Saturday, January 6, 2018

180107 Do Not Return to Slavery

Galatians 4:8-11 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn bAack again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
We know that Paul had a compassionate heart for those he had led to faith in Christ. In the verses we looked at a couple weeks ago Paul showed evidence that the Galatians are Christian! They have received adoption as sons! Sons who have the Spirit of the Son in their hearts. Before the time that they came to faith they did not know God. Or, in one sense, they were not known by God. Later, he will tell them that they have fallen away from grace. Not that they are lost and separated from God but they have abandoned grace as the operating principle of their salvation.
We must remember no matter who we are we are slaves to someone or something. Everyone is either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. If we return to our life before meeting Christ, or if we allow someone to impose rules and regulations on us apart from Christ,we are returning to slavery to sin.
I am not saying that we are lost and going to hell but I am saying that we will find ourselves facing judgment from God. No one will ever come to the place that they cannot sin but each of us will sin in some way whenever we turn away from Christ.
You see…
We are all born in bondage. Let’s turn to Ephesians 2:1-3. And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Here we see that we were all spiritually dead at birth! We were born in bondage! We were born slaves of Satan, the prince of the power of the air! This is the normal course of this world. Slaves to sin! Everyone is by nature children of wrath. Yet, at the same time, there is an internal desire to find God. So worldly religions are formed based on good works. Those good works are interpreted by the prince of the power of the air — the devil! He sets the standard and it is always based on self-centered good works. Those good works always fail because they cannot produce salvation. If Satan allowed his demons to show themselves as they really are human beings would turn away from them in revulsion. So he just presents himself as an angel of light and his demons as angels. All of this in order to bring people into slavery and separation from God.
Before the Galatians heard the gospel they were enslaved to demons. You see, all the religions of the world outside of Christianity are designed by Satan. So the religions of the world cause people to turn to an unrecognized bondage. The religions of the world cannot bring salvation.
In Christ, we are set free. Look down the page to Ephesians 2:8-10. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
When we look at verse eight we see that it is by God’s grace that we have salvation. That grace is activated by faith. The faith that we have is not something that we have done. Please recognize the fact that a person who is born in bondage — dead in trespasses and sins — cannot act in such a way that pleases God. Only in Christ is there freedom. In the faith that we have towards God — believing that he is and that he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6b) — is the gift of God.
When the Apostle was away from the Galatian people…
The Galatians were turning from Christ. Let’s go back to Galatians 3:1-3. O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
Paul had learned that the church in Galatia was turning away from Christ and, in effect, falling from grace. Let me explain. There are people today who use that term “falling from grace” to indicate that a person, once saved, is now lost. That is not the correct understanding. The Judaizers had come to town and they were teaching that a person could only be pleasing to God by following the law of Moses. These people were leading the Christians in Galatia to turn away from the freedom that is in Christ and instead return to slavery.
Paul wants the Galatians to understand that…
They were turning to a weak and worthless system. Let’s turn to Hebrews 7:18-19. For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
The writer of Hebrews uses the same term as Paul. “Weak and useless” pretty much describes all religions outside of Christianity. You see Christianity is not a religion as much as it is a relationship. We do not — cannot — earn our salvation by good works. Good works grow out of the relationship that we have with Christ. Not the other way around. We are not brought into God’s presence by works of righteousness. In fact, all our righteousness is like filthy rags on a guest at a wedding party. Paul had brought a clear gospel to the Galatians and now they were being turned aside by enemies of the gospel. They were being turned aside to good works rather than grace. They were beginning to accept the idea that circumcision and dietary laws and holy days could be used to show God that they are worthy of being blessed.
All of that being based on…
A system that cannot set you free.  On his first missionary journey, the apostle Paul addressed the situation. Let’s look at Acts 13:36-39. For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, 37 but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. 38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
Paul and Barnabas had traveled to Antioch in Pisidia and they had gone into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. They were invited to speak to the congregation and Paul stood up and began to share a summary of Israeli history. He showed how God had chosen his people while they were in slavery in Egypt and had called them out to give them the land of Canaan. He showed them how God had uprooted the people who were there and replaced them with his own people. Over a period of about 500 years, God finally set aside a king after his own heart — David! God had promised that a descendant of David would be the Savior of his people. That Savior, or Messiah, was Jesus who was rejected by the rulers of the people. They did not recognize him or understand what had been prophesied concerning him. Instead, they turned him over to Pilate to have him executed. But God raised him from the dead and for many days he appeared to his disciples who are now his witnesses. Then Paul quoted from David the king several passages but proved Jesus was the Messiah. Only through this man, Jesus, could forgiveness of sins be announced. Everyone who believes in him is set free from every bondage of sin. The law of Moses could not free them but Jesus could! The law was…
A system that cannot bring salvation. Let’s go back to Hebrews 10:1-4. For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
All the law, with its sacrifices and holy days, could do is point out the need for a sacrifice that did not have to be repeated. The law could never make perfect those who came seeking God. There is only a reminder of sin every year. There is a constant reminder of the need but not a clear picture of the answer. The weak and worthless system could only point out the existence of sin but could not give an answer. It was clear from the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden, that apart from the shedding of blood, there could be no forgiveness of sin. The symbolic act of an innocent animal dying in man’s place was seen day after day. But that shedding of blood would not take away sins.
Jesus put an end to all of that. In a few years after his crucifixion the Roman army destroyed the temple and ended that system of sacrifices forever. The day-to-day sacrifices of sheep, bulls, and goats were no longer necessary because they had been simply a picture of the one sacrifice that could pay the price. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The only salvation is in Christ. When standing before the Sanhedrin Peter made the situation very clear. Let’s look at a part of his testimony to those Jewish leaders.  Acts 4:12. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Peter was being examined because of the healing of a man who had been crippled for his entire life. We need to remember that a little over a month before this time Peter had hidden in the crowd and when confronted denied that he knew Jesus three times and that before servants. Now he was standing in front of the ruling elders who had condemned Jesus to death. If it were not for the fact that the man had been healed publicly they would have gladly put Peter and John to death also. But they were afraid of the crowd and instead of condemning them to death they commanded them to no longer speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Praise God, Peter and John answered “we cannot but speak what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). These men had been set free from the slavery to the law and would no longer act as slaves unless as slaves of Jesus Christ.
It is very important for us to recognize the condition of those around us who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They are in bondage — just as we were before salvation! They need to come to Christ — just as we did in order to be saved! At the same time, those of us who know Christ need to be careful not to turn away from Christ and the salvation he offers. We must remember that we are saved by grace through faith and that faith is a gift from God. It cannot be earned it can only be received. Have you believed in Jesus? Have you received him as your Lord? The promise of Scripture is that for all who receive him, for all who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God. Spiritual children who are born from the Father.

All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

171224 Redeemed for Adoption

Galatians 4:4-7 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
 The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians and said, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son.” What is specifically meant by this? There are at least three things that need to be taken into consideration concerning the fullness of time. First, there was a large empire with open borders that allowed the gospel to spread. Second, there was a single legal system. This allowed the missionaries to function without having to constantly check out the local rules. And third, there was a common language. From the British Isles to the far side of India and from the North Sea to central Africa the gospel could spread without hindrance.
All of human history is a record of a seeking God. From the Garden of Eden to the coming of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the constant theme is the God who seeks those who are his. When Adam and Eve walked in the Garden it was God who said, “Adam where are you?” When the people of Israel rebelled in the wilderness God sought them out and gave Moses a plan to redeem them. Isaiah tells us that we all are like sheep that have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). And then he promises that the Messiah would come into the world and allow our iniquity to be laid on himself! Jesus stated emphatically that, “the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
God did not look down on the world and wonder what to do he had a plan from the beginning of the ages. He did not send Jesus to find out what our problem was. Instead…
The Son came into the world with a purpose. Let’s look at Ezekiel 34:11-12 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.
One of the reasons God’s people are called sheep is that sheep are so defenseless and prone to wander. God does not sit on a hill and wait for his sheep to come to him. Instead, God’s call echoes down through the ages, “Adam where are you?” God sent his Son into the world to continue to call out those who would be his sheep.
When humans want to learn something they experiment. We try one thing and then another until we find what we are seeking. This happens because we do not know the future and only remember the past imperfectly.
Before the beginning of the ages the Father, Son and Holy Spirit had a plan already thought through to provide salvation for those who would believe. In the first generation of mankind, God made a promise. In fact…
Jesus fulfilled prophecy going all the way back. Let’s look at Genesis 3:15. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Speaking to Satan, God promised that the offspring of the woman would crush Satan under his heel.
Not just a human but one who was the offspring of a woman. Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb without the assistance of a man. In order that the prophecies would be fulfilled. God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law. For our sakes…
Jesus met the demands of the law. When John was baptizing in the Judean wilderness Jesus came to him and asked to be baptized. John would not have it! We pick up the story in Matthew 3:15. But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. Jesus needed to be obedient because that was part of his purpose. It could be said that Jesus told John that it was the right thing to do. Jesus did not need to be baptized for the usual reason of repentance but instead — to obey the Father. Paul tells us in Romans 5:19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
Jesus was our representative and obeyed for us where Adam had failed and disobeyed. Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness and did not fall into sin. Adam and Eve were tempted in the Garden of Eden and failed. When they did they brought death to us all! Ever since that time…
All mankind are born in bondage to sin. Let’s turn to Ephesians 2:1. And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.
We do not begin our lives innocent! The Bible teaches that we inherit sin from Adam. First of all, we are counted guilty because of Adam’s sin. Not sins that we commit day by day but sin as a principle resident within every descendant of Adam. Our spiritual DNA is judged. We have inherited a spiritual disease passed down from parents to children. In that inherited disease is a factory called SIN. That factory has a product, it produces sins, all of our lives. The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death and in that condition, we enter the world. However, God always had a plan to overcome this condition of bondage to sin and death!
Breaking bondage requires redemption. Let’s look at Colossians 1:13-14. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Because we are sinners we are in bondage to sin and to Satan! The ransom was paid by the death of Christ. When Christ came he came into the world that was in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19). He died our death in order to deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage (Hebrews 2:15). Jesus came in order for the bondage to be broken. We are instructed to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). Sin will have no dominion over us because we are now under the grace of God (Romans 6:14).
We now enter into a whole new relationship that is part of God’s gift. A gift that we celebrate especially during the Christmas season. We can now see clearly that we have been transferred from the realm of death and darkness into the kingdom of light and love (Colossians 1:13). We should rejoice in all of our Christmas celebrations because the birth of that baby in Bethlehem changed who we are, and whose we are. We are now able to enter into a more intimate relationship with God. We are no longer in bondage and as a result…
Being set free allows us to call the Father, “Abba”. Let’s look at Romans 8:14-15. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
This phrase, “Abba Father”, is an intimate term. It speaks of our new relationship to God as a result of the work of Christ on the cross and the power of God in the resurrection. This term is used three times in the New Testament and not at all in the Old Testament. When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane he used the term, “Abba Father” (Mark 14:36). It could very well be that Mark was the only person who actually heard Jesus pray the prayer in Gethsemane. We do know that Mark was there — it is strongly inferred from his description of a young man who ran away at the arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:51).
This is certainly a term that would never be used by servant, or slave when referring to his master. Here, in the letter to the Romans and also the letter to the Galatians, Paul points out that we have been adopted into the family of God. And as such we have a family relationship with God. This family relationship is the basis for many other blessings in the Christian life. God is our Creator and our judge. He is our Lord and Master. He has given the Holy Spirit to be our teacher and guide. Our Father came into the world through the body of Mary. When he chose to adopt us into his family he demonstrated his love for us (Romans 5:8). In adopting us he demonstrates that he understands us and deeply cares for us (Psalm 103:13-14).
We are born sons and daughters of Adam and Eve and as such in bondage to sin. When the angel spoke to the shepherds that long-ago night outside Bethlehem he assured them that they did not have to be afraid! He brought them the good news that should fill all of us with great joy. A child had been born that was to be a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11). As a result of that child’s birth, his life and his death we are…
No longer bound by sin we become heirs. Let’s look at Romans 8:16-17. The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Our adoption into the family of God elevates us from the role of servant to the role of a child. As such — children of God — we have been made heirs of God. We were redeemed by God so that we could be adopted into his family. And, by the way, we are not a footnote, or a codicil, in God’s will — the instrument of inheritance! The primary heir — the before of God himself — includes us at the highest level of inheritance. We are not just heirs we are joint heirs with Jesus!
This wonderful news does not exempt us from difficulties. While we are in the world we will from time to time suffer. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Our older brother has defeated our enemies on our behalf. They may be able to harass us along the way but they cannot defeat us. Nothing can separate us from Christ our Lord! “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Absolutely nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”! (Romans 8:39b).
The babe in a manger — the gentle Jesus — became the man on a cross. He took our sins and to his own body in order to give us the greatest gift of Christmas — eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord!
The greatest blessing of Christmas is not the beauty of the decorations, the carols that we sing, or the presents we receive. The greatest blessing of Christmas is the fact that we have been set free! Jesus himself said that he came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). You and I, along with the rest of humankind, represent “that which is lost”. I hope that you have settled the question of whether or not you are redeemed by the blood of Jesus and set free to serve him. If you have not, this is the right time! Today is the day of salvation when you can receive the greatest gift!
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.