convince you OTHERWISE.

Always be checking what people say with what’s in the Bible. Be like Horatio Caine on CSI Miami. “Find me the evidence!” he says. Look for the PROOF.

Be like the Bereans in Acts 17. When Paul preached the gospel to them, Acts 17:11 says this.

11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

And it WAS true. Because Paul was preaching the gospel message he got from JESUS HIMSELF. The message that our salvation is all ABOUT Jesus himself.

Which in the end is why REAL CHRISTIANITY doesn’t look like other religions at all. Because it isn’t about what you have to DO… it’s about what’s already been DONE… at the cross. It LOOKS different because its ORIGIN is different. It’s the only religion that’s made in heaven.

And if there’s someone who wants to TAKE AWAY THE FREEDOM that comes from that, if there’s someone who wants to BIND YOU UP with rules, to question whether you’re saved, to lay something extra on your conscience, Paul says, STAND YOUR GROUND.

And stick with the message made in heaven.

Galatians 2:11-21: D.ead Right

Englishman John Darwin went to EXTRAORDINARY LENGTHS to avoid the DEMANDS OF THE LAW. After a series of bad property decisions, he wound up with debts of hundreds of thousands of pounds. He was faced with bankruptcy.

The solution he came up with was to DISAPPEAR. To fake his own d.eath. On March 21, 2002, he headed out to sea in his canoe. Later that day he was reported missing after failing to turn up at work. A large sea-search failed to find any trace of him, except for a paddle, and then, a few weeks later, his wrecked canoe.

Eventually, in March 2003, authorities issued a d.eath certificate stating that John Darwin “probably encountered difficulties, as a result of which he died”. And his wife, Anne, was able to claim on his life insurance.

But the reality was instead of being D.EAD, John was comfortably holed up in a bedsit next door to the family home, secretly getting on with his NORMAL life.

But it’s pretty hard keeping your life a secret from the whole world when you’re supposed to be D.EAD. And eventually the whole charade came crashing down. Both John and Anne were arrested in 2007 after smiling photos of them appeared on the internet buying property in Panama. And they’ve recently been jailed for more than six years for fraud.

His plan – his HOPE – had been, “Once you’re D.EAD, the LAW can’t TOUCH you. All debts are cancelled. All fines wiped”.

And they’d been living the pipe-dream/ that they could be ALIVE in ONE SENSE, but D.EAD to the LAW in ANOTHER.

Which might not work when it comes to commercial debt and life insurance. But it DOES work when it comes to THE CHRISTIAN. That you can be alive in ONE sense. But d.ead to the law in ANOTHER.

That’s Paul’s argument here in Galatians 2. That the hold of the Old Testament law, the rules, the requirements, the PENALTIES Israel had to live by… their hold over him as a Jew has gone. Because he’s D.EAD. Crucified. With Christ.

That’s what he says in v19 and 20. It’s not the usual way we think about what happens on the cross. It’s normally about CHRIST dying and us LIVING. But look at what he says. V19.

19 For through the law I DIED TO THE LAW so that I might live for God. 20 I HAVE BEEN CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

Before we were Christians, we’d built up a huge debt. One we could never repay. Repeatedly breaking God’s law, with the threat of God’s justice hanging over us. Our rap sheet getting longer by the day.

The only possible solution would be for God to deal with the debt. To write it off. Which is what he does in Jesus’ d.eath. He counts Jesus’ d.eath as acceptable payment for our debt. Punishment for our sin. The law – God’s justice – is satisfied. The debt cancelled. It’s like we’ve DIED TO THE LAW, and it can’t touch us.

When Christ was crucified, our debt and guilt were put to d.eath as well. Which means that NOW, if you’re a Christian, then, in one sense, you’re able to do what John Darwin could NEVER do. Be alive yet d.ead. Alive to God, and living for him. But D.EAD to the demands and requirements of the law.

(pause) And when you recognise that’s what life is like now/ it has some BIG CONSEQUENCES. Big consequences for how you treat other Christians. For where your confidence lies. For what your priorities are, and what direction your life heads in.

It’s all summed up in what Paul says in v14. He’s rebuking the Apostle Peter, we’ll get to WHY in a minute. But he says that Peter’s NOT ACTING IN LINE WITH THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL.

In other words, Peter’s not LIVING OUT THE CONSEQUENCES of the truth of the gospel. The truth that he’s D.EAD to the law, and ALIVE to God.

That word for “acting in line with” is an interesting one – it’s orthopodeo – the only place it’s used in the New Testament, and I reckon most of you can work out basically what it means. Ortho means? Straight. And pod means? feet. The idea’s about FOLLOWING THE PATH ACCURATELY.

Let me give you an example. When you watch ice figure skating on the TV, it’s normally the FREE program that’s MOST interesting. All the jumps and spins. But up until 1990 one of the sections was something called FIGURES – which is where the name FIGURE skating comes from.

Ice skaters had to scribe out with their blades / a range of different FIGURES on the ice – circles, arches, figure eights. Forward, backward, left foot, right foot. Perfectly smooth, no scrapes, no flat spots. To follow the correct shape, you had to get your FEET exactly right. To know where you were headed, and keep the right shape about how you travelled, so you made it where you needed to get to.

That’s the idea. Understanding the truth of the gospel means following its SHAPE in your life PERFECTLY. Not getting off track, out of shape, or stumbling. Understanding its IMPLICATIONS in every area of life, so that you follow it ACCURATELY.

And it’s all about remembering what you’ve DIED to, and who you’re LIVING for.

The situation

Let’s look at the situation with Peter and Paul. What they disagreed about. And why Peter wasn’t ACTING IN LINE with the truth of the gospel.

V11 tells us that Peter had wandered down from Jerusalem to visit Antioch. Which was Paul’s home base. Where he headed off from on his missionary journeys. And while the JERUSALEM church Peter’s from was nearly all Jews, the church in Antioch was VERY DIFFERENT. A melting pot of Jews and Gentiles.

Now, Jews were known the world over for a whole range of LAWS that marked them out as DISTINCT from every other nation. Walls that separated them from everyone else. Laws to do with FOOD, laws to do with TOUCHING THINGS that made you unclean, laws to do with not working on the Sabbath, laws to do with circumcision.

And the point of it all/ before Jesus came along, was that to be a JEW, to be one of God’s people/ you needed to keep all these laws that SEPARATED you from everyone else. To show you were DIFFERENT. Holy.

But then Jesus came along, the King of EVERY NATION. The true God of the UNIVERSE. And said that being clean, being holy, being one of God’s people, isn’t about what you do on the OUTSIDE anymore, it’s about trusting in Jesus to forgive your sins, and to wash you on the INSIDE.  And that NONE OF THOSE EXTERNAL MARKERS is worth a CRUMPET anymore.

(pause) Peter KNOWS that. Knows it with his HEAD. But when it comes to his ACTIONS, he does something DIFFERENT. Which is why Paul calls him a HYPOCRITE in v13. (Believing ONE thing, but DOING another.) And says he’s not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, in v14.

Have a look at how the situation unfolds. V12.

12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

When Peter FIRST arrived, he’d join in with everyone at dinner. Eating whatever he liked. Didn’t matter WHO he sat next to. Because he knew that he’d DIED to the law/ when Jesus died on the cross.

But then some OTHERS arrived. ALSO from Jerusalem. Certain men from James – who was the head of the church there. And whatever they said / caused Peter to CHANGE HIS BEHAVIOUR. He WITHDREW from the shared meals with Gentiles and began to eat only with Jews. And the reason we’re given/ is that he was AFRAID of those who belonged to THE CIRCUMCISION GROUP.

Now, there’s all sorts of debate about who the men from James were, and what their view was. Same with those who belonged to the circumcision group.

A few facts I think point us in the right direction though. FIRST, Peter KNEW that people were only saved by trusting Jesus, and not by following the Jewish law. And so did James. You don’t even need to go to the Book of ACTS to show that! Right here in Galatians, just a few verses before, back in v6 of ch 2, after Paul tells them all about his gospel, he says, “those men ADDED NOTHING TO MY MESSAGE.”

Saved by grace alone. By trusting in Jesus alone. Nothing extra. No circumcision, no Sabbath keeping, no special diet. They both KNEW it.

So whatever was going on, it’s unlikely James sent messengers to tell Peter not to eat with Gentiles. And it’s unlikely Peter backed off because he thought he was breaking a law he should be keeping.

Another clue is over in ch 6 v12. Paul’s wrapping up his whole argument. Here’s what he says about the Jews who are putting the pressure on about Gentiles keeping the law.

12 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.

These are Jews who’ve accepted Jesus, but who are doing everything else like OTHER JEWS. And they’re getting A HARD TIME because the new NON-Jewish converts aren’t going the whole way, and getting circumcised.

And so they put the pressure on the Gentiles simply to make things a little easier FOR THEMSELVES.

But for PAUL, it was a principle worth SUFFERING for. You see, he’s been persecuted for EXACTLY THE SAME REASONS – back a chapter, in Ch 5 v11 he says this:

11 Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I STILL BEING PERSECUTED? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.

Paul preaches that Jews who accept Jesus are D.EAD TO THE LAW. And Gentiles who accept Jesus don’t have to follow it either. It’s all about FAITH on the INSIDE, not CLEAN on the OUTSIDE. And that’s a message that’s OFFENSIVE to Jews. And Paul’s being PERSECUTED because of it.

(pause) So all of those things are going on as Peter (back in ch 2) gets a visit from the men from James. Who I’m assuming are Christians who’ve got the right view about the Law. But they come with a message that says something like, “Pete, we know we’re all saved only by trusting Jesus. But Pete, news about your dining habits has made it back to Jerusalem, and, to be honest, we’re copping a fair bit of heat because of it. Things are really getting uncomfortable for us all down the temple on a Friday night. Would you mind just turning it down a notch or two? Just be a bit more discreet?”

It sounds reasonable enough, doesn’t it? And it makes Peter’s decision to pull back seem more logical, and Peter less like a wimp who can’t make up his mind, a willow that blows whichever way the wind blows.

The problem – two choices

But here’s the problem. And it’s exactly what Paul works out. When you start giving in to that sort of thinking. Even just a FRACTION. Then you might as well be throwing Jesus out the window. Because when you give in to people who think you’re saved by DOING THINGS, then Jesus’ d.eath becomes WORTHLESS.

When it comes to being right with God, there’s a choice of two ways. Two ways to being friends with God. Simply trust Jesus. Or keep the law, all the time, every bit. And for Paul, the choice is a no-brainer. Look over to v15.

15 “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16 know that a man is not justified (made right) by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because BY OBSERVING THE LAW NO ONE WILL BE JUSTIFIED.

Can’t do it. Unless you can keep every single part of God’s law 100% perfectly, 100% of the time, then the law’s going to declare you guilty EVERY TIME.

It’s the same logic as saying after you get a fine for speeding, “If I drive past the speed camera 10 times UNDER the speed limit/ that should cancel out the ONE time I DO get caught”. It doesn’t WORK like that. All the speed camera does is show you when you’ve BROKEN the law, and holds you accountable. There’s no mechanism for GETTING PUT RIGHT. Making things GOOD.

Same with the law. All it does it point out when we BREAK it. But it can’t MAKE US RIGHT with GOD.

That’s the REALITY. And so by giving in to people who think that keeping the law CAN make you right with God, Paul says it’s just rebuilding what you’ve already DESTROYED (that is having to keep the law). Down to v18. He says, “If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I prove that I’m a lawbreaker. When you throw law-keeping back into the mix, even just as an add-on, all it can do is show your GUILT. It can’t put you RIGHT with God.

Live by faith in the Son of God

Instead, Paul says our Christian life, day after day, should look like this. Look at v20

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live BY FAITH IN THE SON OF GOD, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Every day trusting what JESUS has done, the one who gave himself in my place. Turning to HIM, and turning AWAY from my good works as the thing I’m trusting in. Turning AWAY from my education, or my ministry, or my gifts. Turning AWAY from my commitments, or my energy, or my generosity. And trusting ONLY in Jesus.

Because if I DO turn away from Jesus ALONE, then here’s the end result. V21.

(It’s SETTING) ASIDE THE GRACE OF GOD, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Peter’s action might SEEM harmless enough, but for Paul it sends A D.EADLY MESSAGE. It sends the message that we can turn to SOMETHING ELSE to be put right with God. And that means Christ died for nothing.

Think for a moment about the message Peter’s sending. When you read here about the GENTILES, don’t forget you’re reading about US. Imagine you’re at dinner at the Antioch church camp, and the apostle Peter refuses to sit next to YOU. Because he’s only going to mix with his fellow Jews. There are RULES about this stuff. Gentiles are UNCLEAN. Eat the wrong sort of food. So you go up to shake his hand, and he just TURNS HIS BACK ON YOU. And walks away. You offer him a piece of cake and a cup of coffee for morning tea, and he gets edgy. Making it very clear he doesn’t want to be SEEN WITH YOU. Because YOU… are a Gentile. How are you going to feel?

There’d be a real temptation to go and wash your hands, wouldn’t there? Do whatever you needed to do to restore the relationship. Because he’s supposed to be your brother in Christ.

So Paul calls a spade a spade. One of those embarrassing sort of situations when somebody speaks their mind in front of the whole crowd. Paul doesn’t mind doing it. Because this is important. Verse 14, Peter and the others, by refusing to mix with the Gentiles, by acting as if there’s some sort of BARRIER there because the Gentiles don’t live by the Old Testament laws, they’ve FORGOTTEN THE GOSPEL. Acting like Jesus achieved NOTHING.

And so Paul says to Peter, “You’re not acting in line with the truth of the gospel. How come? You’re a JEW WHO’S BEEN LIVING LIKE A GENTILE. So how come now you’re trying to make GENTILES LIVE LIKE JEWS.”

MAKE UP YOUR MIND. Either you’re a full-scale card carrying Christian BY TRUSTING JESUS. ONLY. Or you’re not. Either your RIGHTEOUSNESS comes from standing with Jesus. Or you’ve got to get righteous yourself.

And maybe that’s something YOU need to get clear on too.

I wonder if we’ve understood that in practise? Where is it WE’RE not ACTING IN LINE WITH THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL?

Maybe we draw lines in OTHER ways. Good people – and the rest. Presbyterians – and the rest. Reformed and NOT reformed. Baptised and NOT baptised. Smokers and non-smokers. Married and single. Young and old. Drinkers and non-drinkers. Educated and non-educated. Labor voters and liberal voters.

(slow down) Whatever the distinctions we have. Paul says, when the GOSPEL’s at the centre, then DON’T MAKE DISTINCTIONS. If it’s neither here nor there for Jesus, then it shouldn’t be for YOU. Accept as CLEAN/ ANYONE that Jesus has.

That’s what it means to ACT IN LINE WITH THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL. The gospel that says (v20) you’ve been crucified with Christ, and it’s no longer you who lives, but Christ who lives in you. The life you live in the body is no longer about striving to make yourself acceptable by DOING, but living by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave himself up for you.

In case you think I’m saying that the Ten Commandments can go out the window. Hear me clearly. When you DO live like that/ when you live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave himself up for you. Then everything you do will be FOLLOWING his EXAMPLE. LOVING and GIVING YOURSELF UP for OTHERS.

As Paul says over in Ch 5 v13 and 14 (one of the key verses in the whole letter)

13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful re; rather, SERVE one another in LOVE. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

That’s living in line with the truth of the gospel. Doing everything in gratitude and thanks to the one who gave up everything for YOU.

Galatians 3:15-4:7: The Brady Bunch

Here’s a story of a lovely lady

Who was bringing up three very lovely s.

All of them had hair of gold, like their mother’s,

The youngest one in curls.

Here’s a story of a man named Brady

Who was busy with three boys of his own

They were four men living all together

but they were all alone.

Till the one day when this lady met this fellow

And they knew that it was much more than a hunch

That this group would somehow form a family

That’s the way they all became the Brady bunch.

And, according to the TV show, once they got married, it was a case of happily ever after for this blended family.

Except for a few ups and downs. Like Jan being jealous of Marcia. Or Marcia getting braces. Or when Greg wants to be a rock star. Or when the S want to come along on the BOYS yearly camping trip.

Apart from the odd hiccup, when you watch the show, you get the overwhelming impression that blending a family like that is EASY. And FUN.

But real life’s not like that. The reality with blended families is FAR DIFFERENT. Trying to get two different families to work together can take YEARS. Two families hurt by divorce or , often with all sorts of baggage they bring with them.

It can take YEARS to get beyond the assumptions and expectations. The different ways of doing things, and the different priorities. YEARS to build trust and love/ despite the misunderstandings and arguments. It takes hard work, tears and struggle to build a NEW family. With NEW rules and traditions and priorities.

In the TV version, Mike Brady just says, YOU DON’T DO THAT ANY MORE. You’re a BRADY NOW. And the kids say, “Gee Dad, you’re right”. And that’s that. But in real life it’s much harder.

Now have you noticed that’s the KEY ISSUE Paul’s dealing with here in Galatians. Blending two very different families into ONE Brady Bunch FAMILY IN CHRIST.

Christians from the ISRAEL family… who’ve called God their father for as long as they can remember, all the way back to Abraham.

And Christians from the GENTILE FAMILY… who all their lives have been called UNCLEAN by the Jews. Because they didn’t have God’s old testament law. They’re ring ins. Without any of Israel’s LAWS AND RULES. They’ve heard about Jesus, they’ve TRUSTED IN JESUS; but without any of the background of being JEWISH.

And we saw last time, Paul’s saying to these Christians in Galatia, “Whatever you do, whatever the pressure, don’t be sucked back to the Old Testament LAW. He says, being PART OF THE FAMILY is all about TRUSTING JESUS… not about living by the law.

They’re DIVIDING OVER IT. Jewish ones are saying, “You’ve got to hang on to the Old Testament Law”. The non-Jews are confused. And Paul sums it all up in verse 27 to 29. Right there in the middle of the passage. God’s Family is ONE FAMILY. And to BE ONE, all the old dividing lines have got to go. Verse 27.

“For ALL OF YOU who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither JEW NOR GREEK, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to promise.

So different. Yet now all the same. All – whether Jewish or Gentile – all counted as part of the family of Abraham. A Brady Bunch family, made up of all kinds of people. The opposite ends of the scale. But all one in Christ Jesus. EVERYONE ON THE SAME FOOTING.

Seed, not seeds

And it’s NOT by keeping THE OLD TESTAMENT LAW. It’s bigger than that. And it goes all the way back to a PROMISE GOD MADE TO ABRAHAM. Look back up to v16.

We talked about it last week. About how God promised Abraham that he’d BLESS him. And that through Abraham, he’d bless the WHOLE WORLD. And he promised to give him lots and lots of FAMILY. And then, he’d give that offspring the LAND.

But, in v16, Paul does something a bit tricky. And it’s all to do with the word SEED. Have a look,

16 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.

Now, seed, in this context, means OFFSPRING. And the thing about the word SEED, or OFFSPRING for that matter, is that you use the same word, whether you’re talking about ONE or MANY. ONE seed, Lots of seed. One offspring , LOTS of offspring.

Same thing with FISH. One fish, or a SCHOOL of fish.

Or sheep. ONE sheep. A FLOCK of sheep.

And Paul’s point is, back in Gen 12:7, God makes the promise to Abraham and his SEED. Not SEEDS. Offspring. Not offsprings. One. Not MANY.

God COULD have said “FAMILY”. He COULD have said “children”. The promise was to Abraham and his FAMILY, or his CHILDREN. Perfectly good words for THOSE. But instead God uses the word SEED, which could mean either ONE, or MANY.

And Paul’s point, there in v16, is that God said “SEED”, because he had in mind/ ONE offspring in PARTICULAR – Jesus.

JESUS is the offspring of Abraham / who God promised would be a blessing to the nations. He’d be the one who would be under the curse of sin. And bring blessing instead by becoming a curse for us. The one God promised to give the inheritance of the Spirit to/ so he could then give it to the rest of the family.

And it was all back there BEFORE God gave the law to Moses. Paul’s point is that God’s plan was ETERNAL. He doesn’t chop and change because ONE plan FAILS, so he has to come up with a NEW ONE. It’s ALWAYS been Jesus. And it’s ALWAYS been by FAITH.

And the coming of the law can’t change that.

Paul says it’s just like a WILL. The kids can’t come along AFTER DAD’S DIED, and just pencil in a few changes to the will. Just because they want something different. It’s not legal.

Same with God’s agreement with Abraham. V17.

17 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.

God promised to BLESS the world through Abraham’s offspring, Jesus. Abraham TRUSTED him, and God credited him as being righteous.

And then when the LAW came along through Moses, it couldn’t CHANGE that agreement. Couldn’t make a NEW way to be blessed by God.

Why the law?

Which leads to the OBVIOUS question, I guess. What was the POINT of the law, then? The bulk of the Old Testament is about the LAW, and how Israel kept it, or failed to keep it – which is more accurate.

Why the law? Paul moves on to that question in v19. It was no problem with the AGREEMENT, he says. Just with people’s ATTITUDE to it.

19 What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.

Transgression means to BREAK the law. Before God gave the law/ people still sinned, but they weren’t consciously breaking God’s law. But once the law came, it became OBVIOUS.

Sin became law-breaking, only when the law was introduced.

The law was like a giant spotlight that shone into the darkness of people’s lives, showing up their sin for what it really was. No denying anymore that what people were doing was AGAINST GOD. Paul says the same thing down in v22.

22 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.

Notice how the LAW is only TEMPORARY. Only in force until Jesus would come. There in v19.

added because of transgressions UNTIL THE SEED TO WHOM THE PROMISE REFERRED HAD COME.

A temporary measure, only keeping Jews in line. In check. To show what SIN was. What UNCLEANNESS was. To SEPARATE them. Until something BETTER came along. In fact, until the ORIGINAL plan was put into place. The plan that UNITED rather than DIVIDED.

We get a bit more detail about how the law worked as a stopgap down in v23. And Paul uses two pictures. First, before Jesus came, the law was LIKE A PRISON GUARD for the Jews.

23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.

The law teaches the Jew God’s demands, and sets out the punishments. Every Jew has broken the law. And so they’re locked up, condemned, waiting for release. That’s what the law does.

The second picture Paul uses is in v24 and 25.

24 So the law was PUT IN CHARGE to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the SUPERVISION of the law.

The word for “put in charge” there in 24 is the same one as “supervision” in 25. And it referred to a babysitter, or governess. It’s where we get the word pedagogy from (to do with TEACHING). The Greek father would hand over responsibility of the children to the SUPERVISOR, often an elderly trusted slave, and they’d be responsible for disciplining and guiding.

And that’s what the law did for the Jews. Until Jesus came. The strict disciplinarian, keeping them in line, keeping them on the straight and narrow, until Jesus came. And the Jews could be put right with the Father by trusting Jesus.

Paul continues that idea into ch 4. Children are heirs – technically, but aren’t entitled to actually inherit anything – till they come of age.

Paul says it’s the same with the Jews. Before Jesus, they were being looked after by their governess – the law. But, as infants, they had no more status than SLAVES. Until (v2) the date set by the Father. When they grew up, and the governess wasn’t needed anymore. And they became HEIRS.

Which is what happened when Jesus came. V4.

4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the FULL RIGHTS OF SONS. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

The law is fired!

Way better than being an INFANT. Or a SLAVE. But a genuine SON or DAUGHTER. A member of the family.

And once Jesus had come, the law’s job, as a prison guard, or a governess, was over. And the shocking conclusion for a Jew is there in v25.

25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

Remember when Paul says WE, he means Jews.

“Since faith in Jesus has arrived, WE JEWS are no longer under the supervision of the law. The prison doors have been opened. The governess has been fired. Dad’s taken over”.

All because of Jesus. The one seed of Abraham. ONE OFFSPRING. Who’s produced ONE FAMILY. Not TWO. Not us and them. Not Jew and Gentile. One family. One SEED. One OFFSPRING. All receiving God’s blessing by faith in THE one offspring Jesus.

Notice how Paul moves from WE – the Jews – in v23. To YOU ALL in v26. You Galatians, you Gentiles, perhaps a few Jews too. And that’s where it gets personal for US.

26 You are ALL sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,.

Now that the wall that separated the two families has gone. The law’s been fired. ALL sons of God.

And then he goes on to explain it further. V27.

27 for ALL of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ

Baptism was their COMMON introduction to membership. Jew or Gentile – everyone was baptised. Everyone needed washing and forgiving.

Baptised INTO Christ means something like being INITIATED INTO THE GROUP of all those Christ REPRESENTS. Signing up as someone who wants Christ to represent you. He represents you as Abraham’s offspring, receiving the blessings of God so that you might join WITH him as offspring.

And “being CLOTHED with Christ” is the same idea. To PUT ON Christ means to take for yourself the benefits Christ has won. To put on his righteousness. To put on his sonship. To put on his inheritance.

And it was something EVERY Christian did, and STILL DOES. The common visible symbol that united this Brady Bunch of God’s new family.

Paul teases out the implications. V28.

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

There was no wall as high or thick as the one separating Jew and Gentile. But once you’d torn down the law that separated them. And they saw each other standing there, , washed clean in the baptism of Christ, clothed in his righteousness alone, a brand new family united by faith. Then every OTHER barrier or dividing wall, or disagreement, just palls into insignificance. Under Christ, they could ALL be family.

SOCIAL STANDING means nothing. Westy or Eastern Suburbs. Middle class or welfare class. Single or married. Children or childless. None of it matters.

EDUCATION means nothing. Blue collar or white collar. Professional or trade. Renter or home owner.

GENDER doesn’t matter. Male and female. Different ways of thinking. Of relating. Different priorities and ways of solving problems. None of it matters.

Race, ethnicity, upbringing, worship preferences, small differences in theology, age, health, interests. None of it matters.

All barriers are removed. All disagreements can be solved. All misunderstandings worked through.

Bringing together any sort of blended family is TOUGH GOING. No matter what the Brady Bunch tells you. Especially a CHURCH FAMILY.

One of the guys at Mitchell High Scripture, Tommy, was telling us about a Christian black American rap singer he met a few weeks ago. He picked him up from the airport, and they went to Bondi for breakfast. Within 20 minutes they were getting on like a house on fire. Chatting like they were family – which in a way they WERE because they were both Christians. Not much else in common. But Jesus.

And it was really freaking this black guy out. Because he was from a part of America where he hardly ever met white people. His church was completely black. His neighbourhood.

It wasn’t that he had a problem with whites. But it was weird that here he was hanging out with a skinny white dude, and NO ONE EVEN NOTICED. That would never happen where he was from. There’d be strange looks and comments straight away.

Tommy said that was just the way things mostly were in Australia.

Some groups of Christians have got further to go than others.

I wonder if there are some ways we’re up against the same sort of pressures? A bit more subtle maybe? Where are OUR walls?

Why is it some of you don’t even know the names of others? I’m not talking about people who’ve only been here a few weeks. I’m talking about people who’ve been here a YEAR OR MORE. Regulars don’t even KNOW each other.

There’s no excuse. It’s not like we’re so big, you can’t know everyone. Grab an address book. Sit down with it. Put names to faces. Then TALK to them.

Someone said, well, they don’t ever say hello to me. Well, you be first. Be a BRIDGE builder. Not a WALL builder. Christ has already broken down the walls. Let’s not be building them up again.

And when it comes to people OUTSIDE church, let’s be building bridges as well. When it comes to the Movie Night, or Christmas Carols. Jump right in there, and TALK to people. Build bridges. Break down walls.

Because God’s plan was ALWAYS to bring together ONE FAMILY of blessing. A Brady Bunch family made up of all kinds of people. Not under law. But under Jesus. Sometimes people like you. Sometimes very different. But all of us one… in Christ Jesus who we serve. Let’s make sure we LIVE IT.

Galatians 3:26-4:7: The Perfect Gift

Do you remember the Brady Bunch? Where Mike Brady, with his three sons, marries Carol with her three daughters? It’s all very sweet.

But it’s just FICTION. Pretend! Because real life is never quite that easy, is it? I mean, they have their ups and downs in the TV show – Marsha doesn’t know what to wear to the formal, Jan gets glasses or braces, Peter tries to go on a date with two s at the same time. That sort of thing.

But you get the overwhelming impression if you watch it, that blending a family like that is EASY. And FUN.

But real life’s not like that. Blended families are HARD WORK! Bringing together TWO FAMILIES with TWO HISTORIES, with TWO SETS OF EXPECTATIONS. Two families with their own ways of doing things, their own family traditions, their own family rules. It’s TOUGH!

In the TV version, Mike Brady just says, YOU DON’T DO THAT ANY MORE. You’re a BRADY NOW. And the kids say, Gee, you’re right. And that’s that.

But in real life it’s much harder. There’s the misunderstandings, the tantrums, the shouting and fighting, the disappointments. There’s the tension, and the coldness.

And, hopefully, as time goes by, there’s a gradual softening, and understanding, and respect, and eventually LOVE.

But it’s not easy.

And we’ve seen something of the same sort of thing happening ON A MUCH BIGGER SCALE over the last of weeks ON THE STREETS OF SYDNEY. Two different groups clashing. Street riots on the basis of race, or religion. Over territory.

Aussie and Lebanese. Surfies and Westies. From Cronulla to Castle Hill with Auburn, Maroubra, Brighton, and Ryde in between.

Sydney’s one of the most ethnically-diverse cities in the world. Hundreds of different nationalities existing side-by-side. That’s certainly the case in Blacktown. One HUGE blended family. With problems hundreds of times harder to solve than in a normal blended family.

And, for the MOST part, we do it peacefully. With tolerance, and acceptance, and understanding and patience.

At least ON THE SURFACE. I’m sure there’s hostility and resentment UNDERNEATH. My guess is it’s ALWAYS been that way. And it’s just NOW bubbling to the surface.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a SOLUTION? A resolution that was LONG TERM. And REAL. Not just a band-aid. That brought REAL peace.

In Sydney, we’ve seen the NEW LEGISLATION. The Public relations exercises. Meetings between the Comancheros and the ‘Bra boys. The talkfests between the government, police, and various religious and community groups. The Police lock-downs. The riot police.

But I’m not sure any of it will change THE UNDERLYING ATTITUDES. It might control BEHAVIOUR, but won’t do anything about mind-sets.

We need A GENUINE SOLUTION.

The problem is/ it’s not really any different from any other time in history. The names and places have changed. But the problem’s the same.

A vicious cycle of misunderstanding and greed. Of revenge and hatred, hurting and being hurt.

Since Adam and Eve/ people have been at war with each other. Disagreements and fights over all sorts of things. One group of people against another. Nations or religions or football supporters.

And it’s ironic these events are happening within a of weeks of Christmas. Because it’s at CHRISTMAS that we remember the PERFECT GIFT. A gift from God himself. A gift he sent to DEAL with the mess we’ve made for ourselves.

It was the gift of his Son.

The angels said it well on the night Jesus was born. This is what they sang to the shepherds.

14 “Glory to God in the highest, AND ON EARTH PEACE TO MEN ON WHOM HIS FAVOR RESTS.”

PEACE. God sent Jesus to bring PEACE. Peace BETWEEN men. And peace between people and GOD.

And the passage we’ve just read talks about HOW THAT WORKS. Helps us to understand why Jesus was THE PERFECT GIFT.

You need a bit of background to make sense of what it’s saying. The guy who’s writing this is called PAUL. He’s a JEW. And he’s writing to a group of people in Galatia. Which is present-day TURKEY. So, they were NON-JEWS. The Jews called them GENTILES.

And Jews and Gentiles had a history MUCH longer than Aussies and Lebanese. Up until Jesus came, they had nothing to do with each other.

But now, these Galatians, and lots of Jews as well – like Paul. Had all become CHRISTIANS. They ALL trusted Jesus as the one who could rescue them from and sin. Who could restore their friendship with God.

And so, Paul says, in v26. There’s no more hostility. It’s A BLENDED FAMILY that actually WORKS. It’s printed there in your news-sheets.

26 You are ALL sons of God through FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS, 27 for ALL of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither JEW NOR GREEK, SLAVE NOR FREE, MALE NOR FEMALE, FOR YOU ARE ALL ONE IN CHRIST JESUS.

One big family/ made up of ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE.

And he goes on to explain how that happened. BEFORE, there were DIFFERENCES. The Jews had the law. The Gentiles DIDN’T. The Jews followed God. The Gentiles followed OTHER religions. False idols.

But either way, says Paul in Ch 4 v3. It was like SLAVERY.

when we were children, we were IN SLAVERY under the BASIC PRINCIPLES OF THE WORLD.

People disagree about exactly what these basic principles were. Is it spiritual forces, or false religions, or humanistic philosophy?

Whatever it is/ the idea of SLAVERY is clear. Mankind, without God, is STUCK. We can’t live up to the ideals we dream of. We can’t treat each other the way we want to be treated. To make society the way we’d like.

And beyond that. We can’t do anything about . And judgment. We’re destined for destruction.

We’re ENSLAVED. Stuck in a hole of false gods, and man-made religions and philosophies. Of law and condemnation. Of guilt and greed and frustration. Of evil and vengeance, hatred and hurting and blindness.

Mankind is just one big mob-riot that’s out of control.

Full-time!

Which would all be a terrible picture. Except Paul’s describing THE PAST. The people he’s writing to aren’t there anymore.  “We WERE in slavery”. That’s what we USED TO BE.

But not any more. Look at how he continues. V4. BUT!

4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

Here’s the GOOD NEWS. The good news of CHRISTMAS. When the time was RIPE. (FULL-Time for SLAVERY. Kick-off for FREEDOM).

God sent his PERFECT gift. Jesus. Fully God, yet born of a woman. So, fully human. Born into the same sort of slavery that all of us live under. But HE NEVER SINNED. Exposed to exactly the same temptations as us, but never GUILTY.

And so, he’s able to REDEEM those in slavery. To buy us back.

Let me explain how that works. In Paul’s day, if you had a debt greater than you could repay, you could enter into slavery to your debtor. And work for them until your debt was paid off.

But if you had a rich relative, or friend, they could come along, and PAY OFF YOUR DEBT. REDEEM you. Buy you back. And you’d be FREE AGAIN.

And that’s just what Jesus has done for US. Because of our sin – our rejection of God, and our insistence on living life OUR way – we deserved JUDGMENT. The guilty verdict had been brought in. And we were just waiting for the sentence to begin.

We were in debt to God for an amount we could never repay.

But God sent Jesus to take the punishment IN OUR PLACE. His satisfied the justice that God demanded for OUR SIN. He died the he DIDN’T deserve, so that we might have the life WE didn’t deserve.

IN other words, his life was the payment that redeemed us from slavery.

That’s the extent of the love God had for us – that he’d allow his SON to die, to win us back to himself. What a gift!

A few years ago there was a true story in an American paper about a man in New York City who was kidnapped. His kidnappers called his wife and asked for $100,000 ransom.

Over the course of a few phone calls, she bargained them down to $30,000. What a bargain hunter!

The story had a happy ending: the man returned home unharmed, the money was recovered, and the kidnappers were caught and sent to jail. But, don’t you wonder what happened when the man got home and found that his wife got him back FOR A DISCOUNT?

The journalist imagined what the negotiations must have been like: “$100,000 for that old guy? You’ve got to be crazy. Just look at him! Look at that gut! And he’s falling apart. You want $100,000 for that? You’ve got to be kidding. $30,000 is my top offer. Not a cent more.”

I can’t help feeling sorry for the poor husband. I’d like to think if I were in a similar situation, Caron would spare no expense to get me back. She wouldn’t haggle over the price. She wouldn’t say, ‘Well, let me think about it.’ I like to think that she’d say, ‘I’ll do ANYTHING for you.'”

And when it comes to God/ there was NOTHING he wouldn’t give/ to buy US back. He even gave up his OWN SON.

And look at the RESULTS of that.

to redeem those under law, that WE MIGHT RECEIVE THE FULL RIGHTS OF SONS.

It literally says  “that we might receive ADOPTION AS SONS”.

God sent his ONLY son, so that he could ADOPT us as sons. To make us part of the family! That’s a PERFECT GIFT.

And Paul goes on to list some of the family BENEFITS. Some of the privileges. We’ve already seen that we’ve been REDEEMED from the law. And that we’ve been ADOPTED. But look at v6.

Because you are sons, God sent the SPIRIT of his Son into our HEARTS, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

First God sends his son into THE WORLD. Then/ he sends the SPIRIT of his son into OUR HEARTS. The Spirit of Jesus LIVES WITH US. He is our guarantee of adoption. Our adoption papers.

When we start to doubt whether we really ARE God’s children, the Holy Spirit CONFIRMS it. We can even call God – FATHER because of the Spirit. Or Abba – which is the Aramaic version of Daddy.

Adopted children often doubt whether their parents love them as much as children. But God gives us a 24 hour a day ASSURANCE of his love. We have the Holy Spirit with us ALWAYS.

Finally, another right of adoption is that we’re HEIRS of the family fortune. Look at it there in v7.

7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

Our inheritance is A NEW LIFE. A NEW RELATIONSHIP.

And ultimately, it’s A NEW WORLD. One day, God will finally have enough of the mess we’ve made of THIS WORLD. And Jesus will return. The old world will be destroyed. And he’ll bring in A NEW CREATION. An eternal, and perfect world. Without sin or or pain. And it’s only for those in God’s FAMILY.

That’s our inheritance. It’s waiting for God’s children.

And it all comes because of God’s PERFECT GIFT. Jesus.

How?

And, just like ANY gift. It doesn’t just come AUTOMATICALLY. We have to ACCEPT the gift.

But HOW can you accept God’s gift? Have a look back to the start of these verses. V26.

26 You are all sons of God …. THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

We accept God’s gift by trusting Jesus, that he’s God’s Son, and by trusting the work he did on our behalf.

And we SHOW that trust like THIS. All we need to do is ASK. A.S.K.       Admit, Sorry, and King.

We need to ADMIT that we’ve ignored God. And lived by our own rules. That we’ve sinned.

Second, we need to say we’re SORRY. The Bible calls that REPENTANCE. That means turning around from living for ourselves, and begin to live for Jesus instead.

And that’s what the THIRD part is about. KING. To accept God’s gift, we must submit to Jesus as our King. Recognise that he has the right to rule our lives, and the world. We agree to live life by HIS command.

That’s what a Christian is. Someone who lives with Jesus as their King. Not that we always do that PERFECTLY. But that’s our intention. Our heart’s desire. To follow our King.

That’s something you can do RIGHT NOW. All you have to do is TELL God. Tell him those three things. That you ADMIT you’ve sinned against him. That you’re SORRY. And that from now on, Jesus will be YOUR KING.

You might like to pray this prayer in your own head. Make it your own.

“Dear God, heavenly FATHER, I ADMIT that I’m a sinful rebel against you. I’m SORRY for that. Thank you for Jesus who pays the price for my rebellion. I want to live with him as my KING. Please help me to do that, with the help of your HOLY SPIRIT. Amen

If you prayed that prayer, and MEANT it, then you’ve accepted God’s gift. And God’s promise to YOU is that he’s REDEEMED you, adopted you as one of his CHILDREN, given you his Spirit, and made you an HEIR.

And that means that you’re now PART OF THE FAMILY. You’ve got millions of brothers and sisters all over the world. Aussies and Lebanese. Surfie and Westie. Male and female. Slave and free. Jew and Gentile.

And while we might not always agree – like ANY family. It’s the beginning of REAL PEACE. Lasting peace. Peace with each other, and peace with God.

May the angels’ words be true THIS CHRISTMAS.

14 “Glory to God in the highest, AND ON EARTH … PEACE/ TO MEN ON WHOM HIS FAVOR RESTS.”

Galatians 4:8-31: Where’s Your Joy?

There’s been some great moments in the Olympics this past fortnight, hasn’t there. Moments of enormous excitement. Of genuine joy and surprise.

Perhaps my favourite was the Australian women’s 200m freestyle relay (slide 2). They weren’t EXPECTED to do well. None of the s, INDIVIDUALLY, were competitive in the 200. The Australian champion, Linda McKenzie, hadn’t even made the final.

In fact, winning was so far from the mind of 18 yr old Kylie Palmer that she forgot her presentation tracksuit. She had to borrow pants from fellow swimmer Kate Campbell and a jacket from Matt Targett – both several sizes too big.

Going into the race, China and America were the big favourites. At best, Australia was hoping for a bronze. Double gold medal winner Stephanie Rice led them off. She’d never led a relay before. She swam a personal best and at the first change Australia trailed by a fingernail.

Next in was Bronte Barratt. By the end of HER leg, Australia suddenly LED. Which was unexpected. The Aussie tactics were based on the US being ahead, and us having to catch up on the third leg. .

Head coach Alan Thompson said, “I’ve got to tell you, our thoughts were to have Kylie Palmer in the third leg because we knew what a scrapper she was,” “She’d pick up some ground for us if we were behind. We didn’t expect to be where we were.”

Palmer was ready. “My heart was pumping so hard,” she said. “I was given a really big opportunity. I knew I had it. I just had to put it together in a race.”

At the last change, Australia led by more than three seconds, about four body lengths. Linda MacKenzie, dived in. The Chinese and Americans were coming.

In the first 100m they made up 1.6 seconds. But MacKenzie’s plan was to CONSERVE energy in the first 100, knowing her rivals had to EXPEND it. In the last 100, they didn’t make up any time at all. (slide 3)

Australia not only won, but they smashed the US’s world record by 5.78 seconds! On the pool deck, three Australian swimmers hugged and screamed, while MacKenzie, still in the pool, stared at the scoreboard in disbelief. (slide 4)

The celebrations seemed to take half a day, the press conferences the other. “It’s one of the biggest roller-coaster rides I’ve had in swimming,” said head coach Alan Thompson. I think the s are STILL celebrating.

Bubbling, exuberant, unexpected, contagious JOY (slide 5). Not expecting ANYTHING, but coming away with EVERYTHING. On past performances, expecting NOTHING, but receiving GOLD.

Where’s your joy gone?

And Paul says that’s how it USED with the Galatians. Back when they first believed. Back when Paul FIRST told them the good news about how Jesus had died to save them from judgment and . And about how they had forgiveness and eternal life, and the Holy Spirit and an inheritance. And that it had nothing to do with their performance, or their heritage, or their rule-keeping. But it was all a wonderful gift. They deserved NOTHING. But received EVERYTHING.

See how Paul describes those first days. V13.

13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. 14 Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you WELCOMED ME AS IF I WERE AN ANGEL OF GOD, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.

Seems like Paul was high maintenance. Perhaps some sort of disability. But none of that mattered to the Galatians. Because he brought SUCH GREAT NEWS. They were OVERJOYED. They could scarcely believe it. Aliens, rebels, enemies ONE DAY. Then friends, sons and heirs the NEXT. They welcomed him as if he were an angel of God. As if he were Jesus himself.

But everything had CHANGED. V15.

15 What has happened to ALL YOUR JOY?

Where’s it all gone? Where’s your elation?

And you could ask the same thing of plenty of Christians you meet TODAY. Where’s your joy? You’ve been saved. You’ve got a gift you can’t earn, and don’t deserve. You’re a CHILD of GOD. You’re supposed to be living eternal life. With PURPOSE and VALUE. You’ve done WAY BETTER than winning the lottery.

Why are you looking like life’s MISERABLE? Why are you STRIVING to make yourself ACCEPTABLE. Worrying if you’ve done enough? Judging others who don’t measure up? Where’s your joy?

Paul’s heart-broken. He’s confused. He’s afraid for them. He’s PERPLEXED.

And it’s all because they’ve turned away from the FREEDOM they’d discovered/ to go back to SLAVERY. Gone from GRACE / to LEGALISM.

Remember what’s been happening? The Jewish false teachers have come along and said that it’s NOT ENOUGH to believe in Jesus. You have to keep the Old Testament law AS WELL. Just to BE SAFE. To help out GOD’S part, with some effort of YOUR OWN. See it there in v8?

(8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by re are not gods). 9 But now that you know God-or rather are known by God-HOW IS IT THAT YOU ARE TURNING BACK TO THOSE WEAK AND MISERABLE PRINCIPLES? Do you wish to be ENSLAVED BY THEM ALL OVER AGAIN? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

They USED TO worship IDOLS. Always striving to earn the favour of the gods. Scared of putting a foot wrong. And copping the vengeance of the gods.

Why would you go back?

Then they discovered the TRUE God. Through Jesus. And now Paul CAN’T BELIEVE they’d turn back to KEEPING RULES. Weak and miserable principles he calls them. Why would you go back he says.

It’s slavery to WORRY about doing something on a CERTAIN day. Or NOT doing something ELSE on ANOTHER day. As if God’s going to be impressed. It’s SLAVERY! Why would you choose that over freedom? Over JOY? Paul can’t understand it. Down in v20 he says he’s PERPLEXED about them!

It’s so SAD to see someone who USED to have JOY. But now they’ve chosen the OPPOSITE. Like someone who’s trapped by addiction, or gambling. Or caught in an abusive relationship. They USED to be so full of life. But now their life’s being slowly destroyed. They’re miserable. But they just can’t seem to choose anything else. And, when you SEE it, you feel HELPLESS. And PERPLEXED.

A life lesson – Gen 15-17; 21

But Paul’s not going to sit back and do nothing. He wants them to REDISCOVER all their LOST JOY. So, from v21, he turns to a life lesson. Abraham. Again. It’s the third time he’s brought him up. And each time his purpose has been a bit different.

This time, he wants to focus on Abraham’s two SONS. Ishmael, and Isaac. Perhaps you remember the story. God promises Abraham LOTS OF CHILDREN. And we’re told in Genesis 15 that Abraham BELIEVES God, and God credits righteousness to him because he BELIEVES.

But as time goes by, Abraham gets older. And still there’s no kids. So he and his wife Sarai decide perhaps they better give God A HELPING HAND. And Abraham sleeps with Sarai’s maidservant Hagar. An Egyptian slave. Perhaps that’s what God meant.

And Hagar becomes pregnant. And then Ishmael’s born when Abraham’s 86 years old. That’s at the end of Gen 16. But it’s all because Abraham hasn’t trusted God’s word.

Then, in the next chapter, after 13 more years, Sarai’s STILL not pregnant. And God promises Abraham AGAIN that he’ll be the father of a great nation. And that it will definitely be through SARAH.

And Abraham has a little GIGGLE to himself because he’s 99, and Sarah’s 90. But sure enough, in ch 21, we’re told Sarah DOES become pregnant, and she gives birth to ISAAC. It’s GREAT NEWS! V6. Sarah’s OVERJOYED. Now it’s HER turn to LAUGH.

6 Sarah said, “God has brought me LAUGHTER, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 7 And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

In fact, the very name Isaac means HE LAUGHS.

Two sons. One born to a SLAVE. The other to a FREE WOMAN. One born because Abraham DIDN’T trust God, and the OTHER born because Abraham TRUSTED God’s PROMISE. And even his NAME means JOY.

And Paul’s point, from v21, is that, just like Abraham had a choice, so do the Galatians. Abraham had the choice to either help God out by joining with the slave Hagar, or to TRUST God, and join with his FREE wife Sarah. To take him at his word.

One to do with SLAVERY AND EFFORT. The other to do with FREEDOM AND PROMISE.

And the Galatians can either trust God’s promise. Which brings FREEDOM. Or they can try to do it themselves. They can either believe God’s pledge that he’s dealt with their sin in the of Jesus, and offers them grace and forgiveness. Or they can try to EARN God’s favour by law-keeping. Which leads to SLAVERY.

Two different WOMEN. Two different AGREEMENTS. Two different CITIES. Look at v24. It’s all a picture of the choice that faces the Galatians.

24 These things may be taken FIGURATIVELY, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children.

That’s what Paul’s readers are settling for by going back to law-keeping. Slavery. But compare the option. V26.

26 But the Jerusalem that is ABOVE is FREE, and SHE is our mother. 27 For it is written: “Be GLAD, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.”

Sarah eventually had her children. And there was GREAT JOY. Because it only came because of God’s GRACE.

And when we choose GRACE instead of works. When we choose BELIEF instead of EARNING. When we trust GOD’S PROMISES instead of OUR EFFORTS. Then we belong to the HEAVENLY Jerusalem. The city where there’s GLADNESS. The city of FREEDOM, rather than SLAVERY.

Get rid of the slave woman (30)

And if that’s the choice, then we should FOLLOW ABRAHAM’S EXAMPLE. V30.

“Get RID of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”  31 Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

Let go of slavery. And cling to the PROMISE. Cling to GRACE. Cling to FREEDOM.

And if we’re FREE. And if we’re SONS. Then we have AN INHERITANCE.

Flip back up to v4 as Paul describes what it MEANS to be a son or daughter of God through Jesus.

4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the FULL RIGHTS OF SONS.

And here’s what you get as sons and daughters. The full rights.

God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

Here’s reasons to be JOYFUL. God’s given you His Spirit. And he’s given you access to him that’s intimate and personal and constant. You can call him “Abba, father”, which is a bit like Daddy. The Creator and Sustainer and Judge of the whole Universe! You can approach him confidently as your heavenly Father.

That’s part of your inheritance. An inheritance that only comes as a GIFT. That can’t be EARNED.

These things are a REALITY. They’re WHO YOU ARE as one of God’s children. And they’re reasons why JOY should characterise your life.

But perhaps you’re wondering whether you’re really understanding this difference. How can you be SURE you’re turning away from the slavery of law-keeping, and instead rejoicing in the freedom of trusting God’s promise?

Give yourself a score on this quick test. There in the outline. Like one of those diagnostic tests in the Women’s Weekly. Take a moment.

How often is your life characterised by JOY?

Never, Rarely, 50-50, Frequently, All of the time

How often is your life characterised by FEAR?

Never, Rarely, 50-50, Frequently, All of the time

How often is your life characterised by WORRY?

Never, Rarely, 50-50, Frequently, All of the time

How often is your life characterised by being DISCONTENTED or RESTLESS?

Never, Rarely, 50-50, Frequently, All of the time

The opposite of JOY is fear, worry, and restlessness.

You see when we start going back to the weak and miserable slavery of legalism, then JOY GOES. And it’s replaced by Fear. Or WORRY, or DISCONTENT, or RESTLESSNESS. “What’s happened to YOUR JOY?” says Paul.

When you start taking our eyes of God, and focussing instead on your own efforts, then JOY seeps away. Fear replaces it. Fear about our own goodness and righteousness before God.

And worry comes in. Worry about tomorrow. Worry about whether God will provide. Doubts about God’s goodness.

And instead of joy, there’s DISCONTENT. A restlessness with where God’s put you. Not content with being God’s person in God’s place. But striving for something better. Something DIFFERENT.

Rather than REJOICING in the rich mercy of an inheritance you don’t deserve. A future you can’t lose. A Saviour who won’t let you go. A Father whose arms wrap you up in love.

“What’s happened to all your JOY?” says Paul. If that’s something Paul would say if he looked at YOUR life, what can you DO about it.

Perhaps you’re thinking joy is fine while things are going WELL. But you don’t understand, Dave. You wouldn’t expect me to be joyful if you knew what my life was like.

Let me suggest you’d do worse than looking at Paul’s life. Whose life was FAR from easy. In particular in his letter to the Philippians, which has been called the letter of JOY. (p830)

In ch 1, he’s in prison. And his rivals are preaching out of envy and rivalry. But Paul doesn’t mind, as long as Christ is preached. V18. And because of this I REJOICE. And I will CONTINUE TO REJOICE.

Where’s that joy come from? Knowing and living the truth of the gospel. Down in v20.

20 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 . 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Over into ch 2 v17. Talking about all the suffering he’s endured for the sake of the Philippians.

17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

And into ch 3, he talks about the treasure he’s found that makes everything else RUBBISH. V8.

8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

And then into ch 4. Commanding his readers. V6.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

And a of paragraphs on, Paul’s joy has nothing to do with his situation. How much stuff he has. V10.

10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I HAVE LEARNED TO BE CONTENT whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have LEARNED THE SECRET OF BEING CONTENT IN ANY AND EVERY SITUATION, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

The joy of being IN Christ. Of being God’s CHILD. Of trusting your FATHER. Of rejoicing in the freedom of following and honouring his Son. Of living a life of eternity you can’t EARN, and can’t LOSE.

That’s the sort of experience that’s caused Christians down through the centuries to SING WITH JOY. Words that are rich and deep with EMOTION. With JOY.

Like this one

Once I thought I walked with Jesus, Yet such changeful feelings had;
Sometimes trusting, sometimes doubting, Sometimes joyful, sometimes sad.

Oh, the peace the Savior gives! Peace I never knew before;
And my way has brighter grown Since I’ve learned to trust Him more.

Now I’m trusting every moment, Nothing less can be enough;

And the Savior bears me gently O’er those places once so rough.

Blessed Saviour, thou dost keep me by thy power from day to day

And my heart is full of gladness. Thou will keep me all the way

Or this one.

1. How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, And drives away his fear.

2. It makes the wounded spirit whole, And calms the troubled breast;
’Tis manna to the hungry soul, And to the weary, rest.

3. Dear Name, the Rock on which I build, My Shield and Hiding Place,
My never failing treasury, filled With boundless stores of grace!

4. Jesus! my Shepherd, Husband, Friend, O Prophet, Priest and King,
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End, Accept the praise I bring.

5. Weak is the effort of my heart, And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art, I’ll praise Thee as I ought.

6. Till then I would Thy love proclaim With every fleeting breath,
And may the music of your Name Refresh my soul in !

Or lastly, this one

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto me and rest;
lay down, thou weary one, lay down
thy head upon my breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
so weary, worn, and sad;
I found in him a resting place,
and he has made me glad.

Galatians 5: Freedom

FREEDOM is a word that’s used a lot these days. We all WANT it. But it can mean lots of different things to different people.

  • agers want FREEDOM from the control of their parents. Free to come and go as they please – at least until they want mum to pick them up from the station.
  • Credit card companies promise you FINANCIAL freedom. Buy what you want when you want it. Live the life you’ve DREAMED of. Be FREE… at 18% per annum.
  • A dissatisfied marriage partner longs for the FREEDOM to be single again. The freedom to be who they want to be. Which is often a round-about way of saying they want to be SELFISH.
  • We all long for freedom from the MORTGAGE, freedom from TRAFFIC. Freedom from WORRY. Freedom from PAIN.

But what does freedom mean for THE CHRISTIAN? What has Jesus freed us FROM? And what should freedom LOOK LIKE in the life of a Christian?

The Two Extremes

That’s the topic of ch 5 of Galatians. And Paul seems to be arguing against TWO groups of people. At opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of how they understand FREEDOM. Two extremes.

At one end there’s the group who’ve been listening to the false teachers. We’ve seen Paul arguing against them all the way through the letter. They reckon Jesus has died for them. But then they ALSO need to keep all the Old Testament laws AS WELL. Just to be SURE. Like being circumcised. And only eating certain types of food. And keeping certain days holy.

And so there’s not really much FREEDOM at ALL in being a Christian. It’s more about rule-keeping. That’s who Paul’s thinking about there in v1 of ch5.

5:1 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.

And Paul’s point has been. You can’t TRUST what Jesus has done/ and then try to DO SOMETHING YOURSELF. To EARN God’s favour. That’s just SLAVERY. You have to let go of ONE to grab the OTHER.

2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.

Or v4.

4 You who are trying to be justified BY LAW have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 But BY FAITH we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.

That’s ONE SIDE of Paul’s argument. Jesus set us FREE from the guilt of being God’s enemies. We can’t EARN it. So just TRUST it.

But it seemed like there was ANOTHER group who’d misunderstood Paul’s message of freedom. Jump down to v13. They’re at the OTHER end.

13 You, my brothers, were called to be FREE. But do not use your FREEDOM to INDULGE THE SINFUL RE; rather, serve one another in love.

Sounds similar to v1, doesn’t it? “You were called to be free”, followed by a command. “You’ve been set free, so don’t go back to slavery”. “You’ve been set free, but don’t use your freedom to indulge the sinful re.”

Same TRUTH. But a different TARGET. Each group with a different understanding, polar opposites, of what it means for the Christian to be FREE. And both getting it wrong.

And while we’ve spoken about the FIRST mistake in the last few weeks, this week we’re going to look at the SECOND mistake. Thinking that since Christ has set you FREE, then you can basically do WHATEVER YOU WANT.

Imagine Thomas the tank engine has finally been allowed to leave the yard, and travel on the main line. He’s FREE to travel anywhere he likes, as fast as he likes. From one end of the rail network to the other.

But after a while he decides that the railway tracks are a bit boring. What he REALLY wants is to LEAVE the tracks. That would be REAL freedom. He’d love to travel up that HILL next to the tracks, or go along the sand at the beach. Or paddle in the water. It would be REAL FREEDOM to play soccer on the grass with the boys.

But, of course, that’s not FREEDOM. He was DESIGNED for tracks. Anything ELSE isn’t freedom, it’s a train wreck.

And it’s the same with Christian freedom.

Paul had come with the message that no one could keep the law completely. And that the ONLY way to be right with God was through Jesus’ in our place. And then to claim the forgiveness HE’D WON. Not because of what WE’D done, but what JESUS had done. Freed from perfect law-keeping. Free from guilt. Free from judgment.

Which is ALL TRUE. But then some people had said, “GREAT! If it’s not about what I’ve done or can do. That means I can ask for forgiveness, then go off and do WHATEVER I WANT!”

We may not want to put it quite as BLUNTLY as that. But the way we TREAT God’s forgiveness, in reality, isn’t really much different.

We know we’re saved by grace. That God’s forgiven our sin. And so, we’re tempted to do something we KNOW is wrong. And we give in because we know we can be forgiven. We treat grace as if it’s CHEAP.

  • I really want that CD. Anyway, it’s not really stealing. And besides, God will forgive me anyway.
  • It doesn’t matter if I blast that guy who cut me off in the traffic. He doesn’t know I’m a Christian. And besides, God will forgive me anyway.
  • It doesn’t matter if I put down my family. Ridicule them in a nasty way. They’ll get over it. And besides, God will forgive me anyway.
  • I’ve even heard Christians say this about DIVORCE. Yes, I wanted to be with someone else. Yes, I’ve made a mess of things. Yes, God s divorce. But it’s not the unforgiveable sin. People will get over it. Things will go back to normal. And besides, God will forgive me anyway.

Freedom to love

That’s wanting Jesus as SAVIOUR, but not AS LORD. Wanting him to RESCUE you, but then not wanting to DO WHAT HE SAYS. And Paul says that’s not what FREEDOM IS. That’s not the life God CALLED you to. What you were DESIGNED for. V13.

13 You, my brothers, were CALLED to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful re; RATHER, SERVE ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE.

Christ has set us free from A GUILTY CONSCIENCE. He’s set us free from having to PERFECTLY KEEP THE LAW. He’s set us free from JUDGMENT.

But it CERTAINLY doesn’t mean he’s set us free from any sort of moral obligation, or right sort of living. He says, rather, SERVE one another in LOVE. You’ve been set free to LOVE. That’s your DESIGN.

The word for serve is SLAVERY. Which is quite ironic really. You’ve been set FREE alright, free to be a SLAVE TO OTHERS. To put THEIR needs before your own. That’s what TRUE LOVE is – choosing to put someone else’s good above YOURS.

And notice the order? The LOGIC? It’s AFTER you’ve been set free that you serve others in LOVE. You don’t DO the serving things to MAKE yourself free. Which is the way LOTS of people look at it.

The funny thing is/ when you look at the actual DEEDS that are DONE. Serving in love because you’re free (on the one hand)/ and law-keeping to MAKE you free/ might end up looking PRETTY SIMILAR. It’s just the motivation that’s changed. Look how Paul goes on in v14.

14 The entire LAW is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Whatever was in the Old Testament law/ to do with how you treated other people can be summarised by, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

If you love your neighbour, you won’t steal from him.

If you love your neighbour, you won’t LIE to them.

If you love your parents, you’ll HONOUR them.

And so on.

That’s what you’ve been set free FOR.

And it turns your MOTIVES for living around. You don’t keep the law of love because it MAKES YOU RIGHT WITH GOD. Because the law can NEVER do that.

INSTEAD, NOW that you’re right with God. NOW that you’re trusting HIM for the gift of forgiveness. Now that he’s CALLED you, you keep the law of love because you LOVE OTHERS. Which is an incredibly FREEING idea once you understand it.

See how it says it back in v6?

6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is FAITH EXPRESSING ITSELF THROUGH LOVE.

External things don’t COUNT when it comes to being made right with God. What DOES count is FAITH. Trusting God’s offer of forgiveness, and then SHOWING that in the way you LOVE.

Faith ON ITS OWN isn’t enough. It’s PROVED genuine by deeds of love. Deeds on their own aren’t enough, they’ve got to come from a trust that God has made you right with himself through Jesus, and that your deeds will never DO IT.

The only thing that counts is FAITH EXPRESSING ITSELF THROUGH LOVE

3. The freedom of the Spirit

It seems like this was a PARTICULAR, SPECIFIC MESSAGE for the Galatians. This call to LOVE EACH OTHER. Perhaps all the theological argument had resulted in heated words, broken relationships. Perhaps the two sides of the argument where at each other’s throats. Jump back down to v14.

Paul’s told them that the entire law is summed up with “Love your neighbour as yourself”. Then he says (v15)

15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

It’s a sad fact of life that Christians don’t automatically get rid of all their bad habits the moment they’re born again. For most of us, it’s a long, drawn-out work in progress.

And, unfortunately, often the biggest disagreements and nastiest words we have are between Christians. Disagreements about theology or right practice, about who’s right and wrong, or perhaps who’s right and who’s MORE right.

Misunderstandings about who did what and why. Juicy judgmental gossip that drags people down.

Perhaps that’s been YOUR experience. Biting and devouring each other. Paul calls it.

That’s not the freedom God’s CALLED you to. It’s not what faith looks like when it’s worked out in love. And it shouldn’t BE like that.

And Paul says the answer, instead, is to WALK BY THE SPIRIT. Listen to God’s Holy Spirit who OPENED your EYES, who SAVED you, who WASHED you. Who LIVES WITH you and IN you. Look at v16.

16 So I say, LIVE BY THE SPIRIT, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful re.

It’s literally WALK by the Spirit, or in the Spirit. Walk through life following Jesus, doing things GUIDED by his Spirit, in The STRENGTH his Spirit gives. Priorities shaped, thoughts flavoured by him. WALK IN THE Spirit. And you won’t gratify the desires of your OLD re.

The civil war

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But we all know it’s not as simple as it sounds. Paul goes on to describe THE CIVIL WAR that’s going on inside every Christian. Whether you’ve been saved for a DAY, or a DECADE. 50 weeks, or 50 years. V17

17 For the SINFUL RE desires what is contrary to the SPIRIT, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful re. They are in CONFLICT with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

Every one of us, if we’re a Christian, has to cope with a series of constant battles. Skirmishes on a range of different fronts. Every day.

There’s our self that wants to do the selfish, self-satisfying thing. The thing that will PLEASE us, or make us more comfortable, or make us feel better. But on the other hand, God’s Spirit is working in us, gradually renovating us, changing our thoughts, and motives, our words, our reactions, our desires.

And, at every turn, there’s a battle. We have to CHOOSE who we’ll follow. Our , human inclination? Or God’s Spirit?

What do I THINK? Where do I LOOK? What do I SAY? How do I RESPOND? What will I CHOOSE?

Will I choose to LOVE my neighbour as myself? Or will I choose to bite and devour him? One is following the Spirit. The other is to follow the self – the OLD re.

BEFORE you were a Christian, it was always the self that won. It was no contest. Slavery to sin. But now, because of the SPIRIT, The Christian life is FREEDOM. V18.

18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law

Christians are FREE because they NOW HAVE THE ABILITY TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT. To choose to listen to the Spirit. To walk after him. BECAUSE they HAVE God’s Spirit. HE is the POWER to choose LOVE. To put others first. To break habits. To develop self-control. To put the OLD re to .

On our own, we’re unable to choose RIGHT. We’re enslaved to choosing WRONG. But with God’s Spirit, he FREES us to be able to please him.

Paul moves on to describing the two sides of the battle. What your life will look like if you continually choose ONE SIDE over ANOTHER.

V19. If you keep choosing to do what comes LY, here’s what you can expect.

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

All sorts of things you wouldn’t expect a Christian to go anywhere NEAR. Like ual immorality, witchcraft, and . But right there amongst them are the sorts of things we CAN find hard to conquer.

Like discord and dissensions and factions. That’s TAKING SIDES. Deciding that ONE person is better than ANOTHER. And then doing things that put one person AGAINST the other. Gossip. ing rumours. Refusing to forgive. Preferring to talk ABOUT someone than TO someone. Not being willing to apologise, to clear up misunderstandings. To mend fences, or build bridges.

We’re constantly fighting a battle. To either do what comes LY when it comes to these things. Or follow the Spirit. And treat people with LOVE.

Or what about ENVY. That’s a sneaky one isn’t it? Or SELFISH AMBITION. Creeps right up on you, and before you know it, you’re dreaming about that promotion, the attention, the power, a better situation.

It’s a constant battle. To do what comes LY. Or to follow the Spirit. And be content with who and what and where God’s called you to.

Paul’s warning is that people who continually allow the , SINFUL re to WIN that battle. Show they’re not really God’s AT ALL. V21.

I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Is that YOU?

But when you DO walk by the Spirit, then here’s the sorts of things you can expect to be sprouting up in your life. The things people are going to notice about you as they think about what you USED to be like. This time last MONTH, or last YEAR. V22.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.

That’s the battle. That’s the two sides. Your sinful re, and God’s Spirit. And it will continue until the day you die.

But don’t be discouraged if you find that you fall back into the sorts of things you used to do. If they’re not what you WANT. If they’re not where you REMAIN, then that’s GOOD NEWS. Because it means the BATTLE CONTINUES. And God IS at work in you, moulding you into the shape of Jesus.

And Paul finishes two final pieces of advice. One negative. One positive. To help us in that struggle.

First, when you became a Christian, you CRUCIFIED you’re sinful re, your old character. V24. It’s stuck up on a cross. . Cursed. So LEAVE it stuck there.

The problem is we like to pull it back down every so often. To reminisce. To longingly play with it. To bring back LUST every so often, or JEALOUSY, or AMBITION. Because we think it will satisfy us. Give us something God WON’T.

But it’s . It’s POWERLESS. So LEAVE it hanging there. Turn your BACK on it. And Walk away.

That’s the NEGATIVE advice. Here’s the positive. V25.

25 Since we LIVE by the Spirit, let us KEEP IN STEP WITH THE SPIRIT.

Since you’ve been MADE ALIVE by God’s Spirit, keep in STEP with him. He’s got the power and the righteousness to CLEANSE you, and FREE you. So LISTEN to him in the REST of your life. Follow him. Make God’s priorities YOUR priorities. His ways of thinking, his words, his program. Make them YOURS.

KEEP in STEP with the Spirit. So you can express your faith in LOVE.

Let me finish with an illustration. Jazz music is about FREEDOM. There’s not really any music written down. Perhaps a few chords. And, from the outside, it looks like you basically just play WHATEVER YOU WANT.

But that’s a misunderstanding. If everybody did THAT, it would sound TERRIBLE.

In jazz there’s BOUNDARIES. There’s RULES. Rules about CHORDS, and rhythm, and who takes turns to play solos. And who plays loud, and who plays soft.

And it’s as the jazz player listens to everyone else AROUND him, that he works out how he can play stuff that FITS. That BLENDS, that HARMONISES.

The jazz player’s been SET FREE to FIT IN with OTHERS. That’s FREEDOM. That’s what makes beautiful music the way it was DESIGNED.

When you KEEP IN STEP with the rules of JAZZ, the music sounds FANTASTIC. It’s free and it’s wild and it’s joyful and it’s beautiful.

And it’s the same with the Christian life. You’ve been set free by the Spirit. Made alive. So keep in STEP with the Spirit. And SERVE ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE.

Galatians 6: Living under the law of love

Some people reckon Australia is getting LESS AND LESS RELIGIOUS. And that might be true. It certainly seems like there’s a smaller percentage of people in churches than there were A GENERATION AGO.

But there’s lots of people who’ll want to say we’re becoming more and more SPIRITUAL.

But what does it mean to be SPIRITUAL? And what does a SPIRITUAL person look like?

I’ve been having a fascinating conversation with an ex-student of mine I re-discovered through facebook. I guess I last saw Michael about 15 years ago. He was always a joker at school, so I wasn’t TOO surprised to find out that, among other things, he’s now an aspiring stand-up comedian.

But what was MOST interesting was his attitude to Christianity.

The school I taught at was a Christian school, so by the time the students left they all KNEW what a Christian was, and been influenced by lots of Christian teachers. Of course, not all of them claimed to be Christians THEN, and there’s plenty I’ve discovered on facebook who seem like they’re STILL a long way from Christianity.

And Mike’s one of THOSE. Here’s what he says. “I’m kinda against organised religion, because I think it’s based on fear and guilt. And it’s the opposite of the true love and freedom that’s God”. But he sums up where he’s at, “I’m SPIRITUAL, I guess!”

But what does he mean by SPIRITUAL?

My guess is Mike would say something like, “It’s being OPEN to a SPIRITUAL DIMENSION of life.” The side of life that can’t be explained by what you can see and hear with your senses, or that can’t be proved by Science. He also told me his partner is a psychic! Perhaps THAT’S what he means.

Others might say a SPIRITUAL person is into MEDITATION and EASTERN RELIGIONS. Or perhaps into astrology, or séances, or crystals. Or maybe just someone who likes Ghost Whisperer.

All sorts of understandings. And that’s even before you start asking what CHRISTIANS means by SPIRITUAL.

Some Christians will tell you that being SPIRITUAL. Is about displaying impressive spiritual GIFTS. Like speaking in tongues, or healing. Or someone who receives VISIONS or PROPHECIES, or words of knowledge.

Others will say being SPIRITUAL is about getting so wrapped up in the JOY and EMOTION of WORSHIP that everything else just fades into the background. That a spiritual Christian is someone who has a deeply SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE on a regular basis.

Then there’s people from a TRADITONAL side of Christianity who’ll say a SPIRITUAL Christian is someone who appreciates the traditional rituals of Christianity. The reverent, contemplative side with candles, and choirs, and stained glass. With silence and meditation and sacraments. That’s what being a SPIRITUAL Christian is all about.

Which, when you THINK about it, perhaps isn’t that far from the charismatic view, the PENTECOSTAL view, as you might think.

But is that what the BIBLE says?

Spiritual Christians

Here in the last part of his letter to the Galatians, Paul wants to show that a SPIRITUAL Christian looks VERY DIFFERENT from that.

A SPIRITUAL Christian is someone who’s allowing God’s HOLY SPIRIT to be guiding them in the everyday, ordinary decisions of life. Someone who’s making TOUGH CHOICES to SERVE OTHER PEOPLE in LOVE because that’s what Jesus would do. And it’s not really to do with AN EXPERIENCE at ALL.

What we’ll see is that spiritual Christians have SMALL HEADS, BROAD SHOULDERS AND SOFT HANDS, OPEN WALLETS, AND GOOD ENDURANCE. If you think that sounds a bit weird, just wait. You’ll see what I mean!

Remember Paul’s argument? He said back in Ch 5 v16 that there’s A CIVIL WAR going on inside every Christian. A constant battle between doing what your OLD RE, and the Spirit of God. Each one wants the OPPOSITE of the OTHER. V17.

17 For THE SINFUL RE desires what is contrary to the SPIRIT, and the SPIRIT what is contrary to the SINFUL RE. They are IN CONFLICT with each other, so that YOU DO NOT DO WHAT YOU WANT.

You WANT TO do the right thing, but you’re constantly tempted to do the WRONG thing. Instead, Paul says, the Christian needs to LIVE BY THE SPIRIT. There in v16. Which means moulding your behaviour and character and responses into the shape God’s Spirit wants. Listening to HIM.

Keep in step with the Spirit (5:25)

And down in v25, he says, since you’ve been MADE ALIVE by God’s Spirit, KEEP IN STEP with the Spirit.

If you’re a Christian, then you’re SPIRITUAL because God’s Spirit lives in you. He’s made you SPIRITUALLY alive. You’ve been BORN AGAIN. A spiritual person will KEEP IN STEP with God’s Spirit.

Like a dance partner. Dancing with the Stars has started again. When the dancers, (the soapy stars or TV personalities), team up with PROFESSIONAL DANCERS to perform all the different ballroom dances.

And they have to FOLLOW THE LEAD of the professionals. Listen to them. Copy them. Allow themselves to be guided. And when they do that, then they somehow manage to move around the dance floor, and not make complete fools of themselves.

A SPIRITUAL Christian allows himself to be guided by God’s Spirit. Listening to HIS cues and hints. HIS advice and priorities. Following HIS TECHNIQUE.

And when we do that as a matter of habit, then the dance doesn’t look half-bad. v22.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.

A SPIRITUAL Christian is one who EXHIBITS THE CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD’S SPIRIT IN HIS OR HER LIFE.

And that’s where chapter 6 comes in. Paul gets PRACTICAL. Teasing out what these things LOOK LIKE in the messy day-to-day of relationships.

Have small heads (6:3-5; 5:26)

The PRINCIPLE is to keep in step with the Spirit. But what’s that look like IN PRACTICE? You can see that’s how ch 5 FINISHES.

Keep in step with the Spirit (v25). Then let us not become CONCEITED, provoking and envying one another (v26).

When you’re following the dance steps of the Spirit, when you’re SPIRITUAL, you’ll be gentle and kind and humble. You’ll be CONTENT. There’ll be no room for CONCEIT, because you know you deserved NOTHING from God, yet he showed you GRACE. YOU’VE been shown mercy. So you can show MERCY and acceptance to OTHERS, instead of judgmentalism and conceit.

Spiritual Christians will have SMALL HEADS. There’ll be no BIG EGOS among spiritual Christians.

The mark of a spiritual Christian isn’t some private mystical experience of our own. But it’s seen in our practical relationships of LOVE for OTHER PEOPLE.

And it seems PRACTICAL LOVE was the sort of area the Galatian church had specifically been failing at. Remember they’ve had false teachers telling that they needed to keep the Old Testament law as well as trusting Jesus? That God wasn’t satisfied with Jesus’ efforts; he wants US to chip in too. To MAKE SURE of our salvation by rule keeping.

Which Paul says is JUST WRONG. Like in ch 5 v1.

5:1 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. 2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.

But that’s what some of Paul’s readers were falling back into. Living according to rules and regulations. A series of BOUNDARIES that marked out who was acceptable and who WASN’T. Who was OK, and who was to be LOOKED DOWN ON.

You see, when you’ve got that view about what makes you right with God, then it’s GOT to spill over into how you treat OTHER PEOPLE. Whether they measure up to your standards or not.

If they DO, then they’re on YOUR SIDE against the REST. And if they DON’T, then you JUDGE them. And proudly assume you’re better than THEY are.

Which, unfortunately, seems to describe the way Christians often treat people. Or at least that’s the REPUTATION we have.

Philip Yancey’s book “What’s so Amazing about Grace” opens with the story of a speaking to a counsellor. Who says to her, “you need HELP. Have you thought of going to a CHURCH?” To which she spits out the words, “I feel BAD ENOUGH ABOUT MYSELF ALREADY. A church would just make me feel WORSE.”

It’s the sort of attitude you can EXPECT from people who think that you’re made right with God by the THINGS YOU DO.

Have broad shoulders and soft hands (6:1-2)

But Christians shouldn’t BE like that. Instead, they should be SPIRITUAL. Have a look at v1 of ch 6.

6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are SPIRITUAL should RESTORE HIM GENTLY.

You know, I reckon the HARDEST THING about being a leader in a church is knowing how to deal with a Christian who’s LIVING THE WRONG WAY. Who’s continuing in SIN. It’s EASIER to say nothing. To pretend it’s between him and God. You’re less likely to make a mess of things if you just say NOTHING. Because you never know what sort of reception you’re going to get.

But Paul says SPIRITUAL Christians aren’t to do that. When we see a brother or sister who’s not following Jesus, we’re to RESTORE them GENTLY. To RISK being yelled at. To RISK the broken relationship. To RISK hurting their feelings because we want what’s BEST for them.

DON’T leave it between them and God. Carry their burden. Help them out. See it there in v2?

2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

The law of Christ. Is the law of LOVE. To love your neighbour AS YOURSELF. To put THEIR interests above YOURS. Better they be turned away from a sin and you get YELLED AT. Than you have a peaceful life, and they keep SINNING.

Carry each other’s burdens by TAKING RESPONSIBILITY for each other’s godliness. Restore each other GENTLY.

The word for RESTORE is used for setting broken bones, or for mending nets. It’s about straightening up. About bringing back to full health. Turning them around to head in the right direction.

It takes a special person to do that. A SPIRITUAL person. Someone with BROAD SHOULDERS to bear other’s burdens. But a TENDER TOUCH – soft hands – so they can restore people GENTLY.

Spiritual Christians have broad shoulders and soft hands.

How are we DOING at that? The first step is to be BEARING each others burdens. Are we DOING that? Or aren’t we involved enough with each other to KNOW what the burdens are? Home Groups, and showing hospitality are two great ways to LEARN about our burdens. Spend TIME with each other.

And then, how are we going at correcting each other GENTLY? It takes time and effort and an emotional commitment to do that GENTLY. It means treating someone with SOFT HANDS. Easier just to flick off an email, or an SMS, or make a sharp comment. Much harder to the time to LISTEN, and speak patiently. And support and follow-up and pray.

I wonder whether you’ve ever had anyone do that for YOU. Or whether it’s been done BADLY.

Which seems to be more common. At least among Paul’s readers. Which is why he goes on.

But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted

Which COULD mean, when you point someone’s sin out to them, watch out or you may be tempted by the same sin they’re falling in to. But I think the more LIKELY sin is the one of CONCEIT. Of JUDGING someone, and thinking you’re better than THEY are. Look at how he continues in v3.

3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5 for each one should carry his own load.

Sometimes it’s just BUSY-BODIES who point out people’s faults. Not because they want to restore people gently. But because it makes THEM feel better about themselves if they can point out the weaknesses of OTHERS.

There can be a finger-pointing LEGALISM about the way some Christians go about showing people their faults and mistakes.

But Paul says Spiritual Christians will test their own actions. They’ll have SMALL HEADS. They’ll take a good look at their motivations when it comes to correcting others. To make sure it’s out of LOVE, rather than PRIDE.

Spiritual Christians will be concerned for their OWN responses and actions. Carry their OWN load when it comes to giving an account to God. And not try to improve God’s impression of them by comparison to anyone ELSE.

Have open wallets (6:6)

Next up Paul says Spiritual Christians have OPEN WALLETS. At least that’s what I think he’s getting at in v6.

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

The principle is that those who TEACH and LEAD and LOOK AFTER a church have the right to be FINANCIALLY SUPPORTED by that church. That’s the way it works here at Western Blacktown. Members give money to support me and my family. And that means I can give my whole week to be doing those things. TO teach and leading and looking after. It’s a great privilege and something I’m very thankful to God for.

But there’s a temptation that goes with it. The temptation to HOLD BACK on saying the CHALLENGING things, the TOUGH WORDS. To hold back on CORRECTING people. Because if you don’t LIKE IT, you might stop GIVING. And if you stop GIVING, I’ll be out of a job!

Instead, Paul says, when you’re INSTRUCTED in God’s Word, share all good things with the INSTRUCTOR. SUPPORT him. Because he’s simply teaching you about GOD’S word. It’s not just HIS opinion. So don’t make it personal. Don’t get offended, and withhold your support as a way of getting back at him.

So there’s TWO sides to correcting and restoring each other. And spiritual Christians will have the right attitude on BOTH sides.

If you’re DOING the correcting. Do it gently, and without PRIDE. And if you’re BEING corrected, don’t take offense, and stop supporting your leader, who’s only working for your GOOD.

Have good endurance (6:7-10)

The LAST thing Paul says describes a spiritual Christian is that he’ll have GOOD ENDURANCE. There in v9.

9 LET US NOT BECOME WEARY in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Do good, and keep doing good, and keeping doing good. Don’t get tired. Don’t run out of steam. Don’t come up with excuses. “But no one seems to notice. But I’ve been doing it for 10 years I deserve a break. But I’m not seeing any DIFFERENCE. But I’ll get more joy if I start looking after MYSELF for once.”

Instead Paul says Don’t become WEARY. God’s promise is that we WILL reap a harvest if we don’t give up. We WILL see fruit. We WILL see what eternal difference we’ve made if we stick at it.

He says, back up in v7. That you reap what you SEW. You’ll never reap GOOD things if you keep SEWING with your old sinful re.

Stick at it. Work at doing good even when you don’t see any difference. Even when no one notices. Even when you’re not rewarded. V10.

10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

That’s what SPIRITUAL Christians do. In some ways it’s SIMPLE. There’s no great SECRET to it. But in OTHER ways it’s HARD. It’s a long, hard grind of, day after day, choosing to LOVE. Choosing to generously look to the needs of others. Of turning away from PRIDE, and choosing to follow the lead of God’s Spirit.

May we be a group of spiritual Christians who look like that. People with small heads broad shoulders and soft hands open wallets and good endurance.