Saturday, February 24, 2018

180225 Freedom in Christ

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
& 13-15 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Paul calls on his Galatian friends to recognize that “The Way” he had called them to was not an excuse for a new kind of bondage. He urges them to stand and be steadfast. He calls on them to hold onto the freedom that Christ gives. The apostle recognizes that these new believers can be deceived into some kind of legalistic bondage. We need to remember that there is an enemy who prowls around like a roaring lion must be resisted (1 Peter 5:8-9).
Since we know we have such an enemy we should be very careful how we go forward in the Christian life. We can’t be complacent or lackadaisical about our stand. We have an enemy who has a dreadful hate of the gospel. He is opposed to the doctrines of grace, liberty, consolation, and life. Anytime Satan sees the gospel beginning to work you will fight against it with all his might. He will stir up opposition and create confusion in the fellowship. Since we know that is true we need to be very careful and not neglect to strengthen our faith. We need to build into our fellowship stronger relationships of grace, mercy, and peace. We need to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). We need to recognize that…
Freedom is a reflection of the perfect law. Let’s look at James 1:25. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
James is our Lord’s brother who became one of the most influential leaders of the church in Jerusalem. When Paul had traveled to Jerusalem, some three years after his salvation experience, he spent a couple of weeks with Peter and also met with James. Through a misunderstanding of James’ position on salvation by grace, some say that he and Paul were in disagreement with one another. When properly understood, there is no conflict between the two positions. Faith that works is a working faith! In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he wrote, “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10). On the same subject, James wrote, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17). James wants us to know that the law of Christ is not bondage instead it grants freedom. This is not to encourage believers to act in a manner that does not represent Christ. We are not called into a freedom from God’s direction. We have to ask…
What freedoms are we talking about?
Let’s look at some examples given the Scripture beginning with…
Freedom from guilt. Look at Hebrews 9:26b. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Jesus offered himself as a perfect sacrifice for sin. In the Old Testament sacrifices were offered daily to cover the guilt of the priest as well as the people. Jesus, on the other hand, offered himself as the one sacrifice that could take away our guilt. This is not to say that we are not sinners or have not sinned. John, the beloved disciple, tells us that, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:10). We have guilt that we inherited from Adam. God counted Adam’s guilt as belonging to us. This does not just refer to Adam’s sin but to the tendency to sin that we are born with. Jesus came to set us free from that guilt. In order to free us from guilt God made Christ to be sin, even though he did not have any sin of his own, so that we could be set free from guilt and become the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Since we are free from guilt we also have received…
Freedom from the wrath of God. Let’s look at 1 John 4:10. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
There are many today who claim the name of Christ who totally rejects the idea that God holds any kind of wrath against mankind. They certainly can’t get that idea from Scripture. The Bible frequently talks about the wrath of God.
God’s wrath means that he intensely hates all sin. (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, P206). When God looked on the idolatry of the people of Israel he said to Moses, “I have seen this people… Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them” (Exodus 32:9-10). Paul tells us that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men” (Romans 1:18). Also, “we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3).
The word “propitiation” means “a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath to the end and in so doing changes God’s wrath toward us into favor.” This demonstrates God’s righteousness because in his grace he put aside our sin and justifies those who came to faith in Christ. We can rejoice in the fact that God, because of the work of Jesus, is now favorable toward us rather than filled with wrath. God has not just forgiven sin and forgotten about the years of human guilt he poured out his wrath on his son Jesus our Lord and Christ. On the cross, all of God’s wrath was appeased. And he has now changed his relationship to us and our relationship to him into that of a loving father toward his repentant child. Rather than holding our sin against us “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). Praise God, we are free from guilt and free from the wrath of God towards our guilt. A positive consequence of that is that we are able to say that we have…
Freedom from corruption and death. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15:42-44. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
On the Isle of Patmos the apostle John, last living apostle, heard a voice from heaven which said, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit,” (Revelation 14:13). Paul’s encouraging words to the Corinthians come alive for us. The body that we are in today, if Christ does not return first, will be buried, or otherwise disposed of, and will return to the earth from which it was taken. The body we live in is but a tent compared to our future building. God already sees us in Christ Jesus. Rather than facing corruption and death, we face life and eternal renewal. In Christ, we die and our bodies will be raised up again. We will not face eternal corruption but instead, we stand to receive eternal glorification. In order to understand the process of glorification, we need to think about what Paul said to the Romans. Paul wrote, “those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30). Each of the gracious acts that God did for us in this passage is past tense. From our viewpoint glorification is yet to come. From God’s viewpoint, it has already happened. We have been (present tense) raised up with him and seated with him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 2:6). Paul goes on to say that he has done these things so that he can show the immeasurable riches of his grace to us. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. We are free from guilt and the wrath of God as well as being free from corruption and death. This past week, Billy Graham went to be with the Lord in his 99th year.
He once said, "Some day you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God."
No matter what may happen to his body he is vibrantly alive in the presence of his Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ. We too have been set free! If we have placed our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Not only free from guilt and the wrath to come but we also have, if we will take it…
Freedom from the attacks of the world. Let’s look at words of the Lord Jesus and John 16:32-33. Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
He had warned his disciples that they would be attacked just as he had been. In fact, they would be driven away from him as he came to the end of his life on earth. Without question, the world around us is the source of tribulation for the believer in Christ. When Paul and Barnabas were making their return trip to the churches they had been able to establish they encouraged them “to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22). Part of that encouragement would surely have included Jesus’ promise that he had overcome the world. Please note, Jesus said these words before he died on the cross and was raised from the dead! He was not looking forward to a future time when he would overcome the world. HE “had” overcome the world! It was a “done deal”! We will be attacked, we will be ignored and ridiculed we must take courage in the fact that our Lord and Master has already overcome the world.
One of the most important freedoms we have is…
Freedom from fear of death. Let’s look at Hebrews 2:14-15. Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
Now we are coming down to some of my favorite passages of Scripture. God, knowing exactly the pressures and restraints we would feel on this earth, and already made arrangements for us. The second person of the Trinity, the Son, came to earth in a little baby. Knowing that we share in flesh and blood He became in all points like us except for sin! When Jesus hung on the cross he took our sins and nailed them there. When he said, “It is finished!” He had paid the price for the sins of all those who would believe in him. In his life he lived without sin in his death he destroyed the power of death that Satan held over every one of us. By his death, burial and resurrection, he destroyed the power of Satan and the power of the fear of death. He has given us — if we will receive it — freedom from the fear of death! The way he gives us that is through…
Freedom from the bondage of sin. Let’s look at Romans 6:14. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
All of us know that we are guilty of sin and should be subject to the wrath of God. Anyone who thinks they have no sin should remember that John, near the end of the first century, having lived his life for Jesus’ sake could say, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8). If any human could ever have said they have no sin it would have been John. He was the disciple whom Jesus loved. One of the closest of his disciples. And the last to live on earth. He was the man that Jesus entrusted the care of his mother Mary as he hung on the cross. None of us are free from sin but because of the grace of God in Christ Jesus, we are free from the bondage of sin. The word promises us “sin will have no dominion over you”. The grace of God sets us free and we cannot be ruled by sin. We all struggle with sin. I do not know why God does not take away everything that keeps us from serving him completely. I do know he has a purpose in what he allows. I also know that I am not entrusted with “why”. I praise God that I can hold onto his promise. Sin will not rule over me! And if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ sin will not have dominion over you! No matter how we struggle with it in the flesh. Jubilee is coming! The time when all debts are canceled and everyone who has faith in Jesus Christ will be completely free. It can’t be too soon for me. And we need to remember that…
Our freedom must never be used to indulge in any kind of sinful activity. Instead, we are to let our freedom enable us to love with God’s kind of love. That kind of love is going to show itself in service to others the apostle Paul said that he was free in Christ but only in order to win more people to Christ. He used his freedom to reach out and bear witness to the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Jesus bought our freedom with his blood and he calls on us to bear witness for him to all the world. He delivered us so that we could help to deliver others (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). How is it working for you? Have you accepted him as Lord and Savior? Are you willing to share that good news? We all fail to measure up but God continues to call us to bear witness in all the world.

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

Sunday, February 11, 2018

180211 Children of Promise

Galatians 4:28-31 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
When Paul writes that we are children of promise he is referring to the household conflict in Abraham’s family. He is looking back to the birth of Ishmael and that of Isaac. Ishmael, whose mother is Hagar Abraham’s slave, represents slavery and law. On the other hand, Isaac, the son of Sarah Abraham’s barren wife, represents freedom and grace. God gave Abraham the promise that he would be a blessing to all mankind. In that promise, God was speaking of His Son, our Lord, and Savior Jesus Christ! We are children of promise, not slavery.
Paul began his debate with the Galatian Christians by asking a question because…
The Galatians were turning back to the law. Let’s go back to Galatians 3:2-3. 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?
The experience of the Galatians agreed with Paul’s teachings. He wanted them to understand that there is no middle ground between law and faith. They had become conscious of the presence of God in their life by God’s grace through faith! Just as it has always been from the very beginning. Long before there was any kind of law men were simply required to believe God and it would be credited to them as righteousness. They had begun by the Spirit and now they were turning back to human traditions that did not serve the purpose of providing them with salvation.
They had been taught better. Let’s move ahead to Galatians 3:10-11. For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Everyone who relied on works was under a curse. Indeed, since the law given by Moses at God’s command makes those under it subject to a curse, how much more will the laws and traditions of man fail to produce salvation? If we want to avoid the curse we must claim Abraham’s faith. It has always been so, and always will. We can only receive this blessing in Christ Jesus. The blessing was given to Abraham over 400 years before the law was given. We are justified by faith now, just as Abraham was justified by faith then. We see Paul developing this teaching that…
The promise was given to Abraham before the law. Let’s move forward to Galatians 3:17-18. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
The covenant that God entered into with Abraham is the basis of all salvation throughout history. Paul wants us to understand that the covenant with Abraham was confirmed by God himself. We will talk more about the purpose of the law in a few minutes. If the law could save us God would have given it before the promise or, at least, at the same time. When Paul writes “430 years” he is talking about the written law. He simply wanted to be clear that faith came long before regulations. The promise of God leads us from God’s wrath to God’s grace — from sin to righteousness and from death to life! The promise comes from heaven — God’s throne! The law comes from the earth and the failures of man. God gave the promise before Abraham was born long before there was any law. How did the promise come to Abraham?
The promise came to Abraham by faith. Let’s look at Romans 4:1-3. What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
Before he was given the name “Abraham”, Abram lived in Ur near the outlet of the Euphrates River. He did not have a line of Bible. In fact, we are told that Abram’s ancestors, I assume that includes Terah, served other gods. How did Abram turn from the false gods to the living creator of the universe? We have a record of that very moment in Abram’s life! It is found in the 12th chapter of Genesis. The Lord said, “Go”, and Abram went. He was 75 years old when he received the promise. In obedience to God Abram moves through the land of Canaan with his family and possessions. Whenever God spoke to him he set up an altar and worshiped. This time God promised what Abram could not yet see. So, what was the purpose of the law?
The law was a guardian or schoolmaster. Let’s go back to Galatians 3:24-26. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
The law was put in charge with a single primary purpose — to lead us to Christ!
I remember a picture of an ancient vase which had a scene portrayed on it. The picture showed a teacher standing in front of a couple of students obviously teaching them. As the teacher taught there was a man sitting behind the students and he had in his hand a long stick with a knot on the end of it. Presumably, if the student nodded off, or was not appropriately attentive, the man in the background would thump him. That is the very purpose of the law. It is not there simply to cause pain but instead to focus attention! The rules and regulations of man drive us to the conclusion that it is impossible to keep those traditions.
God, working through Paul the apostle, wants us to understand that human traditions — including the law of Moses — cannot give us salvation. It is impossible to be justified by the law. All the law does is condemn us and without God’s grace through faith, we have no hope of anything beyond death and hell.
The Jewish people believed that they were justified by keeping the law of Moses. Jesus confronted them with this issue and the confrontation is recorded by John the apostle. When the Jewish leaders responded to him, “Abraham is our father”, Jesus told them, “If you were Abraham’s children you would be doing the works Abraham did,” (John 8:39). The works of Abraham was believing God. Not believing about God or even believing in God but simply believing God.
The law that the Galatians so readily were returning to could never provide justification. Yet the law had to be satisfied. What could not be done by man was effectively done by Jesus.
God fulfilled the law in Christ. Let’s go forward in Galatians 4:4-5. 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.
At the right time, God intervened in history. He sent his son to set free the people living in bondage to sin. This son, Jesus, was able to bear the sins of the entire world because he had no sin of his own. Having no human father he was born of a woman. He was free from Adam’s sin and the curse that it brought to mankind. He was born under the law so he could free those who were in slavery to the law.
Jesus made himself subject to the law even though he was the Lord of the law. The law had no right over him but in order to deliver mankind from the bondage of the law, he had become man even though he was God. When he was crucified the demands of the law were met and defeated. He suffered all these things in order to redeem those under the law. Jesus, conceived by God without a beginning and born of a virgin at the right time came to set us free from the law because…
The law represented slavery. Let’s read farther in Galatians 4:21-22. Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman.
Paul calls on his readers to consider the fact that Abraham’s two sons represented different aspects of man’s relationship to God. Ishmael, born to the slave, was born in the ordinary way. Ishmael knew nothing of the promise and the word of God. Isaac, however, was not only born of the free woman but also born as a result of a promise. In Romans chapter 9 we find this clarification, “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” (Romans 9:6-7)
Ishmael had not been promised by God to Abraham but instead was the result of human reasoning. He was only a physical son. On the other hand, when Sarah was long past the age of childbearing, God told Abraham, “Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call his name Isaac” (Genesis 17:19). Isaac was clearly designated by God as the promised offspring through whom the world would be blessed. The traditions of man represent slavery…
The promise represents freedom. Let’s read on Galatians 4:30-31. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
Abraham was grieved that his son Ishmael would be passed over. At first, he struggled with the idea. But then God spoke directly to him. The son of the flesh would have to be put aside to make way for the son of the promise. However, God gave his friend, Abraham, special dispensation. In saying, “I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also because he is your offspring.” (Genesis 21:13) so Paul assures us that we are not children of the slave. We are children of the free.
Since that time, the children of the slave have persecuted the children of the free. We can take comfort in the fact that we are free from the law.
Paul wanted his Galatian brothers and sisters to remember that they had been saved by grace through faith. He wanted them to see they had been taught that they had received the Spirit the same way Abraham did. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham who is the father of all the faithful. Now, instead of exercising faith, they were trying to gain by human effort. Human effort has always failed. God sent his son into the world so that the world through him might be able to have eternal life. If you do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior. If you have not been forgiven of your sin. Then you can confess your sin and turn to Jesus. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, believe that God raised him from the dead and the Bible says you will be saved.

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