Saturday, April 21, 2018

180422 What Really Counts?

Galatians 6:14-18 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. 17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
The entire Galatian letter was written by the Apostle Paul to refute the teachings of the Judaizers who followed him around the Roman Empire throughout most of his ministry. As we come to the end of the letter Paul proclaims a curse on these false teachers. They did not care about Christ’s glory and the salvation of souls they only sought their own glory. They turned away from the cross of Christ. Everything they said and did was counterfeit and full of hypocrisy.
Many people today are like the Pharisees. They rejoiced in controlling others. Jesus had said about them, “they preach, but do not practice” (Matthew 23:3). They rejoiced in placing burdens that they could not bear on others. They did everything just to be seen and bragged about. They enjoyed fancy clothes and loved to have a prominent place when they went to special events. Jesus went on to pronounce several woes on them. For example, he said,woe to you… You shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.… Woe to you” they spent great resources to make converts who become children of hell. Jesus pronounced woe on them for saying that the gold in the temple was more important than the temple itself. He pronounced a woe because they meticulously followed the rules of tithing and ignored the more important things: justice and mercy and faithfulness. Woe to them for cleaning the outside of the cup and plate while being full of greed and self-indulgence. Woe to them they were like tombs whitewashed on the outside but full of decay on the inside. Woe to them for honoring the prophets with monuments and they themselves would kill the prophets that he would send (Matthew 23:13-30).
Even today, the world we live in is filled with people who are exactly like the Pharisees. They rejoice in their large buildings, fancy suits, expensive automobiles, private jets and huge congregations. I can assure you, they have their reward!
The Apostle Paul had once been part of that group – rejoicing in things! After his encounter with Christ on the Damascus Road…
Paul only rejoiced in the cross. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 2:2.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Paul made the decision to turn away from the material things of this world in order to focus on what really counted — the cross! Martin Luther, in his commentary on Galatians, encouraged Christians to focus on the cross of Christ. He wrote “It is good for us to know these things, lest we should be swallowed up with sorrow or fall into despair when we see our enemies cruelly persecute, excommunicate, and kill us. But remember that we must glory in the cross, which we bear not for our own sins, but for Christ’s sake. If we consider the sufferings we endure, they are not only grievous but intolerable; but when we can say, “The sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives” (2 Corinthians 1:5), or, “For your sake we face death all day long” (Psalm 44:22), then these sufferings are not only easy but also sweet (Matthew 11:30).”
 Concerning the Apostle Paul…
He had, in the past, rejoiced in the flesh. Let’s look at Philippians 3:3-7. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
The Apostle had what Doctor Bill Gillam calls “Choice Flesh”. He defines “Flesh” as patterns by which you have attempted to get all your needs supplied instead of seeking Christ first and trusting him to meet our needs.
Look at what he had to rejoice in! A Hebrew of Hebrews who had been circumcised on the eighth day and welcomed into the tribe of Benjamin. He had been a Pharisee who was so zealous for the law that he persecuted the church. Regarding the righteousness that could come from the law, he was blameless. Blameless? How could this be?
He had very carefully followed the Law of Moses in every possible way he could. He was not guilty of breaking the law, therefore, he was not subject to blame. After he met Jesus on the road to Damascus his whole view of life changed completely. Now…
He only wanted to be found in Christ. Let’s read on Philippians 3:8-11. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Paul was willing to give up everything for Jesus. Not just to know “about him” but to “know him” — to know Jesus intimately! Paul may have been thinking of the promise found in the book of Jeremiah. “Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
“In these things, I delight,” God said. What things? Knowing God! Practicing steadfast love! Practicing justice! Practicing righteousness! That is what God wanted! Paul wanted to give him that.
He wanted to be found in Christ. He wanted to receive God’s righteousness. He wanted to live by faith — by the power of the resurrection! Earlier Paul had written to the Corinthians that Christ had become to us wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption so that we could boast in the Lord and not ourselves (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). Paul understood that…
When he came to Christ he was put to death. Let’s look back in Galatians 2:20. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
It is a blessing to be able to boast in the cross. The Romans would not have understood that. The cross was the most humiliating form of capital punishment that they knew. To boast in the cross would be like boasting in the hangman’s noose! To boast in the cross would be like boasting in the gas chamber! To boast in the cross would be like boasting in the electric chair! Yet, we can boast in the cross of Jesus Christ because it is the tool God used to set us free from sin and death. It was the cross that crucified the world to Paul (and to us) and Paul to the world. It was the cross of Christ that brings us to a new creation.
Paul had now come to a place that he recognized his spiritual death. Every one of us who have come to faith in Jesus has come to the end of our old way of living since we have been crucified with Christ. Obviously, Paul did not hang on the cross with Jesus. And neither did we. In the verse before this Paul states that in Christ he became dead to the Law, insensible to it in the same way that physical death makes a person insensible to all surrounding objects and influences. Paul says that he became insensitive to the Law as a means of justification. It lost its power over him and ceased to influence him. Paul was also dead to the world, to ambition and the love of money, to the pride of life, and to the dominion of evil and hateful passions. They lost their power over him; they ceased to influence him. They, too, were crucified with Christ.
Now Paul could openly assert that…
His “old man” was buried with Christ. Let’s look at Romans 6:3-4. Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Having died with Christ, Paul can assure us that we have also been buried with him. Of course, we were not physically in the tomb with Jesus but we definitely were there spiritually — in the mind of God. Therefore, baptism symbolizes our death to the old way of living; our burial and our resurrection. Having been raised with Christ we can also count ourselves as able to walk in a new life.
Buried by baptism into death…
Then he was raised with Christ. Let’s read on Romans 6:8-11. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Since, in the mind of God, we have died with Christ and been buried with him we are now raised to walk a new kind of life. Baptism symbolizes our death burial and resurrection. We are now able to live a new life.
The phrase “consider yourselves dead to sin” could be a bookkeeping term. This illustration will not last long historically because people are ceasing to use checks. But, I will assume you know something about a checkbook. Now suppose you had to write a check for a large amount of money. It would be necessary for you to have a large amount of money in the bank. If a friend had come to the bank and put that large amount of money in your account without telling you would’ve been hesitant to write the check. You must be able to consider the amount you need to recognize its presence in your account before you in good conscience can write the check.
In the same way, we have to recognize that God has entered into our heavenly bank account, “dead to sin” as well as “alive to God”. That being true will allow you to agree with God and believe the truth! Jesus died to sin once for all! Therefore we can consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. We no longer live in the “old man” we instead have become new in Christ.
All of the things that we consider important cease to be so. None of the past counts for anything…
What really counts is a new creation. Let’s turn to 2 Corinthians 5:17. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Anyone in Christ is a new creation! And that’s what really counts! The cross takes on new significance for those who have received Christ as Lord and Savior. The cross has put the world around us to death so that it no longer rules over us. We are dead to the world and the world is just as dead to us. Even the good things could not bring us to faith in Christ, and they die to us. Everything, even things we think of as good, that is not of faith is sin. If that statement is a problem to you speak to me later.
The world is crucified to us. What does that mean? Well, throughout Scripture “the world” means not only ungodly and wicked people, but the very best, wisest, and holiest people that are of this world. (Martin Luther).
The new creation is all that counts because it is the new creation that is…
Setting believers free. Let’s turn to one of my very favorite verses of Scripture, Romans 6:14. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
We would say, “Sin should not have dominion over us.” Implying somehow that we have the ability to pull that off. Instead, the Bible says that sin WILL HAVE NO DOMINION over us. A very positive statement that we can take to the heavenly bank and use it even when we are living on earth. Some might say that Paul is talking about our future condition in heaven. We won't need it in heaven! We need it now. Sin seems to exercise control over us. It is hard to shake off the habits of the old man. The harder we work at it the more difficult it is to live a life outside the control of sin. Have faith! Believe what the Bible tells you! Then act it out in your own life.
Doctor Bill Gillham offers a definition of faith. “Faith is living like God tells the truth.” God’s plan was to crucify our “old man” and in exchange give us new life in Christ. It is hard to understand how God does this. Two things happen when a person is born again. First, Jesus comes into the believer; second, the believer comes into Christ. He is in us and we are in him. God places us in Christ when he paid the price for our sin. He saw our need before we ever lived it out. How do I know this? Because the Bible says it’s true. Praise God the cross — what really counts — broke the power of sin over us and set us free to serve God. Now, let’s live it out on a day-to-day basis.
All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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