“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1) So why are we so prone to shackling ourselves and others with things that keep us from experiencing that freedom? Join us for a study of the book of Galatians where the Apostle Paul teaches us how to live free by faith.

A SEAT AT THE TABLE

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

MAY

15/16

Galatians 1:1-9

This is the first in a new series based in Galatians, a book based in a letter by Paul who originally was against Christ but after meeting the resurrected Christ, he became a staunch advocate for Christ. Paul preached the truth that belonging to God depends on believing in the resurrection. That’s it; the message at the heart of the Gospel.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

Craig:Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills. So good to have you with us this weekend. We’re actually beginning a new series today on living free, which I’m pretty sure is something that as followers of Jesus, we’re supposed to experience. And I know that Jesus said this, he said, “If the Son, which is his favorite title for himself, if the Son sets you free, then you’re free indeed.” So he said, “If I set you free, then you’re free indeed.” So clearly, freedom is important to Jesus. And freedom is important to Christians. But the reality is that we talk a lot about freedom. But I don’t know that we always experience freedom. It kind of reminds me of America, actually.

Stick with me for a second. Here’s an interesting fact about America. Like we love our freedom, right? We have freedom bumper stickers in our cars, we wear freedom t-shirts, we go to freedom festivals, we talk a lot about being free, we’re very proud of the fact that we’re free. But check this out. We have the highest rate of incarceration of any country in the world. Which means that in the land of the free, there are a smaller number of free people than anywhere else in the world. Ain’t that bizarre? Percentage wise, there are fewer people experiencing freedom in the land of the free than anywhere else.

And I actually think Christianity can be like that, we talk a lot about experiencing freedom in Christ. But we don’t always actually experience that. It’s what we’re gonna talk about in this series is how to actually experience the freedom that Christ came to give us and calls us to live in. Now, our guide for the series is gonna be the Book of Galatians. The Book of Galatians, if you wanna start making your way there is in the New Testament. So it’s in the very last portion of the Bible, if you’re kind of flipping through, you might come across 1 and 2 Corinthians, it’s right after that. It’s in the New Testament, which means that it’s after the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.

And the Book of Galatians, was written to a group of people living in the ancient Roman province of Galatia. It’s in what we would call the highlands of modern-day Turkey. It’s maybe also important to understand that it’s about halfway between Jerusalem, which is the birthplace of Christianity and Rome, the center of the Roman Empire. And so it’s sort of right there in the middle, where Christianity was beginning to really encounter the non-Jewish world. Because Christianity first began as a Jewish faith. Jesus was a Jewish man and all of his followers were Jewish people. And so Christianity was originally a Jewish thing. But as the Gospel began to go out into the non-Jewish world, it began to create a certain kind of tension. And that’s really what we find in the Book of Galatians. Is that tension between the old way and the new way, between Jerusalem and Rome, between the Jewish world and the Gentile, or the non-Jewish world. And what does it look like for Christianity to move out into the non-Jewish world?

Now, Galatians was written by a man named Paul. Paul, a very interesting guy. Paul was, of course…he was born, and raised, and educated in a very strict Jewish environment, which meant that Paul believed what really all the Jews in the first century believed, which was that to belong to God, you had to behave Jewish. To belong to God, you had to behave Jewish, you had to be a Jewish person, and you had to behave according to the Jewish laws and cultural standards.

And that’s really what he believed, and partly because of that Paul hated a guy named Jesus. Paul hated Jesus because Jesus, a couple things. Number one, he claimed to be the Son of God. That really frosted Paul’s shorts. Second, Jesus flipped the script on the Jewish way of thinking about belonging to God. Jesus didn’t seem all that interested in people behaving first, he seemed to be okay with letting people belong in relationship, which he thought would lead to behaving. That’s completely opposite. The Jews said, “You behave so that you can belong.” And Jesus said, “No, you belong so that you can behave.”

And that was part of the reason that Jesus ultimately was arrested, and he was executed publicly, thrown into a borrowed tomb. But then, of course, three days later, hundreds, literally hundreds of people took to the streets in Jerusalem, claiming that they had met the risen Jesus, that Jesus was back from the dead, and those hundreds became thousands. And eventually, they came to call themselves Christians, followers of Jesus, Christians, and Paul hated Christians maybe more than he hated Jesus.

And so, early in Paul’s life, his mission in life was actually to hunt down and kill Christians, which he did very faithfully until he actually met the risen Jesus. He met him on a road to a city called Damascus. And in the moment that he met the risen Jesus, he realized that Jesus had been right about who he said he was, and right, apparently, about the way that it came that you became someone who belonged to God. And so Paul actually went on a world tour. He began to tour the ancient Roman world, telling people, the opposite of what he’d grown up believing. He was moving throughout the world telling people that if you believe in the resurrection of Jesus you belong to God and everything else follows from that. You don’t have to behave in order to belong, you have to belong in order to behave. That was the message he brought to the province of Galatia. They were non-Jewish people. And it didn’t matter because he came and said, “It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to behave Jewish, you have to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Everything else will come after that.”

And many of them accepted that, they became followers of Jesus. And then Paul continued his world tour. He went off to other parts of the world to tell them this good news. And as he was gone, some other people came to Galatia, some other people from Jerusalem, probably some Jewish followers of Jesus, they came to Galatia. And they looked at the Gentile followers of Jesus. And they said, “No, no, no. I don’t know what you heard, but you’re doing it wrong. If you really wanna belong to God, then you have to behave in certain ways.” And it was confusing for the Galatians. And Paul eventually heard about the confusion, he heard what was going on, and he was not happy about it.

And so Paul wrote the letter of Galatians, to clarify, to help them understand what the message of the Gospel is, and what it looks like to actually live it out. Not only beginning a relationship with God, but continuing in that relationship with God. That’s really what the Book of Galatians is all about. And it doesn’t matter where you are in your relationship with Jesus. Maybe you’re a follower of Jesus, but you’ve sometimes felt like you struggle to experience the freedom that everybody talks about in Christ.

Or maybe you’re a follower of Jesus, and you feel like maybe you’ve experienced that. But maybe you’re having a hard time letting other people experience that. Maybe you’ve tended to impose on other people, and you recognize that and you struggle with it, but you’re not quite sure how to get out of that tendency to do that to others. Or maybe you’re not a follower of Jesus yet, and maybe it’s partly because you have a hard time believing that in Christ, we actually have freedom in the way that Christians talk about because you haven’t necessarily seen that lived out. It doesn’t really matter where you’re coming from, the Book of Galatians can be a very powerful word from God into your life.

So why don’t you go ahead and grab your Bible, if you haven’t already, and make your way to the Book of Galatians, which begins this way. Galatians chapter 1, verse 1. “Paul, an apostle sent not from men nor by a man,” I’m just gonna pause there for a second because even though we haven’t finished an entire sentence, Paul’s already said something really, really important here. He says, “He’s an apostle,” and in Greek, that means a sent one. So he says, “I’ve been sent on a mission,” but he says, “I haven’t been sent by men.” He’s gonna ultimately say he’s been sent by God. But it’s interesting. He doesn’t just say, “I haven’t been sent by men,” he says, “I wasn’t sent by men or by what, a man.” And that’s a really strange thing, because he didn’t need to say that, right?

So why say that? Why get so specific? And the answer is, because what seems to have happened is that some of the people who had come to the Galatia and that were causing problems, were saying, “Well, it didn’t really matter what Paul says, because I was sent by so and so. I was sent by somebody very important, very influential.” And we don’t necessarily know who that person was, if I had to make a guess, I’d say it was probably James. James was the brother of Jesus, who came to believe that his brother was, in fact, the Son of God, because of the Resurrection itself. James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem.

And I suspect what had happened was that people had come to Galatia, and they claimed to be sent by James. Not only that they actually were sent by James, but they claimed to have been sent by James. And it didn’t really matter who it was, because the point was, they were like, “Well, you heard this freedom business from who? Oh, okay, well, here’s the thing. Have you heard of so and so? I’m sure you have. He’s kind of a big deal. Yeah, I’m coming from him.”

And because I’m coming from him, you need to pay attention to what I have to say. And what Paul is saying right here at the very beginning is, “No, you don’t?” What Paul says right off the bat is, “It doesn’t matter who someone was sent by. All that matters is what they say about how we belong to God.” Do you hear me?

It’s what Paul’s saying right off the bat. He says, “I wasn’t sent by men or a man.” I know other people are claiming that. But it doesn’t really matter who someone was sent by. All that really matters is what they say about how you belong to God. And if they don’t say what I’m saying, don’t listen to them. In fact, a little bit later today, we’re gonna see him say, “I don’t care if an angel comes down from heaven, if he tells you something different about belonging to God than what we’ve told you, do not listen to them.”

So he says, “I wasn’t sent by men or by a man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father who raised Him from the dead.” He says, “That’s who I was sent by.” And that’s credibility enough. But he says something that is really important. It’s foundational for the Book of Galatians. And it has to do with the way that he identifies God the Father, right? He identifies God the Father as who? As the One who raised Jesus from the dead. In the original Greek, it’s actually a little bit stronger. He says, “The Father, the One raising Jesus from the dead.”

The point is, that’s how you need to think of the Father. This is probably the most important thing to understand about the Father. He’s the One who raised Jesus from the dead. Now, why is he leaning in on this raising Jesus from the dead? Because it’s the heart of Christianity. And it’s the heart really of what Paul’s gonna say throughout the Book of Romans, which in very simple language is just this, belonging to God depends on believing in the Resurrection. That’s the heart of the gospel, as Paul teaches it. Belonging to God depends on believing in the Resurrection. And that’s it. Everything else follows after that.

That’s the most important thing. That is the thing. That’s the basis of how we belong to God. That’s the basis of the mission that we have to communicate to other people is that belonging to God depends on believing in the Resurrection. That’s what Paul was all about. That’s what he taught the Galatians. But that’s the very thing that’s being challenged by these outside agitators that have come to Galatia.

Okay, so why is the Resurrection so important? Why is it so central to Christianity? Because it’s in the Resurrection that we actually become confident that Jesus actually died for our sins. See, Jesus, understand this, Jesus didn’t come claiming to be a prophet. He didn’t come claiming to have insight from God to share. He didn’t come claiming to be a great teacher, he did all those things. But that’s not what his mission was. His mission as he said, it was this, he said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. That’s my mission.” He said, “I came to die for the sins of the world, I came to pay with my blood, the price of your rebellion against God.” That’s the heart of it.

Now, that’s a great idea. But how do we know that it’s true? How do we know that he actually did what he said he came to do? Because anybody can say, “I’m going to die for your sins. I’m going to die for the sins of the world.” Anyone can say that. But how do you know it’s true? And the answer is the Resurrection.

Here’s the thing, the Resurrection of Jesus is the proof that God accepted his sacrifice. Does that make sense? Because it’s only by God choosing to raise Jesus from the dead, that we begin to know, “Oh, actually, Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished what he said it would. Sin is actually paid for, death is defeated.” And so, the Resurrection of Jesus is the proof that God accepted his sacrifice. And it’s the proof that by trusting in his sacrifice, we also can be saved. That’s why that’s at the heart of Christianity. And that’s why Paul says, “The basis of belonging to God is believing in the Resurrection.”

Okay, but why is he hitting this so hard right at the very beginning of this letter? Because here’s what’s happening. Someone was telling the Galatians that belonging to God required more than believing in the Resurrection. That was the core problem. These people had come to Galatia and they were saying, “No, no, no. Belonging to God requires more than just believing in the Resurrection.” Yeah, believing in the Resurrection is important. But that’s not enough. That’s just a piece of the puzzle.

And what Paul’s gonna say throughout this letter is, “No, it doesn’t. Belonging does not require more than believing in the Resurrection. And anyone who tells you that needs to not be listened to.” So he says, “That’s the essence of what I’m writing to you about.” And he’s continuing his greeting. So we haven’t even gotten through his initial greeting. And we’ve already begun to see some of the key issues. But then he goes on, he says this, “And to all the brothers and sisters with me.” In other words, he says, “It’s not just me writing to you, I’m writing to you on behalf of all your brothers and sisters.” And that’s interesting, because he never does that in any other letter.

In his other letters, he might say, “You know, it’s not just me writing, it’s me and Titus writing,” or, “It’s me and Timothy writing.” He may identify a couple of other people who were writing, but this is the only place where he says, “All the followers of Jesus are writing to you.” But notice what he calls them. He calls them brothers and sisters. In other words, what Paul is saying is, your whole family is worried about you. Your whole family is worried about you. Which family? The family that you belong to, by believing in the Resurrection.

You joined a family in that moment. And now your whole family is concerned about you. Because you’re beginning to be confused, you’re beginning to live in a way that suggests that you’re trying to earn your way into a family that you’re already part of. And that’s creating some real strangeness. He says, “Your whole family that you belong to, by your belief in the Resurrection. They’re worried about you.” He says, “I’m writing to the churches in Galatia.” It’s what he says. He says, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father in the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

He says, “Grace and peace to you,” he says, “Grace from God, and peace with God.” And understand, this is important. In the ancient world, peace didn’t mean the absence of conflict. That’s how we tend to think of it. Like if there’s peace, it just means people aren’t fighting. That’s not peace in the ancient world. Peace in the ancient world was about relationship. Peace in the ancient world was about intimate relationship, that the relationship was working the way it was supposed to, that there was community going on. That there was family going on. That’s the essence of peace. And he says that’s the peace that you’re supposed to have by grace. God’s grace is undeserved favor to you, by sending Jesus to die for your sins, brought you into the family and gave you peace with God. There’s this intimate relationship with God.

And then he goes on in these couple of sentences, and he really gives the gospel itself in a nutshell. He gives the whole message of the gospel. And it’s basically this, is that we belong to God, by our belief in what Jesus did for us. We belong to God by our belief in what Jesus did for us. That’s the core of the gospel. That’s what this is all about. But it’s that heartbeat. It’s that core, that’s actually being challenged by these people that have come from the outside.

And he says this, he says, “I’m astonished that you are so quickly deserting the One.” I’m just gonna pause there for a second. He says, “I’m astonished that you’re so quickly deserting the One.” And notice, he doesn’t say that, “I’m astonished you are so quickly deserting the doctrine I taught you.” He didn’t say, “I’m astonished you are so quickly deserting the theology that I gave you.” He doesn’t say, “I’m astonished you are so quickly deserting the practices that I encourage you to take part in.” No, he says, “I’m astonished you are so quickly deserting the One.”

That’s relationship. He says, “I’m astonished you are so quickly leaving this relationship.” And the question is, who’s the One? And some people have taken it to be? Well, that’s Paul. He says, “I’m astonished you are so quickly leaving me.” But I don’t think that’s the case. I actually think he’s talking here about God. That’s why I capitalized it. He says, “I’m astonished you’re so quickly leaving your relationship with God.” Which is ironic, because that was the very thing the Gospels intended to make possible, that by God’s grace, you begin a relationship with God. But he says, “Now because of these outside people that have come in” and he said, “But it’s these other things you’ve got to add in.” He says, “You’re actually leaving your relationship with God. You’re walking away from the very relationship that the Gospel made possible.”

Now, here’s an important thing to understand. And it’s something I think, as a church, we’ve always struggled with. And it’s this, it’s the depending on religion, the rules, and the regulations, depending on religion, leads to abandoning relationship. Depending on religion, leads to abandoning relationship. The more we depend upon our efforts, the more we depend on trying harder and harder, the further we get from the actual relationship, which makes transformation possible. That’s what Paul says, he says, “I’m astonished you’re so quickly leaving the One. You’re moving out of that relationship that God made possible.”

He says, “I’m astonished you are so quickly deserting the One who called you to live in the grace of Christ.” And this is really important too. Don’t miss this. Notice, he doesn’t say, “The One who saved you by grace.” Right? He says, “The One who called you to live by grace.” In other words, he says, “You’re abandoning the One who’s actually made it possible for you to live your life moment-by-moment, day-by-day, fueled by grace.” And sometimes what happens is we have this idea that we’re saved by grace, but then, once we’re kind of in the front door, it’s up to us.

Well, once we’re actually in the front door, it’s about effort. It’s about trying harder. It’s about working until we get to the point that we’re almost like we’re paying Jesus back for what he did by letting us in the door. And really, what Paul’s saying here is, you’re getting it wrong. What he’s saying is, listen, how we live, how we live day-to-day, how we live is a byproduct of belonging to God, by grace. It’s not just how we begin the relationship. It’s how we experience the relationship. It’s how we live out our faith, every moment of every day. How we live is a byproduct of belonging to God, by grace.

And here in, we really begin to encounter the major tension in the Book of Galatians. And really, it’s a tension that the churches struggled with for 2000 years. It’s the tension between something that I’m gonna call gracism. I don’t know if that’s a word, but we’re gonna use it in this series. Gracism and something else called legalism. How many of you have heard the word legalism? Okay. Legalism might be a new word for you. I’m gonna define it for you here, okay. And I’m gonna define it and I want you to understand that my definition may be a little different than some of the definitions you’ve heard. This is gonna be a little bit of a simple definition. But I think as we go on in this study, you’re gonna begin to see why this definition works.

Here’s what legalism is. Legalism says that belonging depends upon behaving. Okay, really, legalism is the demand. Check this out. Legalism is the demand that someone behave in order to belong. Does that make sense? It’s the demand that somebody behave in order to belong. Now, that’s an oversimplified definition. So don’t send me that email, okay. I know it is. And I know, I’m fully aware that belonging to any group requires at least a certain minimal level of behaving, okay? You can’t belong to a basketball team if you insist on showing up to practices and games wearing football gear and carrying a crossbow, okay.

But can you belong to a basketball team if you wear Air Jordans, and everybody else wears Nikes? Of course you can. But if the team says, “No, you can’t belong to us, because you’re not wearing Nikes.” That’s legalism. It’s the demand that somebody behave in sort of non-essential ways before they can belong. And see, here in is the heart of the issue that Galatians is dealing with. There’s legalism, and then there’s gracism. And legalism and gracism organize three major issues in very different ways. Here’s the three issues that we’re kind of dealing with. Okay. There’s believing, we talked about that. There’s belonging, we’ve talked about that. And there’s behaving. We’ve talked about. Those are the three issues: believing, belonging, and behaving. And the question is, what’s the relationship between those things? How do they work together?

And here’s what happens, legalism says this, legalism says that believing plus behaving leads to belonging, does that make sense? Legalism says, “Believing and behaving leads to belonging.” Gracism or grace, says that, “Believing leads to belonging, and belonging leads to behaving.” Does that make sense? That’s the message of grace. It’s the message of the Gospel. Believing leads to belonging, just believing alone leads to belonging to God and His family. And that belonging is what leads to behaving. This is the tension.

So people say, “No, you got to believe and behave, and then you can belong.” And then there’s another group of people who say, “No, believing leads to belonging, and belonging leads to behaving.” Now, which one’s right? I can only tell you what Jesus seemed to think. And what Jesus seemed to think very clearly, was that belonging was the key to behaving. That belonging is what led to behaving.

That belonging is what led to lasting change in someone. Because you look in the life of Jesus, what do you see, he was perfectly willing to let people belong before they behave? He never said, “Come follow me. But before you do, let me see the checklist whether or not you’ve gotten your life in order.” Jesus never said, “Hey, let’s hang out, assuming that you’ve met some basic requirements.” He never did that. He invited people to belong, he ate with sinners and tax collectors. We’re told that many times in the Gospels, which is part of the reason that the Jewish people couldn’t get a handle on him, he claimed to be from God. And yet he had intimate fellowship, he had intimate meals and relationships with people who were still sinners.

They hadn’t done anything to fix it. Jesus seemed to think that belonging came first. And so here in really is the issue. See, both legalist and gracist agree that there’s a behavior problem. Okay, don’t get me wrong on this. There’s absolutely a behavior problem. We’re sinful, and our sin is a problem. Our sin creates a barrier between us and God. That’s what Jesus died to remove. But our sin also creates obstacles in our relationship with God. It makes it hard for us to experience everything that God has for us, it makes it hard for us to be transformed into everything God intended for us. Our behavior is absolutely a problem. Both sides agree on that.

But here’s the big question. Yes, our behavior needs to change. The question is, how do you do it? Here’s the thing, what accomplishes lasting change? The desire for belonging, or the experience of belonging? That’s the key question. What really changes us? Not in a temporary way, but in a long-term lasting deep soul level, the desire to belong to, “I’m gonna do these things so that they’ll accept me,” or the experience of being accepted. Beginning to change us from the inside out.

That’s really the key question here. And it’s the big difference between gracism and legalism. And Paul says, “I taught you gracism. I taught you a relationship with God by faith and belief in the Resurrection.” And by the way, when I say belief, I mean faith. Belief is not just an intellectual, “Oh, I get that that happened.” But it’s a willingness to trust it, okay. That’s what we’re talking about when we’re talking about belief. He says, “That’s what I taught you.” But it’s not what you’re hanging on to, he goes on and he says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the One who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel. You are turning to a different gospel, which is really no gospel at all.”

He says, “These people have come along, and they’ve caused you to turn to something else entirely, which isn’t a Gospel.” See Gospel means good news, literally it means good news of victory, okay? And the victory is the Resurrection. Why is the Resurrection such good news? Because it means that God has accepted Jesus’s sacrifice. We’re freed from our sin, we’re accepted into the family of God, and we begin to change from the inside out because of our belonging. He says, that’s the good news. He says, “You’re turning away from that. You’re turning to something else entirely. And this thing you’re turning to now it’s not the gospel. It’s not good news, because it’s actually a reversal of it.” In fact, here’s the reason it’s not good news, because legalism unplugs the Gospel from its life changing power source, which is belonging.

That’s why he says it’s not good news, because legalism actually unplugs the Gospel from the wall outlet. It’s not empowered anymore. It doesn’t have transformative power. It’s the experience of belonging to God that begins to actually change who we are. But legalism says, “No, no, to belong to God, you got to do these things.” And then the more we do that, the more we move further from the relationship, and the less power the gospel actually has. He says, “Legalism unplugs the Gospel from its life changing power source, which is belonging.” He says, “This is no gospel at all. This is not good news in the slightest.” But he said, “Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion, and are trying to pervert the Gospel of Christ. But listen, even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preach to you, let them be under God’s curse.”

As we’ve already said, so now I say again, literally just said it, if anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse. That’s pretty serious, right? This is a big deal to God. He’s a little bit worked up. And bottom line, what’s he saying? He’s saying, “Listen, if it’s not all grace, it’s no gospel.” It’s the bottom line here, if it’s not all grace, it’s no gospel. If it’s grace, this far, and then it’s work, it’s no gospel. If it’s work, so that this and this, that’s no gospel, if it’s not all grace, it’s no gospel. If it’s not grace to get in the front door, and grace to live out every day, it’s not the gospel. If it’s not all grace, it’s no gospel.

Years ago, when Coletta and I first moved to Colorado, I came here to go to Denver seminary. And within a few weeks of being at Denver seminary, we got invited to a party. It was a party with some students from the seminary, some faculty from the seminary. And I felt a little awkward getting the invitation. I was like, “I’m brand new here. I don’t really know anybody. I think they’re just being nice to me.” Basically, it was grace. Okay. I get invited to the party by grace. And it was a really fancy house up in the mountains. I mean, I knew that when we got up there, I was like, “Whoa, we should not be here.” We had to go through the guard house and everything and then drove up the driveway. I probably shouldn’t say whose house it was. It was the house of somebody who brews some beverages up in Golden, believers, really nice couple.

And so we went into the house. Well, I got to the house and I stood outside the house, honestly, because I was like, “I should not be here. I should not ring that doorbell.” But I eventually got the courage and rang the doorbell and the hostess came. She’s very nice. She invited us in, kind of welcomed us. And then she went off and we just kind of hung out in the foyer a little bit. I was like, “I should not be here.”

And I heard a kind of laughter and talking kind of looked over and like, in the kitchen, I could see there’s a really big kitchen table. And there were a bunch of people there, were gathered around the table and they’re having a good time. They were laughing. They were talking. They were joking. And clearly it sort of felt like family. And that way eventually kind of wandered over and there were a couple of seats, but I was like, “I do not belong at this table. I’m just gonna hang out on the outside here.” And eventually the host noticed what we were doing, and he’s like, “What are you doing?” And he kicked out a chair and he said, “Sit down,” like, “Okay.” And we sat down. And it was interesting, because just by sitting down there and suddenly being part of the family, so to speak, I began to feel different. I began to like…I felt like, “Well, maybe it’s okay that I’m here.”

And I began to contribute to the conversation and I began to feel better about not just the fact that I was there. I began to feel better with a lot of things, Coletta had moved from Ohio to Colorado. We didn’t know anybody out here. We left all of our family back there. We didn’t have any friends yet. And so I was like, “Maybe the seminary thing was a stupid idea. I’m not even sure I can do this. I didn’t go to Bible college. And so I’m reading a bunch of stuff with a language I’ve never heard of in my entire life. I don’t know that I can do this thing?” And essentially just sitting at the kitchen table with those students and faculty being part of that conversation belonging there, I suddenly started to think, “Well, maybe I can do this. Maybe this is going to be okay.” It was actually very transformative of my experience, not just there but of the whole seminary experience and the whole new life we had in Colorado.

And I think it’s interesting that so many Christians seem to think, “Grace gets me in the front door, but I have to earn my seat at the kitchen table.” But in reality, it’s grace that gets us a seat at the kitchen table, and it’s the seat at the kitchen table that really begins to change us, in all the ways that our hard work never will. Does that make sense? Are you with me?

What Paul is saying is grace gets you in the front door and a seat at the kitchen table. And that, that changes everything. But that’s exactly the thing that legalism challenges. Legalism says, “No, no, no. Believing that’s important, but believing plus behaving that’s how you get to behaving, or belonging.” And Paul says, “No, that’s not gonna work. In fact, that’s not good news.” No, no, believing get you belonging in the front door, seat at the kitchen table. And it’s that belonging that leads to behaving. If it’s not all grace, if it’s not all grace, it is no gospel.

So as we start this series, let me encourage you to ask a couple questions. And the first question is this. Where do I have a Jesus plus attitude when it comes to others belonging to God’s family? Let’s just ask an uncomfortable question right off the bat. Where do you have Jesus, believing in Jesus but also behaving in certain ways before I’m willing to acknowledge that you belong to the same family that I do?

Like, let me be intentionally provocative, okay. Don’t bother sending me the email on this one. Okay. I know this is gonna bother some people. It bothers me, I struggle with this and it’s why I share it, okay. Here’s the thing. If someone has said to you, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died on the cross for our sins, that he rose from dead three days later, and I have put my faith in that Resurrection. But I’m not sure that I believe everything the Bible has to say. Are they part of the family? Can you draw a circle that says we’re all part of the same family?

I wanna be honest, I struggle with that one, especially in my younger days, I might have drawn a circle to have included them, but they would have had a dotted line around their half of the circle. I’m not 100% sure, but…and even today, I’m kinda like, “Well, okay, maybe you’re in the family, but like, you’re on that side of the family,” right? “You’re like a cousin or something like that.” I struggle with that. And yet what Paul seems to say is, no, the Resurrection is the basis of belonging. Believing in the Resurrection is the basis belonging. Okay, but what about that? How would you define that? Or maybe there’s some other issue. Maybe there’s some other thing, maybe something you’re really passionate about?

Maybe it’s politics. Maybe it’s a particular belief, theologically. Maybe it’s a doctrine, or it’s a social practice or something like that. But where do you have a Jesus plus attitude when it comes to allowing other people to belong to the family, at least recognizing that they belong to the family? It’s worth wrestling with. Because inadvertently, what we can end up doing is the very thing that these outside agitators were doing in Galatia. Inadvertently actually unplugging people from the only power source that will actually bring lasting change.

And here’s another question to wrestle with. Where do I have a Jesus plus attitude when it comes to my place at the kitchen table? Because reality as I know many of you are listening this message, and you believe you’re saved by grace. But now it’s up to you. Now it’s about trying harder. Or, as we said, in our series, back to the beginning of the year, Fresh Wind. we said, “It’s not about rowing hard, it’s about raising sails, to catch the fresh wind of God’s Spirit.” Paul’s gonna talk a lot about the Spirit in this Book. And he says, “The fresh wind of the Spirit that moves us forward that changes us. We experience the power of the Spirit, living by grace, not just being saved by grace, but living by grace.” And sometimes that’s what we unplug ourselves from because we have a Jesus plus attitude about our place at the kitchen table. The good news of the Gospel is you’re not just saved by grace, you’re not just in the front door, but you have a place at the kitchen table.

Would you pray with me?

God, we thank you for this very simple, but very challenging Word. And Lord, I confess for myself and probably on the behalf of some of my brothers and sisters that it feels dangerously simple. And it’s easy to actually worry about it. It’s easy to worry that if we don’t impose certain behaviors, that we’re somehow cheapening the reality of what you’ve done for us, like I feel that struggle. And yet you’re servant Paul was very clear, Jesus was very clear that people belong because they believe in what Jesus did for us. And then anything beyond that, that actually might be counterproductive. And it’s not that we don’t care about the transforming work of your spirit. It’s not that we don’t care about ultimately behaving in the ways that are appropriate to your people. But that the way to get there is rooted in the power of grace and the Gospel.

And so we ask that you convict us about the ways that we have maybe imposed that on others that we are tempted to do that. And Lord, would you give us access in our own hearts, the freedom to experience the relationship you call us to, not just a way in the front door, but a seat at the kitchen table that is rooted in grace, undeserved favor. We commit our study of the Book of Galatians to you for the next several weeks. And pray that you teach us how to resolve these tensions, or at least how to live in them appropriately. Because if it’s not all grace, then it’s no gospel that we preach.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you go on mission with me right now? Would you just begin praying for the people listening to this message that are not followers of Jesus yet? And if that’s you, let me just speak to you for a moment. Maybe for the first time today, you’ve heard the real Gospel which is all grace. You don’t have to clean yourself up to come to Jesus, you don’t have to make up for the wrongs that you’ve done before God will accept you. Jesus died to do that for you. God loves you so much, he sent his own Son to die on the cross to pay for your sin. And to prove that he accepted his sacrifice, God the Father, raised him from the dead. That’s a fact of history. And if you believe that, and if you’re willing to put your trust in it, you can belong to God for now and forever.

And if you’ve never said yes to trusting in Jesus, you can do that right here right now. There’s absolutely nothing that stands in your way. All you need is that belief. And here’s how you do it. You’re just gonna have a conversation with God in your heart. You can say it out loud. You can say it silently. He’s gonna hear it either way. Say something like this, “Hey, God, I’ve done wrong. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead. I’m ready to put my trust in you. Jesus, I’m gonna follow you for now and forever.” Amen.

We’ve had several people already make that decision this weekend. Can we celebrate those who just made it and those who will the rest of this weekend? Congratulations, you just made the most important decision literally, of your life, of your eternal life. Because that decision, your sins are forgiven, you’ve been adopted into God’s family. And you belong to him forever.

And that’s gonna begin to change in ways you can’t even imagine. We would love to celebrate your decision. So would you let us know you made that decision today? Just do this for me. If you’re watching online, click the button below me that says, “I committed my life to Jesus.” If you don’t see that, or you’re one of our campuses, you can text the word, Jesus, to 888111, just text, Jesus, to 888111 whichever way you do it, what’s gonna happen is, you’re gonna let us know you made the decision so we can start praying for you. We’re so excited about that. And also, we would love to send you some resources to help you begin experiencing this new life. By the way, if you’re on one of our campuses, just visit the Welcome Center on your way out and tell them, “I said yes to Jesus.” They’d love to give you some of those resources right here today.

If it’s not all grace. It’s no Gospel. But it is all grace. So it’s incredibly good news. Amen. Amen.

WHO ARE YOU TRYING TO PLEASE?

JEFF BAXTER

MAY

22/23

Galatians 1:10-24

God loves you for who you are not that you can follow rules. He used Paul, a prosecutor of Christians, and transformed him so greatly that he became a preacher for Christ. Paul went on to help people move from pleasing people to living for Jesus. You can get the same grace given to Paul and live on mission too.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

Jeff: Welcome to Mission Hills everybody. So good to see your faces. This is great. Like, yeah. So whether you’re joining us in person or online, we’re so glad that you’re with us today. This is really gonna be a fun day. I’m so excited to be able to open up the Word of God and teach this morning. We’re going to continue in this series in the Book of Galatians that Craig left off for us last week. We’re going to pick up at verse 10. We’ll eventually get there. You can find your way in your Bibles now if you’d like, chapter 1, verse 10, Book of Galatians in the New Testament. But before we do, I have a confession to make. I am a recovering Pharisee. For those of you that have been around the church, you might know what the word Pharisee means. For those of you that don’t, let me catch you up to speed, but stay with me because some of you might fall in the same category. But there’s good news, by the time we’re done this morning, I’m going to give you some steps to get out of that.

But the Pharisees were a group of religious leaders at the time of Jesus. There were several groups of religious leaders at the time of Jesus. But the Pharisees, well, they had a different kind of view about things, and they were steeped in hang-on to Judaism. And they were legalists because they stayed really close to Judaism. And everyone wanted to be like the Pharisees when they grew up. The problem was the Pharisees looked really, really good on the outside, but on the inside, they were shallow and hollow. You see, the Pharisees were not fair, you see. You’re with me? Good. They weren’t fair because they steeped these rules and these regulations on people. And they wanted them to do what they asked them to do based on the Jewish Law. And it wasn’t good because it was all for exterior, outside stuff, but inside they fell way, way short.

And I found myself through many years sitting back and sort of judging everybody else thinking that I probably read through my Bible more times than everybody else and prayed more than everybody else. And I’m seeking advanced degrees in Bible and stuff like that, and I began to judge other people based on their behavior. But we learned last week from Craig, the theme of the Book of Galatians is you don’t have to behave a certain way in order to belong. All you need to do is to believe. If you believe, you belong, you’re at the kitchen table. Jesus had some stuff to say about the Pharisees. He called them hypocrites. A hypocrite in the original Greek language of the New Testament of the Bible literally means actor or one who wears a mask. Because when you look at the Roman theatres today, you’ll notice that the hypocrites were performing on the stage for everyone to sit around in the amphitheater and watch them entertain them.

So when Jesus comes along, you can imagine the Pharisees, well, you probably know if you’ve read any of the Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John that the reaction of the Pharisees to Jesus was not good because Jesus called them, “You’re just actors out of stage. You look really, really good on the outside, but inside you fall way, way short.” And I found myself in that spot. But the good news is this Book of Galatians, I pray sets you free and sets me free as I continue to be a recovering Pharisee around these issues, to be liberated from legalism. And that is what Paul is all about. Now, there’s some interesting things going on this morning as we look at these verses together. What I would say is that we don’t use the word Pharisee very much these days. By the way, if you really want to make a Christian mad, tell them they’re a Pharisee. That’ll really tick them off. But we don’t really use the word Pharisee. So let me substitute it for a different set of words, and you’re going to probably understand what I mean. I would say people pleaser.

The Pharisees were people pleasers. They looked good on the outside to please everyone else. Their prayer sounded really great. Their dress code looked really good. They had everything going on the outside, but on the inside, they were shallow and hollow. But they looked good on the outside, and they were people-pleasing, trying to get everybody else to be like them when they grew up. And that’s what the Pharisees were all about. And I found myself in that space. And I don’t blame anybody for that. I take full responsibility for those actions in my own life and what was going on in my heart. So let’s look at Galatians. Let’s see what Paul has to say about this deal of not having to behave to belong but to believe to belong.

So if you’ve made your way there to Galatians chapter 1, verse 10, this is where we’re going to go this morning, look at verse 10 with me. “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings or of God,” there he goes, “or am I trying to please people? If I were trying to please people,” listen to this, “I would not be a servant of Christ.” Oh my goodness, Paul went right there. It’s like people-pleasing or God-loving, which is it going to be? Which is it going to be? And Paul is making this argument that I’m not a people pleaser because here’s what’s going on below the surface that you need to understand in order to catch what’s going on in the greater Book of Galatians but also the verses we’re going to look at today. So Paul has gone to Galatia. He shared that Jesus is alive. A whole bunch of people have come to know him as their Savior. They believed, and now they belong. And Paul is saying you don’t need to do all the extra things to belong. You don’t need to eat kosher food or get circumcised. Thank goodness. You don’t have to do any of this stuff. You can just automatically belong. All you got to do is believe that Jesus came and died on that cross and rose from the grave and now you’re in. You’re part of the family of God. That’s what Paul is sharing with them.

But what happened was Paul left, and then these false teachers, we would call them, Judaizers, came into play. And they started telling these new converts to Christianity, they started telling them, “No, no, no, no, Paul is wrong. Paul is just trying to be a people pleaser. He’s wrong. It’s not just nothing that you get for free and you get in. No, no, no. It’s Jesus plus this stuff. It’s Jesus plus keep the rules and regulations of the Jewish religion. Keep this stuff that we taught you all along. You don’t just get to do away with that.” And Paul is writing back to this church and saying they’re wrong, “I did not come to you as a people pleaser. I came to you out of love for God. I came to you telling you that Jesus has resurrected now. That’s why I came.”

But there are a few reasons why they might have thought this about Paul. Number one, when the Gentiles, those outside the Jewish religious group, when the Gentiles came into play and Paul shared with them that all you need to do is believe and you belong, when they came in, these Judaizers, these outsiders, these false teachers were saying, “Look, look, Paul, you’re saying they don’t have to do all this stuff to get in.” So they’re accusing him of that. The other thing they’re accusing him of is inconsistency because, on one hand, they knew that Paul had asked Timothy, his young mentoree, to be circumcised as an adult. Ouch. Or it could be both.

See, this is what’s going on. They’re accusing Paul of being a people pleaser because he’s having all different kinds of ways for these people, and they see the consistencies. And so they’re blaming him that, “Paul, you’re just trying to be a people pleaser.” It plays out this way. Paul is saying, “Hey, I came to share the Resurrection of Jesus with you. That’s it. If you believe in that, you’re in. You’re in. You’re saved.” And the church is saying to these outsiders coming in, “Hey, no, no, no, no, no, you need to still do these other things too.” And Paul is writing back saying, “No, I don’t. No, you don’t. You don’t have to do that. All you need to do is believe. I’m not people-pleasing.”

Warning, if you find yourself caring more about what people think than what God thinks, you might be a people pleaser. You might fall in this category where you care what other people think more than what God, you know, thinks about something. So be careful. Paul continues in verse 11, “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the Gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man nor was I taught it, rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” You know, the Gospel, the Gospel is the life of Jesus coming to earth to die in a real wooden Roman cross for the forgiveness of sins. He took our place. We should be hanging on that cross. But Jesus took our place there. And then he, just as he predicted, rose from the grave three days later. That’s the Gospel message. That’s what Paul was coming into town to share with these Galatians, to share with them the good news of this whole thing. And he said, “This Gospel did not come from man. No man came and shared the Gospel with me. It came directly from Jesus himself.”

What’s he referring to? He’s referring to Acts chapter 9 when Paul was on the Damascus road, and Jesus showed up in all his glory. And that’s when Paul surrendered his life to Jesus. That’s what he’s referring to. So there was no missionary that went around the world to Paul to share the Gospel. It came directly from Jesus himself. It’s really interesting to me that the 12 apostles that spent 3 years with Jesus got the message directly from Jesus himself too. So Paul had to receive the same message from Jesus himself too. That’s why he’s called an apostle. That’s why we can say the Apostle Paul because he’s part of the same group. Why? Because he received this good news directly from Jesus. No human being told him. And that’s why when he goes on three missionary journeys, and he plants all these churches, and he raises up all these leaders, and he writes letters back to these churches, which makes up half of the New Testament, that’s why he comes with authority. Because why? Because he received this Gospel from Jesus directly. And Paul is not ashamed about that. He said, “I’m not a people pleaser. I’m a God lover. I got it directly from him.”

He continues sharing about his life before Jesus in verse 13, “For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my father’s.” What was Paul’s life like in Judaism before he came to know Jesus as his Savior? It’s really interesting because Paul is just steeped in the best education for a Pharisee and the best elementary, middle school, and high school, and beyond years of in Judaism, what that would have looked like. He knew the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, like the back of his hand. He knew the laws and the regulations. He had interpretations about those things. He was steeped in it. If he was graduating today, he no doubt would have been valedictorian of his class like many of our graduates graduating right now around our city. I mean, he would have been the best. He would have had all the tassels with all the colors around his neck, probably 17 medals around his neck.

Paul was the cream of the crop. Paul was a Pharisee of Pharisees, a people pleaser of all people pleasers. Everyone wanted to be like Paul when they grew up because everyone wanted to be like a Pharisee because they’re keeping the Law and what good Jewish little boy doesn’t want to keep the Law when they grow up? So they’re wanting Paul’s autograph. Paul’s a big deal. Paul had all this going for him in Judaism so much so that Paul was a fanatic. Paul wanted to take out anything that didn’t have to do with Judaism, anything that didn’t have to do with following the Jewish laws. And so when this little sect popped up that was following this guy named Jesus, Paul wanted to destroy it. That makes Paul a terrorist. Paul was a terrorist. Paul needed a dramatic transformation in his life to change any of that history, any of that Judaism. He was steeped in it, a legalist, a people pleaser.

And so Paul explains his resume in detail in another place in Philippi when he wrote a letter back to the Philippian church in Philippians chapter 3, verse 4, “If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more.” Paul is speaking. Circumcised on the eighth day of the people of Israel, great, check that off the list. Of the tribe of Benjamin, check. Hebrew of Hebrews, check. In regards to the law of Pharisee, there is check. As for zeal persecuting the church, check. As for righteousness based on the law of faultless, Paul was the best, learned from the best, has a lineage, we know his dad was a Pharisee. We know that from the Biblical text. So here it is, Paul is stuck in tradition. Paul is stuck in tradition. We can get stuck in tradition, can’t we?

We can get stuck in such a way that we think that…in all sorts of ways, in all different categories in the church, we can get stuck in traditions, and we love it when it goes our way, don’t we? We love it when things stay the same. We love it when the worship service has the same order, when it’s the same preacher, same worship leaders, same kinds of music I listen to on the radio, same kinds of things going on, “Oh, the programming in the church stays the same.” “Oh, the service times stay the same.” Everything stays the same. We like that. But when things get disrupted with our traditions, we don’t really like it very much. It disrupts things. It messes with us. Listen, Jesus wants to transform us, not tradition us. Jesus wants to transform us, not tradition us.

I’m old enough to remember growing up in a small town in Michigan, at a small church in Michigan, that had these books in the back of these things called pews. And you pull that book out, it was called a hymnal. And I know many of you don’t know what I’m talking about. And you open that thing up, and they tell you a number to turn to, like 156. And so, listen, as a little kid trying to figure out this stuff, I mean, they’re halfway through the song by the time I get to 156. And if I did get there that I’m trying to read the first time, but then it’s kind of hard to know where to go next because there’s these notes and things between. So I read the first line… Anybody tracking with me? I read the first line, and they get to the second, “Where’s the second line? Where’s the second line” And by the time I get that figured out, then they change it up, “No, you don’t go to the third line. You go back up to the first line.” And then it’s somebody between services telling me, “Oh, I used to lead those things.” And then we’d say, “Oh, no, no, no, skip verse two, go to strip three. I forgot.” “That’s right. I forgot about that.”

And then this thing came along called overhead projector. It was this thing that sat there right there with a bright light coming out of it, went through a magnifying glass, and went up to on screen. If you didn’t have that experience, man, you’re missing out in church world. And somebody would sit there with these pieces of paper with words on them, and they’d put them up there. And sometimes they were backwards, they had to shift them around to get them up on the screen correctly. And then if Johnny who…you know, Johnny is volunteering to be that person. If he’s late, everybody gets mad at Johnny for not switching out the right words on the overhead projector, like, “Johnny, Johnny, we’re next verse, next verse.” “What’s the first?” They switch things out. And then we got really sophisticated. We had our projectors hanging from ceilings, and everybody got mad.

Like, we went from hymnals to overhead projectors. Now, they’re hanging from the ceilings. That cost more money. Bigger screens. We’re all upset about everything. And in the middle of all that, we forget why we’re even doing all this stuff to sing worship songs to Jesus. But everybody is uptight about traditions, aren’t they? And this is Paul. Paul was so steeped in the Jewish traditions that he even probably somewhere along line lost track of why he was even doing it. And it took an encounter with Jesus on a Damascus road to change course for him. Listen, I can be caught up in my traditions. Here’s one of them. I like to listen to 1980s music. I do. Second confession for today. I do. I have a radio dial that’s set there. That’s what I listen to in my car. My family makes fun of me when I don’t switch that station back to what they were listening to before. But I like my ’80s music.

Listen, I don’t understand all of the new music that’s coming with the next generation. But I do know this, if I and you don’t dig in deep to why they listen to what they listen to and what they’re listening to and don’t tune into that, we’re never going to reach them with the Gospel of Jesus. We’ve got to lose some of our traditions in order to enter into that world so we can reach more people for Jesus. That’s one of the things that Jesus had to undo in Paul’s life in order to not just go to the Jews with the Gospel, but the Gentiles. Oh my goodness. Same thing in Peter’s life. That’s a different story. We can become traditioned by our methods more than transformed by the message. We can be so caught up in our methods that we lose sight of the message. The methods always change. The message never changes. The message is about Jesus. The methods to get there are going to change.

I don’t know what the next overhead projector is, but something’s going to change. It just is. But are we going to be so settled in that we don’t get it? Keep following with me. Paul is sharing how he longs not to please people but to please God in verse 15, “But when God who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles.” My immediate response was not to consult with any human beings, more evidence he’s not a people pleaser. He didn’t go to people. “I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went to Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.” So Paul is sharing in overdrive, “I’m not a people pleaser. I wasn’t hanging out with people. I could have gone up to Jerusalem to hang out with the boys, but I didn’t. I went into Arabia.”

Now, look at this little phrase with me. Why did Paul say “in me” and not “to me”? This might seem like a little minute detail, a little thing there, and you don’t pay much attention to this. But it’s so significant. It’s not a small thing. It’s huge. Paul had to have a work in him before God can work through him. Jesus had to get into Paul before Jesus could get out of Paul. You’re tracking with me? He had to do something in Paul. He had to rearrange this legalism. He had to do something around grace in Paul’s life before he could have him go share the message of grace with the world. He had to change that. This legalism to grace thing had to be sorted out. Because Paul, like, Paul knew the mission of Mission Hills. Did you know that? Paul knew the mission of Mission Hills, to become like Jesus and join him on mission. Or maybe it’s the other way around. But Paul knew this whole mission that we’re about. Paul had everything going for him though. This is so weird that Paul had everything going for him. He’s a Pharisee of Pharisees, people pleaser of people pleasers. His resume was packed. Pedigrees, degrees, he had everything.

So why would Paul leave that world and that life in order to go do this new thing for Jesus? Why would he do that? Well, it’s because his life has been totally transformed? It’s like night and day. It’s like black and white. It’s totally transformed life. And so everybody looking at Paul would have gone, “What in the world?” I mean, if Paul was around today, he would have had more Facebook followers than you do. He would have had more TikTok videos. That would be weird to watch Paul do. Okay. And he would have had Instagram hearts and slide-ups on the story. I mean, he would have had all that. Everybody wanted to be like Paul, but Paul is making this point, “I am not a people pleaser. I don’t care about likes and hearts and all that stuff. I care about Jesus. That’s what I care about now, that he’s alive.” If Paul was around, that’s what he’d be doing today. Paul is not a people pleaser because he got this message directly from God. All you need to do is believe and then you belong. You don’t need to behave a certain way to get in.

Verse 18, he continues. How long did Paul spend this time in Arabia? Well, verse 18 tells us, “Then after 3 years,” 3 years, “I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas, and I stayed with him 15 days,” it’s a couple weeks, “and I saw none of the other apostles, only James, the Lord’s brother. And I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.” Paul spent three years in Arabia just to the east of modern-day Israel, what would turn into Saudi Arabia. He went out into the wilderness. He went out into that space, way away from people. He’s not a people pleaser. And what was he doing in Arabia? He’s spending time alone with Jesus. This is really interesting. And I dug into commentaries and scholars and theologians on this one. I even leaned into Craig. Here’s what’s really interesting, is for three years, the apostles of Jesus spent time with Jesus.

For three years, they needed an education to how to do this new kingdom thing with a new King. They needed to spend time with Jesus for three years. That was Jesus’ timetable. It’s not ironic that Paul went and spent three years in Arabia alone with Jesus to catch up to speed with everything the apostles had been taught because now he’s an apostle, he got the message directly from Jesus. But now he needs to probably, like we all do… You know, this transformation thing happens, like, yes, saved in a moment. But we all are a work in progress, are we not? And so I think, for that three years, Paul had to have some things undone. Like, the foundation of Judaism is directly from God if you read the Old Testament. But this foundation now all got flipped on its head when Jesus came, the Messiah came, to set us free. Now, it’s by grace alone. And I think Paul had to get an education to be liberated from legalism. And who’s going to give them that lesson? It’s going to be Jesus in Arabia.

The other thing I think Paul had to lean into is he had to understand what grace alone meant. Can you imagine just being rule after rule, regulation after regulation, circumcision, kosher food, all the rules and regulations of the Judaism, all that, you’ve been living that way, living that way, living that way, thinking you’re doing the right thing for God, and all of a sudden, Jesus shows up and turns it all on its head, and now all of a sudden, you’re like, “What? I don’t have to do all this stuff to get in? It’s free? What in the world?” Well, Paul had to have something, had to have a new teaching with Jesus alone to get all this figured out or he never would have gone on to do the things that he did. He never would have gone on for three missionary journeys, and planning churches, and raising up leaders, and writing half of the New Testament. He never would have accomplished any of that unless he got this grace thing right.

And I think he got it right, well, by spending time with Jesus in Arabia, by spending time with Jesus. He never would have done it if he hadn’t. But we can get so uptight in all these different kinds of gray areas around these traditional things, can’t we? We can get so uptight. And if you’re not careful, you can find yourself in the same place I was in when I kind of in my heart was, well, I was judging other people based on where I thought they should be spiritually. And so I would think things like, well, and maybe you have too, like, “I can’t believe they went to that rated R movie. I can’t believe they’re hanging out with those friends. I can’t believe they listen to that music and they dance to it, too. I can’t believe they drink that kind of beverage. I can’t believe that they… Well, I can’t believe that their view of creation is this because, clearly, it’s not. It’s this. I can’t believe that they have that idea about the way things are gonna play out in the end when Jesus comes back and that timeline because clearly they’re wrong and I’m right.” See what we do? This is what we do in the church. We take these gray areas and try and cram them and believe them, and then we impose them on other people thinking they need to believe the same thing, or we’d never say this out loud in the church, you guys. We’d never say they don’t belong at the kitchen table, but we think, “Man, they don’t belong in my kitchen table.”

This is what we do. We never would say, “Well, they’re not in, but, man, they’re off in so many other areas.” So what do we do in our hearts? We end up being Pharisees, legalists, traditionalists. This is how we play it out. And, listen, it might be a crazy family we’re a part of, but it’s a family nonetheless because we’re in the family of God. And then he goes up, Paul goes up, these verses say, to Jerusalem to spend time with Cephas. Who is Cephas? Well, Cephas is…well, in Aramaic, it means rock. In Greek, Peter means rock. Cephas is Peter, different name, different language. So Paul had to go up and spend time with Peter. So, Peter… Can you imagine? Peter, Peter is the preacher. Peter is the guy who launched Pentecost. Peter is the guy that helped launch the church. Peter is the guy that Jesus said, “Man, I’m going to use you, Peter. I’m going to use you to take this thing to the ends of the earth.”

And so he does this whole thing with Peter, and, like, it’s Peter, Paul, and Mary…no, I’m sorry. Peter and Paul, Peter and Paul are hanging out together. They’re the dream team. They’re the partnership. Can you imagine? And then you add…well, who else did he see? James, the half-brother of Jesus. Well, not because he was the half-brother of Jesus did he want to hang out with him. Because he’s the leader of the Jerusalem church. So you’ve got Peter and Paul and James. Can you imagine that conversation? I wish I was a fly on the wall that I hear those guys standing there for two weeks talking about, “What is this going to look like?” And then Paul takes off. Verse 21, “Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. And I was personally unknown to the church of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report,” listen to this, “‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they praise God because of me.” You see what’s going on here?

For 14 years… We know that from Galatians chapter 2, verse 1. Craig will go there next week. We know it was 14 years Paul left everybody and just went and told everybody he could that Jesus is alive, for 14 years. He just went and got after it. And here’s the rumor, because people hadn’t met Paul, they knew who Paul was. He was the persecutor. He was the Pharisee of Pharisees. He was the guy that was getting after us. He’s the guy that sends other people to get after us. But they heard the report back that Paul, now Paul, who was our greatest persecutor is now one of our greatest preachers. And what did they do?

They rejoiced. They rejoiced. When’s the last time that you rejoice because you heard about somebody coming to know Jesus as their savior, you heard about somebody who became cleaned up from something they had going on in their life, you heard about somebody who was a prodigal who came home? When is the last time you rejoiced about those things? Because that’s what these people in Judea and beyond who had heard about Paul, like, “Are you kidding me? What? No way. How could that guy possibly have come to know Jesus? What? Really? Praise God. That’s awesome.” When’s the last time we did that where we worship Jesus just because of what we had been hearing about that?

So let me review with you just so you catch this because you’re going to need this for the rest of the series. You don’t need to behave a certain way to belong. All you need to do is believe to belong. You don’t need to keep certain regulations like circumcision or kosher food or rules or regulations that we keep on people in our day and age. You don’t need to do any of that. All you need is believe and you belong to the family of God. That’s all you need to do. It’s such good news. It’s grace. It’s grace alone. And Paul is making the point, “I’m not a people pleaser. I did not go to the church in Galacia and help people come to know Jesus. Because trying to please them, as a matter of fact, doesn’t make any sense. Because if I was doing that, I would appease to the Jews, my people. But I’m saying you don’t need to do all that stuff in order to get a seat at the kitchen table. Now, all you need to do is believe.”

It seems too good. It seems too good. And that’s why it’s so authentic that Paul’s the one delivering this message because of all the people on the planet, that wouldn’t make sense, it’s Paul. He must have had his life transformed. And then what happens is you want to move out on mission. When you get grace, you guys, you want to move out on mission. When you understand the mercy and the grace and the forgiveness of Jesus, you’re compelled to move out on mission for him. How do you sit there and knowing what Jesus did for you on the cross and knowing that he rose from the grave, he conquered sin and death itself and the devil, how can you sit there and know that and not be compelled to move on a mission for him? Well, Paul couldn’t. Paul got the grace, and then he had to move out on mission.

In 1993, before I was married, I went on a mission trip to Romania. When I was in Romania, God did a number of things in my own heart. I was there for 24 days, and we were doing this great ministry to college students and universities. And God was doing cool stuff there. But he was also doing something inside of me. Because to that point, boy, I was a people pleaser. I cared way too much about what other people thought about me and how I spoke and how I talked and how much Bible I knew and all this stuff. That was a long time ago. But God did some things in my heart. And when I finally surrendered that, like, “God, I don’t really care what people think anymore. I do care what You think.” That was pretty much kind of how my prayer went.

And when that happened, it was almost simultaneously a number of other events occurred on that mission trip which blew my mind. I look back, and now I go, “Only God could have done that.” Like, number one, as soon as that happened, and I understood grace really, that he loves me for me and not what I do for him, it was revolutionary. And God would call me into full-time vocational ministry on that mission trip. The other thing he did that totally blew my mind that I don’t even know what to do with at the time was I was falling in love with a girl who would end up being my wife today. Her name is Laurie. She’s my love. It’s amazing thing, when you get grace, how you want to move out on mission. When you get grace, you want to move on a mission.

Here’s a couple of questions for you to fully reflect on as we wrap up this morning. Number one, where will you lean into being liberated from people pleasing? Listen, when I was in Romania, that was way before cell phones and social media. Today, oh my goodness, there’s so many people who care way too much about likes and hearts and swipe-ups and whatever, way too many people who are paying way too much attention to that more than what God thinks about anything. We have got to be liberated. Friends, we’ve got to be liberated by the Gospel, the grace. Listen, God loves you for you, not for what you do, not for how you perform, not competitions you win, not accolades you get, graduates. It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. In the grand scheme of things, it matters much more what God thinks than what people think. That’s what really matters. By the way, it doesn’t mean your education isn’t important. It is. But in terms of which would you rather do, have God be pleased with you or people pleased with you?

Question number two is how does God’s grace compel you to live on mission for him? How does God’s grace compel you to live on mission for him? If you get grace, you’re not going to want to sit on that, you’re going to want to move out with that because it’s just so, so good, this grace, Are you with me? It’s amazing. It’s unbelievable. God created you and designed you for you to move out on mission for him. And if you get the grace, then it makes sense. Let’s pray together.

Father, we love you so, so much. And for followers of Jesus, we get the grace about salvation, but sometimes we struggle with grace after salvation. Sometimes we struggle with thinking that we still need to do things to please you, we still need to act a certain way, talk a certain way, do certain things, and you’re going to love us more. It’s just not true. It’s just not true. The same grace that saved us is the same grace that carries us through all the way until we get to go spend forever with you. It’s the same grace. Lord, forgive us for we fall into this trap of legalism. Would you set us free from that? Set us free from this idea that we need to do certain things to get a seat at the table when we don’t. We didn’t need to do it when we were saved, and we surely don’t need to do it now. And then set us free and forgive us for where we cast judgment on others. Where we are so quick to look good on the outside, but in our hearts and our minds or behind the scenes with other people, we’re critical because we can’t understand why they would do that or say that or act that way, especially when they’re a Christian. Lord, forgive us for that. Forgive us for that. Help us to lean into this grace. Help us to wash us with this grace today.

But for some here, you’re either here in person and you’re online, and this whole idea of grace alone is so foreign and so weird, and you don’t even know where to begin, and I want to help you. So where you begin is you realize that the way to get a seat at the family of God’s kitchen table is by giving your life to Jesus, by trusting Jesus as your Savior. And so if you’re here and you’re a follower of Jesus, you can pray right now with me. For those that haven’t given their lives to Jesus right now, but I invite you if you’re in this place, and you feel something stirring inside your soul, where you’re like, “Wow, I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes.” And maybe you’re steeped in this legalism thing and this Pharisee thing, and you didn’t have names for those things, but now you do and all that and any other junk that’s in your life, and you want to be set free from that, all you need to do is accept the free gift of grace that Jesus has given you. I want to help you do that.

Now, you can pray something like this right now. You can pray, “God, please forgive me. I know I’ve made mistakes against you, and the Bible calls those sins. I know that I don’t have the right motives all the time, don’t have the right actions all the time. Maybe, I mean, I’ve been leaning into legalism, and I’ve been judging other people. I’ve been in this place where it just, like, feels shallow, feels hollow. Lord, I know I fall short. I know I make mistakes against you. Please forgive me. I believe that Jesus came to earth and died on a cross for the forgiveness of sins. I believe that you rose him from the dead on the third day, and he has resurrected, and he’s alive today. And he liberates us from this sin and this junk. So, Lord, I want to trust Jesus today. I want Jesus today. I believe in Jesus today. I love you, Jesus. In Jesus’ name, we pray.” Amen.

CANCEL CULTURE

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

MAY

29/30

Galatians 2:1-10

Don’t let arbitrary rules be the thing that causes church divisions. God created the church to give believers a community to operate within. A strong community builds up individuals. God can use individuals to further his kingdom.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

Craig: Welcome to Mission Hills. So good to have you here. Let’s just get this out of the way. Broke my finger this week. To answer all your questions. I was working on a wood lathe. Got yanked into it. To answer your follow up questions, yes it hurt, no I don’t know how long I will be in this. I see a surgeon on Tuesday and yes, it is a good thing that it happened to my left hand, because I am right-handed. I think that is most of the questions. If you have more, please feel free to grab me in the lobby. But let’s get on to what we are really here for. So welcome to Mission Hills. So good to have you with us today.

We’re in the midst of a series called “Live Free,” where we’re kind of exploring the Book of Galatians for some instruction on how to narrow the gap between our experience of freedom and our expectation of it. Because the reality is that, there’s often a pretty big gap. We know that freedom is a big deal in the Christian faith. In fact, Jesus himself said, “If I set you free, you are free indeed, or you will be free indeed.” Later on, in the Book of Galatians, we’re looking through the Apostle Paul actually goes on and says, “It is for freedom that Christ sets you free.” So, clearly, there’s a big emphasis on freedom in Christianity. And yet, the reality is, there’s often a big gap between our expectation and our experience of freedom.

Last week, Pastor Jeff taught a message on one of the things that can widen the gap, which is the people pleasing syndrome, which I know is something I struggle with. Anybody else struggle with that one? Just the kind of way too much energy worrying about what other people think and whether or not they’re happy with you. Yeah, today, we’re gonna talk about kind of the opposite of the people-pleasing syndrome, which is what I call the, “I’m not pleased with people syndrome,” which is what we spend a lot of time and energy worrying about how I feel about other people rather than them, you know, worrying what they’re thinking about me. And that may not seem like it could cause a lot of a loss of freedom. But the reality is, syndrome is a very small thing, can have a big impact in freedom. I discovered that this week. The break here is really small, it’s a little fracture right there, but they, like, immobilize my arm all the way to here. And sometimes it’s like that. Sometimes a very small fracture ends up creating a huge impact on our experience of freedom. And it can certainly be that way with this tendency that we sometimes have to spend too much time and energy thinking about what other people are doing that we’re not happy about.

Now, here’s what I’ve come to understand. I really believe that too many Christians are spending too much time worrying about other Christians, and too little time living on mission. Does that make sense? It’s something I’ve definitely struggled with, maybe you have as well. But the reality is that too many Christians are spending too much time worrying about other Christians and too little time worrying about living on mission. And so what we’re going to see today actually is going to give us some insights into how to kind of get free from that particular monkey on our back.

Why don’t you go and grab a Bible, and start making your way to the Book of Galatians? We’re going to be in Galatians chapter 2 today, starting in verse 1. And by the way, as you’re getting there, here’s what you need to know. Paul has been telling us the story of how he became a follower of Jesus. He didn’t start out that way, he started out as a persecutor of the followers of Jesus. But then he met the risen Jesus on the road to a city called Damascus. And when he got to Damascus, he met with some Christians there and he ended up becoming a follower of Jesus because of that experience on the road. And he immediately began to preach around the world really telling this Gospel of freedom, he called it the message of freedom, which is basically this. He was telling people that belonging to God depends on believing in the Resurrection. The belonging to God depends on believing in the Resurrection. And that’s all that it takes.

And really where we pick up the story now is he’s gonna say, I didn’t really spend a lot of time at the center of Christianity in Jerusalem, I had a little brief moment there. But then he says this in chapter 2, verse 1, “And then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas, and I took Titus along also.” So, basically, he went back to headquarters for the second time, after fourteen years being out preaching the Gospel of freedom. And this time when he went he took a man named Barnabas and a man named Titus with him. Now, what’s interesting is that Barnabas was a Jewish follower of Jesus. So, he was a Jewish Christian. Titus, on the other hand, was not Jewish, he was what they called a Gentile or a non-Jewish follower of Jesus. And by taking these two different guys with him, he’s really setting the stage for why he’s going in the first place, which is he’s going to Jerusalem to get an answer to a question. And the question he needs an answer to is basically this, do Gentiles have to behave like Jews in order to belong? That was the question. It’s really the burning question of the day.

We don’t think much about it today because most of us who are followers of Jesus, they are not Jewish, and so we don’t act in Jewish ways. And so it never really, you know, occurred to us that maybe we would need to but in the first century, that was a huge issue, because, in the first century, some of you may be surprised to learn this. I hope not, but so let me burst your bubble. Jesus was Jewish. You know that right? He wasn’t a white dude. He was brown because he was Jewish. And all of Jesus’s original followers, his apostles, they were also Jewish, okay? And really, in the first decade or so, almost all of the followers of Jesus were Jewish, and because of that, they all behaved in Jewish ways. They all sort of, you know, kind of went along with Jewish social practices. They were circumcised. They follow the Jewish dietary restrictions, they eat kosher, they followed other Jewish social regulations because that was just who they were. They were Jewish, it was just part of their culture, they didn’t think much about it. So, it never really occurred to them that anybody would be a follower of Jesus and not behave in a Jewish way.

But then Paul came along, and he was preaching this Gospel of freedom to the Gentiles, the non-Jewish people. And they didn’t behave in Jewish ways. And that suddenly created this sort of place of tension. Up to this point, all the followers of Jesus had behaved in Jewish ways. But now suddenly, there were followers of Jesus who didn’t behave in Jewish ways. And so the question was, well, but do the Gentiles have to behave like Jews in order to belong? That was the big question that he was there to get an answer to. It’s interesting. He says, “I went in response to a revelation.” He says, “I went because God revealed some information to me. I went because God basically told me I needed to go.” And I think that’s fascinating because it means that, at this point, Paul had been preaching this Gospel for about 17 years, and he hadn’t felt the need to get this question answered.

This was clearly a back burner issue for Paul, which strongly suggests that Paul thought that this was really a matter of social differences. He saw the circumcision, he saw the Jewish dietary laws, he saw the Jewish other regulations primarily as social issues that didn’t apply to the Gentiles, okay? But apparently, God thought that this question needed to be wrestled with. God thought this question needed to be answered in a definitive way. And so even though it had been a backburner issue for Paul, God said, “No, it’s not a backburner issue, you need to go, you need to get an answer to this question.” Which really doesn’t surprise me if I think about it because the reality is this, when we turn social differences into spiritual differences, we end up with church divisions. You with me, church?

When we take social differences, and we turn them into spiritual differences, what we end up with is church divisions, divided churches. And we love to do this, by the way, we love to take social differences and turn them into spiritual things, because nobody likes to say, well, that’s just not the way I like it, or I prefer to do it this way. They’re like, “No, no, this is what God wants.” Like, it’s got to be a spiritual thing. I mean, I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s. And because of that, I got to see and even participate in the worship wars, which is where people were asking questions like, can you actually bring an acoustic guitar into church? Oh, yeah. How about an electric one? Could we do that? Well, what do you think about drums? And I had people tell me things like, “Hey, if it makes you want to dance, it’s from the devil.” And I was like, well, you know, in the Bible, David danced. So, yeah, but it was more swaying, there was no real beat involve. Come on. No, you just don’t like it. And that’s okay.

You don’t have to like it but don’t turn your preferences into spiritual principles. Don’t turn your social differences into spiritual, don’t spiritualize them, right? Because what happens when we do that is we end up with church divisions. And here’s the thing we need to understand. God hates church divisions. God hates church divisions. Jesus himself said this, this is so interesting to me in the Gospel of John, it’s recorded that he wrote, he said, “By this, everyone will know that you’re my disciples if you love one another.” Isn’t that interesting? Not, this is how they’re going to know you’re my followers if you have great doctrine. This is how they know you’re my followers if you have great theology. Not even…this is crazy. Not even, they’ll know you’re my followers by all your social practices, or even they’ll know you’re my followers by how holy you are. None of that. All those things are important. But that’s not what Jesus said was going to be the chief identifier of his people. He said, “The main way people are going to know that you’re my people, is the way that you love one another.” That’s a unity issue. That’s an issue that can’t be accomplished when we’re in the process of dividing.

The reality is, it’s hard for people to recognize that we are united in love when we’re divided over issues. The Center for the Study of Global Christianity has done the work and they’ve estimated that in the world, there are approximately 45,000 denominations of Christians, 45,000, that’s a church divided. And I wonder whether or not God looks at that and goes, “Oh I’m so pleased.” Or whether or not that gives God some heartburn. Jesus said, “They’ll know you’re my people by your love for one another.” And that’s what God hates church divisions. And it’s why he told Paul, you got to deal with this. You can’t keep this in the back burner. You’ve got to go to Jerusalem and you got to deal with this because the really what’s at risk is that the church itself might become divided. And we can’t have that. And so Paul went.

He went back to Jerusalem with Barnabas and with Titus, and he says, “And we went back and meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, with the apostles, I presented to them the Gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.” That’s an interesting phrase this is I wanted to make sure that I hadn’t been running my race in vain. What he’s saying is, I wanted to make sure I hadn’t been wasting my time. I wanted to make sure that I hadn’t been just like blowing smoke and telling people things that weren’t true. Now, understand, he’s not talking about the Gospel message itself, okay? Paul got the Gospel message that he’s preaching from Jesus himself. He’s confident that that’s the truth. He’s confident that the message is preaching there is the truth.

So, what’s he talking about? What is he worried might have been a waste of time? What you need to understand is that Paul wasn’t just saying, believing in the Resurrection frees you from your sin. That was part of it. But he said, “Beyond that, when you believe in the Resurrection, you begin to belong to the family of God, you belong to a community.” And that’s what he’s concerned might have been a waste of time because he’s concerned that if the Gentiles don’t behave like Jews, the Jews aren’t going to allow them to really belong to the family. So, really, I mean, in modern terms, think about this way, Paul was worried the Gentiles were going to get canceled, right? And we’re talking a lot about canceling these days, we got cancel culture, people getting canceled.

If you don’t know what cancel culture is, I’ll give you a little primer. Canceling is excluding someone from belonging because their behavior doesn’t meet an arbitrary standard. It’s excluding someone from belonging to a group because their behavior doesn’t meet an arbitrary standard. And I say an arbitrary standard because, in my opinion, there’s a difference between canceling and sanctioning. Sanctioning is when you apply a certain amount of pressure to get somebody to behave in a way that’s actually central to what the group is all about. So, for instance, if a guy insists on coming to basketball practice wearing football pads and tackling people, you’re going to sanction that guy, you’ll be like, dude, you can’t keep doing this, okay? That’s not how the sport is played. You’re going to try to get his behavior into line with the way the sport is actually played. Okay, that’s sanctioning. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Canceling, however, is when you say someone can’t belong because of some arbitrary standard. So, if you say, oh, well, you’re wearing Air Jordans, everybody else is wearing Nikes, so you can’t be part of the team. Well, that’s arbitrary, okay? Doesn’t work that way. There was a big actress, it was in the news a couple weeks ago. She’s an actress for Disney. She’s in “The Mandalorian.” And she said, and I don’t know that she should have said this, but she said, “Being a Republican in the United States in 2021 is like being a Jew in Nazi Germany.” We all have our opinions about whether or not that was a good thing to say or not. But the interesting is she got fired from Disney. And the thing is like, that doesn’t have anything to do with being an actress for…It’s not like she’s preaching, right? It’s not like she’s a commentator, they give her a script, they tell her what to say. They’re like, you can’t do that anymore for us because of this thing that you believe and this thing that you said over here, right?

That’s canceling. It’s an arbitrary standard. If you don’t meet it, people say, well, you don’t get to belong to the group. And that’s really what Paul’s concerned about. He’s concerned that the Gentiles aren’t gonna be allowed to belong to the community of God’s people because they don’t behave in particular ways. Because again, Paul’s message was that belonging to God and to God’s people depends on believing in the Resurrection. Belonging to God and to God’s people came from believing in the Resurrection. That’s what he’d been preaching. And that’s what he’s concerned about. That’s what he’s gone there to go, but are you gonna let them belong or not? Here was the answer he got. He said, “Yeah, not even Titus, the Gentile who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.”

Now, I don’t know if Titus was charismatic or not, but I promise you when he got that verdict, he threw up a hallelujah. Probably did a little dance, right? It’s like this is really good news. And basically what was happening was the Jewish Christian leaders said the Gentile Christians belong with us because they believe with us. They said that we’re on the same team. They’re part of the same family because they believe with us, they belong with us. That’s all that it really takes. And so yeah, they said, Paul, your message is exactly right. The Gentiles do belong with us because and only because they believe with us. Paul says this matter arose, this thing came up because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.

He said this is the reason that they came up is because some false believers had come in and they were trying to make us slaves. And it’s an interesting way that he describes them, and he calls them false believers. We know that they weren’t just Jewish people, we know that they were at least claiming to be Christians because he calls them believers, or literally in the Greek, it’s false brothers. So, they claim to be part of the family, but we also know that Paul had some serious questions about whether or not that was true because he calls them false brothers, false believers.

And this is so interesting, think about this. What these people were doing were saying to the Gentiles, I’m not sure you belong with us because of the way you’re behaving. And Paul said, let me flip the script on that one. I’m not sure you belong with us because of the way you’re behaving, only what was the behaving that he’s interested in, he was interested in the way that they were behaving by trying to make other people behave according to arbitrary standards. He said that actually raises questions in my mind about whether or not you’re part of the family, you might, in fact, be a false brother. And that’s so interesting if you think about it. What we’re being told here is that when we turn social differences into spiritual divisions, we raise questions about our place in the family.

When we say to other people, I’m not sure you’re part of the family because you don’t do this, or you do this or you think that way, you don’t think that way, and I’m not really sure you’re part of the family. We’re actually raising questions not about their place in the family, but our place in the family. When we turn social differences into spiritual divisions, we raised questions about our place in the family. That’s kind of a convicting thing to recognize, isn’t it? It is for me because I’ve done that. I’ve had questions about other people who claim to be followers of Jesus because of their doctrine, or their social practices, or different kinds of things and have the tables turned like that, it’s sobering. It is for me, maybe it is for you.

How do Paul deal with those people? He says this verse 5, he says, “We did not give in to them for a moment so that the truth of the Gospel might be preserved for you.” He’s writing to Gentile Christians, or in Galatians, he says, “We didn’t give in to those people for a moment. We didn’t give in to them for a second so that we could preserve freedom for you.” And I think this is really interesting too. Paul’s passionate about freedom, but he’s more passionate about other people’s freedom than he is his own. In other points in his ministry, we know that Paul followed the Jewish regulations even though there were social regulations. He even had some people circumcised because, in that context, it made more sense, and it allowed the Gospel to go forward. And so sometimes, he actually was willing to set aside freedom if it allowed the Gospel to go forward. But it was his freedom he was willing to set aside. He’s not willing to set aside the freedom of the people that he’s trying to reach.

And this is just really interesting to me because here’s the thing, I get really passionate when somebody gets after my freedom. Anybody else? Like, you tell me what I have to do, you tell me what I can’t do, man, you’re gonna get some passion. But if you do it to them, it’s a bummer, right? And Paul forces me to ask this question is what I’ve been asking this week, what if we’re as passionate about the freedom of others as we are about our own? What if we’re as passionate about the freedom of others as we are about our own? Paul’s very passionate about the freedom of these people that he’s shared this Gospel of freedom with.

He says, “As for those who are held in high esteem,” meaning the leaders in Jerusalem, “whatever they were, makes no difference to me. God does not show favoritism, but they added nothing to my message.” And there’s two things important there. Number one, the most important thing is he says they added nothing to my message that they said, hey, the message you’re preaching is right. You don’t have to say anything else as you’re sharing this Gospel The reality is the Jewish Christian leaders said, believing is enough for belonging. That’s all it takes. Believing in the Resurrection of Jesus is enough for belonging. The Gentiles belong with us because they believe with us. So, they said, we’re going to not add anything to your message.

But it’s also interesting to me the way he describes the leaders there, he says, “Those were held in high esteem, whatever they were, makes no difference to me. God does not show favoritism.” That’s an interesting thing to say. Why say that about them? Two major views. One group says, oh, he’s saying, you know, a lot of people think of the apostle as really highly. A lot of people are, like, oh the apostles are a big deal.” I don’t think so. That feels a little antagonistic, and at certain times and inappropriate ways. Paul’s very respectful, even deferential to the apostles that Jesus installed. So, I don’t think that’s what’s going on. I think it’s more likely that he’s talking about what the apostles used to be before they knew Jesus. That’s what he meant when he says what they were, makes no difference to me.

And here’s the interesting thing. See, Paul is an educated man. Paul is a man from a wealthy family. Paul is a man who was respected within Judaism, he had all the advantages, and the apostles had none of them. And the apostles were not guys that Jesus really should have picked to be his apostles. I mean, they were all blue-collar workers without an education behind them. They didn’t have family backing. They were mostly fishermen. One was a notorious sinner. I mean, he was a traitor to his own country, he collected taxes and cheated people out of taxes. And then, you know, gave Rome whatever they needed, but he pocketed the difference for himself. I mean, like, these are the people that Jesus said, “Hey, why don’t you come follow me?” And he ultimately made the apostles. So, Paul should have had respect, but the apostle shouldn’t have had and yet Jesus said, “Hey, what you were in the past doesn’t make any difference to me, it’s not going to keep you from belonging with me.”

And so Paul’s going “Hey, I’m not concerned about their past either, what they were doesn’t make me less respectful and it didn’t make me look at them and go, “We don’t get to belong together.” And I think what’s going on is he is saying, hey, the same kind of thing is happening where people look at the Gentiles going because where they’re coming from, maybe they don’t belong. He’s saying, if that’s the case, it should have been that way with the apostles and it wasn’t so why should it be with the Gentiles? And bottom line, what he’s saying is this he’s saying, hey, listen, your past is no obstacle on belonging. Your past is no obstacle to belonging.

And I know that there are some people that are watching this message. There are people here today that that’s the reason you’re here because you needed to hear that. Your past is no obstacle to belonging. I know there are people that are here today, and maybe God’s been working in your heart and you’ve been thinking about becoming a follower of Jesus, but there’s a part of you, there’s a voice in you saying, he doesn’t want you because of your past, because of what you’ve done, because of what you haven’t done, because of who you’ve been, or not been, Jesus doesn’t want you. And you need to hear your past is no obstacle to belonging. Some of you have said yes, following Jesus, but you’re just hanging out by the front door. So, you said a few weeks ago, you don’t think you really have a place at the kitchen table, you can just sit down and be part of the family because of your past and you need to hear your past is no obstacle to belonging. Nothing you’ve ever done, nothing you’re doing right now has to be an obstacle to belonging, Jesus died to pay the price of all of it to set you free from it, not only so that you could be free from sin but so that you could be free for belonging to God and to his people.

So, please hear this. Your past is no obstacle to belonging. That’s what Paul’s getting at there. He says they didn’t add anything to my message. On the contrary, he says, they recognize that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the Gospel to the uncircumcised, that would be to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the circumcised, to the Jews. For God who was at work, and Peter, as an apostle to the circumcised was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. And this was really important to understand. What he says there, it’s pivotal, it’s world-changing if we understand it. Because the reality is, we need some standard by which we decide whether or not somebody is part of the family, right? So, the question is, what is it? And what we often do is we end up leaning into behaving we go, well, if you really believe in Jesus, then you’ll do this, and you won’t do that, and you’ll act in this way. And so we kind of lean into behaving.

But what happens is, at that point, we’re saying, hey, believing plus behaving leads to belonging. We’ll let you belong as long as you’re believing and behaving, but that’s legalism, as we talked about a few weeks ago. It’s the very definition. But if it’s not behaving, what standard can we use to see if somebody really is part of the family? Well, what standard did the apostles use? The answer is, they looked to see whether or not God was at work, right? They said, we realized God was at work and Peter, in doing what Peter’s doing. And we looked at Paul, he goes, well, God’s at work in that. And what they basically said was this, this is so powerful, they said, “If God’s at work in you, that’s good enough for me.”

Isn’t be powerful? Can you imagine if we actually dealt with other Christians that way? I don’t agree with your theology. I think about this a little bit differently. I wish you would do this. I feel like it’s important, but I’m not sure, you know, what’s going on. But hey, hey, hey, if God’s at work in you, that’s good enough for me. We’re part of the same family. Wouldn’t that be incredible? Because the reality is, it’s not what we do, right? I don’t know that Christians invented canceled culture, but we perfected it, 45,000 denominations, we’re really good at it.

And we do it all the time. We cancel each other all the time. Oh, you put your faith in the Resurrection of Jesus, but you don’t read the King James Bible only? I’m not really sure you’re part of the family. That’s a real thing, by the way. Oh, you put your faith in the Resurrection of Jesus, but you listened to Hillsong? I’m not really sure you’re part of the family. Oh, you put your faith in the Resurrection of Jesus, but you didn’t homeschool your kids? I’m not really sure you’re part of the family. Oh, you put your faith in the Resurrection of Jesus, but you’re not a Republican? I’m not sure you’re part of the family. Oh, you put your faith in the Resurrection of Jesus, but you are a Republican? Yeah. I don’t know whether we’re part of the same family, right? Oh, you put your faith in the Resurrection of Jesus, but you put a Black Lives Matter sign in your yard? I’m not sure we’re part of the same family. Oh, you put your faith in the Resurrection of Jesus, but you’re not woke? I’m not sure we’re part of the same family.

You put your faith in the Resurrection of Jesus but you got one of those churches where they raised their hands and say hallelujah and dance around when the music’s going? I don’t know that you’re part of my family. Oh, you say you put your faith in Resurrection Jesus, but you go to those churches where you don’t raise your hand, you don’t say hallelujah and you sit there like a knot on a log when the worship team is killing it? I’m not sure we’re part of the same family.

So, we do it all the time. And what if we adopted the apostle’s attitude and said, “Hey, but if God’s at work in you, that’s good enough for me.” That’d be powerful. He says, “James, Cephas, another name for Peter and John, those esteemed as pillars, those esteemed as leaders in Jerusalem. They gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognize the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles and they unto the circumcised.” They gave them the right hand of fellowship, which is a formal way of saying, we’re on the same team, we’re part of the same family. It was a formal recognition of unity. But beyond that, they did something so important. And that is this, instead of seeing their differences as an obstacle to unity, they saw their differences as an opportunity for mission, didn’t they? They said, well, you know, God’s at work, and because he’s obeying the social regulations of the Jewish people, it’s easier for him to speak to and reach out to and to share the Gospel with the Jewish people. That’s awesome.

But because you think it’s a social regulation, you’re not overly concerned about it, you’re actually able to reach out to the Gentiles and they’re responding and saying yes to Jesus, and the churches growing, the influence of God is spreading. Hey, that’s awesome. I’m actually glad that you do that. I’m glad that we do this because if we didn’t both do those different things, different ways, we wouldn’t actually be able to reach as many people reaching. So, instead of seeing their differences as an obstacle to belonging, they saw their differences as an opportunity for mission. That’s powerful.

You know, I got friends in Dallas, which is kind of like the buckle of the Bible Belt. And they would never dream of going to church and preaching in anything less than a three-piece suit. I would not dream of preaching with a three-piece suit, you’d all be like, who died? What’s going on? You have a funeral today?
But Denver is one of the most unreached people or unreached cities in America. And I dressed the way I do partly because I want to communicate. The Gospel is not something we just do in church is part of everyday life. It’s intentional. When I first came here, I had a guy…I get a little upset about. He sent me…Actually, he wrote a letter and he gave it to my daughter to give to me. Not a good move. He’s not here anymore. I drove him out. Not on purpose. I didn’t say a thing to him. I just didn’t give in. But the letter said, “Hey, you’re the pastor of Mission Hills now, I think you can afford some dress pants.” I was like, “Dude, you know what these jeans cost me? I get way more…Come on.” And I didn’t say anything to him. And he’s not here anymore. And that’s okay. There’s other good churches and my prayers that he’s engaged. But I’m not gonna give in to that, right?

We have differences. But rather than seeing them as an obstacle to belonging, what if we saw them as an opportunity for mission? That’s what’s going on here and it’s powerful. He says, “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing that we’d been eager to do all along.” But it didn’t add anything to my message. They said, hey, just keep taking care of the poor, which Paul had already been doing. And here’s why that’s probably a significant thing. James, who is one of these leaders in Jerusalem went on to write the Book of James in the Bible. And in that book, he says this, he says, “True religion is this to look after widows and orphans.”

In other words, we can know that God’s really at work in you because you have a heart for the people that God has a heart for. We see throughout the Bible, God’s deep heart for the poor. He says, “We know when you’re looking after widows and orphans that God’s at work in you. So, it’s really it’s back to that same idea again, right? If God’s at work in you, it’s good enough for me, we just want to see the evidence of God’s at work in you. Really what they’re saying is this, bottom line is the work of God in someone’s life should be all the convincing that we need to treat them as part of the family. Or in more simple terms, if God’s at work in you, that’s good enough for me.

But how different would the church be if we actually took a hold of that? If we actually looked at other followers of Jesus and said, man, we got some theological differences, we got some doctrinal issues, we do things a little bit different, but you know what, if God’s at work in you, that’s good enough for me, you’re family. For me, that’s challenging. And you might be going okay, but how do we know if God’s at work in someone? Well, here’s what the Bible teaches us, three things I think the Bible teaches, number one, how do we know if God’s at work on someone. Number one, faith in the life, the death, and the Resurrection of Jesus as the only means to salvation. We’re told that that only happens people only believe that because of the work of the Spirit in their lives. So, if somebody says, the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus is my only hope for salvation, that’s a pretty good indicator of the God’s work in them, and we’re part of the same family.

I’ll go a step further and I’ll say, the Bible also teaches us this, that the pursuit of Christian love and unity is an example of God at work in us. As we saw, we know that Jesus says they’re going to know you’re my followers, they’re going to know the Spirit’s working in you because of the way you love one another. So, yeah, people pursuing Christian love and unity as opposed to pursuing divisions and drawing lines and moving people out of their circle, the pursuit of Christian love and unity is a good sign that God’s at work in them.

And then third, we’re going to jump ahead a little bit because later on Paul is going to talk about this in the Book of Galatians. Third sign that God’s works in somebody is the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit, we’re told in Galatians 5:22, if we can jump ahead, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, or patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, against such things there is no law. That’s how we know the Spirit of God is at work in someone because of those things. And those are all relationship things. Again, they’re the ways that we treat each other. So, how do we know if God’s work in somebody’s? Faith in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus, the only means of salvation, the pursuit of Christian love and unity, and the fruit of the Spirit. And if we see that, we say, if God’s at work in you, that’s good enough for me. So, let me ask you a couple questions to wrestle with this week.

Number one, what types of Christians am I tempted to cancel? Types of Christians are you tempted to look at and go, I don’t know that we’re part of the family, part of the same family anyway, maybe your distant cousin, but I’m not sure we’re part of the same family? Because I think we all have that. I know I do. And this passage is really challenged me to wrestle with that attitude.

And the second one is this, when you think about those groups that maybe you’re tempted to cancel, is there evidence that God is at work in them that I haven’t given proper weight to? Like, is there a sign that God’s working in them and through them that I just haven’t really paid attention to because I was so interested in the differences, the places that we disagree, that I wasn’t paying attention to the sign that the same God at work in me is the same God at work in them?

I’ll give you a personal example. This is a humbling story for me to share. But I just want to be honest with you to tell you I’m wrestling with this, and I’m gonna encourage you to do the same thing. There’s a pastor in Dallas, he’s pastor of the one largest churches in America, and theologically, he and I are on really different sides of Christianity. And I’ve never publicly called him out. And I’ve never publicly made any kind of criticism about him. But I’ve been I’ll be honest with you, in private, I have. In private, I’ve named him and I’ve said some pretty negative things about him and his ministry.

And then two things, two stories came my way that really challenged me. One of them was a story from one of my mentors, there were two guys in the airport in Dallas. One was a pastor, and the other was just a Christian. And they were talking and the pastor actually brought up this guy, he brought up this pastor, this large church and he was talking smack, like, he was, like, really giving him the business. And the guy he was talking to didn’t really say much anything. And then in the midst of the conversation, they looked up, and here came the pastor in question walking down the concourse. And the friend waved him over, and said to his friend, the pastor, “Hey, can I introduce you to my pastor?” Oh, and this is this big, really well-known guy, he spent 20 minutes just asking this pastor about his ministry and his church and what was hard. And when it was all over, he didn’t say a word about himself. He just asked questions and encourage him and he was all over. He said, “Can I pray for you?” and he prayed for him, and he is gone. Not a word about himself.

I don’t know about you but in my book, that’s humility. Like, when you lead one of the biggest churches, not only in America but the world and you don’t have a thing to say about yourself, you’re just interested in somebody else, that’s humility. And that seems like a work of the Spirit to me. That’s challenging to me. And then my wife, Coletta she runs a ministry where they raise up coaches to coach pastors’ wives, and help pastors’ families, and one of her coaches, they had a granddaughter who got sick with cancer. And so they went down to Dallas, and she was in the hospital for a long time there. And they were trying to figure things out. Well, this pastor, that I’m talking to about, his church found out about it. And they came, also they got him a place to stay. They footed the bill for that. They came and saw him every day, they provided meals and encouragement. And when it’s all over, they threw a big party at the hospital for the girl. And I heard that and I was like, dag gone it. It feels an awful lot like God at work in somebody. And so I had to repent. I’m repenting publicly of those negative things that I’ve said.

Now, I still have some differences. So, don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying theology doesn’t matter. I’m not saying the doctrine, you know, it’s up for grabs, no, like, if I got a chance to sit down, we might talk with them, and we might debate them, but we debate them as brothers because God’s at work in him. And as much as we might disagree, if God’s at work in you, that’s got to be good enough for me to at least say we’re part of the same family. So, maybe there’s a group of people that you’re tempted to cancel but you’re not paying any attention to what God’s doing through them or maybe you’re not even asking that question. Maybe you have no idea what God might be doing through him because you can’t see past the differences.

The third question, for a slightly different group, but I believe there are people who need to wrestle with this question. Is there an issue from my past that has made me question my right to belong? Because again, I think there are people listening to this that they haven’t said yes to following Jesus because they have a hard time believing that God wants them because of what they’ve been or haven’t been in their past. Or maybe you’re a follower of Jesus, but you’re just in the front door, you don’t feel like you have the right to sit down at the kitchen table and be part of the family because of an issue in your past and you need to hear, in no uncertain terms, your past is no obstacle to belonging. Would you pray with me?

God, we thank you for this word. It’s challenging for me, I think it’s challenging for many of my brothers and sisters here. And we pray that through your Holy Spirit because that’s the only way it’s gonna happen, you would allow us to take hold of this truth that we’re showed by the apostles in Jerusalem, that if God’s at work in you, that’s good enough for me, that we’re part of the same family. And, Lord, help us to deal with our differences in a way that’s part of a family so that the world might know that we’re your followers by our love for one another. We thank you for this example and pray that you would enable us to the power of your Holy Spirit to take hold of this truth.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just pray right now for the people that are listening to this, that are struggling with the feeling like they can’t belong because of something in their past, would you pray that God would break down that barrier? Because if that’s you, I need to speak to you. If you’re here today, and for whatever reason, you’re feeling like something in my past is keeping me from belonging to Jesus, or belonging to his family, you need to hear that that is a lie. You’re being lied to. Whatever voice is speaking, it is lying to you. God loves you so much that he sent his own Son to die for you. Jesus died on the cross to pay the price of your sin and remove the barrier to belonging. He rose from the dead to prove that he’d done it. And he offers you salvation and community, adoption to the family of God, and part in the people of God, simply by trusting what he did for you. And if you’ve never trusted in that, there’s no reason for you not to do it right here, right now. And if you’re ready, you’re just gonna have a conversation with God say something like this right now say, “God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying for me. I believe you rose from the dead, and I’m ready to say yes to trusting in you. Jesus, thank you for forgiving my sin and making me part of your family. I’ll follow you from now on forever.” Amen.

Can we welcome those who made that decision to join the family today? It’s awesome. I would clap but that would really, really hurt. If you made that decision today, we would so love the privilege of being able to celebrate your decision so would you do this? Would you let us know you made the decision? If you’re watching online, you can click right below me. It says I committed my life to Jesus. If you’re one of our campuses just text the word Jesus to 888111. Either way you do it, we’re just going to get the opportunity to celebrate with you because you’re gonna let us know you made that decision. We’re going to give you access to some resources that we would love to put in your hands so that you can begin experiencing this new relationship with God and with his people. And would you stand with us? God is consistent and faithful in removing barriers to belonging. Let’s celebrate the fact that he will never stop doing that for us.

HYPOCRISY

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

JUNE

5/6

Galatians 2:11-18

We continue in Galatians with the confrontation of one believer of another on how their actions were not matching their words. As Christ followers, when we have others join us in actions that differ from our declarations, we can undermine the work of the gospel. If you’re looking to take the message further, check out Craig’s reference to our weekend message from our series titled, “Potholes” from the weekend of Aug. 18-19, 2019: https://www.missionhills.org/potholes/

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

Craig: Craig: Hey there. Welcome to Mission Hills whether you are joining us online or in person, it is so good to have you with us this weekend. We’re in the midst of a series called “Live Free,” where we’re exploring the Book of Galatians, for some wisdom from God on how to narrow the gap between our expectation and our experience of freedom as followers of Jesus. Jesus himself said, “If the son sets you free, you’re free indeed.” And Paul, later in the Book of Galatians, says, “It is for freedom that Christ set you free.” So, clearly, freedom is a big deal. But there’s often a gap between our expectation and our experience of it. Now, for the last few weeks, we’ve been talking about things that we do that actually widen the gap for ourselves experiencing freedom.

Today, we’re going to kind of flip the page a little bit, and we’re going to talk about something that we can do that widens the gap for other people, okay? Something that widens the gap for other people. And in fact, this thing that we can do is one of the top two or three, typically when people say, you know, here’s the reason I’m not a Christian, this thing that we can do is usually in the top three list, and some people, even though they grew up in the church, they’ve left the church. And very often, this thing that we can do is listed in the top two or three reasons why they do that. The thing I’m talking about is hypocrisy.

Anybody uncomfortable, yet? Can we just be really honest with each other, how many of us…it’s not that really easy. How many of us have ever seen somebody else and thought, yeah, they’re a hypocrite? Can we be honest? Yeah. Absolutely. Make it a little less comfortable. How many of us have ever had anybody else accuse us of being a hypocrite? I have. Absolutely. How many of us have accused ourselves of being hypocrites? Yeah, hypocrisy is a big deal in the Christian faith, and as we’re going to see today, hypocrisy certainly has a negative impact on our relationship with God, especially when we’re talking about being hypocritical about sin, saying, I know that’s wrong and then doing it. Sin always gets in the way of a relationship with God. But hypocrisy actually can become a problem for other people in their relationship for God as well. So, it’s really important we kind of get a handle on this.

Why don’t you go out and grab a Bible and start making a way to Galatians Chapter 2, starting in verse 11. What we’re going to see today is some pretty clear teaching from Paul on why this hypocrisy thing is a big deal and why we need to get a handle on it in a particular kind of way, especially. Now what we need to know is that Paul has just told us that after 17 years of ministry, he went up to Jerusalem to consult with the Christian Jewish leaders there, people like Peter, and James, and Matthew, those guys, and he wanted to know that the Gospel he’d been preaching around the world was, in fact, the Gospel that they all agreed with. And the essence of the Gospel that he wanted to have them sort of fact check was, he said, this is what I’ve been teaching. He said, “Belonging to God and his people depends on believing in the Resurrection of Jesus, that when we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus, we’re not only forgiven of our sins and adopted of the family of God, but we actually become brothers and sisters with a whole bunch of other people, including even if you’re Gentile, meaning not Jewish, you actually belong to the Jewish people as well. You become part of God’s family. So, it’s not just salvation, but it’s also the sense of belonging.” And that have been his message, that belonging to God and his people comes from really believing in the Resurrection itself.

And the good news was the Jewish Christian leaders listen to his message, and they said, “Dude, you’re right on.” It’s a rough translation of the Greek, I’m pretty sure actually… They said, “Yeah, that’s exactly right. That’s the essence of the Gospel”. It doesn’t depend upon anything else. It just depends on believing in the Resurrection And so, that’s kind of where we left things. But then we pick up in chapter 2, verse 11, Paul says this, he says, but, and that’s not in every translation, but it’s in the original Greek, there’s a very mild but there, he says, but when Cephas, which is another name for Peter, when Cephas or Peter came to Antioch, which is a Gentile city, he says I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned. Now, let’s just acknowledge that seems pretty like harsh language, right? I mean, it kind of raises the idea that it was a showdown between Peter and Paul, right? He said I opposed him to his face, what that means though is he did it publicly because this issue was a public problem, okay? But what was the issue? We don’t know yet but he says he stood condemned, meaning it was very clear that what he was doing wasn’t in keeping with what he’d been talking about up to this point. And so, he says, I challenged him on it. He says this. He says, for certain men came from James. James would have been the Jewish Christian leader that kind of ran things in Jerusalem. I don’t know if they were actually from James or just claiming to be from James but he said, “For before certain men came from James, he, Peter used to eat with the Gentiles.” That’s what he used to do.

Now, what we need to understand is that wasn’t done. Jews didn’t eat with Gentiles. In the ancient world, that was one of the major ways that Jews separated themselves socially from the Gentile people. Is one of the major ways they said, “We’re God’s people, and they’re not.” In the ancient world, eating with somebody was a sign of sort of intimate fellowship. And so Jews just didn’t do it. But he says Peter used to because Peter understood what we all agreed when we were back in Jerusalem, which is that believing in the Gospel is enough for belonging to God and to God’s people. So, he says what he used to do, but then some men from James came, at least claiming to be from James, Jewish Christians came. And apparently, something changed. In other words, Peter began to act like a hypocrite. What did he do? We’re told this. “But when they arrived, he began to draw back and to separate himself from the Gentiles.” In other words, he started going, yeah, you know, I know, maybe you’re saved by your belief in the Resurrection, but I don’t know that you really belong with the Jews in the same way that I do, because I’m Jewish and I follow this certain sort of Jewish social practices and regulations. And so he began to pull back, he began to stop eating with them. In other words, he was basically saying, “You and I, we really don’t belong together.”

Now, that’s exactly opposite of what he and Paul had agreed on the last time that Paul had been in Jerusalem. So, he was saying one thing, but he was doing something else with his actions. And so really, we have a word for that when somebody says, I believe this, but then they act in a way that doesn’t line up with that. And that word is hypocrisy. So, the hypocrisy, here’s why I think it’s helpful for me to define hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the gap between what we declare and what we demonstrate. It’s the gap between what we declare we believe, and what we demonstrate we believe by what we do. And you know that the old phrase goes, right? So, seeing is believing, so you can say all you want, but when I see you acting this way, that’s what I’m really going to believe about what you think. And also we have this phrase that says, “Your actions speak so loud, I can’t even hear your words.” That’s hypocrisy. It’s there’s this gap between what we declare and what we demonstrate with our actions. Now, hypocrisy is something I think we all deal with on one level or another. But the question is, why does it happen? Why do we have this gap? Why do we say and maybe we genuinely do believe, maybe it’s not fake? There are some people, I guess, who, you know, they say they believe these things, but then you kind of look at their lives, and you’re like, “I just think you’re playing a game. I don’t think you actually believe them.” But that’s not most of us, right? Most of us actually, no, no, I really do believe this, but somehow there’s a gap between what I declare and then what I demonstrate. So, why does that happen? For sincere in what we’ve said, then why do we have this gap between what we said and what we’ve demonstrated?

Well, Paul points as to a really major contributor to hypocrisy and what he says next. He says, he did this because he was afraid of those who belong to the circumcision group. That would mean the Jewish people, probably the Jewish Christian people, okay? They’re probably believers in Jesus, but they’re saying, hey, you got to behave in these ways before you can belong. So, you’re saying to the Gentiles, you can’t really be part of us until you begin to behave like one of us. And Paul says, this is the reason that Peter began to act with hypocrisy is because he was afraid. And I think that’s really important to kind of lean into for a moment.
Because again, there are those people who say, “Oh, I believe this. I’m a follower of Jesus, I believe this is a sin. And that’s a sin. And I want to do that.” But then they turn on and they just do it. But honestly, we kind of know pretty quickly that you didn’t really believe that when you said it, is just a show. But that’s not most of us. Most of us, I think more like Peter, no, when we say it, we genuinely mean it. When we declare it, we actually believe it. But then something happens to keep us from actually demonstrating it. And why does that happen? Well, here’s the reality is that hypocrisy is often a symptom of fear. It’s often a symptom of fear. It’s a fear that, well, if I live consistently between what I declare and demonstrate, then you might not like me. It’s a fear that there might be a conflict with somebody. It’s a fear that I might not get the promotion. It’s a fear that she won’t go out with me. It’s a fear that he won’t go out with me. It’s a fear that the relationship won’t develop in the way I thought it would. It’s a fear that in some way, we’re going to lose out on something that we think is really important.

And the reality is sometimes the things that we think are really important aren’t that important, but we still feel that. And so the fear of losing out on something like that can often drive us to create a gap between what we declare and what we demonstrate. Hypocrisy is often a symptom of fear. So, I think this is actually a really important question to ask.

First, we need to identify our hypocrisy. And again, I admitted I’ve been accused of being a hypocrite and I’ve accused myself because there are times that I’m absolutely hypocrite, the times that I absolutely have this gap between what I declare and demonstrate. So, let’s ask ourselves this question, where is there a gap between what I declare and what I demonstrate? I encourage you to wrestle with that question. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you and identify one of those places, well, yeah, you need to close the gap because there’s too wide a divide there. So, where is there a gap between what you declare and demonstrate?

And then the next question that you really want to lean into is this. Is there a fear driving that hypocrisy? Is there a fear driving that hypocrisy? And in Peter’s case, we don’t know exactly what the fear was, it might have been a fear that, you know, they won’t respect me anymore if I don’t separate myself from the Gentiles. It might have been a fear that the Jews were saying, oh, you know, we have certain protections from the Roman Empire as Jews, but, you know, if you’re going to eat with Gentiles, then we’re no longer separate. And so we could end up with the same kind of persecution that the Gentiles get as followers of Jesus. So, maybe it was them, maybe it’s fear of losing something like that. I don’t know what it was.

But the reality is that we’re often driven to hypocrisy by fear. And so that’s the next question, what fear might be driving this hypocrisy? I believe that Peter was authentic in what he declared back in Jerusalem with Paul. I believe that he really meant it. I believe that he was sincere, but fear got ahold of him, and fear drove hypocrisy. He says, and this is why this is such a big deal to Paul. He says, “It wasn’t just Peter,” he says, “The other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy so that by the hypocrisy, even Barnabas was led astray.” Now, he’s talking here about other Jewish followers of Jesus. So, it wasn’t just that Peter did it. He drove the other Christian Jews in Antioch to follow along with him, they joined him in his hypocrisy. Even Barnabas, he says. Barnabas is one of Paul’s closest companions. Barnabas had been with Paul traveling all over the world, telling the Gentiles, “Hey, believing in the Resurrection is enough for belonging to God and his people.” Even Barnabas, he says, join him in that. I think we need to recognize this. I don’t like it, but it’s true. Hypocrisy is contagious. Hypocrisy is contagious. It’s easy to think of hypocrisy as one of those things where it’s just me, it’s just hurting me, it’s just hurting my relationship with God. But the reality is that hypocrisy is contagious. And it often finds itself taking root in other people around us.

Even Barnabas, he says, and he uses an interesting phrase, he says, “Even Barnabas was led astray.” And the Greek word that he uses there, very unusual, very powerful word literally means something like, experienced to death together with, is even Barnabas, experienced death together with Peter. Now, that’s kind of extreme. But the point is, Paul looked at what was going on here, and he said, this is unbelievably damaging to the Gospel. This is unbelievably damaging to the good news that we’re sharing. This is unbelievably damaging to the church because it’s creating a division as we saw last week. God hates church division. He says, this is serious business. Here is the reality. The gaps of our hypocrisy can become holes that others fall into. The gaps in our hypocrisy can make them holes that other people fall into. So, it’s no longer just that there’s a gap between what I declare and what I demonstrate, sometimes that gap is so deep that other people fall into it, and they get hurt even worse than we do. Other people around us experience more substantial negative effects than we do. And so, it’s important that we get a handle on this hypocrisy because it’s not just us, it’s contagious. And it’s contagious in a way that could cause tremendous harm. He says, “So, when I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel.” And I love that, so interesting. When I saw that the way they were acting wasn’t in line with the truth of the Gospel. And here’s the thing, like typically we use that phrase, not lining up with the truth, the Gospel, we tend to use that to talk about sort of sin, right?

Somebody says, you know, “I’m a follower of Jesus, but I’m sleeping around,” or somebody says, “I’m a follower of Jesus, but I’m cheating on my wife,” or somebody says, “I’m a follower of Jesus, but I’m stealing from my company or doing these horrible things.” You go, yeah, your life doesn’t line up with the Gospel. But notice here what he says, the way that Peter’s life wasn’t lining up with the Gospel, the way that the other people that had gotten sort of infected by this weren’t lining up with the Gospel was why, it’s just because they weren’t eating. It’s just because they were separating themselves from these Gentiles, these non-Jewish followers of Jesus. And that’s the essence of the Gospel that was at stake there. Because remember the Gospel that Peter has been teaching, the Gospel that Paul’s been teaching, the Gospel they’d agreed together was the essence of the good news was that believing is enough for belonging. But he says, now you’re acting in a way that makes us sound like no belonging requires believing and behaving. He says that doesn’t line up with the Gospel. The Gospel is that Jesus died for our sins and simply by believing in his death and his Resurrection, we are adopted into the family of God and we belong as part of that family. This is separating them for other Christians. That didn’t line up with the Gospel message itself. He says, “So, I said to Cephas it’s in front of them all, you are a Jew, and yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it then that you forced Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” He says, “You’re a Jew, but you’re not living like one, you’re actually living like a Gentile.”

Okay. What does that mean? How is Peter living like a Gentile? So, to understand that we actually have to go back to an earlier event from Peter’s life. When you read about Acts, chapter 10, if you want to get all the details, but I’ll just kind of give you the summary. Early on in his ministry after Jesus had risen from the dead, and then ascended into heaven, Peter was in prayer. And while Peter was in prayer, there was another thing happening there. There was a man named Cornelius, he was a Gentile centurion, a Gentile soldier. And an angel came to Cornelius. And then the angel tell Cornelius, “Send for a man named Simon Peter and tell him to come to your house.” Now, it’s interesting to me, the angel could have just said, go to Simon’s house, but that’s not what the angel said. The angel said, no, no, you call Peter to come to your house, which means that Peter would have had to come into a Gentile house, which again, was never ever done. And so, the soldier sent his servants and as the servants are on their way, Peter is praying, and he has a vision. And in the vision, very strange thing, again, read it the details in Acts 10 if you want, there’s kind of like a big piece of linen, like a sale or something like that. And he sees it’s lowering from the heavens, and it’s got all kinds of unclean animals in it. The kind of animals that Jews didn’t eat, they weren’t considered kosher. So, probably, you know, there were shellfish and things like that. Probably also, pigs in there, it might have been the original pig in a blanket. I don’t know. Something like that.

It seems to be what happened. And Peter sees it coming down. He’s like, “Oh, you know, like, what? That’s really weird. I need to distance myself from that.” And God says or a voice says in this vision says, “Kill and eat.” In other words, and probably literally sacrifice and eat, which is a religious thing. And Peter goes, “No, no, he goes, I get it, this a test. I’m not gonna fail this test. I know, as a Jew, I never eat those things, so I would never do that. I’ve never done that God, and I’ll never do that.” And God says, very interesting. He says, “Don’t call unclean what I have made clean.” It happens three times. Each time, same thing happens, Peter goes, “No, I’m not supposed to do that.” And God says, “Stop calling unclean what I have made clean.” And as the vision ends, the servants get there and they said, “Hey, I need you to come back to this Gentile’s house.” And Peter, at that moment, recognize that what was going on was that God had been preparing him to build a relationship with a Gentile, to go to his house almost certainly to eat in that Gentile’s house, and maybe to eat some of the foods that Jews didn’t normally eat. We know for absolute certain that he was being prepared to have a relationship with a Gentile, to say to the Gentile, we can be family if you believe in Jesus. He might also have been saying, you can also when you’re with Gentiles, you can eat Gentile foods, you can eat non-kosher, non-Jewish food, unclean food, that’d be the natural interpretation. But we know at the very least, it was an invitation to go and eat with him and to be present with him.

And so that’s what Peter has been doing for the last several years probably. He has been going into Gentile homes, he’s been eating with Gentiles, maybe also eating unclean food in at least in the presence of those Gentiles, because they would have been serving him food that wouldn’t have been clean, so he’d eat with them. It almost required that. That’s how Peter has been living. He’s been living like a Gentile. And now, Paul says, but you’re changing it. You’re changing it. You’re backing away from it, you’re becoming a hypocrite. And he challenges him, he says, you know, we who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles. And I think he’s being a little kind of sarcastic there. Because it was really easy for Jews to think, well, we’re holy, we’re God’s people, we’re righteous, but the Gentiles, they’re filthy animals, almost. So, there’s a little sarcasm, he says, you know, we, who are Jews by birth we’re not sinful Gentiles. We aren’t born that way. We know that a person is not justified by the works of the Law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. He says we know that we’re not justified. And if you’re not familiar with the word justified, think of it this way, basically, it’s the ability to live as though we had never sinned. We use the word justified, you know when we do something wrong and somebody catches us, we try to do what? We try to justify ourselves. We try to explain why it wasn’t really wrong, okay? That’s not quite what Paul means. Paul means no, we’ve actually done wrong things. And so the question is, how do we get away from the guilt of it? How do we eliminate the guilt of the wrong that we’ve done?

And he says, it’s not by the works of the Law. What’s the law? It’s the Old Testament Law. It’s the Old Testament rules and regulations which included some social regulations for the Jewish people, but also a lot of spiritual-moral regulations. He says, we can’t get rid of our guilts by following the works of the Law, we can only do it by faith in Jesus. Jesus died on the cross to pay for sins, he rose from the dead. He says, that’s the only way that we’re justified. It’s the only way that our guilt is eliminated. That’s the Gospel, right? It’s the believing in Jesus erases the guilt of our bad behaving, right? That’s the Gospel. Believing in Jesus erases the guilt of our bad behaving, of our sin, of all the wrongs that we’ve done. We’ve all done it. We’ve all got guilt, so how do we get rid of it? He says, it’s by faith in Jesus. Jesus was the only sacrifice for it. He says, we know that, right? Even as Jews, we know that’s the only way to get rid of the guilt of our sin. He says, and so we too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus, that we, he is talking about Jews, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law because by the works of the Law, no one will be justified. He says, following all the rules and regulations, the Old Testament will never get you to guilt-free. It’s never gonna happen. Why not? Because just not sinning by following the rules doesn’t get rid of all the sin you’ve already committed.

And when we’ve all broken the law, Paul says, “We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We’ve all broken the laws of the Old Testament, some of them the social regulations, but also the spiritual and the moral commandments. He said we’ve all broken them. And the problem is, you can’t get rid of the guilt of that by just not breaking more in the future, right? By following the rules in the future. I mean, think about it like this, somebody comes and they steal your life savings. And then they go, “Yeah, I did that. I’m sorry about that, but I’m not going to do it again.” So, I’m guiltless now, right? Would you feel like that is true? Is their guilt gone just because they say I’m not gonna do it to you again? No, and that’s what Paul’s getting at. He says, you know, we haven’t followed the Law. So, even if we were able to, which we aren’t, but even if we were able to follow the Law perfectly from here on out, it wouldn’t change the fact that we’re guilty from having already broken it. So, he says, no one can be justified by the works of the Law. In other words, think of it this way, we can’t remove past guilt with present goodness. Does that make sense? We can’t remove past guilt with present goodness. It is fine to try and be better. It’s fine to try to follow God’s law and be good. That’s great. But it doesn’t take care of the past sin. We cannot remove past guilt with present goodness. He says we can’t be justified by the works of Law, it’s only by faith.

He says, “but if in seeking to be justified in Christ, to be forgiven of our sin, it be our faith in Jesus, we, Jews find ourselves also among the sinners. Doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not. And that is a confusing sentence. Anybody else is a little confused by that sentence? Man, I’ll read it again. It’s not going to help. “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not.” Okay. Let me break it down for you. Actually, probably the best thing to do is to paraphrase it. Here’s basically what Paul’s saying. It’s a paraphrase. He says, “If believing in Jesus means that we Jews now belong with the Gentiles, does that mean that Jesus promotes sin since it’s always been a sin for Jews to associate with the Gentiles? Of course not. Does that help? It had always been considered a sin on part of the Jews to associate with Gentiles, he says, so now because we’re justified in Christ, we’re associated with Gentiles. Does that mean we’re doing something sinful? Of course, not. Because Jesus’s death eliminated the barrier between Jews and Gentiles. It really eliminated the barrier between everybody in God and everybody at each other. There really aren’t any more barriers. There’s no dividing wall of hostility. He says in the Book of Ephesians, “The death of Jesus removed all of those barriers to belonging.” So, just because we’re hanging out with Gentiles now, that doesn’t mean that we’re sinning. Of course, that’s not sin. But then he says something fascinating. He says, “If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.” That is a fascinating sentence.

He says, hanging out with Gentiles doesn’t make me a sinner. In fact, that Jesus calls me to hang out with Gentiles doesn’t mean that Jesus is promoting sin, okay? Because we all bond together by faith in Jesus. But he says, you want to talk about being a lawbreaker, here’s where it is, “If I rebuild what I destroy, then I would be a lawbreaker.” What is he talking about? What could he be rebuilding that he’s destroyed? And the answer is, it’s the division between him and the Gentiles. It’s the division between him and anybody else who believes in Jesus. He says, if I distance myself, if I refuse to acknowledge that we all belong together, then I’m a real lawbreaker. What laws is he talking about? Well, later on in the Book of Galatians, he’ll talk about the law of Christ. Galatians, 6:2, he says this, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” That’s the law that he’s beginning to think about. The law that matters more than anything else, the law of Christ, okay, well, what is the law of Christ? Well, he sort of answered there, doesn’t he? Bearing each other’s burdens keeps us from breaking. In other words, the law of Christ is something about loving one another. It’s something about being part of this thing together and caring for each other. And I think ultimately, he’s referring to what Jesus himself said in the Gospel of John.

Jesus himself said, John 13:34, he said, “A new command I give you, a new law I give you. Literally, love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. And by this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” And that actually is kind of a summary of something he said earlier in his ministry, people came to him and they said, hey, you know, there’s a lot of laws in the Old Testament, you know, like, could you give me like the top couple of them? In fact, could you just give me the top one? Like, let me just start with one, and then we’ll work our way out from there, okay? What’s the most important one? And he said, oh, the most important law is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” And they were like, “Okay, good.” He’s like, “No, no, stop. Because there’s a second one that’s so close to it.” He said, there’s another one like it, it’s so closely tied to it that you really can’t just do one without the other. It’s like two sides of the same coin. And I’m like, “Okay, well, what’s the second one.” He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Now, that wasn’t even new to Jesus, some of the other Pharisees and religious teachers, said really all of the Laws of the Old Testament kind of come down to those two things, love God and love others. And so, now Jesus says, yeah, a new command I give you, let’s make this the shining example of what it means to be a law follower. This is the law, love one another, as I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you’re my disciples if you love one another.

And so, Paul says but if I stopped hanging out with Gentiles, if I stopped treating them as part of the family just because we have some differences, then I would really be a lawbreaker. Not breaking any laws by hanging out with them, but by refusing to hang out with them, by refusing to call them part of the family, that would be breaking the law of Christ. And that I can’t do. The bottom line, what he says here in this section is when we allow our differences to become divisions, we become hypocrites who reverse the work of the Gospel. That’s the essence of this passage. When we allow our differences to become divisions, we become hypocrites who reverse the work of the Gospel. Let me just make sure we understand each of those terms. What I mean by differences. Well, in Paul’s case, he’s talking about social differences. So, for the Jews, it was circumcision, it was eating kosher, some of those Jewish social regulations. But it goes a little farther than that in the modern world, we could extend that and go, it also has to do with differences of things like race and ethnicity. It also would include things like politics. If you believe in the Resurrection, but you have different politics, you still have to say, yeah, but we’re still part of the family. It’s a disagreement among the family. So, politics would be included in that. It would include things like we talked about last week, like, okay, well, you know, if it makes you want to dance, it’s from the devil. I don’t like that kind of music, it’s bad. And other people go no, like, when Tyler gets going on drums back here, and you feel like I’m starting to dance. I hope this is not from the devil. I don’t know what’s that. But you’re okay with that. That’s okay. That’s the kind of differences we’re talking about here, okay?

Sometimes it’s even theology. There are places of theology where we can have differences, places where it’s just not really clear, like, you know, some of you may consider yourselves Calvinists. And some of you may consider yourselves Arminianist. And some of you may go, what are you talking about? Some of you may believe in the pre-tribulation rapture, some of you may believe in the post-tribulation rapture. And some of you are going, what are you talking about? Yeah, because we don’t really dwell a lot on those things because there’s some gray area in scripture. And so we don’t make those major issues, we just don’t, not here at Mission Hills, because we don’t want those differences to lead to division. That’s the kind of things we’re talking about here. We’re not talking about sin. Let me be clear about that. We’re not talking about things that the Bible clearly says that’s wrong or that’s right, okay? When our differences become divisions, what kind of divisions are we talking about? Again, we’re talking about this tendency to draw smaller circles and say, well, these are the real Christians, but because you differ in the ways we just talked about, maybe you’re a second cousin or something like that, but you’re not really part of the family. There’s these lines of division, and we don’t treat each other as brothers and sisters. As we said last week, there’s 45,000 denominations of Christians in the world. And the reality is that most of those 45,000, look at the other 49,999 and go, you’re not really part of the family. That’s not healthy. More importantly, it’s breaking of the law of Christ. It’s kind of division.

We’re not saying that you can’t disagree. We’re not saying you can’t debate, we’re not saying you can’t argue about it. We’re not even saying this probably dangerous thing but I’m going to say no, we’re not even saying that you can’t go to a church where most of the people think like you do on those issues. I think that’s okay, as long as we don’t allow ourselves going yeah, but the only people who are really brothers and sisters in Christ, are the people who think like I do in this issue. That’s when it becomes not okay. That’s the kind of divisions we’re talking about. When we do that, it becomes hypocrisy. What do we mean by hypocrisy? There’s a gap between what we declare, which is the believing in the Resurrection is all it takes for belonging to God, and that it’s because of our belonging to God that our behavior begins to change. And again, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that sin doesn’t matter. I’m not saying the way that we act and the way we live doesn’t matter. It absolutely does. Maybe not in those gray areas, maybe not in those social things. But there’s a lot of behaving that actually follows from a relationship with God. The question is how you get there. Some people say, well, you got to believe in the Resurrection and behave according to these things before will let you belong. And Jesus seems to go, “No. Believe in me, and you’ll belong. And it’s that belonging that will lead to a radical transformation in your behaving.” So, again, we’re not saying behaving doesn’t matter. The question is, how does it come about? How does that transformation happen? And the Gospel seems to say it comes from a relationship with God that comes from just believing in the Resurrection. But when we reverse that, we go, oh, yeah, you need to believe but you also need to behave in this particular ways before I’m going to say that you belong. That’s widening the gap between what we declare and what we demonstrate. That’s hypocrisy.

What does hypocrisy lead to? He says it reverses the work of the Gospel. Meaning what? It means it actually drives people away. Our hypocrisy becomes a hole. It’s not just a gap between what we declare and demonstrate it becomes a hole that other people fall into, and are unable to get to God or honestly don’t think there is even an option for them to get to him. Reverses the very work of the Gospel. So, let me ask the question we’ve already asked. But let’s lean into this a little bit more. Where is there a gap between what I declare I believe and what I demonstrate I believe? Question number two, is there a fear driving my hypocrisy? Is there something I’m afraid of losing, something I’m afraid of that’s causing me to have that gap? Then the last question, what am I going to do about it? What are you going to do about that fear? We could spend a lot of time talking about that one. We’ve done a full teaching on fear here, not too long ago. In fact, if you want to dig into it a little bit more depth, a couple of summers ago, we did a series called Potholes, and there was a message called Fear. I think it was August 18 of 2019. If you’re going to go back and listen to that. We’ll talk about in that message what the Book of Proverbs says about defeating fear.

But for now, let me just say this. Fear has its greatest influence on us when we don’t understand that it’s there. It’s when we don’t realize that I’m afraid of something and that that’s driving me that we’re kind of at its mercy. And so just asking that question, you know, where’s the gap and is there a fear? If I’m really honest with myself, and I’m asked the Holy Spirit to show me, is there a fear that’s driving that gap that hypocrisy? Just being aware of that allows us to begin the most important thing, which is to say to fear, “I hear your voice. I see what you’re doing, I’m just not going to give you the final vote.” I’m not going to allow you to drive me to live in a way that widens the gap and reverses the Gospel. Would you pray with me?

God, we come as your people. And we would just confess that on some level this passage is a little hard to relate to. All this Jew-Gentile stuff, and circumcision and social laws and kosher, like, that feels distant and feels really, really separate and just disconnected from the world that we live in. But Lord, when we get down to the bottom of it and realize that this is really all about hypocrisy, that’s really all about that gap between what we declare and what we demonstrate, at that point, we recognize this as timeless truth. And as your people Lord, we confess our hypocrisy to you. We confess all the ways that we’re aware of that we create the gap between what we declare and what we demonstrate. We ask for your forgiveness. Holy Spirit, we invite you to show us places where fear is actually driving us to be hypocrites. Help us to see what that fear is so that we can say to it, “I hear your voice, but you don’t get the final vote in my life. And I’m not going to reverse the work of the Gospel because of that fear.” Because the Gospel is the invitation that all who have sinned and recognize their sin and come to Jesus are forgiven of their sin. That’s the Gospel that simply by believing in what Jesus did for us, we’re not only forgiven of our sin but we’re adopted into the family of God, God becomes our Father and we get all kinds of brothers and sisters with all kinds of differences. But we get a family that begins now and goes on forever. And that would that is good news that we want to advance the work of not reverse.

In fact, right now, if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just pray for that very thing? Would you pray that the Gospel would advance, that would reach into new lives? Specifically, maybe people are listening to this message right now, and you’ve never said yes to following Jesus, maybe you’ve never said yes to following Jesus because you’ve seen hypocrisy in the church. And I just want to say we’re sorry. We’re not perfect, but we don’t need to be in a relationship with God because of what Jesus did for us. Maybe it’s not hypocrisy, and maybe there’s something else that you felt would keep you from having a relationship with God, maybe that he wouldn’t want you and you need to hear the truth. The only thing keeping you from belonging to God and his people is your decision about whether or not to say yes to Jesus. God loves you so much, he sent his own Son to die for you. He died on the cross to pay for your sins. Three days later, God raised him from the dead. And Jesus forgives us of our sin, and brings us into a relationship with God, and makes us part of his family forever, simply by putting our trust in him. And if you’ve never done that, I want to urge you to do it right now. Wherever you are you just gonna have a conversation with God. You’re gonna say something like this. Say it right now to him, say,

“God. I’ve sinned. I’ve done wrong. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me. I believe you rose from the dead. And I’m ready to put my faith in you. Jesus, I’m trusting your death and your Resurrection. I’m accepting your gift of forgiveness. Adoption into the family of God for now and forever. Amen.” Can we celebrate those who’ve made that decision to trust Jesus today? Fantastic.

GOSPEL GLUE

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

JUNE

12/13

Galatians 2:19-3:14

The grace of God is what draws us to God in the first place. We experience it as the Holy Spirit working in us so we can begin living righteous. In terms of who we are and how we live Grace allows our believing to lead to belonging and on to behaving as the people God intended us to be. Grace holds it all together.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT
Craig: Oh, hey, welcome to Mission Hills, so good to have you with us today, whether you’re joining us in person or online. We’re in the midst of a series called Live Free, where we’re exploring the Book of Galatians in the Bible for God’s wisdom on how we can experience freedom as followers of Jesus. And I feel like we probably ought to acknowledge that maybe some of you are listening to this going, I don’t see how religion is a good way to pursue freedom. Because that’s not normally how we think about religion, right? We don’t think of it as a freedom-producing thing. And if you think about it, I mean, the Old Testament part of the Bible in which both Judaism and Christianity are based, the Old Testament has 613 commandments. It’s not…does not sound like freedom does it?

And they’re on the gamut too. You got commandments, like, you know, don’t kill each other, don’t murder, and don’t boil a baby goat in its own mother’s milk. I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of like, “Okay, that’s a good one. And is that a problem? Like were people doing that?” And then there’s a part of me that goes like, “Hey, am I missing out on a culinary experience of some kind? Because it’s never even occurred to me to do that.” But that’s kind of what the law does, right? It sort of makes us go, you know, any time somebody says, “Don’t do that.” You’re like, “But what if I did? And what am I missing out on and if I don’t, right?”

And to make things even more confusing throughout the Book of Galatians, Paul has consistently told us that following the Old Testament rules and regulations don’t save us. That following the Old Testament rules and regulations aren’t how we get to the point where we belong to God and to his people. In fact, the clear message throughout the Book of Galatians has been belonging to God and his people depends on believing in the Resurrection of Jesus, believing in Jesus. And so if that’s the case, then why do we have the laws? And if that’s the case, then why has God given us all of these Old Testament laws? And how do we understand them? And that’s really what we’re going to begin to turn our attention to today. So whether you’re a follower of Jesus, who’s always wondered like, “Why exactly are there all those rules and regulations in the Old Testament?” Or maybe you’re not a follower of Jesus but you’ve always wondered how Christians are supposed to think about all these rules and regulations. Do we obey them? What’s the purpose of obeying them? Wherever you’re coming from? You’re going to get part of the answer to that question today. Not the whole thing, but an important piece of the puzzle.

So if you want to go and grab a Bible, start making your way to Galatians. We’re going to be in Galatians chapter 2, starting in verse 19 today. And really what’s been happening for the last few bits of Galatians is that Paul has been explaining why he had to give a public challenge to Peter. Peter was one of the early leaders of the church. He was a Jewish-Christian follower of Jesus. And Paul has accused him of hypocrisy because at a certain point, Peter was willing to hang out with, to associate with Gentile-Christians, meaning non-Jewish followers of Jesus. But then some other Jewish-Christians came and Peter got afraid of what they would think of him, or maybe say about him, or something else they might do to cause problems. And so he began to disassociate to separate himself from the Gentile, non-Jewish followers of Jesus.

And so there was…there’s kind of a split going on in the church between the Jewish Christians and the non-Jewish Christians. And Paul has confronted Peter and said, “Hey, you’re being a hypocrite. You can’t do that.” Hanging out with Gentile-Christians isn’t breaking any of God’s laws. In fact, he says it’s the opposite that’s true. If you refuse to hang out with them, if you refuse to associate, if you refuse to consider them as part of the family, then you’re breaking one of God’s most important laws. But of course, that raises the question then, you know, what is the business with all these laws and these rules and regulations? How are we supposed to think about them? And this is what Paul says. He says, “For through the Law…” meaning the Old Testament rules and regulations, “…through the Law, I died to the law so that I might live for God.”

So we start off with a very simple sentence. Really easy to understand. I probably don’t need to say anything more about it, right? Yeah. For through the Law I died to the Law so that I might live for God. Well, what’s he saying? Well, what he’s saying here really is that one of the most important functions of the law is this, here’s the way I usually say it. It’s that the law kills the idea that “better than” is good enough. The law kills the idea that “better than” is good enough. So here’s the thing, we all tend to think that when it comes to belonging to God, as long as I’m better than those people, as long as I’m better than enough people, then that’s good enough. We tend to think that God grades on a curve, right? We do. It’s just very, very natural.

In fact, whenever I’m talking to somebody, like at a coffee shop, or on a plane or something, and the issue of heaven comes up, sometimes people will tell me they believe in heaven. And so I’ll usually ask, I’ll go, “Hey, cool. So do you think you’ll go there?” And it’s interesting, almost nobody says I doubt it. Like, that’s never an answer I get. I do get some, “Well, I really hope so.” But mostly what I get is, “Well, yeah, yeah, I think so.” And so I’ll usually lean in. I go, “Well, why do you think that? I mean, not that I’m doubting you, but why do you think you’re going to be in heaven?” And I almost always get some version of the same answer, which is, “Well, I’ve never killed anyone.” I’ve come close a couple of times, but I’ve never actually gone through it, right. Or, you know, I’ve never cheated on my wife or I’ve never stolen from my company.

And sort of implied in all of those is kind of the unspoken like those people, right? I’ve never killed anybody like those people. I’ve never cheated on my spouse, like those people. I’ve never stolen from my company like those people. And really what’s happening there is we’re just seeing pretty good evidence that most of us think, most people think that better than is good enough. As long as I’m better than those people, then I must be good enough for God. And so it’s interesting that we tend to think that but if we really dig into that, we realize we don’t actually believe that. We think it but we don’t really believe it in our heart of hearts.

I mean, think about this, imagine somebody has to go get a surgery. Say you have to go get a surgery. Now, it’s not a big surgery. It’s just a pretty, you know, it’s an in and out, you know, kind of an inpatient procedure. But you got to get it done. And you call up a surgical center and they say, “Well, we got two surgeons who could do that for you.” The first surgeon has lost 75% of his patients on the operating table. And you’re like, “Let’s talk about the second one.” And they go, “Yeah, he’s lost 78% of them.” Now, 75% is better than 78%, is that good enough for you? Probably not, right?

Or how about this, let’s imagine that you’re thinking about marrying two different people and God tells you, “Hey if you married this person, they’re going to cheat on you five times. If you married this other person, they’re going to cheat on you four times.” Is better than good enough for you? You’d probably say no. And the reality is this, in all the most important areas of life better than is not good enough. It’s not. We know it. We get it. But we forget it when it comes to God. When it comes to God, we tend to default back to that thing and go, “Yeah, as long as I’m better than those people then I’m good enough for God.” And what the Old Testament Law does is it kills that idea. Because what we find in the Old Testament Law is the standard for belonging to God isn’t being better than those people, it’s actually being like God.

God, himself is the standard for whether or not we really belong with him. In fact, what the Old Testament Law says. This is Leviticus. God said, “Be holy, because I am holy.” That’s the standard, being holy. I don’t know if you know about this about holiness, but holiness is not a gradient. There’s no such thing as being a little holy. You’re either holy or you’re not. It’s like, I don’t know why people do this but I hear it all the time, “Oh, she’s a little pregnant.” What are you talking about? She’s pregnant or she’s not pregnant. It’s an either/or situation, okay? Holiness is the same way. There’s no, I’m a little holy. No, you’re either holy or not. You’re either completely holy or you’re not holy at all. And by the way, if you feel like that’s too strong, then let’s go to the more loving portion of the Bible, right? People tend to think that Jesus is the more loving one.

Here’s what the most loving man in the world said. He said, how about this, he said, “Be perfect. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In other words, if you weren’t quite sure what holiness meant, let me clear it up for you. It means perfection. Most loving man on the world said that. And if you’re going that feels like an impossible standard, then that’s the point. The Old Testament Law kills the idea that being better than those people is good enough for God. And it makes it clear that the standard is not being better than somebody, the standard is actually being holy. It’s being perfect like God.

Now, it might seem like bad news to realize that that’s the standard because we’re like, “Well, none of us can get there.” But it’s actually very good news. Because when we are set free from the lie that better than is good enough, we’ve actually begun to look in other places for hope. And there is hope to be found in other places. Specifically, this thing we call the Gospel. And so Paul says, “I’ve been crucified with Christ. And I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” He says, “By putting my faith in the life, the death, and the Resurrection of Jesus, I actually died with him.” And the idea here is that when we put our faith in Jesus, we take Jesus in a bear hug and everything that happened to him happens to us and he died and so he went into the grave, but also, he was raised to life.

And kind of metaphorically Paul says the same thing happens to us when we put our faith in him, that when I put my faith in Jesus, I died to myself, meaning I died to my old way of living. The way of living that said, as long as I’m better than I’m good enough. And Paul, by the way, let’s be really clear, Paul was better than almost everybody. In multiple places in his letters, Paul says, “I was really good at following the Old Testament rules and regulations.” Not perfect. But whenever he wasn’t perfect, whenever he didn’t follow rule, he made the appropriate sacrifices which are required by the Law. So he said, “I was doing it all. I was better than almost everybody. But I realized that that wasn’t good enough. But when I put my faith in Jesus, I died to that idea.” That old version of Paul was put into the grave.

So Paul 1.0, gone. And instead, he says, “I was raised to a new kind of life with Jesus, a life where the power of Christ is inside me.” He says, “I am raised to a new life. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” And what he means is, not that Jesus has replaced Paul. It’s not that Paul’s gone, but that there’s a totally new version of Paul. It’s a Paul that’s not trying hard to get God’s approval. But it’s a Paul who is empowered by God to actually live in a way that pleases God. That’s what he’s beginning to hint at. All right. Bottom line what he’s saying here is that faith in Jesus kills the idea that we have to work for God’s favor. And it raises the hope that we can now live by God’s power. Not by our own, not by our own effort of our own work, not by just trying harder, but the power of God in us, the power of Christ that raised him from the dead can actually now be the power source for changing the way that we live because it changes who we are. So Paul says, “Paul 1.0 is gone. Paul 2.0 is here and Paul 2.0 lives by the power of Christ in me.” He says, “The life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Now, so important that we understand God’s motivation here. He says, “I live by faith in the Son of God, who died for me.” But why did Jesus die for him? What does he say? It’s because Jesus what? Loved him. It’s remarkable how quickly we forget that as Christians. We’re not here because we earned God’s approval. We’re not here because we worked our way into belonging with God by our behavior. We’re here because even though we couldn’t work our way into it, God loved us so much that he sent his own Son, Jesus, to pay the price of our bad behavior, of our sin. He did it because he loves us. And I think it’s important to remember that the church exists because of God’s love and the church exists to communicate to the world that God loves them. But we get it wrong often, don’t we? What we end up communicating to the world is often something very different than that God loves you and has done everything necessary for you to belong to him.

And really here, we begin to get at the heart of the message of Galatians. What Paul says, he really begins to bring us back to the central issue that comes up over and over again in the book. If you’ve been with us throughout this series, you may remember that we’ve said that on one level, the entire Book of Galatians is about the relationship between three key things, believing, behaving, and belonging. Galatians is about how do we understand how those three things click…connect together. And there’s one view that was going on in Galatians, some people from the outside had brought it to Galatia and they were basically, they were distressing or causing all kinds of problems in the church there in Galatia because of this view, and what we call that view is legalism. It’s a view that honestly, we’re all pretty familiar with. And on one level or another, we all probably hold to it even if it’s unconscious. And legalism says…here’s the connections, we got believing, behaving, belonging. Legalism says, here’s the connection, legalism says, “Believing plus behaving leads to belonging.” It says believing plus behaving leads to belonging. If you believe with us, and you behave like us, then you can belong with us.

By the way, that view of those relationships, it’s at the heart of every religion that’s ever existed with one exception, and that exception is Christianity. Christianity, at its heart, has something called grace. And if you’re not familiar with the term grace, grace means undeserved kindness. It’s an undeserved kindness from God that caused him to send his own Son to die for our sins. It’s an undeserved kindness from God that raised Jesus from the dead and said, “You can be saved by putting your faith in what Jesus did for you by following him from here on out.”

Grace is at the heart of Christianity. And grace is a very different understanding of how believing and behaving, and belonging fit together. So legalism says, “Believing plus behaving leads to belonging.” Grace-ism, living by grace says, “Believing leads to belonging plus behaving.” Grace-ism says, “If you believe in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus and choose to follow him, you belong to God.” And it’s because of that belonging that you end up becoming a new kind of person. A person who behaves differently not because he’s trying to get to belonging, not because she’s trying to earn belonging but because she or he is a completely different person by God’s grace.

In other words, the change in behavior isn’t the road to belonging, it’s the result of belonging. Change in behavior isn’t the cause of belonging, it’s a consequence of it. And that’s what Paul’s getting at here. And it’s because of this battle that Paul says, “We can’t put aside grace. It’s at the very heart of the Christian faith. We’ve got to keep it front and center.” So he says, “I do not set aside the grace of God. I don’t set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the Law, Christ died for nothing.” And at this point, understand that when he says, “I don’t set aside the grace of God” well, what he means is this, what often happens is, as followers of Jesus, we go, “Hey, Grace gets us in the front door.” It’s grace that allows me to be saved me from my sin. It’s grace that allows me to have my slate wiped clean. And now I have a relationship with God, awesome. From here on out, it’s up to me. From here on out, I got to knuckle down. I got to double down. I gotta get to behaving or God will kick me out.

And what we’re doing the most we’re setting aside grace. We’re going grace can only get you so far. And when Paul says, “I don’t set aside the grace.” he means, I don’t set aside it in terms of how I come into a relationship. But also I don’t set aside it as I continue to live in that relationship. I keep grace front and center. Why? Because he says, “Because if righteousness could be attained by following the Law, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die in the first place.” If you can be righteous just because you try harder to be better than everybody else, then why did Jesus die? He died because it’s not possible. You can’t get righteousness that way.

And I think it’s probably important to understand that there’s two kinds of righteousness here. The Bible really deals with two different kinds of righteousness. There’s what I call legal righteousness and then there’s what I call living righteousness.

Legal righteousness is about our permanent record. And we’ve all got stuff on our permanent record. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We’ve all done that. So we’ve got things in our permanent record. We’re not innocent. We are guilty of sin. But legal righteousness says, there’s a deal that we can accept, and if we accept the deal, they’ll clear the permanent record.

I’ll be honest with you, I have a little bit of a weakness for movies where some like high-end criminal gets caught. And then some government official comes and says, “Hey, we got a deal for you. If you’ll do this crazy thing for us, we’ll clear your record. We’ll make it like you’d never done anything wrong. We’ll get rid of all the marks against you on your permanent record.” So they go and they do this crazy thing and now they’re cleared. Well, that’s kind of actually what I mean by legal righteousness that God says, “I got a deal for you. You’re sinful, there’s stuff on your permanent record, but if you’ll accept my deal, I’ll wipe your record clean.” The difference is that the deal doesn’t require us to do some crazy hard thing. The deal is I’m going to put my faith in what Jesus did for me, and I’m going to follow him. That if I believe in the life, death, and Resurrection, meaning I put my trust and I just choose to follow him, then my record is wiped clean. That’s legal righteousness.

But there’s another kind of righteousness that’s really important in the Bible and that’s what I call living righteousness. That’s where we actually begin to live in righteous ways. That’s where our behavior actually begins to align to God’s nature, and character, and commands. It’s where we actually begin to act like the men and women God designed us to be. But the question here, well, he says, “You know, righteousness can’t be obtained through the Law.” Which kind of righteousness is he talking about? Is he talking about legal righteousness or is he talking about living righteousness? And the answer is, yes. He’s talking about both. He’s saying both legal righteousness is clearing the record, but also living righteousness as we begin to change who we are, those are both only possible by faith, by faith, and the grace of God. By God’s work on our behalf.

So really, what he’s saying is, Grace-ism actually produces what legalism only promises. Does that make sense? Grace-ism actually produces a change in our behavior that legalism can’t. Legalism can only go so far. Legalism can only change a surface-level thing for a short period of time. But grace can actually change the underlying essence of who we are. That in our relationship with God who we are becomes different. And as who we are becomes different, what we do begins to be different. And so it’s not that righteousness doesn’t matter. It’s not that behaving doesn’t matter. But it’s two very different understandings of how we get to a real and change in behavior. Is it just by trying to change it by my own strengths so that I can belong or because I belong to God, and the Holy Spirit is in me, I begin to become a different man or a woman? And my behavior begins to line up because that’s just who I am. Grace-ism actually produces that change that legalism only promises.

So Paul says, “You can’t afford to set it aside.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly what was happening in Galatia. They were setting aside God’s grace. So he says, “You foolish Galatians. Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes, Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. You already know Jesus died to pay for your sins. I would like to learn just one thing from you, did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law or by believing what you heard?” This is the first time in the Book of Galatians that the Holy Spirit has been mentioned. But the Holy Spirit is absolutely central to the entire Book of Galatians. In fact, as the book goes on, we’re going to see the Spirit come up over and over again. Because at the heart of this idea that believing leads to belonging and behaving, is the idea that there’s a Holy Spirit who does the work of connecting those dots.

So the Holy Spirit is completely essential. The Holy Spirit is at the very heart of everything that Paul’s saying. And so for the next few weeks, we’re going to unpack more about the Holy Spirit and how he does this, how he connects the dots there. But here’s two things, I think, you need to know about the Holy Spirit to understand why the Holy Spirit is so central. Two things.

Number one, the Holy Spirit is our proof of belonging to God. The Holy Spirit is actually how we know that we belong to God. It’s the evidence that we’ve belong to God. It’s interesting, it’s not our behavior. It’s the presence of the Holy Spirit. Now, here’s where it gets complicated. The presence of the Holy Spirit does ultimately lead to a change in our behavior. But Paul says, “It’s not the change in the behavior that’s ultimately the proof, it’s the presence of the Holy Spirit himself” And the way he says it in the Book of Romans is, he says, “The Spirit that you received brought about your adoption to sonship.” The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. He made you part of the family. And it’s by the Holy Spirit that we cry, Abba, Father. It’s by the Holy Spirit that we experience an intimate relationship with God. Specifically, an intimate relationship with the God to whom we belong to by faith. He says the Spirit is one who does that. So, the Spirit is the proof of our belonging.

Secondly, though, the Holy Spirit is our power for becoming. Holy Spirit is our power for becoming. The Holy Spirit is the power source by which we actually begin to experience an inner transformation that ultimately changes our behavior. Not because we’re trying to belong, but because we already belong. The Holy Spirit is the power source for all of that. And so those two things are really important. The Holy Spirit is our proof of belonging and our power for becoming.

Now, what Paul’s saying to the Galatians is, “Hey, you’ve all received the Holy Spirit, right?” You’re followers of Jesus and he expects them to go, “Yeah, we received the Holy Spirit.” And by the way, I should probably say this. Some of you are followers of Jesus, and you’ve had powerful experiences with the Holy Spirit. You can think of moments in your life where it’s just…there’s just been no doubt in your mind that the Holy Spirit was there with you. Some of you are followers of Jesus, but you may not look back and see those big moments. You may have seen something that just kind of, you know, blew the doors off, and you’re like, “Well, the Holy Spirit’s doing that.” And so you may wonder, is the Holy Spirit really with me? Do I really have this proof of belonging and this power of becoming?”

And let me suggest to you that there’s a couple other questions you might want to ask. One of them is this. Have you ever experienced moments where you just felt close to God? Because as a follower of Jesus, have you ever had a moment where you just felt like, I sense God’s love and his nearness? It’s not that we live in that moment every single moment of every day. We don’t. None of us do. But if you’ve ever had a moment or two like that you need understand, that’s actually the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s there with you. Because that’s what the Holy Spirit does. He communicates and he cements that relationship. He calls out to the Father, Abba, Daddy. So if you’ve ever had a moment where you felt close to God as a believer, that’s actually evidence the Holy Spirit’s there.

Or this one’s less fun, if you’ve ever had a moment where you felt convicted of sin. If you’ve ever had a moment as a believer where you just felt in your heart like I’m living in a way that’s not right as a follower of Jesus. And it wasn’t because somebody caught you. It wasn’t even because you were afraid that someone’s going to catch you. You just knew in your heart, this isn’t the way I’m supposed to be. This isn’t who God designed me to be. If you’ve ever had that moment of conviction, that’s the Holy Spirit at work in your life.

And so whether you’ve had some big like obvious, miraculous experiences of the Holy Spirit or just those moment by moment things here and there, the evidence is you have the Holy Spirit. And what Paul is asking the church in Galatia is, “How did you get that Holy Spirit who’s with you?” He says, “Did you get it by behaving according to the Law? Or did you get the Holy Spirit by believing in the Gospel, by believing in the life, death, and Resurrection?” And he expects them to say, “Well, the Holy Spirit came to us when we believe.” He says, “Yeah. So are you foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” If you began this relationship with God, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit who came the moment you believe, why are you switching now to go on, but it’s up to me. It’s up to me to work harder. He says, “Have you experienced so much in vain if really it was in vain? And so again, I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the Law, or by your believing what you heard?”

And what Paul’s beginning to do here is to say something that’s so important. Remember, early on, he said, “I don’t set aside the Spirit, right? I don’t set aside grace.” Meaning I don’t get this far into the Christian life and then say, “Okay. From here on out, it’s up to me.” They don’t say, “Well, grace gets me in the front door, but as I move deeper into the house, that’s all on me.” He says, “We don’t do that.” And now what he’s saying is, “Okay. So how did you get the Holy Spirit who both gives you your proof of belonging, but also gives you your power for transforming, for becoming who God made you to be?”

If that’s the case, then why are you shifting from grace got me here but from here on out it’s up to me. He says, “That’s crazy.” What he basically says is this, and this is so important. He says, “The Holy Spirit comes to us by grace and works in us by grace.” Does that make sense? So important. The Holy Spirit comes to us by grace and works in us by grace. And so grace is really…it’s not just the beginning of our relationship with God, it’s the middle of our relationship with God. It’s what gets us to the end of our relationship with God and everything that God has for us when we become everything that he designed us to be. He says, “Grace is there at the beginning and the middle, and all the way through. The Holy Spirit comes to us by grace and works in us by grace.” And we can’t afford at some point along the way to make a shift from grace to it’s my work, we just can’t do that.

And to sort of cement that, he turns to an example from history. He’s kind of been theoretical up to this point, but now he’s going to make a shift and he’s going to give a very practical example to sort of prove his point. So here’s what he says. He says, “And so also Abraham, believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Here’s basically what’s happening. Some Jewish-Christians had come into the Gentiles and they said, “Hey, you know, it’s great that you believe in Jesus, but if you really want to belong to God’s people, the Jews, you got to behave like a Jew. You got to be circumcised, you got to eat kosher, you got to follow the Jewish social regulations, all the laws of the Old Testament. You got to do all that if you want to belong to us. So in other words, to belong to God’s people, you got to behave like a Jew.

And then Paul’s going to go, “That what they told you? Interesting.” Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about it by going back to Abraham, who was, by the way, the very first Jew. He’s the very first human being allowed to belong to God. And so let’s just talk about how did the very first Jew become a Jew. How did the very first person to belong to God get to belong to God? Abraham believed God. He didn’t behave. He didn’t behave his way into belonging. He believed his way into belonging. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Abraham wasn’t righteous, but God cleared the slate. This is the legal righteousness we were talking about.

And how did he get legally righteous? How did he come to belong to a holy and perfect God, by believing what God told him to do, by trusting God, by putting his faith in Him? And so basically what Paul says is, you know, it’s interesting, they’re telling you that to belong to God’s people, you got to behave like a Jew. But you understand that even the very first Jew belonged by believing, even the very first Jew belonged by believing. So why are you listening to this? He says, “Understand then, that those who have faith, who believe in Jesus, the life, the death, and Resurrection of Jesus, are children of Abraham.” You’re adopted into God’s family by your belief in Jesus. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and announce the Gospel, the Gospel of Grace, in advance to Abraham, when he said, “All nations will be blessed through you. And so those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”

Two things that are happening here that are really important. The first one, the easiest to understand is this. He’s saying everyone who believes in Jesus is blessed with Abraham. Everyone who believes in Jesus belongs in God’s family and they receive all the blessings promised to Abraham, Jew or Gentile, it doesn’t matter believing in Jesus is what gets you into the family and therefore to inherit all the promises. So everyone who believes in Jesus is blessed with Abraham. That’s pretty straightforward. There’s another thing he’s saying here that’s a little bit more subtle, but it’s really important. What he’s saying is that, those who don’t rely on believing may not experience blessing. That those who don’t rely on believing, that those who shift away from believing to behaving may actually lose out on blessing, that they may get off the path and head off in a different direction to end up in a place where the blessings of God aren’t waiting for them.

Because notice, he doesn’t say those who believe are blessed. He says those who rely on believing, who rely on faith. And in the original Greek, that rely on faith, it’s a continual sense verb meaning doesn’t happen once. It doesn’t get you into the family or into the front door, it’s a continual way of life. The people who don’t continually live by faith, they may not experience the blessing. This is for all those who rely on the works of the Law, all those whose lives are characterized by following the rules and the regulations. They’re under a curse. As it is written, cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law. He says, living by a focus on behaving by your own strength, it doesn’t get you to blessing. It actually takes you to a cursed life, which honestly, if you think about it makes a certain amount of sense. Because here’s the thing, if you think that belonging depends upon behaving then every time you don’t behave, you wonder if you no longer belong, right? That’s not a blessed life. That’s a life filled with anxiety. It’s a life filled with fear. And honestly, it’s a life filled with just a sense of failure, and rejection, and depression. That’s not a blessed life. It’s a cursed life.

He says clearly no one who relies on the Law is justified before God. Nobody’s made innocent before God by following the rules because the righteous will live by faith. That’s from the Old Testament. Even in the Old Testament Law, it says that the righteous live by faith. The Law is not based on faith. On the contrary, the Law says, the person who does these things will live by them. That’s an interesting statement that the Law says those who do the things of the Law, the rules and regulations will live by them. And in the Old Testament period, what they assumed that that meant, the way they naturally thought it was, “Oh, as long as I follow the laws, I’ll have a blessed life.” And Paul says, “No. We actually misunderstood that. Really what God’s saying is that those who do all the work of the Law and rely on doing the works of the Law, their lives come to be defined by doing that.” Their lives are defined by what they’re doing because that’s how it works. What we do ends up defining us.

It’s a little bit like this, maybe you’ve heard the old phrase, “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.” Anybody heard that? The point is those who live by violence have their lives characterized by violence, and ultimately, that violence ends up being the very thing that destroys them. Because here’s the reality, what defines you can also destroy you. And if your life is defined by obedience to the Law, if that’s where you think your life is going to come from, and you realize like, I can’t do that, then you’re ultimately going to end up in a place where you have no hope. Living by the Law ultimately means dying by the Law, because no one can keep it perfectly.

Fortunately, that kind of life is not ours as followers of Jesus. He says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, from living like that, from living under that burden by becoming a curse for us. He died on the cross for us. For it is written, cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole or a cross we could say. He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham, the blessing of belonging by believing might come to the Gentiles, to all people through Christ Jesus so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Holy Spirit.”

And what Paul is trying to help us understand is the grace isn’t just the beginning of the Gospel. As we said a few weeks ago, if it’s not all grace, it’s no Gospel. Grace is the beginning, and the middle, and everything through. It’s all rooted in God’s grace. It’s God’s grace that created us. He didn’t have to create us. He didn’t need us. It’s not like he had jobs to get done. He’s like, “I don’t know how to get the work done. I don’t know how to get the checklist checked off. I guess I’ll create some people.” It’s not how it happened. God created us because he wanted to love us. That’s grace. It’s an undeserved kindness. It’s the grace of God that loved us in spite of our sin and sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay the price for our sin. That’s grace. It’s the grace of God that raised Jesus from the dead and said, “If you’ll just follow Jesus, if you put your trust and faith in Jesus, you can be saved if you sin and belong to me.” That’s grace.

It’s the grace of God that sends the Holy Spirit to help us understand that we’re in that relationship. It’s the grace of God that sends the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out so we actually become the men and women design…that God designed us to be. That’s all grace. And so really what Paul’s getting at here is the idea that grace is the glue that holds the Gospel together. Grace is the glue that moves us from believing to belonging. Grace is the glue that moves us from belonging to behaving as it changes us from the inside out. Grace is the glue that holds the whole thing together. It’s not the beginning of it, it’s the whole thing.

But that’s hard for us, isn’t it? Grace is a hard thing to grasp. And the reality is that you know, maybe you grew up in church and you never heard grace growing up. It’s a pretty good chance you could have grown up in church and not have heard grace. And by the way, that’s not necessarily the church’s fault. You might have grown up in a church that taught grace, right out of Scripture, and you still never got it. Not because it’s the church’s fault, but because it’s just so counterintuitive. Grace is not the world that we live in, our world teaches us it’s a performance-based acceptance. That it’s only when you perform that you can possibly hope to be accepted. It’s only when you behave you can possibly expect to belong.

And so even if your church taught grace perfectly, there’s a good chance that you didn’t get a handle on it, because it just is so foreign to us. Or maybe it is the church’s fault. Maybe you grew up in a church where you really didn’t hear grace. But you need to understand that’s a bad thing, but it happened for a good reason. Because grace is scary. Because the fear is that if we lean hard into grace, that means we go soft on sin. It doesn’t. But it’s so easy to think that that’s the way that it works that if we make grace the beginning, and the middle, and the end, and all that think through it, if it’s the glue that holds the Gospel together, then we can’t call sin what it is. Again, that’s just not true. But that’s the fear. If we lean hard into grace, we go soft on sin, and it’s just not true. And we have to somehow get a handle on the idea that this grace business is the Gospel.

Let me ask you a few questions. I encourage you to wrestle with these. Number one is this, where in my life do I still buy the lie that better than is good enough? Maybe none of you do. Maybe that’s just me. But here’s what I find in my life is when I find those places where my thinking goes to, “Well, but I’m better than them. I’m better than those.” When I’m beginning to think that better than is good enough, what’s happening in those moments is I’m beginning to identify the places where I’m getting off the path of relying on faith and getting onto the path of relying on my own efforts. And so those places where we realize I’m doing that are actually good indicators that I’m not letting grace be the glue. So identify those places.

Second thing I’d encourage you to do is wrestle with this, how much is grace the glue that holds my faith together? How much is grace really the essence of your faith? How much is it the way you think about dealing with other people? And maybe even harder than that, how is it the glue that holds together the way that you think about your relationship with God? Do you treat yourself with grace? Chances are you’re going to find places where grace is not the glue that it needs to be.

Which leads us to the third question, which is where in my life am I short-circuiting the power of the Spirit by relying on my own. This place where we’re not relying on grace in our relationship with others or in relationship with God, those are the places where we’re trusting in our power and not the Spirit’s who comes to us and works in us by grace. We’re going to take a moment right now to worship. I encourage you to join in singing this song or just contemplate these words, but as you do, just recognize that we all have these places in our lives where grace is not the glue. We’ve put something else in place. And what we’ve put in place is not life-giving. And somehow we’re going to have to break that. Something’s going to have to break. So the grace and the power of God’s grace can begin to flow in our lives the way it was always intended. So I encourage you to do some business with God as we sing or as you listen to this.

Danny: Just stand. We’ll sing it together.

[Praise Team singing]
I feel it in this room
Holy Spirit move
‘Cause when you have your way
Something has to break
Tear down every lie
Set the wrong thing right
‘Cause when you have your way
Something has to break
Something has to break
I feel it in this room
Holy Spirit move
‘Cause when you have your way
Something has to break
Tear down every lie
Set the wrong thing right
‘Cause when you have your way
Something has to break
Something has to break
Something has to break
Right now in your name
Something has to break
Something has to break
Something has to break
Right now in your name
Something has to break
Something has to break
Something has to break
In Jesus name
I believe you’ll lead me through it
I believe you’ll get me to it
I believe that you will do it right now
Something has to break
I believe you’ll lead me through it
I believe you’ll get me to it
I believe that you will do it right now
Something has to break
I believe you’ll lead me through it
I believe you’ll get me to it
I believe that you will do it right now
Something has to break
I believe you’ll lead me through it
I believe you’ll get me to it
I believe that you will do it right now
I feel it in this room
Holy Spirit move
‘Cause when you have your way
Something has to break
Tear down every lie
Set the wrong thing right
‘Cause when you have your way
Something has to break
Something has to break
Something has to break
Right now in your name
Something has to break
I believe you’ll lead me through it
I believe you’ll get me to it
I believe that you will do it right now
Something has to break
I believe you’ll lead me through it
I believe you’ll get me to it
I believe that you will do it right now
Something has to break
Something has to break

Craig: Would you pray with me? Hey, God as your peoples, as followers of Jesus, we thank you for your grace. We ask you for forgiveness for all the ways that we have not kept grace as the glue that holds it all together. We ask for your forgiveness for the ways that we’ve set grace aside in our dealings with other people, even in our dealings with ourselves. And we’re grateful knowing that because of your grace that forgiveness is guaranteed, that you don’t hold that over us. We thank you for that freedom. We thank you for the call, the invitation, the completely new kind of life empowered by the Holy Spirit, who is changing us by your grace so that we might actually be the men and women that you designed us to be. Not because we’re trying harder, but because we’re actually becoming that, actually becoming that dream that you have for us.

But we’ve got questions. It’s not easy to understand how it is that we’re led by the Spirit and how trusting in grace goes together with seeking to obey and all those kinds of things. Lord, we thank you for the Book of Galatians. And that we still have a lot of truth to mine there that over the next few weeks, you’re going to help us to understand answers to some of those questions. But Lord, we thank you that even when our understanding is deficient, your Holy Spirit is not. So Lord, we ask that you teach us to follow your Spirit.

And Lord we asked you for this too, right now, would you touch hearts that are listening to this message, specifically those hearts that are not yet yours. Those people who have not yet said yes to following Jesus, and if that’s you if I can just speak you for a moment. My hope is that somehow today you heard maybe for the first time in a way that connected that God loves you. That you don’t have to earn your way into God’s favor, that God has an undeserved kindness for you, expressed in the fact that he sent his own Son to die to pay the price for all the wrong you’ve done. And God raised him from the dead three days later. And God gives you the opportunity to be forgiven of your sins, to belong to God for now and forever simply by putting your trust in Jesus. And my hope is that as you’re hearing this right now, the Spirit is working on you. And you find yourself realizing that you need to make that decision, that you need to say yes to faith in Jesus. Here’s how you do it. There’s nothing to keep you from doing it. There’s nothing else you need to do except say yes. So right here right now, would you trust Jesus?

Just say something like this to God right now. Say God I’ve done wrong. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying from my sin. I believe you rose from the dead. I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, belonging to God simply by faith. I’m ready to put my faith in you, Jesus. Jesus, I’m going to follow you from here on out. Thank you for forgiveness, for a relationship with God, and for the blessings that come from belonging to his family. Amen.

Can we celebrate those who just made that decision together? Isn’t that awesome. Like you heard this past week, 84 kids made that decision as well. And that’s what we’re all about. It’s so awesome. Hey, if you made that decision today, would you do one thing for me? We want to celebrate with you. So if you made that decision today, wherever you are, would you let us know you made the decision? If you’re on one of our campuses, you can either stop by the Welcome Center or you can just text the word ‘Jesus’ to 888111. Actually, you can do that anywhere you are in the world, just text ‘Jesus’ to 888111. If you’re online, you can also click the button right below me that says, I committed my life to Jesus. But we encourage you to let us know you made that decision. We want to put a resource into your hands to help you begin living out that new relationship and we just want to know where to send it. Hey, don’t forget next week, at Father’s Day got an awesome service plan. It’s going to be a great opportunity to invite friends and family who maybe don’t usually come to church to join you to have a fantastic time, hear an incredible message. So we’ll see you next weekend. God bless.

FROM HERE TO THERE

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

JUNE

26/27

Galatians 3:15-25

Although church laws added by humans have been layered on top of the original covenant (faith in Jesus makes the believer belong to God), their addition doesn’t change that belonging to Jesus is the gift. Don’t get so lost in attempting to please God, that you miss the gift of being one of God’s own through faith alone. Instead, look to those laws as guides to point you in the right direction to relationship with God.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT
Craig: Hey. Welcome to Mission Hills. So good to have you with us this weekend. Let me start by asking a question. How many of us know how to ride a bike? Right, most of the hands, great. How many of us learned to ride a bike with training wheels? Still most of the hands. How many of us who already know how to ride a bike are still using training wheels? Not a lot of hands and the hands that I see, they are small hands, you’re still learning. That’s fine.

Once we learn how to ride a bike, we don’t typically use training wheels. But here’s an interesting question. Why is that? And if you think about you probably think, well, I don’t really need them. So why bother? Why carry the extra weight? But there’s another reason we don’t think about very often. That is, actually if you try to ride a bike with training wheels, it’s actually hard to ride the bike after a certain point. Because you can’t lean as far as you need to make certain kinds of curves. Or, I mean, imagine this, imagine you’re going down, you know, a small bike trail in the mountains riding and like aspens and pines are whipping past you.

Can you imagine trying to do that with training wheels? I mean, it would make for a good video, because those things are gonna get hung up at some point and there’s gonna be an amazing crash. But the reality is, sometimes we don’t use training wheels, because it would actually get in the way of riding a bike the way we want to. Now, you’re like, what does this have to do with God? What does it have to do with Jesus? What does that have to do with the Bible?

Well, here’s what I wanna talk about today. I wanna talk about kind of an interesting possibility and here’s the possibility. What if I still have training wheels on my life? What if I still have training wheels on my life? And what if, in fact, some of what makes us feel like we’re getting hung up and slowed down in our lives has to do with the fact that we’re still living our lives with training wheels. Let me show you what I mean, why don’t you grab a Bible, start making your way to the Book of Galatians. We’re gonna be in Galatians chapter 3, starting in verse 15 today. Let me show you what I mean here.

By the way, if you’re just joining us, let me get you caught up. What we’ve been doing over the last few weeks is searching the Book of Galatians in the Bible for wisdom from God about how to experience freedom in life. And if you were with us a couple of weeks ago, you may see that…you may remember that Paul he’s basically, he’s explained the basis of what we call the Gospel. And the basis of the Gospel is this, is that if you believe in Jesus, then you belong to God and his people. It’s the essence of the Gospel message that it’s not about how well we behave, that comes later. It’s about whether or not we believe, whether or not we put our faith in, our trust in Jesus. And if you believe in Jesus, then you belong to God and to his people.

Now, the reason that he’s having to write this letter in the Book of Galatians, to the church in Galatia is because after he preached that some other people came along, some Jewish followers of Jesus, and they said, “That’s not quite right.” They said, “Yeah, it says, to belong to God, you do have to believe in Jesus, but you also have to behave according to the Jewish laws.” They said, you know, the Jews have always been God’s people, the Jews are the ones who first belonged to God and the Jews have always been identified by all these rules and these regulations and obedience to all of them. And so if you wanna belong to God, you need to believe in Jesus, yes, but you also have to behave according to the rules.

And last time, we were together, Paul made the argument that that doesn’t make any sense. And he said, here’s how I know it doesn’t make any sense. And he took us back to the life of a man named Abraham. You can read about it in the Book of Genesis. Abraham was the very first Jewish person, he was the first human being to belong to God. And he goes back to Genesis and shows, “Look, Abraham belonged to God by believing God, not by behaving according to your rules and regulations, but just by believing God, by having faith in him.” And what he kind of expects his opponents to do is to go, “Okay, yeah, that’s true. Fine, you’re right. Abraham belonged by believing, 100% true.” But it was different back then.

It was different back then because we didn’t have the Law. We didn’t have the Old Testament command. We didn’t have the rules and the regulations. After God gave those to Moses, everything changed. After God gave those to Moses, now you have to believe and you also have to behave. And that’s kind of the issue that Paul’s dealing with.

Now, he said did that really change when the Law came when the Old Testament was given to the Jewish people? Here’s what he says at Galatians 3:15. He says, “Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.”

So he says let’s take an example from everyday life, let’s talk about covenants. Which kind of funny actually, because when was the last time you encountered a covenant in your everyday life, right? I don’t know growing up that I ever encountered a covenant outside of church or the Bible until I moved to Colorado. I moved to Colorado, I was looking for a place to live and I remember driving into a neighborhood and seeing a sign out front that said “Founders Village, a Covenant Controlled Community.” And I was like, “What the heck is that?” It’s like it is a Bible community like this is a Christian commune? What’s going on here?

And what I found that they meant is they said, “No, no, you know, a covenant is a legal agreement,” I was like, “Okay.” And he said, “And when you live in this community, you enter into a legal agreement, a covenant with the homeowners association.” And so the homeowners association, the HOA like you make certain agreements, and they make certain agreements. So, for instance, they say, you know, if you live in this community, you cannot paint your house, purple. This is not an option. You can’t raise farm animals in your backyard. And in return, the HOA agrees, you know, we’ll take care of the common areas like pools or maybe we’ll take care of snow removal. Okay, great.

That’s a covenant. It’s very similar to the same kind of thing that happens when you sign a lease for an apartment. That’s a covenant too, it’s a legal agreement and you agree that you know, as the leasee, I’m not going to turn my two-bedroom apartment into a studio by getting rid of all the walls. Okay. I’m not gonna raise farm animals in the extra bedroom. Okay. And the guy who owns the apartment, they say, “Well, you know, and we agreed to maintain common space, we agree to maintain your heating or air conditionings like that.” Okay. So it’s a legal agreement.

And that’s the first time I’d really encountered the concept of a covenant. But that’s kind of what Paul’s dealing with in the ancient world they dealt with those more frequent. So it’s okay, let’s just talk about covenants, in general, because we all sort of have some of these everyday experiences, whether we realize them or not.

Now, I should probably say this, though. Paul’s point is that there are some things in common between human covenants and covenants with God. But there’s also something really different between human covenants and God’s covenants. And here’s the thing like I don’t know about you, but when I first moved into my covenant-controlled community, I thought, “The HOA is awesome. I’m gonna love having an HOA.” And people are already starting to laugh because I don’t feel that way now. I feel it differently.

Here’s what happens. See, human covenants in our experience with human covenants. Human covenants tend to limit our lives, right? But that’s not true with God’s covenants. God’s covenants are intended to lead us to life. Huge difference. Human covenants tend to limit our lives, but God’s covenants are actually intended to lead us to a good life, to the life that God always intended that we have. Okay, so there’s a big difference between human covenants and God’s covenant and that’s it.

But there is at least one thing in common and that Paul says is that they don’t change. They don’t change. That’s the big similarity. Once a covenant had been established, the terms of the covenant can’t be changed.

So I can’t suddenly decide I am going to paint my house purple. My HOA cannot decide I am no longer gonna be taking care of snow removal in your neighborhood. That’s just not an option. Once this covenant’s been signed, once it’s been agreed to, you can’t change the terms of the covenant. And it says, basically, this is the same thing here. If human terms can’t be changed, then why would we expect God’s terms to be changed? God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He’s unchanging. So the covenant with Abraham isn’t gonna change just because some other things come along.

And so what he’s basically saying is this, he’s saying, “Yes, I understand that Abraham didn’t have the Law. And then God eventually gave Moses the Law, but it didn’t change the terms of the covenant.” And so what he’s really saying is believing is still the basis for belonging. It might feel like a little bit of a complicated way to get there for us today, but that’s the bottom line. He says, the Law didn’t change anything, the coming of the law didn’t change anything. Believing is still the basis for belonging because the covenant can’t change.

He says the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his Seed. Scripture does not say and to seeds, meaning many people, but and to your Seed, meaning one person who is Christ. And all God’s people went, “Oh.” Anybody just the slightest bit confused by that sentence? Yeah, few of us.

Can I say I think, my all-time favorite verse in the Bible, it’s 2 Peter 3:16. The Apostle Peter talking about the Apostle Paul’s writing says this he says, “Some of what he says is hard to understand and he says that people twist it just like they do other Scriptures.” And I love that because he’s acknowledging that Paul is writing Scripture that is inspired by God, but he’s also saying, sometimes I don’t get what that dude’s talking about.

And for me, maybe not for a lot of you, but for me, this is one of those, okay. The promise was spoken to Abraham and to his Seed. In Scripture doesn’t say into seeds, meaning many people but to your Seed, meaning one person, like what’s he saying?

Well, what he’s saying is this, he’s saying, okay, if you go back to the Book of Genesis, what you’re gonna see is that when God called Abraham, the first Jewish person to belong to him, he gave him a bunch of promises. He said, “I’m gonna bless you in a lot of different ways, and you’re gonna be a blessing to the whole world.” And but what Paul says is, but it’s interesting if you look there, he doesn’t say, “I’m gonna bless you and your seeds.” Meaning lots of different descendants and offspring, he uses the singular, “I’m gonna bless you and your Seed” meaning one.

And what he means is that all the blessings of God don’t necessarily come just because you’re a descendant among many of Abraham. He says really what God was saying was all of his blessings were gonna kind of come together around one of Abraham’s descendants. Does that make sense? All of the blessings and the promises of God are gonna come together, they’re gonna coalesce around one of Abraham’s descendants, specifically Jesus. And so the idea here is that all of the promises kind of are right there with Jesus.

Now, here’s why that’s good news. Because that means that when we belong to Jesus, we receive God’s promises. That’s how we get to receive all the promises, promises made to Abraham, and all of the Jewish people following. He says all of those blessings are available to anybody who belongs to Jesus. If we belong to Jesus, we receive all of God’s promises, that’s really powerful because, of course, he’s dealing with people who are not Jewish. And he’s got some Jewish followers of Jesus telling him, “Hey, you can’t experience all the blessings of God until you do X, Y, and Z.” And then Paul’s going, ‘No, no, no.” From the very beginning, the plan all along was that all those blessings would come together in Jesus and that anyone who belongs to Jesus will receive God’s promises.

And so basically, what he’s doing is he’s kind of, he’s extending an argument that he’s been making throughout the Book of Galatians. So far, at this point, what he’s told us is that believing is the basis of belonging. And now he goes a step further and so he says, “Hey, here’s the good news, belonging is the basis of blessing.” If you wanna experience the blessings of God, if you wanna experience all that God has for you, and that he’s promised to pour into the lives of his people, the good news is you can have all of that simply by belonging to Jesus. Doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish, it doesn’t matter if you’re non-Jewish, it doesn’t matter what your past is, it doesn’t matter where you come from, none of that stuff matters. What matters is your faith in Jesus. If you have faith in Jesus, you belong to him. And if you belong to him, all the blessings of God are available to you.

And that’s really good news. But it’s slippery news. It’s actually a truth that we have a very hard time holding on to. At least I do, maybe you don’t. But here’s the reality, I know that I struggle to set aside a persistent myth, a persistent lie. And the myth is this. The myth that I often find myself believing is that behaving is the basis of blessing. I find myself thinking, if I’m gonna be blessed by God, I’ve got to behave my way into it. I think that behaving is the basis for blessing.

Now, there’s a couple of reasons why we do that. One of them is because we live in a performance-oriented culture, we live in a culture that gives us good things only if we perform at certain levels. But this is interesting. If you get a good thing because you performed at a certain level, if you get a good thing because you behaved at a certain level, that’s not a blessing, that’s a reward. And blessings and rewards are very different things. Here’s the thing, rewards are about the goodness of the receiver, blessings are about the goodness of the giver.

And here’s what happens. Because we grew up in a performance-driven culture, or here’s the second reason, I think this is a slippery truth and why we tend to believe this myth that behaving is the basis of blessing is because we know, and this is true. We know that when we don’t behave, when we sin, we lose the experience of God’s blessing. That’s true. It happens. When we sin, when we turn away from God, and we walk away from God, we lose the experience of blessing. And because of that experience, we make a logical mistake. And the logic mistake is well, if not behaving means I don’t experience blessing, then it must mean that the basis of blessing is behaving. And so our eyes come back to us, our eyes get on us, on our work, on our effort, on our abilities to be good. And when we do that, we take our eyes off of God.

Again, what happens is we begin to think not about blessing, but about reward. And reward is about the goodness of the receiver, but blessing is about the goodness of the giver. And what Paul’s trying to help us understand here is that the basis of blessing, the source of all blessing in our lives isn’t our behaving. Yes, our behaving can get in the way of experiencing it but that’s not where it comes from. It comes from belonging to God, it comes because God is good. And God loves us as his children.

You know, my kids growing up, they got breakfast, lunch and dinner, and snacks along the way. And you know why they got those blessings? Because they’re my kids because they’re part of my family. Now, I don’t know about you, but I had an occasion in my life where I got sent to bed without dinner. Anybody else? So it’s just me? Okay, just me. Does that then mean because of my behavior, I didn’t experience that particular blessing that came from being part of the family. Because that happened does that mean then that all the times that I got fed it was because I behaved my way into it? No.

And again, this is subtle, okay. And you may struggle to hold on to this, but I wanna challenge you to try to grab hold of this because it’s important. Because when we stop believing, when we stop understanding that belonging is the basis of blessing, our eyes get off of God who is good and on to ourselves who are not. And we find ourselves in this perpetual spiral of I can’t be good enough, but I gotta be good enough, or I won’t be blessed. And if I’m not being blessed, it’s because I’m not good enough. And it all becomes us, and it’s death. It’s the opposite of life as God intended it to be experienced.

So what Paul is trying to help us understand here is it all along here’s been the plan. All along, the plan has been that belonging is the basis for blessing. Yes, behaving can get in the way of experiencing it, but it never changes the source of it. Belonging is the basis of behaving. He says it’s always been the case. He says, 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. For if the inheritance depends on the Law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace, and his undeserved kindness, gave it to Abraham through a promise.

And so what he’s saying is this, he says, I know what they’re telling you is that yeah, Abraham belonged by believing, and Abraham was blessed because he belonged. But 430 years after that the Law came, 430 years after that God gave Moses the Law. And once the Law was given, everything changed, and what Paul’s going is, “No, it didn’t. It never changed.” He basically says, “The arrival of the rules didn’t change the basis of the blessing.” The blessing still comes to those who belong, and only to those who belong, and only because they belong. It was still about faith. The coming of the Law 430 years later didn’t change the basis of the blessing, it was still about faith.

And so Paul asked the natural question, why then was the Law given at all? Which is kind of the $10,000 question, right? So if the Law doesn’t change the basis of blessing, or belonging, or any of those things, then why all these rules about behaving? Why give us the Law in the first place? This is what he says. He says the Law was given; it was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. He says here’s why the Law was given, it was given because of transgression, which is another word for sin.

It’s an interesting word though. In the Greek of the New Testament, which the New Testaments was written in, there are several different words for sin. And by far, the most common word is “hamartia,” and it basically translates to saying “to missing the mark.” It was an archery term. So you know, if you had a target, and you were shooting at the target, and you completely missed it, and it went off and it killed a spectator or something, everybody would go, “Hamartia.” I appreciate the laughter there. Bad because you know, if somebody air balls, air balls, right, that’s the point, is you missed, you missed completely. Boy, you really, really weren’t even close. Well, that’s the most common word for sin, hamartia, it just means to miss the mark.

There’s another word that’s not quite as common, but it’s the word that Paul uses here. And that word is “parabasis,” nobody needs to know that. But what you need to know is that it basically means to go over a boundary line. So there’s a line that’s been drawn and you go over it, you’ve transgressed. Okay, it’s another word for sin.

And it’s interesting, when you read through all the laws, when you read through the Old Testament rules and regulations, it’s amazing. Many of them are about establishing boundaries in which to live life. It says, you know, “Hey, here’s a boundary, and here’s a boundary, live your life in here and it’s gonna be good. Live life in here and there’s gonna be peace. Live life in here and you’re gonna experience blessing and a lot of other kinds of things that you’re gonna miss out on if you go over there if you transgress.”

The problem is that ever since Adam and Eve turned their backs on God, ever since Adam and Eve sinned, human beings have a tendency towards boundary-breaking. There’s just something in us that goes, “That’s a boundary? All right.” We just do it, right. I mean, come on, do you remember when you were kids and you were in a long car ride and you had you and your sister or brother or whatever in the backseat and you know, a couple of hours in you were at each other’s throats. And so mom and dad whipped around, they’re like, “Okay, here’s what we’re doing. We’re drawing a line right there down the backseat, that’s your side, that’s your side, don’t go on his side. Stay on your side,” which works for like 12 seconds, right? Mom and dad turned around and somebody is going… There’s just something in us that breaks boundaries.

And so what Paul says is listen, because of that tendency, God gave us a very clear set of boundaries as well as rules for enforcement. But it was a protective measure designed to keep us inside. Okay. And it was designed to keep us inside until something else could happen, until the Seed, Jesus, to whom the promise referred had come. Okay. Now, here’s what he’s basically saying. He’s saying the Law was a temporary measure to protect God’s people until the long-term solution could be applied. That’s the bottom line. The Law was a temporary measure to protect God’s people, to keep them from self-destruction until the long-term solution could be applied.

It’s interesting. So I’ve got this cast thing on my wrist because I broke my knuckles doing some woodturning. They eventually went in and they twisted the bone back into place, they drill holes in it, they put these little pins in it that are sticking out my skin. And sounds horrible I was on powerful medication, I was good with it. Like I don’t really know what they did. But then they wrapped it up in this hard thing. And it’s interesting. This is a temporary measure. And if you think about it, it’s even more interesting because what they did is they put this on to keep me from moving it, to protect the bone from further damage, really to protect it from me. Until the long-term fix could be applied and the long-term fix is actually that the bone heals itself, which the doctors can’t do. It’s fascinating to me. This is a God thing, right? Healing the bones, the long-term solution is only something God can do. The bones can knit themselves back together. It’s amazing that God built that into our bodies. it’s astounding. But the doctors can’t do that, all they can do is kind of protect me from myself until God’s long-term solution could be applied.

Well, that’s really kind of what Paul is saying here. He says the Law was a temporary fix. It’s a little restrictive, but it’s really designed to kind of protect God’s people until the long-term fix. And the long-term fix, in this case, is Jesus. That Jesus came and lived a perfect life, he died on the cross to pay for all of our sin. He rose from the dead, and that when we put our faith in Jesus, our sins are forgiven and we’re adopted into the family of God, we belong to him. And we begin to experience all the blessings that come from that belonging. That’s the long-term solution. So he says the law was a temporary fix until that could happen.

Now, here’s the problem with temporary solutions. Temporary solutions are never as good as the long-term fix. They’re always inferior in some way. And so now what Paul does he says here’s where the short-term solution isn’t as good as a long-term fix. And he says, well, it feels a little strange, but let me explain it. He says, “The Law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator.” Now, if you’re familiar with the story of Exodus of when God gave Moses the Law, you might be going, “I don’t remember angels being involved.”

Yeah, there are a couple of other passages in the Old Testament that sort of hint at the idea that angels were involved. But they’re not mentioned in Exodus. But apparently, they were involved, Paul’s picking up on that. And so he says, “Okay, here’s what happened, God gave angels the Law. And then the law was…from the angels was given to a mediator, which almost everybody agrees is Moses, and then Moses gave it to the people. And the key thing that you wanna recognize here is this kind of this sort of like process. Okay, God gave it to angels, angels gave it to Moses, Moses gave it to the people. And then you know, there’s judges and different people who kind of like, make sure the law is being followed and there’s rules if you don’t do it.

And the point is, there’s a kind of a distance that’s entered in here, right? It’s kind of a long series of steps away from a direct interaction with God. And that’s really what Paul’s getting at. What he’s saying is, we have to recognize is that the Law works indirectly, the Law works indirectly. And that was really never God’s plan. God’s plan was always to have a direct relationship with us. And when God created Adam and Eve, he didn’t immediately come up with a series of rules and priests and things like that, no, he just had a direct relationship with them.

That’s always the plan. The Law, this temporary measure because of our sin, it works indirectly. And then here’s the problem with indirect action. Indirect action produces insufficient impact. The more indirectly something works, the least long-term impact it has. I mean, anybody who has small children knows this. Anybody who’s ever told one of your kids to go tell another one of your kids to knock it off knows that it doesn’t work. Like you got to get involved directly. Indirect action has an insufficient impact. And so this is one of the difficulties with the Law, it’s not a bad thing, it’s just an inherent limitation, anything indirect. What he’s saying is, yeah, God to angels, angels to Moses, Moses to people. It’s indirect, and therefore the Law could never accomplish, ultimately, what it was intended to.

And then he goes on to explain that this really was never God’s original plan. He says, “A mediator, however, implies more than one party, but God is one.” And if that seems a little confusing, I would say I’m actually not crazy about that translation. Let me give you a very, very literal translation. It’s not gonna help, but I want you to see it. The literal translation would be, “But a mediator is not one but God is one.” And you’re all like, “thanks.” What?

The point is that it’s a contrast. It’s a sort of two sides of the coin. He says, a mediator is not one, meaning that if there’s a mediator, there’s somebody else in between, whereas God is one that is God really prefers to work directly. And really what he’s getting at is he’s saying, God wants direct relationships with his people. He doesn’t wanna work through a mediator. He doesn’t wanna work through a priest. He doesn’t wanna work through angels. He doesn’t wanna work through a pastor. He wants a direct relationship with you. Yes, he might use all those other things at various times, but God wants a direct relationship with his people.

And if you think about it for a moment, this is an incredible truth, isn’t it? Because what it means is that God wants a personal relationship with you. The Creator of the universe wants a personal relationship with you. He wants to work directly in your life. That’s incredible. And really, that’s what the Gospel is. That when we say yes to Jesus, we belong to God and the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and begins to work with us directly. God wants a personal relationship with you. And the Law can’t do that. The Law can’t produce that. So he says, “Is the Law therefore opposed to the promises of God?” Absolutely not. For if a law had been given then could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the Law.

It says the Law is not a bad thing. But he says the Law can’t get you what God really wants for you. And what does God want for you? He wants to impart life, those are the keywords there. God wants to impart life, God wants you to have life. And not just any life, God wants for you to have a good life. And a good life as God defines it, it’s not just holy and righteous, that’s part of it. Yes. But the good life that God wants for you is a full life. Jesus said, “I came that you may have life and have it abundantly,” to the max. God wants us to have good lives, lives that are full of peace, lives that are full of joy, lives that are filled with meaning and significance with life-giving relationships.

At the end of the day, I mean, at the risk of sounding overly simplistic, but I think this is powerful and I think it’s true, and I think we forget it too easily. God wants you to have a happy life. He wants you to experience happiness. Not as the world defines it, the world has messed up our thinking on what happiness is. But God wants you to have all the things we talked about that make us happy, meaning, and significance, and peace, and joy, and love. He wants all of that for us. And what he’s saying is, the Law is not bad, but the Law can’t get us there, the Law can’t get us to the good lives God wants for us. The Law can’t get us there. So, the Law is not bad but it’s not good enough.

He says, but Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin so that what was promised being given through faith in Jesus might be given to those who believe. Before the calling of this faith, we were held in custody under the Law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. And so the Law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. And again, he’s kind of going back to the same thing he’s been saying, it’s not that the Law is bad, he says, but the Law was a guardian.

In some sense, the Law was kind of training wheels, protecting us until we could get to a certain point. And it’s interesting, he uses language, when he talks about guardian that the language in the original Greek there is the language that would describe a person whose job was to protect a small child from themselves. His job is to protect the small child from harm and from hurting themselves until they got to a point that they could really begin to live without the role of that guardian because they understood and because they got it, and because they could actually begin to make good judgments and those kinds of things.

And so he says that that’s what the Law was. But then he finalizes the section. He says, “Now that this faith has come, we’re no longer under a guardian.” Because now that Jesus has come now that by believing in Jesus, we belong to God and the Holy Spirit works in our lives, we’re no longer under the control of a guardian in the same way.

Now, let me be really clear, this doesn’t mean that the Old Testament no longer matters. This doesn’t mean that the Old Testament isn’t useful. In fact, Paul in his other writings, and when he’s writing to one of his protegees named Timothy, Paul actually says this, he says, “All Scripture.” Meaning all of the Bible, including the Old Testament Law, the rules, and regulations he says all of it, is God-breathed that comes from God, and it’s useful. It has a function, it is useful for teaching and rebuking and correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be equipped thoroughly equipped for every good work.

He says, there’s still use of it, but it doesn’t function in the same way. The Law can’t actually make us righteous, but it can be helpful in instructing us about what righteousness looks like. It can point us in some of the right directions. So it’s all useful.

But what he’s essentially saying, if we kind of boil it all down, is he’s saying here’s a good way to think about the Law. The Law was our training wheels until we could live free by faith. The Law was our training wheels until we could live free by faith. There’s nothing wrong with training wheels, but at a certain point, relying on training wheels becomes problematic.

And so he says that’s essentially what’s happening is that these people are coming in and they’re trying to make you live with training wheels. And you’re getting caught up, you’re getting hung up, you’re getting slowed down. Things are happening, that aren’t actually moving you further in your relationship with God. They’re not are actually making you righteous in the way that you long to be, they’re not actually giving you the good life because the Law can’t do that.

It’s not wrong, it’s not bad, but relying on the Law that’s actually beginning to get in the way. And on some level, what he really says we boil it down to a principle is this. He’s saying, hey, the Law got us here, but it can’t take us there. The Law got us to this point, but it can’t take us to the next thing that God wants for us.

Now, here’s where we need to be careful, okay. In some sense, what Paul’s doing here is he’s speaking historically. When he says, “Us,” when he says, “We.” What he’s talking about is the Jewish people. As a Jewish follower of Jesus himself, dealing with other Jewish people who are asking these kinds of questions, he’s saying, “Hey, the Law got us, the Jewish people, to this point, where now we can say yes to faith in Jesus and that’s what’s gonna take us there to the next level.”

Okay, so it’s a historical conversation, but I think there’s a certain application to it for each of us individually, as well. I mean, some of us grew up in church, and we grew up hearing the Ten Commandments and the rules and the regulations. And that wasn’t a bad thing. It actually protected us, it put the boundaries up, it showed us where the boundaries were so we didn’t stray into deep harm. But at the same time, living by those laws can’t actually get us the lives that God intended for us.

I mean, like this is gonna be a little uncomfortable but I think it’s a powerful illustration of it. The Bible talks a lot about sexual standards. And it says things like, don’t lust after people that you’re not married to. And it gives some very specific instructions about how sexuality should be followed so that it stays inside the boundary so that it’s good as God intended it. And it’s really good to know those boundaries. But here’s the reality, just following those boundaries won’t necessarily give you the intimate relationships that God wants.

I mean, for instance, today, unfortunately, one of the big problems when it comes to sexuality is pornography. So many people lean into pornography, they’re lusting about other people. And here’s the thing, the Bible would clearly say that he lusting after other people through pornography, that’s wrong. That’s the boundary, don’t do that. And so you might go, “Okay, I’m gonna follow God’s boundaries, I’m not gonna look at pornography.” That’s great. But just not looking at pornography doesn’t give you the intimate relationships with your spouse that you’re longing for. There’s more involved in it than that.

And so yes, they can guard us from further harm, you see what I’m saying? But it can’t actually give us what God really wants for us, which is healthy marriages and happy families, and intimate relationships.

And so in some sense, this idea that the Law got us here, but it can’t take us there is true, not only for the Jewish people, it’s true for all of us. But unfortunately, a lot of us are actually going around going, “Well, I’m following the rules, so I got everything,” right. But worse than that, we do this, we go, “Well, I’m following the rules, so God needs to bless me.” I’m not doing these things. So God needs to do this thing for me. Because we’ve begun to believe that behaving is the basis of blessing.

Here’s what we need to do. Two things. The first one is this, we need to remember that belonging is the basis of blessing. We need to remember that God blesses us because he’s good. God blesses us because he loves us. God blesses us because we’re his beloved sons and daughters by faith in Jesus. Yes, misbehaving, going outside the boundaries can get us to a place we’re not experiencing that, but it’s not the behaving that gets us the blessing. We’re blessed because God loves us.

And that’s important because we need to keep our eyes on God and not us. We need to keep our eyes on the goodness of God, and not our work. Because when we do, let our eyes drift from God to us going, “Well, I’m good enough in some way, or I can be that,” then several things happen. First off, we lose a sense of connection to a good Father. But also then as I said, we begin to go, “Well, I’m behaving in this way, therefore, you need to bless me in this way.” And that’s not what it is.

So, here’s an interesting question. I encourage you to wrestle with this. Do I think God rewards me for behaving or blesses me because I belong to him? In your heart of hearts, what do you think? Do you think that God rewards you for behaving or he blesses you because you’re his child, and you belong to him by faith in Jesus? I encourage you to wrestle with that. You’re gonna find some places in your life where, in fact, you really do think that behaving is the basis of blessing. And you’re gonna find that it’s in those places that your relationship with God is strained, and you’re not experiencing peace and joy, and happiness as God intends it. I encourage you to wrestle with that question.

Another thing that I think we need to do with what Paul’s teaching us here is this, we need to recognize there’s a powerful principle, a powerful principle of wisdom here. And that principle is basically this, is, “What got us here can’t take us there.” This is true in almost every area of life, by the way. When we’re parenting kids, we parent small children differently than we parent teenagers. And I know I got some teenagers going, “That’s not happening.” And if it’s truly not then that’s actually a problem because what got us here isn’t gonna take us there. If you want good relationships with your adult children, you’re gonna have to parent to your teenagers a little bit differently.

Here’s the thing, like when we have little kids like we are caregivers, okay, we’re taking care of them. And then we become cops. Okay, a good friend of mine says it this way, I love it. He says then we become cops. Then we become coaches. And then we become consultants. They call us in, we don’t offer, they call us in. I’ve got a daughter who’s out of the house now, she’s out at college. She’s my consultee, I’m not her coach. And that’s a necessary thing. And then eventually we become care receivers. We’ll get to that later.

But you see what I’m saying? What got us here won’t get us there. We got to go, “What’s my next step? What do I need to do different?” It happens in relationships all the time, right? We go, “Hey, I’m in love. I met this person and we’re in love and love is all we need.” No, it’s not. At a certain point, you’re gonna have to figure out how to communicate, you’re gonna have to figure out how do we deal with conflict. And you’re gonna have to go beyond the passion into some adult ways of relating to each other, which actually will take you to better marriages, and better relations. It’ll get you a better life than you’ve ever imagined. But it’s gonna take realizing what got us here isn’t gonna take us there.

And I’m gonna argue that the reason that divorce is such a rampant problem in our culture is because we don’t understand that what got us here won’t take us there. It happens in business. A company grows because they’re passionate about their product, but at a certain point, we need systems and processes or we won’t be able to continue. What got us here won’t get us there.

And it’s true in our spiritual lives. And this is the important thing. In terms of a general principle, it’s true of our spiritual lives. And so if you’re in a place in your life, where you’re feeling like your spiritual journey is stuck. If you feel like your intimacy with God is waning, and you’re not experiencing everything that you feel like the Bible talks about in terms of your relationship, your direct relationship with God there’s a good chance that reason is because you’ve been relying on what got you here to take you there to that next level.

And so here’s the thing, and this is the question we need to ask, what’s my next step? What’s your next step? Maybe you’ve really never made attending church a regular part of your life. Maybe attending church regularly, that’s the new part of your life, maybe that’s your next step. Or maybe you’ve been attending online, which is great. But maybe you live near a campus, and maybe it’s time for you to begin attending in person. Because there are some things that in person can give you that online can’t. So maybe that’s your next step.

Or maybe you’ve never given to the church, maybe beginning to trust God with your finances is your next step. Maybe you’ve never read the Bible for yourself. Maybe starting to read the Bible regularly is your next step. Maybe you’ve never made prayer a regular part of your life, maybe learning how to pray is your next step. Maybe you’ve never served, maybe beginning to serve is your next step.

We all have these next steps. But if we forget that what’s got us here won’t take us there, we often find ourselves stuck in our spiritual lives. And so we have to embrace that. And we have to ask that question always, what’s my next step? And for some of you, the next step is just to say yes to faith in Jesus. You’ve been relying on working, and it’s not working out. You’ve been relying on behaving, maybe you think well, I’m behaving better than other people. But you realize deep in your soul that you’re not, you’re not what you’re supposed to be, and that you really can’t behave your way into a relationship with God.

The good news is you don’t have to. The good news is that God sent his Son Jesus who died on the cross to pay for our sins, raised him from the dead, and it gives each of us the chance to say yes to following him, to faith in him. And when we do that, we’re forgiven and we belong to God. And we experience all the blessings that are available to us. And so if that’s your next step, maybe today is the day to take that step of saying yes to faith in Jesus, whatever your next step is, can we just pray about that together?

God, we thank you for this word from your apostle, from your servant, Paul. And we ask that you’d help us to grab ahold of the slippery truth that belonging to you is the basis of all blessing. Lord, help us to realize that we are blessed simply because you are good. Not because we are good, but because you are good. And so to keep our eyes on our good Father. And we thank you for this truth, this principle that what got us here is often not gonna be able to take us there. And we know that you have more for us. We all know that we’re not experiencing life in the way that your Word promises over and over again. And so Lord we ask that you would speak to us right now, each and every one of us, and show us what our next step is to trusting you. Our next step of faith, our next step of belief, of trust.

And for those who are listening to this message that know, in this moment, that their next step is simply to say yes to faith in Jesus for the first time, here’s how you do that. You can begin a relationship with God, you can belong to him forever by doing this, you’re just gonna have a conversation with him right now. You’re gonna say something like this, you can say it in your heart, you can say it out loud, whatever you wanna do. But say something like this to God right now.

God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. And I know that it separates me from you. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me. I believe you rose from the dead. And I’m ready to put my faith in you. Jesus, I’m gonna trust what you did for me. I’m gonna follow you from here on out. I accept your forgiveness, I accept your gift of belonging to God and all the blessings that come from that. Amen.

We’ve had several people make that decision this weekend for the first time. Can we just celebrate that together? Fantastic. If you made that decision, would you do a favor for me? I would love to know about it so that I can celebrate with you and as a church, we can celebrate. And here’s what you can do. If you’re watching online, you just click the button right below me, says I Committed My Life to Jesus. If you’re on one of our campuses, you can also stop by the Welcome Center, tell them you said yes to Jesus. They’ve got some gifts they’d love to give you.

But wherever you are, the other thing you can do is you can just text the word Jesus to 80875, text Jesus to 80875 and you’ll let us know you made this decision. Give us a chance to send you some resources to begin experiencing all that comes from belonging to God by faith. God bless. We’ll see you soon.

LIVE DIFFERENT

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

JULY

3/4

Galatians 3:26-4:7

We are encouraged as believers to not let our differences with others divide us from being in relationship with them. Join us as Craig walks us through how we can apply this concept to our daily lives.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT
Craig:Hey, let’s give it up to the Worship Team, Grassroots Weekend, right? Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Hey, for those of you who are new at Mission Hills, you may be wondering like, is this what worship normally looks like now? It’s Grassroots Weekend. We do this every year on the 4th of July. And for those of you watching online from another country, and we know we have some people do that every single week, 4th of July here in the United States is when we celebrate the founding of our nation. We do in a lot of different ways. We do a lot of stuff with flags. How many people did something with the flag? Yeah. A lot of flags. We blow things up. Fireworks, we do a lot of that and we do a lot around music, patriotic music. Maybe one of the favorite songs consistently for people around 4th of July is a song called “I’m Proud To Be An American.”

How many of you have listened to that song at least once? Yeah. Yep, great song. It’s interesting, though, I saw a news article come across my feed this week. It was the results of a survey that had been done recently that found that that line, I’m proud to be an American is less true of Americans now than at any point in our history. Actually, fewer people who are willing to say I’m proud to be an American, and actually, among certain age demographics, it is the minority opinion now that is more people are not proud to be an American than are proud to be an American. And you know, that’s a little painful in some ways. I grew up in a military family, and so I am proud to be an American, but after 27 years in vocational ministry, I’m not really surprised by it because I’ve heard that a lot. And as I lean into with people and ask, you know, “Why is that?” What I consistently hear from people is it’s just that America is so divided right now. There’s just so much division in the United States.

We have racial division, we have religious division, we have gender division, we have socioeconomic division, we have political division, and that’s deeply grieving to people. And it’s ironic if you think about it, though, because I don’t know about you, I grew up again in a military family and in schools where we said the Pledge of Allegiance every single day, and the Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t say anything about division. In fact, it says the exact opposite is supposed to be true of our nation, right? Do you remember it? It says, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the public for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” There’s a pretty strong emphasis there on unity. Isn’t there? And yet, I think we all acknowledge if we’re being realistic, that we really are a nation that’s deeply divided. I was talking to a friend this week and he said, “Well, but I wonder if that’s because we get another part of the Pledge of Allegiance wrong, right? It says, ‘One nation under God.”

And in many ways, America has moved away from its historical roots of Christianity. And so, maybe that’s the reason we’re so divided as a nation because we’re no longer under God. And I thought, “Well, yeah, I mean, there’s probably some truth to that. But the problem with it is it’s not like the church is doing a whole lot better.” Right? As we said in this series, we’ve got 45,000 denominations of Christians around the world, 45,000 groups of people going, “Well, this is what Christianity looks like and I’m not really sure about you.” I’m not really sure part of the circle, I’m not really sure you’re part of the family. We have a tremendous amount of division in the church, and so the reality is how can we expect to be one nation under God if we can’t figure out how to be one church under God, right? Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to lean into today in our journey, through the Book of Galatians. We come to a passage where that’s precisely the issue that Paul digs into, it’s division in the church. If you want to follow along, we’re going to be in Galatians chapter, 3 starting in verse 26.

And what we’re going to see today is basically three things. While you’re making your way there, I’ll give you a little sneak peek. We’re gonna see three things. We’re gonna see God’s goal for the church. We’re also gonna see why God’s goal is hard to get to. And then we’re going to see some practical things that will help us move forward a little bit in trying to realize God’s ultimate goal for the church when it comes to this division business. Paul, of course, is writing the Book of Galatians to a group of people who were followers of Jesus in the city of Galatia. And it’s interesting, in some ways, the Book of Galatians is a response to something that Paul was afraid of. Paul had had a deep and abiding fear, and his fear was that the church was going to split. That the church of the 1st century was going to divide into two factions. And the factions at that time would have been Jewish/Christianity, Jewish, followers of Jesus and Gentile, non-Jewish followers of Jesus. And Paul was deeply concerned that the church was gonna fracture into those two different sort of sides of Christianity.

And his concern was that if that happens, the work of the Gospel is going to be undermined because the work of the Gospel depends upon the people of God being able to move forward together and sharing God’s love for the lost. And so, he was deeply worried about this possibility of fracturing. And he writes this Galatians 3:26, he says, “So in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith.” He says, you are all, meaning it doesn’t matter if you came from a Jewish family or a Gentile family, you are all. In more modern terms, we look at any other kinds of family of origin and go, “It doesn’t matter if you came from a Christian family or a Buddhist family or a Muslim family or an atheist family. It doesn’t matter if you were a Methodist Christian or a Baptist Christian or Lutheran Christian.” It doesn’t really matter what your family of origin was, he says, “We are all now children of God. We are all brought into one family.” And how does that happen? It happens by faith in Jesus. We’re all children of God by faith in Jesus.

In other words, what he says is one faith creates one family. One faith creates one family. Now, in the ancient world, it’s important that we understand that in the ancient world, a person’s family was their primary source of identity. The family you came from or the family you belonged to ultimately was the primary source of your identity as a human being. It defined who you were and what you were about. And so, by telling all these people from all these different kinds of families, you know, you’re now one family by one faith, what he’s really doing is he’s calling them to embrace a completely new identity. He’s saying your new identity as a follower of Jesus, really it kind of takes over all these others. And he’s calling all of us, I think, on some level to grab all of a principle that’s simple, but it’s surprisingly difficult to do. And the principle’s just this, my identity as a child of God overshadows any other identity I’m tempted to cling to. That’s what he’s calling us to do. To recognize as my identity as a follower of Jesus, my identity as a child of God, it overshadows any other identity I’m tempted to cling to.

Now, that’s great news or bad news depending on what kind of identities you’re tempted to cling to. It’s great news if you’re attempted to cling to identities that are harmful. It’s great news if you’re tempted to cling to identities that are painful, maybe even shameful. And many people listening to this, I know you grew up in families where that family gave you an identity that you would love to be free of, but it’s hard to let go. Maybe you grew up in a family where you never felt loved. Maybe you grew up in a family where you felt like you were an inconvenience, that you were unworthy of care and connection. And this was great news to know that that family you grew up, that doesn’t define you, that is not who you are. That your identity as a child of God overshadows that identity. It’s great news if you’re tempted to cling to a difficult, painful identity. It’s harder new if you’re tempted to cling to an identity that was meaningful and significant, maybe even good in several ways for you. And I think a lot of us have those identities.

Maybe you grew up in a family or you grew up in a church that you identify as we said, maybe you identify as being Methodist or Baptist, or maybe Muslim or Buddhist or whatever. And maybe in those identities, you found significance, you found a sense of belonging, connection and they were positive things. And then it becomes a little bit more difficult to recognize that it doesn’t really matter whether they were positive or negatives, my new identity as a child of God overshadows every other identity. And we have to somehow learn to embrace that and if we don’t, we’re always going to have problem of division.

He says, for all of you were baptized into Christ, all of you were baptized into Christ, and you have clothed yourselves with Christ. He’s writing to a group of followers. He says I know what you did, you all got baptized. And by the way, if you’re kind of new to church, baptism is a public demonstration of personal faith. It’s a public demonstration of personal faith. Last week here at Mission Hills, we had 40 people get baptized and it was awesome.

They did their public demonstration and they went into the water to symbolize dying to their old selves, their old identity, their sin. And then they were brought up out of the water to symbolize rising again to new life and a new identity as a child of God. That was their public demonstration of their personal faith. If you’ve, by the way, never been baptized, then I encourage you to think about doing it. We do those every couple of months. Maybe you’re a new follower of Jesus, maybe you’ve just recently said yes to faith in Christ, or maybe you never have gone public with it even though you made the decision a long time ago. But if you want to be baptized at our next service, just go to missionhills.org/baptism, let us know you’d like to be part of it. We would love to be part of that journey with you. It’s a powerful thing.

And what Paul says is like a bunch of the people in Galatia, you’ve done this, you’ve gone public. And what he says is here’s what you need to understand, when you went public with your faith in Jesus, you clothed yourself with Christ and that’s weird language, right, because it kind of treats Jesus like a piece of clothing, right? And literally, he says, you put Jesus on like a shirt or like a coat or maybe a better analogy would be you put Jesus on like a uniform. You put on the uniform as a follower of Jesus.

And the interesting thing about uniforms if you think about it is that we don’t typically put new uniforms on top of old ones, right? We don’t wear multiple uniforms and we don’t mix and match, right? I had a friend who was an officer in the Army for many years and at a certain point, he left the Army and he joined the Air Force, became an officer in the Air Force. And at that point, when he joined the Air Force, he didn’t continue to wear Army pants and an Air Force jacket. No, he put off the old uniform, he put on the new one, that’s kind of what Paul’s getting at here. He says you put on the uniform of Christ. You announced to the world you’re a follower of Jesus. And at that point, that identity really became your primary identity.

Really what he says is, he says, deciding to follow Jesus means choosing our new identity over all other identities. That’s a choice when we started just following Jesus, but it’s also a choice we have to make on a daily basis because we all have different identities good and bad that vie for our attention, they vie for our loyalty. And what Paul says is listen, that’s not who we are. Deciding to follow Jesus means choosing our new identity over all other identities. It’s a deliberate choice we have to make.

The problem is, I think, for too many Christians, we suffer from identity crisis because we’re trying to still mix and match, where we’re trying to add Christianity to a bunch of other things. If I can use a really geeky “Lord of the Rings” analogy. It’s like we treat our identity as followers of Jesus like one of the rings of power instead of the one ring. The one ring to rule them all, the one ring to find them, the one ring to bring them all and end the darkness behind them, right? Sorry, I’m geeking out on you there. If you don’t like “The Lord of the Rings,” then just go back to the uniform. That the thing is it’s one uniform, okay? It’s not a mix and match. It’s not layering it on top of.

And so Paul says, listen, deciding to follow Jesus means choosing our new identity over all other identities. But that’s a very different difficult thing to do because those old identities continue to clamor for our attention. So, he says this, he says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Your faith in Jesus makes you one. He says all those other divisions, all those other identities, which he’s really talking about there, that they don’t matter in same way. Now, I think it’s probably important to recognize that he’s not saying that there’s no differences, okay? He’s not saying that there’s no difference between these things. He’s not saying there’s no difference between a Jewish person and a Gentile person. Of course, there’s differences. He’s not saying there’s no differences between slaves and masters or in more modern language, we might say between employers and employees, there’s definitely differences. He’s not saying there’s no differences between men and women, there’s differences.

What he is saying is that our differences no longer define us, so we can’t keep letting them divide us. Does that make sense? That’s his point. As followers of Jesus, that new identity, that’s what defines us. All the other ones, those differences, they’re real and they’re definitely part of the landscape of our interactions, but our differences no longer define us, so we can’t keep letting them divide us. But we do, don’t we? Those identities continue to divide us. But he’s leaning hard into a call really to begin thinking about who we are and whose we are very, very differently. He says if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise. Couple of weeks ago we were talking about Abraham, Paul’s used that argument before. Abraham was the very first man that God called to belong to him by believing in him And God gave incredible promises to Abraham. He said, “I’m going to bless you and I’m gonna bless the whole world through you.” And all of these promises, Paul said, they came to fulfillment in the person of Jesus.

Jesus was the ultimate Seed or the offspring of Abraham and all the promises of God to Abraham coalesce around the person of Jesus. And so, when we have faith in Jesus, we become recipients of those. And it’s interesting here, he uses the language he says, “You are Abraham’s seed.” He says, “In Christ, you become the very person that God was envisioning the moment that he gave those blessings and those promises to Abraham.” Again, not only promises that I’m going to be good to you, but also that through you I’m going to be good to the whole world. He says, when we follow Jesus, we become the descendant of Abraham that all those promises are going towards. And he has using other language, similar idea though, we become heirs. We become the ones who are standing to inherit all of these good things that God has promised us. And really, what he’s saying is if you’ve kind of put it all together, he says, in Christ, it doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish or Gentile or any other identity. In Christ, our differences don’t define us, shouldn’t divide us, and they don’t disqualify us from any blessing of God.

Maybe you came from a family where you didn’t think you were qualified to receive anything good. Maybe they made you feel like that. Or maybe you’ve lived life in a particular way that you know is far from God. Maybe sin has characterized your life to such a degree to this point that you feel like there’s no possible way that God would be willing to bless me. Thinking that God could love me, that’s hard enough to go beyond love to pouring good things into my life. No, not if you know what I’ve done, not if you know what my life’s been like. Maybe you feel like that, but you need to understand that by faith in Jesus, all of those things that we think disqualify us, they go away. In Christ, our differences don’t divide us from each other. Why? Because they’re no longer who we are. They no longer define us nor can they disqualify us. He says, what I’m saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he’s no different from a slave although he owns the whole estate.

And what he’s getting at here is that, we used to live a very different way. We were like children who didn’t understand the fullness of what God was leading us to. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. And so also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. He says, before we kind of grow up, we’re often held under the control of a guardian. Now last week, we were talking about the fact that for the Jewish people, the guardian was the Law, it was the Old Testament rules and regulations and he said that protected the Jewish people. And now, he’s kind of shifting over and he’s talking more to the Gentile people who didn’t grow up with the Law. And he says, “You were held under a guardian too.” In fact, really all of us were held under another guardian we need to talk to or talk about, and that guardian was an elemental spiritual force. And what does that mean?

Well, two things we need to understand. Number one, we need to understand that it’s a bad thing. That the particular word that Paul is using here in the original Greek, Paul always uses in a negative way. So, this is a bad thing. Whatever this elemental spiritual force is, it’s a bad thing. The second thing we need to understand is that it’s a foundational thing. It’s a basic thing, it’s something that’s often under the surface. We’re not always aware of it, but it’s the foundation of which every human relationship is built up. Again, we may not know that that’s the foundation we’re building on, but it’s always there and it always impacts the way those relationships go. So, really, what he’s saying is before faith in Jesus, our relationships were founded on a bad principle. Apart from faith in Jesus, all human relationships are founded on a bad principle. Okay, what’s that a bad principle?

Well, to understand that, we probably need to go back to what he said in 3:28. He said, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female.” Those are the kinds of divisions that he’s talking about, and what he’s telling us now is the reality is that, that apart from faith in Jesus, our tendency is to pay attention to those differences, allow them to define us, and then use them divide us from each other. That’s the way human relationships work. That’s the foundation on which it’s built. I mean, essentially, what he says is ever since Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, because of sin, human relationships are governed by the tendency to turn differences into divisions. And we see it all the time, don’t we? It’s impossible to avoid. He’s saying it’s an elemental spiritual force. It’s a foundational bad, but foundational principle in which all human relationships are built. We turn differences into divisions. It’s been going that way ever since Adam and Eve brought sin to the world and we are not just enslaved to it, we’re propagators of it. We do it ourselves.

And it’s interesting if you think about it, that list of divisions that he gave us. Jew and Gentile, that’s race and religion. Two pretty big areas we continue to divide over, right? Slave nor free, that’s socioeconomics. Politics fits into that category too. Male and female, that’s gender. He hits all the major categories that we still divide over today, right? Race, religion, socioeconomics, politics, gender. That the reality is that we sort of look around and go, you know, we’ve never been more divided and Paul would go,” Yeah, I beg to differ.” Because the reality is this is what human beings do. We’ve been doing it ever since Adam and Eve rebelled and walked away from God, where we came into a place where all of our relationships are built on this foundational principle of turning differences into divisions. But the good news is that was never God’s plan and God’s never okay with our version of relationships.

And so, he says, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law as a Jewish person to redeem those under the Law, to redeem the Jewish people, that we might receive adoption as sons.” So, he says, the Jewish people by faith in Jesus get adopted into the family of God. But then he says this, “Because you are his sons,” and he’s speaking to Gentiles, to non-Jewish people, he says, “You’re sons, in the same way, the Gentiles were because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.” So, now he uses inclusive language. Paul is a Jewish person. But now he’s talking about Gentiles, his brothers and sisters in Christ with other Jewish followers of Jesus. And now, he says here’s where we are, he sent the Spirit of God into our hearts. The Spirit who he calls out Abba, Father, it’s an Aramaic word for father that implies relationship, it implies this sort of an intimate quality relationship.

It’s a way of thinking about God not just as a distant lawmaker, but as a very present loving Father. He says the Spirit cries out Abba, Father, allowing us to see God as our Father. He says, so you are no longer a slave, but you are God’s child. And since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. Bottom line this whole section, what he says is pretty simple. It’s simple to understand, he says, our faith makes as family, so don’t let differences define or divide us. It’s pretty straightforward, right? Our faith makes us family, so don’t let our differences define or divide us. I think the difficult thing becomes how do we put that into practice, especially given that this tendency to turn differences into divisions is so basic to human culture since Adam and Eve brought sin into the world. Because that’s the foundational principle on which human relationships are built, how do we grab ahold of that? How we put it into practice? How do we get out of that rut and move towards God’s intention for us as a church first?

And there’s a couple of things that I wanna suggest that you might want to wrestle with. The first one is this. I believe and I’m really more and more coming to understand that God’s calling me to deal with this that we have to actively resist the temptation to allow differences among Christians to become divisions in the church. We have to actively resist because if we don’t actively resist it, we’ll fall back into the old patterns. How do we do that? Because here’s the thing, there are differences. And sometimes those differences become really significant. And so, there are times that I do believe Christians do have to divide from one another because they differ on some of the foundational things that make us family. So, I’m not saying that there are never differences and that the differences never matter, I mean, anybody who knows me knows that I love theology. I love good theology. I’m committed to good theology. And sometimes, the theological differences become substantial in a way that it becomes difficult to work with each other. I know that happens. What I’m more and more believing and seeing even in my own life is that we’re often tempted to turn differences into divisions when the differences really aren’t all that important. We turn differences into divisions far too often far too easily, and we have to actively resist that?

How do we do that? There’s a couple of things that I’m learning about my own life. First one is this, focus on what we have in common before what we have in conflict. When you find yourself in conflict with somebody who claims to be a follower of Jesus like you claim to be a follower of Jesus, but there’s a point of contention, there’s a point of conflict, you know, you’re charismatical or I’m not charismatic, you’re Calvinist, well, I’m an Arminian or I have no idea what you’re talking about, right? Or, you know, I’m pre-tribulation, you’re post-tribulation. Again, maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about, but it’s okay, right? I’m Lutheran, I’m Methodist, I’m Baptist, I’m Catholic or whatever it is, okay? What you want to start with is not the differences, not the place that we have in things in conflict, we’re gonna start with what we have in common. Okay.

What do we have in common? And so, I’m trying to find myself like going, “Okay, well, hang on a second, do we believe that Jesus is the only Son of God who died for our sins and rose from the dead three days later? Oh, we do?” All right. That’s a significant point of commonality. Okay, “I believe the Bible is the Word of God, it’s inspired and it’s reliable. Do you believe that? Oh, you do?” Okay. “Do you believe that the church exists to share the good news of God’s love with the lost? Oh, you do?” That’s a lot of commonality. And what’s interesting is when we focus on what we have in common before what we have in conflict, it changes the perspective on the things that we have in conflict. And we often find that they’re not nearly as big a deal as we thought they were. And that they don’t necessarily lead to as quick a division. So, that’s one thing we can do, focus on what we have in common before what we have in conflict.

Second thing that I’m discovering is really powerful for me at least, maybe you’ll find it as useful for you as well is that we can ask ourselves this question, is this belief something I would die for, defend, or discuss? I’m finding this enormously useful. I got this from a friend of mine in Minnesota. I was like, “That’s gold.” Yeah. So, okay, we find a point of conflict with somebody. Okay, that belief that we’re talking about where we’re in conflict, is this something I would die for, defend, or discuss? Die for meaning like, I’m sorry, like that’s Gospel truth. I can’t move away from that. Defend meaning I’m gonna argue with you because I think you’re wrong, and I think I’m right. And I think I can go to the Bible and demonstrate that I’m right. And I think it matters in some significant ways. So, I’ll defend it, but I’m not going to die for it if you differ from me on that one. And then there’s the discuss. Our elders are actually going through this exercise right now here at the church. By the way, if you’re not familiar with elders at Mission Hills, the elders is a group of wise men who discern, direct, and protect the future of the church. They make sure the church is going in the right direction to accomplish God’s vision for the church. And they protect the church from significant deviations from that of Mission Hills or from doctrinal errors, those kinds of things.

One of the things that we believe God’s laid in our hearts is what we call the Front Range Vision. Some of you have heard us talk about it before. Front Range Vision is that we believe God’s called us to reach every lost person in the Front Range. Now, there’s two ways we can do that. One way is we’re going to continue reaching people as Mission Hills Church. We’re going to do campuses, online ministry, all kinds of things to reach people in the Front Range as Mission Hills. But we don’t believe for a second that the Mission Hills is capable of reaching every lost one of the Front Range. But God has raised up all kinds of other churches, sister churches that are capable of reaching the lost with the love of God. And we want to come alongside them and help them do that.

God’s taught us something. He’s given us some resources, so we want to empower other churches to reach the lost. And then the question becomes like, well, which kind of churches can we work with? Who can you come alongside and so we can profitably work together to extend the Gospel? And what we’ve kind of realized as elders is what we kind of need to go through our beliefs and go which ones we’d die for. Like, if people don’t agree with us on the die for, yeah, we probably can’t work together. On the other hand, then there’s some of the defend things. Like, we can argue with each other about it. We’ll try to convince you that we’re right because we think we are. By the way, I had somebody tell me once, “Your problem is you think all your opinions are right.” And I was like, “Why would I hold opinions that I didn’t think were right?” Show me somebody who has an opinion…it’s okay. So, you know, right. So, there’s defend, I’m pretty sure I’m right about this and we think it matters. And then there’s the we’ll just discuss it. Like, I’ll just tell you from me, okay? This is just me.

The elders are in this process right now, I’m not speaking for the whole elder team. But I’ll tell you for me, like, I’ll die for the idea that Jesus is the only sacrifice for our sins and we need personal faith in him saved. I’m going to die for that one. I’m gonna defend pretty strongly what I believe is the biblical teaching on baptism. We talked about that earlier. It’s a good example. I think the Bible teaches the baptism is a public demonstration of personal faith. And so, we do what’s called believer’s baptism here. We baptize people who have made the decision for themselves to follow Jesus. We don’t do infant baptism. And if you were baptized as an infant, I want you to know I’m not I’m not trying to undermine the value or significance of that, I know that that can be very meaningful in that context. I certainly don’t mean to be insulting.

I would argue that where some churches do an infant baptism is not what baptism is. It’s parents committing to raise the children within the family of God and that’s a wonderful thing. It’s a powerful thing, but it’s just not what baptism is as I understand Scripture. And so, I’m gonna argue with people who go, “Oh, we do infant baptism.” I’m gonna try to convince you on that, but I’m not going to die for that one, okay? Now, I’ll die for the sufficiency of Christ. I’ll defend my view of baptism. But when we talk about the end times, that’s just a discussion. All right. You wanna talk about the specific sequence of events in the end times, like, we’ll talk about it, but not for very long, honestly, because we got other things to get onto. I mean, we know that we’re here to help people become like Jesus and join him on mission, and getting caught up in all those discussions and certainly dividing from other churches on those discussion areas, that’s not profitable.

Listen, the church is here, right, you know why God has a church in the world? Because he loves us and he wants us to tell the lost that he loves them. We’re here to help people do that. Help them become more like Jesus and to join him on that mission. So, we’re not gonna spend too much time worrying about those discussion areas. And I think this is very useful as a church, but I also think it’s very useful for individuals. When you find yourself in conflict with somebody who claims to be a follower of Jesus like you, ask yourself on this belief that we’re in conflict, is this a die for, a defend, or a discussion issue? And I’m finding personally that helps me to avoid the temptation to turn differences into divisions that don’t need to be there. Again, sometimes there are divisions that become necessary. I understand that, I’m not naive. My concern is that we divide too quickly and too often, and it hurts the work of the Gospel.

Second thing we can do, we need to model the God-given work of combating division in human society. We need to model that work. The first application really had to do with what we do inside the church, but this is a little bit more outward-facing. As we look out into the world, we see all the divisions there, which we know are natural. It’s the elemental spiritual force in which human relationships are built. We need to model to the world the God-given, the God-ordained work of combating that division. Now, understand this, I don’t believe for one moment that apart from faith in Christ, you can have real unity in the world. We cannot be one nation unless we are one nation under God. What I’m saying is we can never expect to be one nation under God if we can’t figure out how to be one church under God. And if we don’t model to the world what it looks like to step over lines of division and go, “I’m not going to let those define us. And I’m certainly not going to let those be a barrier to me expressing the love of God to people who differ from me on other things.”

I think there’s a place as God calls us to be socially active, to be active in dealing with racial divisions and gender divisions and political divisions and socioeconomic divisions. To look at those lines that have been drawn and go, “I don’t care about that line. I’m stepping over that line to be the hands and feet of Jesus.” We’re called to do that. And ultimately, what happens is we end up stepping closer to people so that we can speak to them the truth that God loves them and has done everything necessary for them to be part of our one family. One family, one faith. One faith that makes one family, in which our differences don’t define us and they certainly don’t divide us. Let me give you a couple of questions to wrestle with.

Question number one, with whom do I share a faith that I struggled to acknowledge as family? Who do you know that claims to be a Christian like you, but you struggle to see them as a Christian like you? Maybe that’s an individual, maybe that’s somebody in your community, your work and your neighborhood, or maybe it’s a church or a movement of churches. Who do you struggle to acknowledge as family even though there’s at least a claim to share the same faith?

Second question to wrestle with is what other identities do I need to let be overshadowed by my identity as a child of God? The reality is that far too many of us are mixing and matching our uniforms. We’re mixing and matching our discipleship, our decision to follow Jesus with our politics, with our race, with our gender, with our socioeconomics, whatever they are. We’re mixing and matching. So, what other identities do you struggle to let go of in of your one identity as a follower of Jesus? And again, it may be that there’s good things to some of those identities and our identity as followers of Jesus allows us to bring those good things from them. What our identity as followers of Jesus doesn’t allow us to do is to put those other things on par with our identity as children of God. So, which ones do you struggle to subsume underneath that new identity as a child of God?

Third question I encourage you to wrestle with is where is God calling me to model the work of combating division? And even right now, the Holy Spirit is speaking to you that there’s a place of division and it’s time for you to step over it, to speak the truth about a God who loves everyone equally, regardless of where they come from, regardless of their past, regardless of their family, regardless of their present beliefs, He loves them all and he wants you to speak that love to them. Where is he calling you to do that? Would you pray with me?

God, we thank you for this word from your servant, Paul. We acknowledge it’s a challenging word. It’s not hard to understand, it is very hard to implement. We ask for your forgiveness for the ways that we, as your children have drawn lines of division and created barriers of relationship, both inside the church and also out. We ask for your forgiveness and are grateful knowing that what Jesus did on the cross to bring us into this new family is more than enough to eliminate sin of the damage that we’ve done by allowing differences to be divisions. We confess those sins and we receive your forgiveness. Thankful for a fresh start and pray that your Holy Spirit now would speak to us about what it looks like to move forward grabbing hold of these truths that you’ve given us in your Word. Lord, you’ve given us an incredible purpose. We’re here because you love us. And you want us to let the lost know that you love them. It’s an incredible purpose. It’s an incredible privilege to be part of that. And Lord, we ask that you teach us to move forward in ways that make progress.

We no longer spend our energy turning differences into divisions, we spend our energy on our mission. Speaking of that mission, Lord, as followers of Jesus, we pray right now for all those that are listening to this message that are not followers of Jesus yet. And while the people of God pray, if that’s you, if you’re not a follower of Jesus and you’re listening to this, here’s what I want you to hear, more than anything else, here’s the one thing you need to come away today understanding. God loves you. We’ve all sinned, and our sin separates us from God. Our sin creates an actual division between us and God. It’s the only division that really matters in the end. But God loves us so much that he sent his own Son to die on the cross to pay the price of our sin. And having paid the price of our sin, three days later, he rose from the dead and he gives every one of us, no matter what our past is, no matter what our background is, no matter what our history is, he gives every one of us the chance to say yes to faith in him.

And when we say yes to faith, and when we say yes to following Jesus, when we put our trust in him, that dividing line is removed. We are adopted into the family of God. We’re forgiven of our sins. We receive the blessings of God not only of a relationship with God but of being used by God to make a difference in the world. It’s all available by faith in what Jesus did for us. And if you’ve never put your faith in what Jesus did for you, today’s the day. There’s no reason to leave that dividing line up between you and God anymore. Your Father wants to embrace you. Here’s how you do it. Wherever you are, you’re just gonna have a conversation with God right now. In your heart, say something like this to God, “God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. And I’m sorry. I know my sin separates me from you. Thank you for sending Jesus to die in my place, to pay for my sin. To remove that barrier. I believe Jesus rose from the dead, and Jesus, I’m saying yes to following you. Jesus, I’m putting my trust in you and what you did for me. I accept your forgiveness, I accept a new relationship with God. It begins now and goes on forever. Amen.”

Can we celebrate those who’ve made that decision this weekend? Hey, listen, if you made that decision for the first time this weekend, congratulations. I’m so excited for everything God has for you. We would love to celebrate that decision with you. So if you did make that decision this weekend, would you let us know you made it? If you’re on one of our campuses, you can stop by the Welcome Center and tell them I said yes to following Jesus. They’d love to give you some free resources, including a book about this new relationship with God. If you’re on our online campus, you can click the button right below me. If you’re listening in some other way or wherever you are at the time that you hear this message, you can always just text the word Jesus to 80875. Just text Jesus to 80875. And let us know where to send these free resources to you, but we would love to celebrate with you. Happy Independence Day. We’ll see you soon.

IT’S PERSONAL

SCOTT RIDOUT

JULY

10/11

Galatians 4:8-20

God wants something for you, not from you. Grace is countercultural. You are invited to leave checklist-Christianity behind and be embraced by God’s grace. God wants a relationship with you; he wants your heart and not your works.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT
Craig: Hey Mission Hills, I am super excited to introduce our guest speaker for this weekend. Scott Ridout. He’s my friend, he is my mentor. He’s also my leader in the sense that he is the President of Converge Worldwide, which is the movement of churches that Mission Hills belongs to. And I love what he’s doing with this entire movement and I’ve benefited so much from him. I could say so much about Scott. But honestly, the three most important things you need to know, Scott loves God, he loves people, and he loves connecting God and people through teaching God’s Word. And so I’m super excited to have him with us this weekend. Would you give a warm Mission Hills, welcome to President Scott Ridout.

Scott: Thank you, Mission Hills. Hello, everyone. If you’re online or on-site, great to be with you this weekend. And I want to personally love back at Craig if you don’t mind. I just got to tell you. I’ve been walking through the series with you, I’ve listened every week and watched Craig and Steve and it’s just been, it’s been fantastic. And I hope you know what a gift God has given this church. As a Bible teacher, as a leader, Craig Smith is just top-notch. And I hope you just pray for him, and Coletta, and the family, all the time, it’s just fantastic leadership.

So we’re in a series called…I’m sorry, I was about to go into a reference about a movie but I call it “Live Free,” not Die Hard, Live Free. And living free we’re talking about the freedom we have in Christ. Jesus said in John chapter 8, it says that “If the Son sets you free, you’re free indeed.” And he goes on in John chapter 10, he says, “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I came that you might have life, and it might be abundant, it might be full and meaningful.”

And yet what I see in Christians, and what we’re all experienced is sometimes we have these expectations of life in Christ. And we have this experience in life in Christ. And you know what the difference is between expectation and experience, you know what that’s called? It’s called disappointment. And God doesn’t want us to be disappointed in our life in Christ. He wants us to experience everything he has for us. And so we’ve been walking through the Book of Galatians and the Bible teaches that God has so much for us. And when Christianity came to Galatia, Christianity came out of Jewish foundation, but it went into the non-Jewish world, and when the people of Galatia found out about the Gospel of grace, they were shocked, they were surprised, they were pleased. It’s like, “I can’t get enough of this.”

And they followed Paul, and he established the church. But then Paul left, and some others came in behind him. And they said, “Listen, Paul’s good and he’s smart, and this grace thing is a good thing, but it’s not the only thing.” And in fact, really the whole truth is this, yeah, grace is a part of it, but you have to add works to grace to be accepted by God. And in their case, they’re saying it’s the Jewish customs. And so they wanted to add all the rituals, and routines, and regimens, all the celebrations, and ceremonies, and even circumcision. And they wanted to add the feasts, and festivals, and fast, and all that stuff to add it in.

And if you actually have grace plus all these things, then you might be acceptable to God. And Paul hears about this he say’s “No, no, no, no, no, you don’t understand. Listen, I brought you the whole Gospel from the very beginning. If it’s not all grace, it’s no Gospel. You don’t add anything to it. You don’t take anything away from it.”

And what we realize is when it comes to…and his concern is this. His concern is this listen, that they live free in Christ. And second concern is that the church stay unified. That the church stay together. A few weeks ago, we talked about this, where we said, “Listen, our differences no longer define us in Christ.” And so they should no longer divide us either. What we’re discovering is this, that every religious system, every belief system has three components. There’s believing, there’s behaving, and there’s belonging. And there’s a different formula for all of them to how you interact it really, really matters. And this thing that they were teaching and not Paul, but these people came behind him, were teaching something called legalism. And that it’s all about works, it’s all about what you do.

And legalism has this equation between those three components is this, believing plus behaving equals belonging. If you want to belong, you have to believe certain things, you have to behave in certain ways, and then maybe if you do enough, you might be able to belong to God and to the people of God. But Paul came and said, “No, no, no, when Jesus came, he flipped that script. That is not the equation. In fact, behavior is not even a part of the equation.” He says, “No.” And Paul and Craig had this idea called gracism, is what he’s gonna called it. He says this and this is the equation. “Believing equals belonging.” That if you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, if you believe that you’re a sinner and you need a savior, you trust in what Christ has done on the cross and put all your trust in him and on yourself, not in your works, not in your goodness, not trying but trusting, not achieving, but believing, then you belong.” You belong to the people of God and you belong to God.

And behaving is a byproduct. Behaving is something that happens just because you understand that all that God has done for you. And it inspires you. It’s not performance from acceptance… I’m sorry, performance for acceptance, it’s performance from acceptance. We perform because we’re already accepted not to be accepted. Now I have a different equation that I use in this whole conversation is this. Jesus plus nothing equals everything. Jesus plus nothing equals everything. You don’t add to him, you don’t take away from him. It’s all about Jesus. Jesus is the reason for everything, Jesus plus nothing, when it comes to salvation, it’s him. It’s not what we do, it’s what he’s done. Jesus plus nothing equals everything.

And Paul is trying to get this back in the mindset of the church in Galatians. But he’s having some challenges. So, he’s written this book, this letter to them. And he’s talking to all different things. He’s gone through his personal life journey; he’s gone through the history in the Bible talking about different angles added. And now he gets to this place in Galatians chapter 4 where he gets really, really personal. I mean, if you read the next few verses, I think it’s the most personal he gets than any time in the Bible, in all the letters he wrote, this is the most personal he gets.

He is distraught, he is broken over what’s happening in the lives of these believers in Galatia. It’s kind of like a parent of a teenager that sees decision after decision that you know the path that they’re headed to, it’s just gonna cause destruction in their lives. And you’re having this conversation, “Please, I’m begging you don’t go that route. Please don’t do that.” And Paul can even say, “Been there, done that. Don’t do it.”

And so as we read this, I want you to have kind of the mindset of a parent with a teenager going the wrong direction. This is what Paul is thinking. This is what he’s doing. So turn to Galatians 4, verse 8, and Paul has talked about moving from falsehood to truth, from law to grace, from rejection to adoption, from being slaves to being children of God, we’re no longer slaves of fear, we are children of God. Let’s pick it up in verse 8. He says this, “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.” He says, “Formerly looking back, I said, I want you to look back to before you knew me, look back before Christianity came to Galatia, look back before you heard the Gospel of truth. Look, go back to and the kind of life you were living and the kind of thinking you had in your life.”

Now, back then, there were two major groups of culture, there was a Greek culture, and then there was a Roman culture, the Romans were in charge, but the Greeks were kind of still there, their thinking was still there. And Greek and Roman world, they had all these different gods to explain the different things that happened. And like, how many of you actually studied mythology in your junior high and stuff like that? I did. I grew up doing that.

So what he figured out was this is that if you wanted to figure out why something did work or didn’t work, there was a probably a god, a demigod involved in that. And for example, if the crops didn’t come in, one of these gods was mad at you and you had to appease that god. And they did come in, and it’s because they helped you and you had to say thank you to that god. And if you could have kids or not have kids, if things went well, or not went well, you had different gods, you had to figure out which god they need to please and offer sacrifices and they had temples and all that sort of stuff.

It was a works-based, performance-based, fear-based faith. If I work on those things, and maybe these things will turn in my way, and the gods will be in favor of me. But there’s also another thinking back then it’s called Roman asceticism. Asceticism is this idea that the body is bad, and the spirit is good. And so I have to hurt my body, I have to do hard things to my body, I have to give up all indulgence, and not feed the flesh. And then maybe if I do that, the deities will actually like me, they’ll help me, and that kind of stuff.

And so these two performance-based, works-based, fear-based systems were what they came out of. That’s what they were into. And both of them had this idea that in order to experience freedom, I have to put myself under bondage. In order to experience freedom, I have to put myself under bondage. You’re like that’s really strange, no one ever does that. I’m like, “We do it all the time.” I mean, let’s be honest, how many have you ever done this, you’ve spent money you didn’t have, to buy things you didn’t need, to impress people you don’t even know?

I mean, we do that all the time. Americans are nostril deep in debt. We have more debt…we have no idea what to do with all this debt. We think that freedom is found out there by getting yourself into debt. So, we’re gonna get, you know, we’re keeping up with the Joneses. Joneses get a bigger house, so we get a bigger house, they get a bigger car, we get a bigger car, they get a bigger boat, we get a bigger boat, they get a bigger wife, we get a bigger wife. I mean, we’re chasing the Joneses. We’re just always out there trying to figure out, “How do I keep up with the Joneses?” And it’s putting us into bondage. We can’t possibly pay it off.

The Bible says that debt is bondage. We can’t figure that out. And some of us are not that way. But we have some escapism going on in our lives, we’re trying to escape the things of life. And so, we get into video games, or we get into pornography, or we get into gambling, or we get into drugs and addiction. And we think well freedoms out there somewhere. And we just turn ourselves around. We get ourselves in a box, it happens all the time. And Paul’s saying, “Listen, I want you to remember what you came from, it wasn’t freedom, it was bondage. That’s what you came from. And now you’re putting yourself back into the same works-based, performance-based, fear-based, kind of religion thinking. What are you doing? It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

He goes on. He says, “You didn’t know God.” He says, but now verse 9, “But now that you know God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you’re turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” He’s like, “You just came out of it. It’s not the same thing. It wasn’t Roman, and Greek gods, and asceticism, but now it’s Jewish customs, and rituals, and religions. Do you really want circumcision to be a part of your formula? Come on.” He says, “You’re just putting yourself back under these weak and miserable forces.”

But he says something in these two verses that it’s really, really important. He talks about not knowing, knowing, and being known. Not knowing, knowing, and being known. You’re like, “I thought we just went from not knowing to knowing.” No, no, there’s just something more here. It’s going from not knowing to knowing is believing, but now going from knowing to being known is belonging. He says, “There’s something more here. There’s power to belonging, there’s power to being known.”

So I still keep in touch with my old college roommates. Anyone have college roommates you still keep in touch with? I still keep in touch with a few of them. And one of them he was my mentor, he really taught me about my faith. And I was just incredibly appreciative of all he did in my life. But he’s weird. He’s just kind of strange. Like, I called him one time, and left a message. And two years later, he called me back he said, “I got your message.” I mean who does that?

But he’s still the same kind of guy that when you start talking, even after two years of not talking, it’s like it was yesterday you talked to him. You know what I’m talking about? That friend is just a friend for life and it just fits. Well, we have that relationship. Well, I was talking to him a couple years ago, and I was like, “What’s going on with you?” And he’s like, “Well, I’m a principal of a school now. And I’m starting to write a book. And my son…he said probably the most important thing, my son is in a band, and the band started a few years ago, and they gotten really popular, they just signed with a major label. And I think they’re just gonna take off.” And I go, “Well, that’s great. What’s the name of the band?” He told me and we just kept going.

And about three months later, I’m looking at iTunes and realize his son’s band has the number one song on iTunes. They’re blowing the charts up. I mean, it’s incredible. And so I take a picture of it, and I put it on my social media. I say, “Hey, congrats to my old college roommate’s son and their band success and just excited for them. Hey, buy this album. This is great.” And it’s great.

So about 15 minutes later, my phone is blowing up. Because my kids’ phones are blowing up from their friends. Evidently, I’m a cool dad. All right. Because my kids’ friends follow me on Facebook. All right. So I’m cool. At least for the moment, I am.

So my son is talking to me, my oldest son’s talking to me, he says, he’s like, “Hey, what is this? How do you know about this band?” I’m like, “I don’t know about this band. I know the band and they know me.” He’s like, “What do you mean?” I say, “Well, the lead singer’s father and I went to college together. So I actually have a connection with him.” He’s like, “That’s awesome dad.” And kind of lets it go. And dad’s cool for a moment. Isn’t that great, dad, when you’re cool for a moment?

So well, about three months later, I’m going out to visit him. And I’m in his house and he lives right beside his son and, and he’s like, “Hey, you want some swag?” Of course, this is where I get uncool. I’m like, “What’s swag?” So he’s like, “You know, it’s like t-shirts and stuff.” I’m like, “Yeah, my kids will love them.” And so I got t-shirts, and hats, and signed stuff. And all you know, you name it, he gave it to me. But he also knew that my daughter was a fan of the band before they got popular. And he says, “I’ll tell you what we’re gonna do for your daughter. Since she liked them before they…she can choose any concert. I’ll give her two tickets and backstage passes.” And all of a sudden you begin to realize, “Okay, it’s one thing to know about. And it’s another thing to be known by.

See when you come to know God, he also comes to know you. And he knew you already. Here’s the good thing. If you’re listening and you’re like, “I can’t…I’m online because if I walk in that church, lightning will strike me. You know, I can’t go in there.” Listen, God knows everything about you. And he loves you anyway. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, where you’ve been, how long you’ve been gone, what’s been done to you, God loves you. And he wants a vibrant, personal life-changing relationship with you. He loves you. So just come and have a relationship with God.

See, because here’s the thing, believing, not behaving is the basis for belonging. And belonging, not behaving is the basis for blessing. And God wants to bless his children. God wants to bless his creation. God wants to bless us not because we deserve it, because he’s good. He’s just a good God who wants to bless us in every part of our life.

And Paul is saying, “Listen, why would you move back to this fear-based, performance-based, works-based belief when you can have relationship, why go back to rules when you could have a relationship with God?” There’s a big difference between legalism and graceism. When you do something wrong legalism says, “You owe me.” It’s a debt that goes, you owe me. And I unfortunately you’re gonna have to this, this, this, and kind of live back up to it. You have to figure out a way to get back there.” But graceism is different. Let me give you a definition of grace that you may not have heard before. Grace is the face of love when it meets imperfection. Grace is the face of love when it meets imperfection. When God sees your imperfection and when he sees my imperfection, you know what he does? “I knew that. And I love you anyway. And I provided for you. If you just trust in my Son, if you just believe, you would belong.”

It’s different. Grace is the face of love when it meets imperfection. Aren’t you glad when God looks at you? He doesn’t look at your sin. He looks at what Christ did for you on the cross. He says. “If you believe in my Son, you’re welcome into my family. I want you. I choose you, I invite you, and I adopt you, into my family.”

Legalism just is different because legalism is, “A weak and miserable force.” Paul says. It’s always trying to attain, it’s always trying to strive. But to live a life under the unattainable is unsustainable. You can’t ever know if you’ve ever done enough, you can’t ever know. It’s always about working, working, working. And I never know if I’ve done enough. And Paul says, “Why would you go back to that? Why would you turn back to something that didn’t work for you the first time? Why would you put that into this? It doesn’t work for you now.”

And he’s trying to get to the difference between relationship and rules. See, if you go back to rules, it’s all about checklists Christianity, and it’s all about doing the right thing. And did I do enough? And all that sort of stuff, but I want you to understand relationship. There’s a whole lot of Christians that don’t grasp what it means. Listen, God didn’t just forgive you, He adopted you. He invited you into his family. So this is not about acknowledging what you did wrong, and it’s paid for. It’s like, no, no, come be part of the family. And there’s rights of being a child of God. And there’s an anticipation of the inheritance that we have in Christ. And there’s this idea that God has this deep affection for you and me that I just wish sometimes Christians would just not do the routine of coming to church and doing…and reading the Bible. It’s like I wish they would just stop and bask in the goodness of God.

When was the last time you did that, where you didn’t just finish your devotion and go on to your work or whatever it is. You’d go to church and just have lunch and eat potato salad. When was it that you actually just stopped and said, “I realize just how much God…just God I grasp how much you love me.” I was thinking about this and I was writing some stuff down and I said if Paul wants to say something to us today after all he said in the Book of Galatians at this point, here’s what he would say. So let me get this right. “You wanna move from being a noticed, wanted, accepted, love, mercy-filled, forgiven, brought in, adopted, blessed, empowered, protected, child of God who has no one to impress and nothing to prove. And you wanna go back to a life where you felt forgotten, unwanted, guilty, worthless, condemned, destitute stranger, trying to earn your way. What?”

What do we need to do these days? I want to go back to Ephesians chapter 3, where Paul says, “I pray that your eyes will be enlightened. And you would grasp the height, and depth, and width, and breadth, of the love of God, that you would just bask in God’s goodness. That you would cease striving, Psalm 46:10, “Cease striving and know that I am God and that I love you.”

See, our biggest problem in living the Christian life is not that we don’t grasp the love of God, how much we love God, it’s that we don’t understand how much God loves us. Do you grasp how much God loves you? Because if you did, and if I did, we would live differently. That kind of grace would not just be the foundation of our faith, it wouldn’t just fill our lives, it would fuel our actions. And we would perform from acceptance and not for it.

He goes on to verse 10. And he goes back to the problem, and he says, “You guys are observing special days and months, and seasons, years.” He’s like, “Days, and months, and seasons, and years. That’s just the one thing that’s all the time over and over. It’s an all-consuming effort to try to please God to try to earn your way into belonging.” He says, “First of all, that’s unnecessary because of what Christ has done.” Second, he says, “Listen, you realize we don’t chase standards, we chase the Savior.” The standards…keeping standards doesn’t make us spiritual, right? We all like to think that they do if we go to church this much, if we help this many people, if we pray this much that makes us right with God. We live under standards. But we’re not chasing standards, we’re chasing a Savior. Standards are not a complete understanding of what God has for us.

And there’s a difference between discipline and devotion, you realize you can be completely disciplined, but then not affect your heart. You can be really…you could do all the right things but do it for all the wrong reasons. Discipline and devotion are not the same thing. God is not aiming at your behavior; he’s aiming at your heart. He wants your heart and because life flows from the inside out, not the outside in. He wants to change you from the inside out, not the outside in.

It’s kind of like the Olympics are coming up. Anyone excited about that? I love the Olympics. But every year we hear a story about an athlete who’s just lost it. They’ve lost that loving feeling. And not just the Righteous Brothers, they lost that loving feeling. They’re doing everything, they’re disciplined, whatever, but they just don’t enjoy the sport anymore. But they’re doing it to perform for their parents, or for people’s expectations, or for their coach, and they’re just not loving anymore. And God doesn’t want that for us. You don’t come to church to please God, you come to worship God, to enjoy God, to say, “I’m devoted to you, God, I love you, God.” And we need to experience that in our lives.

The law can guard us from wrong action. But it can’t guide us to the right relationship. God wants a vital life changing relationship with you. Paul goes on and he says this, “I fear for you that somehow I’ve wasted my effort on you.” Can you imagine a friend telling you that? “I think I’ve wasted my effort on you.” Wow. It’s hard. I mean, what he’s asking here is, like, “How could you go back to that former slavery, back to that bondage when you’re free in Christ and there’s this grace that is all over the Gospel? How could you go back to that?” Who would think that way? Why would anyone think that way? And the answer is the reason we think that we have to work for things is because that’s the way the world teaches us to think. Isn’t it?

We have to earn everything. Grace is not a part of the world equation. Grace is counter cultural. It’s counter culture. I’ll prove it. So I have a friend named Bruce. He’s lives in California. He’s a good guy. He was telling me a story. One day, he walked into a Walmart, and the kids were selling candy bars out in front of the Walmart. Do you remember those days, kids used to do that? They would sell candy bars. Now like Girl Scouts are there and cookies are good too. But candy bars, and remember how much it cost for a candy bar? It was $1. Yeah, a $1 in…Yeah, good luck. Good luck finding that for $1 these days.

So they’re selling these candy bars and he’s walking to Walmart. And this kid walks up to him as he’s walking in and says, “Hey, Mister, would you like to buy a candy bar? It’s only $1.” My friend says, “Thanks. But no thanks.” And he starts walking in the store. But out of the corner of his eye, he could see the countenance of this kid just fall, the kid just went. And my friend actually had a compassion moment, which isn’t unusual for him. He had a compassion moment, he looked back, and he decided to engage this kid. He said, “Hey, kid. How long you been out here?” He says, “I have been here all morning long.” He says, “And how many candy bars do you have to sell?” He says, “I have to sell 20 candy bars.” “And how many of you sold?” “I haven’t sold a single one.”

And his heart just poured out to him, and he reached in his pocket, he pulled out a $20 bill. He said, “Hey, kid, here’s what I’m gonna do for you. I’m gonna pay for the candy bars. I’m buying all 20. Now I don’t want them because I’m on a diet. I don’t want them, but you can just give them away. They’re paid in full. Just give them away.” This is a definition of grace, right?

So my friend Bruce just kind of stands to the side and he’s gonna watch this kid. As people around Walmart experience the grace of God. Listen, “It’s free. It’s paid in full.” This is what happens. So he’s looking over here. He’s watching and this kid the very first person is this guy on a cell phone. He’s walking out he’s kind of busy, you know, kind of involved and the kid says, “Hey, Mister, would you like a candy bar? It’s free.” And he’s like, “Nothing’s for free, kid.” And just keeps on walking.

The next is this mom with a young child and he’s like, “Would you like a candy bar? It’s free.” The kid goes, “Yay.” And the mom looks at it. She holds it she’s like, “What’s wrong with it?” He said, “There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s free.” “No.” And just hands it back.

The third person, he hands it to him, and he looks at it. He’s like, “Free, huh?” He like, “Yeah, it’s free.” “What’s the catch?” You see because our world tells us that nothing is free, that everything is earned. It’s counter cultural. it’s counter intuitive. It’s even counter church tradition. We’ve all been told you have to behave right to belong, right? It’s all counter those things. But grace is something that is the foundation of Christianity. By the way, I have a candy bar, it’s free. Does anybody want this candy bar? Anybody want it? Here you go.

He understands grace. He also likes chocolate. Listen, grace is the face of love when it meets imperfection. Grace means you can’t earn it; you don’t deserve it. It’s not what you do. It’s what’s been done. He’s like, “I wanna live under that grace.” He says, “I feel like I’ve wasted my time on you.” He goes on. He says, “I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me for I became like you.” What does he mean by that? He says, ” I’m pleading with you, I’m begging you, on my knees. Please, please, please, listen to my voice.” He says become like me because I became like you. Well, in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul talks about his attempts to help people meet, know, and follow Jesus. And he says this, he says, “To those under the Law, I became like one under the Law that I might win those under the Law. And to those not under the Law became like one not under Law, to win those not under the Law.”

He says, “To the weak I became weak.” He says, “I became all things to all people so that by all means, some might be saved.” And so when he goes out of Jerusalem, which is under the Law, and he goes to Galatia, which is not under the Law, he acts like he’s not under the Law. He says, “I became like you.” But now they’re adding works to it. He says, “I wish you’d become like me. I wish you wouldn’t go that way.” Just so you know, Paul got a lot of flack for living the way he did among the Gentiles. In Acts 21: 21, he goes back to Jerusalem to visit and here’s what they say. “They have informed me that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, that is to turn away from the Law. Telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to their customs.”

So Paul, didn’t bring that with him. He’s like, “When I came to you, I didn’t bring that stuff. And now you wanna put it on yourselves? Why would you do that?” Now Steve talked about it a few weeks ago, in Philippians chapter 3, he talked about how when Paul came, he was a Pharisee. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews, he was a Pharisee that’s according to the Law, he did all the things required by the Law, he was spotless, he was better than most. As a matter of fact, better than all his brothers, he says. He said, “But all that stuff, all that working my way to God, I gave that up. And I wanna be found in Christ. I wanna experience the goodness of Christ. I want people to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his sufferings. I wanna be conformed like him in his death. I wanna live for Christ. All that stuff is rubbish, all that stuff is refuse, all that stuff is useless. I became like you so why don’t you become like me?”

He goes on and says, “You did me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the Gospel to you.” So Paul didn’t have a plan to go to Galatia. He had to end up in Galatia because of some sort of illness. What was it? Well, we’re not really sure. It could have been a number of things, but we think it’s probably his eyesight for a few reasons. Number one, a couple of verses later, he talks about how they would have torn out their eyes for him if they could. Why would he say that? What’s the context of that?

And then at the end of the book, he says, “See what big handwriting I’m writing with. Even I can see that.” So maybe it was with his eyes. We know in his journeys, he went from the island of Cyprus, which is in the middle of the Mediterranean to a place called Perga on the shore of modern-day Turkey where there’s low lands, swamplands, mosquitoes were there, maybe it was malaria. And you know, malaria you could get pounding headaches, it can affect your sight and maybe he had to go up to Pisidia in Antioch, Galatia, 3,600 feet higher because of no mosquitoes. We don’t know.

Plus in that time of season, you know, eyesight was an issue. No optometrists. Didn’t nobody…they had burning fires with the campfires and inside their house. They kept their cattle in the house. So there’s dust everywhere. Ladies, you’d love that, wouldn’t you? Get to keep the cows in the house. You know. They had these oil lamps and all sorts of things that would affect the eyesight and no help for it.

So they speculate it’s probably his eyesight. But no question he has an illness when he meets them. He’s not in good shape. He goes on and he says, “And even though my illness was a trial to you, it was hard on you, you did not treat me with contempt, or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God. As is if I were Christ Jesus himself.” He’s like, “When I came to you, I had a whole bunch of things wrong with me.”

And just so you know, back then they had this thought that bad things happen to bad people. And when bad things happen to people, you stay away from those people, because they’re bad. And bad things could happen to you. Not that that thinking ever happens today. My mama taught me actually. She said, “Listen, everything bad is happening. You stay away from those people.” Mom taught me that. It’s still the other day. It’s here today. But he said, “No, no, when I came to you, you didn’t treat me that way.”

Now he was mistreated, but not by the Gentiles. Look at what it says in Acts chapter 13, verse 44. He’s in Pisidian Antioch, the first city in Galatia, and here’s what happens to him. “On the next Sabbath. He’s been speaking to the Jews in the synagogue, but on the next Sabbath, almost the entire city gathered to hear the Word of the Lord. And when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. And they began to contradict what Paul was saying, and heaped abuse on him.”

It wasn’t the Gentiles that were treating him poorly. The Jews were treating him poorly. They were heaping abuse, they were contradicting, they were abusing him. They were angry with him. It says a couple verses later that the Gentiles were glad. They were joy-filled because of his presence. He says, “Listen, when everything was going wrong, when people normally would say, “Well, there’s something wrong with him, stay away from him.” You treated me right.”

And he goes on and he says, “Well, where then is your blessing of me now? I mean, after that I came to you and gave you the Gospel and changed your lives and now you’re treating me badly? I gave you everything. Why are you treating me so poorly today?” He says, “I can testify that if you could have done so you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me? Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?”

What’s the difference between back then and now? And the answer is Paul gave them the truth and gave them life in Christ. But now someone else has come in and said, “Well, what Paul says it’s wrong. Paul’s wrong.” And they gave him an alternative truth. So there was this truth versus that truth? What is really true?

Now I’m so glad that those kinds of things never happened today. That there’s never truth pitted against truth. Are you kidding? It happens all the time. And what’s worse in our day, is this new thinking about truth. That truth is something inside of us. You know, our kids are told to find your truth, speak your truth, live your truth, like truth is something that we can just pull out of ourselves like we’re the source of truth. And that truth can be individualized. I have my truth, you have your truth. Let’s just live our truth and just keep each other you know, let’s just trust each other.

Let me just be real clear. This is the truth. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative, Word of God. And when any worldly truth comes out there, we have to take it and put it under the filter of Scripture. Is this what the Bible teaches? Is this what God says? Is this the model of the early church? Is this what the Bible teaches? And so anything out there that contradicts what the Bible says, is not truth. It is error.

Now, let me say this, you probably don’t know this, and you probably wanna write this down. Not everything on the internet is true. Not every opinion of your friends on social media is true. Not every podcast is true. And not every newscast is true. You realize that news is a money-making business, right? I don’t care what channel you watch. News is all about the money. Politics is all about the power. Neither one’s about truth. And we’ve bought into it. We’ve bought into. It’s much worse than that.

So here’s the thing I will tell you. I have never seen in my life so much fracturing in the churches as I’ve seen in the last 18 months. You need to know in our movement, I oversee about 1,400 churches and we have pastors in 47, 46 states and missionaries around the world in 31 countries, and I have a bunch of other leaders that are not part of Converge that I know of. And I have never seen pastors get beat up so much in my life. And they’re not being beat up by the world, but they are being beat up by the congregations.

I was having breakfast on Friday morning with the pastor from Denver. Evidently, people from Colorado go to Florida for vacation and people from Florida go to Colorado for vacation. You know, so, we’re having breakfast in Denver…in Florida, in Orlando I’m like, “Well, how are things going at the church?” He says, “There’s a lot of great things going on, man, I just feel so beat up.” I said, “Tell me about it.” He said, “Well, we opened up after COVID and people left because we opened up and we had a COVID case. And so we closed down for a couple weeks and people left because we closed down. And we came back with masks on so people left because we had masks on. And then we took masks off the people left because we didn’t have masks on. He’s like, I can’t win.”

And it’s not the world, it’s the people of the church who are supposed to believe that our differences no longer define us so they shouldn’t divide us. But they’re picking on their pastors because they’ve lost control and like, “I wanna control something.” And it’s just so easy to get angry, rather than be wise. It’s just so easy. Listen, if Satan wants to take down the church, what’s he gonna aim at? He’s gonna aim at the unity of the church. He’s gonna aim at the leadership of the church.

Listen, this isn’t a political battle, this isn’t a social battle, this isn’t an economic battle, it is a spiritual battle that’s fracturing the church. We need to pray over our leaders, we need to ask God to put a hedge of protection around them, their marriages, their families, and we need to insert trust, not suspicion in the gaps. So when the leadership does something we’re not sure about, we don’t just say, “Cancel culture.” They’re part of our eternal family. And you know what, they’re gonna make mistakes. They’re gonna misspeak things at times, and they’re not gonna always agree with you. If everyone has to agree with you, you’re gonna be alone. You’re gonna live your life alone.

Listen, we’ve got to be better at this and giving grace and saying, “Well, help me understand, let me…” And not just saying, “Well, that the secondary things cannot become the primary things, deciding where we go to church and who we’re gonna believe.” They can’t be. They just can’t. We can’t live that way. You’ve got to insert trust and not suspicion in the gaps with our pastors. And we need to pray for them.

And Paul goes on and he talks about those people who came behind them and he’s concerned about them. He says, “These people are zealous to win you over but for no good. They want to alienate you from us. So that you may have zeal for them.” He says, “They don’t want something for you, they want something from you.” This is a classic tactic of a cult. What cults do, is they come in at a time of need, they come in and they support you, they encourage you, they help you. And they’re like, “This is great, trust is being built.” And then they start to insert their truth versus your truth.

They begin to insert those things, and “Well, you know, I know you think this but it’s really this.” And they begin to make you question what is true and what is right. And then what they do in this passage is they alienate you. Listen, when you start believing what we believe, then you really don’t need to talk to these people more, you don’t need your family, you don’t need your friends, you don’t need your church, you don’t need all these sorts of things. And it’s called love bombing. Just so you know, they come in, it just blows everything up, and they try to alienate you and keep you away.

And they try to keep you in the echo chamber. See an echo chamber is a think tank where everyone thinks what you think. Everyone believes what you believe. Everyone does what you do. Everyone votes the way you vote. Everyone sings the way you sing. An echo chamber is, “Everyone agrees with me, and I feel really good about it.” But here’s the question, how do you grow in an echo chamber? How do you grow if your beliefs aren’t challenged somewhat? And how do you fulfill the mission of God when all you have is people who believe what you believe, and do what you do, and think what you think, and love what you love?

I mean, the Gospel says this, “We’re going to go and make disciples of all nations, we’re going to go to them and we’re to baptize them. And we’re to teach them.” Who’s them? Them is those people who aren’t a part of us. And if all we live is in a little Christian bubble of us four and no more, we’re never gonna accomplish what God has for us.

If all we do is keep those people who think what we think, we’re never gonna grow, and we’re never gonna be what God called us to be. And so this is a big deal. It’s a big problem in our church. There are people who want something for you, people who want something from you.

So I asked Craig, I texted him about a month ago, I was studying this. When it comes to the people of Mission Hills, the family Mission Hills, what do you want for them? And Craig didn’t…he didn’t…it was a text I sent him, and I thought he’d sent me like two lines. He sent me paragraphs. So surprise. I know. But here’s what Craig said. He said…he says, “Here’s what I want for them. I want people to become like Jesus and join him on mission.” Does that sound familiar to anybody? Yeah, all the time? Of course, he does.

He says, “That’s our mission statement. But it really does drive everything we do. And it’s a nice framework for answering the question you’re asking.” And here’s what he says, “I want them, I want you to experience and engage life in all its facets including marriage, and family, and career, and ministry, as God intended because he loves them, and wants good things for them. In other words, I want them to grow in Christ’s likeness, so that in all those areas they’re living as God wants them to. And because of that, experiencing all the good that God desires for them to experience in all those areas.

And I want them to understand that experiencing and engaging life as God intended is deeply connected to living lives of service to God and to others. We only find our greatest fulfillment as human beings when we’re living on mission with Jesus, extending God’s influence in the world and every sphere of influence God has given us.” I love your pastor. And he loves you.

Listen Paul is saying, “Listen, I love you. I want something for you.” And he goes on and he says, “It’s fine to be zealous provided the purpose is good. And to be so always not just when I’m with you.” And he says, “Listen, it’s great to be zealous, it’s great to be passionate, but be passionate about the right things. Be passionate about the best things. There are good things, and there are God things and they are not the same things. Be passionate about God things.” And he says this, “My dear children, he’s like, my kids, listen, kids, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone. Because I’m perplexed about you.”

Here he’s saying, listen, kids, I gotta tell you, I wish I was there. And here’s what I want for you. I want Christ to be formed in you, I want you to live by grace, and not by works. I want you to understand that Jesus changes everything, that Jesus plus nothing is everything. And I wish I could be there and I wish I could tell you but you just got to trust me. Put in such trust, not suspicion in the gap, just trust me. This is the true Gospel. He can’t be with his kids and so he writes them a letter.

So last April, when COVID started, I wrote my kids a letter. I have a daughter in Virginia, a son in Nebraska, a son in Arizona, my wife and I live in Florida, we’re all over the place, but we’re a united family. It’s the first time my kids have been through a crisis like this, like COVID, and it was gonna be a big deal. And so I wrote them a letter and in the first part of the letter, I just…I praised each one of them in front of the other kids, and by the way, praise your kids in front of each other.

I praised them in front of each other. And then I said, “Hey, I wanna tell you a story about your mom and I. We had so many problems in our marriage, when we got married, neither one of us had a job. Don’t do that. But God provided. And then we had to move from Virginia to South Carolina and yet God provided. And then we went to South Carolina to Arizona and God provided. And then five years later, the pastor in Arizona decided he’d rather live in Parker, Colorado than Arizona. I don’t know why. But hey, Parker, Colorado, just kidding. And I took over the church and it was a nightmare, but God provided. And then 9/11 happened and the economic downturn 2006 happened. And then we decided to move from Arizona to Florida from the oven to the dishwasher. At least we’re not in the freezer of Minnesota alright. So and yet God provided.”

So, guys, listen, all the way through God has been faithful. God has been good. God’s provided because we’ve trusted him, and I’m just begging you embrace the awkwardness of this season. Trust God, be courageous, be people of faith and not of fear. And, you know, my kids just…I wrote them because I care about them. And they’re doing so well. God has blessed them in unbelievable ways because they trusted him because their father wrote them a letter.

Listen, Paul wrote to the Galatians a letter. God wrote us a letter. He says, “Listen, I know it’s easy to believe that works is the way to salvation. But it’s not. It’s not, it’s by grace. It’s by grace through faith alone.” Jesus plus nothing is everything.

So as we depart today, I want you to answer some questions as you think through. Here are some questions. Number one, when it comes to your relationships, what do you want for the people in your life? Everyone wants something from you? What do you want for your kids, for your parents, for your spouse, for your neighbors, for your coworkers? What do you want for them? And why don’t you be gracious to them, be generous toward them, in those things you want for them? And pray for them and things like that?

The second, when it comes to your church things. Am I willing to put trust and not suspicion in the gap? Am I willing to believe that fallen people like me need a Savior just like I do. And that life gets messy and we just have to walk through this together and not cancel each other when we disagree? Am I willing to do that?

Finally, am I willing to believe that God wants something for me and not from? Listen, like I said before, God is not mad at you. He is mad about you. He loves you. He gave his one and only Son that you could have life. And if you’ve never said yes to Jesus can I just ask you what are you waiting for? You can’t earn your way, I can’t earn my way. None of us can earn our way. Why don’t you say, “Jesus, I recognize I can’t earn it. I can’t deserve it. I can’t earn it. But I can learn from you. I can’t achieve it, but I can believe. I can stop trying, I can start trusting what Christ has done for me.” Will you pray with me?

Father in heaven, thank you for your grace and kindness to us in Christ Jesus. Thank you that because of the Gospel, because of the Gospel of grace, because of the unmerited favor, the unearned favor, Jesus Christ died on the cross for me and said, I love you. He spread out his arms, and he died for me so that my sin could be paid for and that I could be adopted into the family of God. And so anyone who’s listening, anyone who’s here today, I just ask that you would say, “Jesus, I need you. I recognize that I’ve blown it in my life. I’ve sinned. I recognize I can’t pay for that; I can’t earn my way into your acceptance. But Jesus Christ died for me and I trust what he did on the cross to pay for my sins. I believe you’re bringing me into the family of God, you’ve adopted me, you love me. I believe that you are my Savior and I trust you. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Listen, if you made that decision today I just wanna say congratulations and welcome to the family of God. I’d encourage you to tell somebody. If you’re watching online, hit that little club button under the screen. If you’re here in the service, go to the Welcome Center and talk to someone, or come talk to me about that. And anytime you want to, you can just text ‘Jesus’ to 80875. And we’d love to celebrate what God is doing in your life.

Listen, it’s been great to be with you. I’m looking forward to being in the mountains instead of the flatlands of Florida. May God bless you and have a great week. God bless you, guys. Thank you.

THE CHOICE

SCOTT RIDOUT

JULY

17/18

Galatians 4:21-31

Most religions consist of advice of how to journey closer to God. Christianity provides the Good News that God moved close to us through the sacrifice made by his son, Jesus.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT
Craig: Hey Mission Hills, I am super excited to introduce our guest speaker for this weekend. Scott Ridout. He’s my friend, he is my mentor. He’s also my leader in the sense that he is the President of Converge Worldwide, which is the movement of churches that Mission Hills belongs to. And I love what he’s doing with this entire movement and I’ve benefited so much from him. I could say so much about Scott. But honestly, the three most important things you need to know, Scott loves God, he loves people, and he loves connecting God and people through teaching God’s Word. And so I’m super excited to have him with us this weekend. Would you give a warm Mission Hills, welcome to President Scott Ridout.

Scott: Well, hello, Mission Hills. Great to be with you again. We are in a series called Live Free. In John chapter 8 Jesus says, “If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.” And in John chapter 10 he says, “The thief comes to steal, and kill, and destroy, but I came that you might have life. You might be full, and abundant, and meaningful.” And all of us want to experience the full life, the free life that God wants us to have.

We’ve been looking at the Book of Galatians. Galatia was an area in modern-day Turkey. And in Acts chapter 13 and 14, we see the Apostle Paul goes there and he establishes the church. It’s one of the first times where the Gospel goes outside the Jewish world into the non-Jewish world. And when they hear about the Gospel of grace, they are amazed. And this is just an amazing thing that God loves us just as we are, and he wants to work in our lives.

And so, they hear about this, and Paul establishes the church, and after a little while, he leaves, and some people come in behind him. And they walk in and say, “Yeah, we know this Paul guy, we understand he preaches grace, but you realize that grace isn’t enough. That you’ve gotta add some works to grace.” And so, they wanna add the Jewish custom, circumcision, and ceremonies, rituals, religion, you know, regimens, and things like that. The do’s and the don’ts, and thou shalt, thou shalt nots, and that kind of stuff.

And Paul hears about it, and he writes them a letter. And he says, “I know some people came after me, and they told you a different Gospel than the one I gave you. But I’m just gonna tell you, if anyone comes and preaches a different Gospel, they’re wrong. In fact, even if I came back or an angel from God came back, if they said a different Gospel, let that person, let the angel be accursed. Do not listen to them. You started with grace; I want you to stay with grace.” And he encouraged them to go back to the grace, the Gospel of grace that they started with in their faith.

Now, we’ve been talking about the fact that every religious system, every belief system, has a connection between three B’s, believing, behaving, and belonging. And how those three intermix is really, really important. These people who came after Paul were what we call legalist. They believed in rules, they believed in the Law, they believed that your behavior made you right with God. So, their equation is this, if you’re a legalist, it’s believing plus behaving equals belonging.

In other words, if you believe the right things, and you behave the right way, and get the right combination, you might just earn your way into acceptance with God, belonging to God. But you’re not really ever, ever sure about that. But Paul says, “I didn’t teach that. I didn’t teach legalism. I taught gracism.” And gracism has a different equation. Gracism is, believing equals belonging. Believing equals belonging. If you believe, you belong. If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, you put your trust in him, you believe he rose from the dead, you belong to the people of God, and you belong to God.

And here’s the equation I say for gracism is this, Jesus plus nothing equals everything. Jesus plus nothing equals everything. You can’t add to Jesus, you can’t take away from Jesus. It’s Jesus plus nothing is everything when it comes to our salvation. And this is what he’s trying to do.

I try to explain it a different way to people and here’s how I say, you know, every faith system has this idea that we’re over here and God is over here, we gotta figure out how to make our way to God. We gotta figure out. And most of them are all about advice. Most religious systems are about advice. Here’s what you need to do to work your way to God, you gotta do the right things, believe the right things, say the right things. You know, sit down, stand up, speak in Latin, whatever. You gotta do all these different things to earn your way to God.

Most religions have this earning your way, it’s all about what you do. But Christianity is not a religion nor is it religious devotion, it’s something different. Christianity is not advice, it’s news. It’s not what we do, it’s what Christ has done. And God looking at us says, “This gap between you and I, this gap is called sin.” And the Bible says that, “The wages of sin is death.” It doesn’t matter how much you work, you can’t work your way, because you’ve already messed up. And so, some other solution has to be given here.

And God says I love you and so I’m gonna figure out how to do this. And he gave his Son. His Son died. Remember, the wages of sin is death. His Son died. Jesus died so that we could be right with God. And so, rather than advice, it’s news. Rather than us working our way to God, God, in his love, and mercy, and grace, worked his way to us in the person of Jesus Christ. So, if we believe in him, we can have eternal life, we can have relationship with our heavenly Father.

In your notes, you can read this, the Christian faith is not about earning, it’s about learning and yearning. It’s not about achieving, it’s about believing and receiving. Paul says to the Galatians, “Listen, stop trying to earn your way to heaven. Stop adding works to grace. It doesn’t work. If you add anything to grace, it’s no longer grace. And so, just go back to grace. You started with grace, I want you to stay with grace.”

And what he’s gonna do in this part of the Book of Galatians chapter 4 starting verse 21, he’s gonna give his final argument. He’s gonna give his best angle. He’s gonna climb to the summit of his discussion. He’s gonna drop the mic, he’s gonna tie the bow, he’s gonna put the cherry on top, he’s gonna go to the crescendo. I’ve always wanted to use that word. Crescendo, say it with me, crescendo. All the music people love me right now. I used the word crescendo in church. Crescendo. It’s like, this is the best thing.

Now, I do need to say this about Paul’s argument. He goes back to the Old Testament. He goes way back, and it’s rather deep and it could be confusing. I thank God’s gonna give us the wisdom to understand it. I need you to stick with me because there’s so much in here. Let me say this. If you’re new to Christ, the Galatians were new to Christ, but they knew the Bible. They’d spend time studying the Bible, they spent time with others who knew the Bible, they tried to learn the Bible. And so, all these things that he’s saying to these young Christians, they understood it.

And so, I’m just saying to modern-day Christians, whether you’re online, on-site, whether you’re…whatever you’re doing, read the Bible, just read the Bible. So let’s go back to Galatians 4, verse 21. And here’s what Paul says. He says, “Tell me, you who want to be under the Law rather than under grace, are you not aware of what the Law says?” He says, I know you know some of what the Law says, but are you sure you know all the Law says?

Paul was a Bible scholar, he knew it, he was ahead of everyone in his time. He said, this is what the Law actually teaches. This is what the Bible actually teaches about the situation. He says this, “For it was written that Abraham had two sons.” He’s going back to the time of Abraham, years and years ago. “One by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as a result of divine promise.”

Here’s what’s happening. The legalist, the rule keepers, they are back-to-the-Bible bunch. They would say, “Listen, we came from Judaism. You realize that Christianity came out of Judaism, it came from the Jews, right? And not only did it come from; we also came from them. We are of the line of Abraham. And because we have more Bible knowledge, and because we have ancestry, we’re the ones you should listen to. We are the holier than thou. And this just makes us more of an expert than you are an expert on these things.”

There’s an arrogance, there’s a pride, there’s kind of…they’re more about tradition than they are about truth. And Paul says, yeah, you know, you guys are of that line, I’m of that line too. But he says, you realize that Abraham had two lines, that he had two sons, that he had two wives. Now, kids, don’t try this at home, all right?

There are some things in the Bible, by the way, this is not what you should read about. There are some things in the Bible that are like, you just read like, what? And you realize that they didn’t have it all together back then. And we don’t have it all together here. It just kind of gives you some comfort. Okay, I thought I messed up. I mean, if you’re my age, you say, these are the kind of people that end up on the “Jerry Springer Show” all right? If you’re a younger generation, these are the ones that end up in reality TV and you’re like, “What in the world are they thinking?” I mean, it’s crazy.

Read your Bible. The Bible is not boring, there’s so much in the Bible. So, here’s what happens. In Genesis chapter 15, there’s a conversation between God and Abraham. It’s an evening and the stars are out, and God looks at Abraham and says, “I know I gave you some promises, but look up at the stars in the sky.” And there’s thousands and thousands of stars and God says, “You will have more descendants than there are stars in the sky.”

And verse 6 of Genesis 15 says that, “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” In other words, God saw Abraham’s belief, not his behavior, his belief, and said, “You’re right with me. You belong to me.” Gracism happened long before the Law. He makes his decision. But the story goes on. And he and his wife, Sarah, they’re in retirement age, they’re much, much older, they’re not in childbearing age.

But time goes on. So, probably about a decade, and God doesn’t fulfill his promise. And so, Sarah gets a little antsy. She decides that, you know, God might need a little help. Ever thought that way? God might need your help. “Listen, God, let me just tell you, that’s not good stewardship. Let me tell you what would be good stewardship. It’d be great if you gave me that money instead of giving that person that money.” Have you ever tried to convince God that you’re right and he’s wrong? And he’s oh, okay and follow you?

Well, Sarah has this moment and she said, I have a plan. She comes up with a plan for God, how God can fulfill his promise that Abraham will have many descendants. And here’s what she does in Genesis 16, verse 2. So she said to Abram, Abram and Abraham are the same person. Sarah and Sarai are the same person. She said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children, go sleep with my slave, perhaps I can build a family through her.”

So, this is Sarah’s great idea. “I’m too old to have kids, why don’t you sleep with one of my servants?” And Abraham, being the godly wise leader, he’s like, “All right.” Yeah, they had it all together back then. “Abram agreed to what Sarai said. And so, after Abraham had been living in Canaan for 10 years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. And he slept with Hagar and she conceived.”

What just happened here? Here’s what happened. Sarah decided that God wasn’t gonna keep his promise, and so, she inserted herself, she hijacked the promise of God. And she said, “If it’s gonna be, it’s up to me. If it’s gonna happen, I gotta make it happen. And God can’t do it, so, I guess I gotta help God. And, God, you’re so lucky to have me.”

She goes to her husband… And she sinned, there’s no question about it. And she goes to her husband and he falls into it too. Both of them blow it. This is not what God wanted. Both of them blow it. And Hagar has a child, his name is Ishmael. And from the very beginning, Sarah and Hagar have tension. I can’t imagine why. And Ishmael and Isaac soon have tension as well. I can’t imagine why. Isaac is Sarah’s soon-to-be son.

Well, all this goes on for a few chapters and Ishmael is growing up, he’s about 12 years old. And Abraham is now 99 years old. And God shows up on the scene, has a conversation with him, and he says, “Hey, Abraham, about my promise.” He says, “Don’t worry, God, we got you covered. We figured that out a long time ago. This is Ishmael, my 12-year-old. He’s a sharp young man.”

And God looks at Abraham and says, “That wasn’t me, that was all you. That is not the fulfillment of my promise. I am who I say I am, and I will do what I say I will do. You didn’t trust me, you manipulated. And my miracle is not manipulation, it’s gonna be my miracle, not your manipulation that becomes the fulfillment of the promise I gave you.”

In Genesis 21, here’s what happens. It says, “Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised.” I want you to notice something. Has Sarah behaved or misbehaved? She’s misbehaved, but God still blesses her. He still blesses her. “And Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.”
God is not slow about his promises God is always right on time. “Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him.” Isaac means laughter. I mean, what else do you do when you’re 99 years old and have a kid? I mean, just laughter. That’s crazy.

And what Paul is saying here is, listen, these aren’t just physical lines of heritage, they are spiritual lines of heritage. There are two lines, the lines of Hagar and Ishmael, and the lines of Sarah and Isaac. If you look at Hagar and Ishmael, they were in slavery. By the way, this is legalism. He’s saying legalism and gracism, legalism is Hagar and Ishmael, and it’s slavery, they’re slaves. There’s an enslavement that comes with the Law, and there’s manipulation that comes with the Law, and there’s trying that comes with the Law, and there’s flesh that comes with the Law.

But on the other side, you have Sarah and Isaac. Whereas he is over here, he’s a slave and he’s from the flesh. Isaac is a child of promise, he’s a child of grace, he’s a child of privilege. He’s all these different things. He said, “There’s two lines, which line is yours?” See the difference? Trying versus trusting, worry versus waiting, manipulating versus miracle, works versus grace, flesh versus promise.

God wants our lives to be lives of promise. He wants our lives to be lives of grace. Our lives are founded on grace, our lives are filled with grace, and our actions are fueled by grace. And God wants us to experience grace because grace is the glue that holds the Gospel together, and grace is the glue that holds our lives together. And what Paul is trying to teach here is, listen, if you really understand the line of Abraham, you would see gracism and not legalism. You will see it was always by grace, always had been, even before the Law.

Now, I wanna stop here, and I wanna just talk again about, why would anyone go back to rules when they have relationship? Why would anyone go back to Law when they had grace? I can think of a few reasons. One is that, rules give clarity. They give clarity. How many of you are rule-keeper kind of people? You like to…you open up a game and the first thing you do is read the rules. I open up games like, what rules? I can figure this out, you know, I’m a guy, I can figure this out. They’re just rules, you know. But some of you…how many of you actually go into a hotel room and read the backside of the door? Just admit it, you can’t lie in church, all right? Just admit it. That’s rules keeping, and we like the rules. We’re like this is right, and this is wrong, this is good, and this is bad. And Law gives us rules.

And second, we like to count. We like to keep score. Most people love to keep score. Guys love to keep score. In fact, ladies, if you wanna earn some points with your man, he walks out of the room, there’s a game on, and he walks out of the room gets something out of the kitchen or the bathroom. He’s gonna come back and he’s gonna ask you the first question out of his mouth is, what’s the score?

And if you know, you just spoke his love language. You just realize you just made it really good with him. He’s gonna do something kind for you because you know the score. And we use score all the time, especially in our unhealthy relationships. Think about this statement. After all I’ve done for you, this is the thanks I get? What’s that? It’s keeping score. Yeah, I may have done this, but you did that. What’s that? That’s keeping score. I do this, and this, and this, and this, and this, that’s keeping score.

We love to keep score because it gives us…the third part is this, it gives us a sense of competitiveness, it gives us a sense of comparison with others. See, we don’t have to be perfect, we just have to be better. We get great satisfaction and say, “Yeah, I don’t go to church every week, but at least I go more than that person. I don’t read my Bible every day, but I do more than that person. I messed up in my life, but not as bad as her, as bad as him.” We love that because it gives us this sense of confidence, of self-assurance that we’re better than. We know the rules, we know the score, we compare to others, and we’re better than most. And better than is good enough.

And Paul says, hogwash. It’s right there. Paul says, forget it. That is not what it’s about. It’s not about rule-keeping, it’s about relationship. It’s not about law, it’s about grace. And it isn’t about your behavior, it’s about your believing, because believing leads to belonging. Believing believes belonging. Believing is the basis for belonging and belonging and not behaving is the basis for blessing.

Listen, there is an unbelievable power to belonging to God. There’s an unbelievable power to belonging to any family. I have a friend who years ago decided that he went to Europe to find his wife’s ancestral background. He knew his wife’s family was from Poland, he was in Germany. So he crossed the border, went to the town they thought her great great great great great grandfather was from, and he began to look at the Hall of Records. He got someone who spoke English to help him. And they’re looking through the hall and trying to find out for his first wife for like a birthday present, here’s your family line. That was a really cool thing to do.

So, he’s in there, he’s looking around, and they get to this place where the guy looks at him and says, “No, that can’t be true, that can’t be right.” And he’s like, “Well, yeah, it is.” He pulls out some papers and says, “Well, here’s the copies of what my wife gave me, and this shows where their background is.” And he’s like, “Would you do me a favor? I need a couple of hours to talk to some people, could you come back at 5:00 tonight?” And he’s like, “Well, that’s a weird request. But okay, I’ll come back tonight.”

So he comes back at 5:00, he’s wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and he walks into pomp and circumstance. Everyone is all dressed up, there’s trumpets blowing, whatever. It turns out that the Polish royal line was lost years ago in a revolution. And they thought that everyone was killed. But it turns out that one of the sons actually escaped and went to America. And that person was his wife’s ancestor, and that she was the last in the Polish royal line. And they owned four castles worth $40 million. They had the titles of counts and countess. When they go to England, they have to let the Queen know they’re in-country because they are related.

There is a blessing to belonging. There’s blessing to being part of the family. And God says, I hope you understand the blessing to be part of my family. Ephesians 1, verse 7, he’s writing, and he says this, Paul says this, “In him, in Jesus, we have redemption.” Redemption is a word that means to pay a price for something. And the price he paid was his blood. “In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.”

What is that word lavish? We don’t use the word lavished anymore. What does it mean to lavish something? I like French fries, but I love ketchup. And if you see me in a restaurant, you may not even see my French fries because they’re covered up with ketchup. My wife looks at me and says, “You want some French fries with your ketchup?” You know, because I lavish ketchup on my French fries. Some of you are salt lovers, and you lavish your food.

Heart disease, I’m just gonna say, heart disease, don’t do that. But you lavish. It isn’t just sprinkling on; it’s pouring over and over and over. And God has lavished us with his love. Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending reckless love of God. He’s lavished it on us. And here’s the key, God blesses us, not because we’re good, because he’s good and he promised. He blesses us not because we’re good, but he’s good and he promised.

Paul goes on, verse 24, he says, “These things,” talking about the two women, “are to be taken figuratively.” The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves. This is Hagar. Now, Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem because she is in slavery with her children. I’ll explain that in just a minute.

But Craig a few weeks ago talked about a covenant. A covenant is an agreement between two parties on how they’re gonna treat each other. And there are two covenants talked about in these verses. One is the covenant through Hagar, legalism. The other is the covenant through Sarah, which is gracism. And he talked about Hagar first, he said, this is legalism. Legalism is connected with Mount Sinai. What happened at Mount Sinai? It was the giving of the Ten Commandments; it was the giving of the Law. It was this burden that was put on everyone.

Do you realize there’s 613 laws they were supposed to obey? And some of them just seem crazy. And, you know, the big 10 are hard enough, but have 613, it’s unattainable. You just can’t do it. And then on top of that, she says, well… And also, he says that Jerusalem, present-day Jerusalem in his time was connected. That’s because the sacrificial systems were still going on in Jerusalem.

They would, every single day the priest would come out and he would make a sacrifice. And he’d come back in, the next day he’d come out again. And day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, generation after generation, they would sacrifice, and it never satisfied.

The purpose of the Law wasn’t to be a cure, it was just to be a reminder. It was like a thermometer that told you how sick you were, but it never actually healed you. And he says, that’s the old way. The earthly Jerusalem and Mount Sinai.

And then he goes to the other part, to live a life that’s unattainable is unsustainable is the idea that he’s getting at. He goes to the other part with Sarah and he says, “But the Jerusalem that is above…” so he’s not talking about the earthly Jerusalem. “Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, be glad barren woman, you who never bore a child. Shout for joy and cry aloud you who were never in labor. Because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her that has a husband.”

So we go from legalism and Hagar and Mount Sinai, we go over to the other side to Sarah. And Sarah is not the earthly Jerusalem, she is the heavenly Jerusalem. The heavenly Jerusalem, it’s heaven. It’s a place where everything is perfect. Where people are resting from their works, where there’s nothing more to do. No more sacrifices to be made, it’s done. It’s clean, it’s finished.

And that new Jerusalem is actually on Zion, Mount Zion. Zion in the Bible is the place where God dwells. God’s presence is there forever and ever and ever, and you and I are with him. Do you see the difference? Rules, relationship. Works, worship. Fear, faith. My efforts to sacrifice and work hard, God’s provision on my behalf.

The writer of Hebrews understands this, and he explains it, and says, it’s a long passage, I encourage you to go back and read it. But let me read it to you. He’s talking about the two mountains, the two Jerusalems. And, you know, there’s a lot of words here. I want you to get the feeling behind it. Don’t try to capture every word, feel behind these words.

The writer of Hebrews says this, “You have not come to a mountain.” This is talking about Mount Sinai. “That can be touched and that is burning with fire to darkness, gloom, and storm.” Does that sound happy or sad? It’s fear filled. “To a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it beg that no further word be spoken to them.” God was speaking and they’re like, “We don’t wanna hear his voice and we’re terrified of him.” Because they could not bear what was commanded.

Even if an animal touches the mountain it must be stoned to death. In other words, the mountain was so holy, you couldn’t even touch the mountain. Kill anything that comes close. It’s untouchable, it’s unattainable. God is unapproachable. It says the site was so terrifying that Moses, the leader of the people said, “I’m trembling with fear.” He says, you didn’t come to that mountain, it’s not about Mount Sinai. He said, “But you have come to Mount Zion to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.”

All of a sudden you see the difference. It’s not about worry, it’s about worship here. “You’ve come to the church of the firstborn,” that’s Jesus, “whose names are written in heaven.” There’s security for the people of God, your names are written in the Book of Life. “You’ve come to God, the judge of all. To the spirits of the righteous made perfect. To Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”

See the difference between the mountains? There’s the Law and there’s grace, there’s condemnation and there’s acceptance, there’s slavery and there’s freedom, there’s worry and there’s worship.

And he talks about Isaiah 54, which is a…he goes back to the place where the people of Israel were in Babylon. They were there, they were exiled because of their misbehavior, because of their disbelief, because of their guilt, and their shame, and their fear. And it says, “You’re like a desolate woman.” And in Jewish culture, someone who couldn’t have children was looked down upon. There was shame and guilt on those things.

He said, “You were like that.” But in the second half of the verse, he talks about returning to the land of promise and God fulfilling what he said he would do. And the people are described this way, free, forgiven, joy-filled, exuberant, and blessed. “You were this way, but now you’re this way,” he says.

He’s talking about the fact that all of us have these things in our lives, guilt, and shame, and fear. And those things often move us to make wrong decisions, to think wrong thoughts, to believe wrong things. And he says, “I want you to move from fear to faith. I want you to move from guilt to grace. I want you to move from shame to the acceptance that God has for you.”

So I have a friend, his name is Matt, and he was a Christian for a long time when I met him, he actually worked with me on a staff team. And Matt had some issues in his life just like all of us, of sin that he couldn’t get past, sin he couldn’t deal with. And so, we were talking one day because over the last…I’d known him for 10 years, and over the last year, he had just changed dramatically. I mean, his confidence, his feeling the Spirit, his sense of leadership. He wasn’t dealing with the sins that he dealt with all his life, he was actually overcoming those things.

And I’m like, “Matt, what happened? How did you get to that place?” And he said, “Well, I figured out grace.” I said, “Tell me about that.” He says, “Well, I’ve always lived a life of shame. And you know what shame is?” I said, “I think I do, but why don’t you tell me.” He said, “Shame is the belief that the worst thing about you will always be true. That the worst thing you’ve ever done, the worst thing you’ve ever said, the worst thing you’ve ever experienced, is gonna define your life.” He says, “I was living my life in shame and it was holding me back from the freedom that God wanted me to have. And I just chose grace. Rather than believing my own voice, the voice of others, the voice of the world, I’m choosing to believe the voice of God about me. That I’m a desperately loved child of God, who is fully accepted, and fully received, and fully empowered to live the life that God wants me to live in. And I’m just living differently.”

Isn’t that great? I mean, all of us need to have that moment we realize, I choose grace. I choose to believe what God says about me. And to believe that God does have a plan for us. But God’s plan is not to pay us back, but to bring us back.

That all this junk that happened, no matter what we’ve done, where we’ve been, what’s been done to you, how long you’ve been gone, how deep the hole is that you dug, God is bigger, and God is more gracious than you ever imagined. We are more sinful than we know, and more loved than we could ever imagine. God’s grace is bigger than anything we have in our lives.

You know, Paul is talking about Mount Zion. He also, in Hebrews, talks about the sacrificial system as well in chapter 10 of Hebrews and says this in verse 11. And it’s just talked about in the first 11 chapters how Jesus is superior to every other leader. Jesus is superior to the priest, Jesus is superior to the sacrifices, Jesus is superior to every system. And he’s making a summary, he says, “Day after day, every priest stands and performs his religious duties. Again and again, he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.”

So, day after day, week after week, month after month, the priests are offering sacrifices that can never take away sin. What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and think you’re gonna get a different result. It was never meant to do that, it was a thermometer, not a cure.

He says, “But when this priest, that’s Jesus, had offered for all time, one sacrifice.” How many sacrifices? One sacrifice for sins, talking about his death on the cross. “he sat down at the right hand of God. And since that time, he waits for his enemies to be made a footstool. For by one sacrifice, he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”

Where the Law was deficient, Christ was sufficient. Where the Law was about work, Christ is about rest. He sat down from his works, and we can sit down from our works. Where the law of Hagar was this, you shall, you shall do this, you shall not do this. The law under Sarah was this, I will. God says, “I will. I will fulfill my promises. I will intervene, I will show up. You just wait on me, just trust me.” Two different mentalities.

Paul goes on in verse 28 and he says this, “Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time, the son born according to the flesh is Ishmael, persecuted the son born of the power of the Spirit, that’s Isaac, it is the same now.” Here’s what he’s saying. Those of you who believe in the grace of God are different than those who believe that we have to work our way to God. And people who think you have to work will always look down on people who think it’s all about grace. They will have a hard time.

Ishmael, he messed up with Isaac and got mad at him. Sarah was always pointed out by Hagar; Hagar didn’t like that. And people today still do the same thing. People who hold to works, they hold to religious traditions and that kind of stuff, will always have a problem with people who believe in grace.

I grew up in a Christian family. I grew up in a pastor’s family. I had a drug problem as a kid, my mom dragged me to church every weekend. And I just remember going to church, it was a nightmare. I had two brothers and a sister, so the four of us were in the backseat of the station wagon. It was a banana yellow, wood-paneled Country Squire with no seatbelts, does anyone remember those things? All right?

And we would drive to church, and we had our bow ties on. And before we got out of the car, mom’s very last words every single week were this, “Be on your…” does anyone know? “Best behavior.” In other words, don’t be yourself. Act like we as a family have it together, all right? Whatever you do, don’t show your true self. It’s all about image management. It’s better to look good than to be good, all right? And that was my religious experience growing up.

And so, when I became a college student, I’m like, “Forget about it.” I was church damaged, because it was all about performing, it was never about grace. And so, I got to college, I discovered the Gospel of grace. I said yes to Jesus. I began to grow, like, this is awesome, this is amazing. These people are like me, they’re all trying to figure out their way, and there’s grace everywhere.

But do you realize that grace leaks? It leaks. And when it leaks, legalism comes in. And so, I just remember the day that I’m talking with some friends and someone says, “So, how is your quiet time?” A quiet time is like a devotional time. “How was your quiet time today? What did you learn today?” And I said, “Well, actually, I haven’t had a quiet time.” He said, “Tell you what, you go have your quiet time, and then after you have your quiet time, I’ll start talking to you again.” Grace leaks and legalism comes down. This is no good.

I decided to join a Christian organization where I can share my faith a lot, and disciple people. And so, I joined this organization, they’re leaders so they gotta think differently than this because they’re Christian leaders. And I got into this organization and the very first day, someone said to me, “Okay, you’re required to share your faith 10 times a week. And you’re gonna write down the names of every person you share it with, and their response, and if there’s follow-up.”

And I’m like, “This isn’t what I expected. I thought the Holy Spirit was supposed to lead me, not my salary and sharing my faith.” I thought, well, I’ll change it. I’ll become a pastor of a local church, after all, leaders create culture, and if I’m the pastor of the church, I can create the culture. And I won’t allow legalism to seep into my congregation, it just won’t happen. And we had these things called communication cards. And every week people would, you know, they would judge my sermon. Nice try, honey. Literally, nice try, honey.

We had these people in our church, I call them the fashion police. I remember the day that the shirt came out untucked, I got more comments that weekend for my sermon than any other weekend in my history, probably combined. “Tuck your shirt in, that’s ridiculous. How dare you, this is God’s house.”

Grace leaks and it’s always replaced by legalism, by judgment. We love to judge. We love to judge other people, because it makes us feel better about ourselves. But there’s only one judge, and he says, “If you’re right with God, you’re right with me.” See, God has a plan for us. He has a plan for us. So, don’t be surprised. Don’t be surprised. People who trust in systems more than the savior will always be sour. People who trust in good works rather than grace will always be grumpy.

And what the problem is, they have this past guilt that they can’t remove, that they’re trying to have present goodness remove. But you can’t remove past guilt with present goodness. So, here’s the question, what can wash away our sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make us whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Oh, precious is the flow that makes us white as snow. No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus. Jesus plus nothing is everything. If it’s not all grace, it’s no Gospel.

Paul closes up the chapter in verses 30 and 31, and he says, “But what does Scripture say? It says get rid of the slave woman and her son.” Not talking about the people, talking about the mentality of works-based religion. “For the slave woman’s son will never share the inheritance of the free woman’s son.” In the words, you can’t mix the two, you can’t have grace and works, it’s one or the other, you have to choose between the two. “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.”

There are two lines here, let’s picture it again. It’s Hagar, and Ishmael, and Mount Sinai, and the earthly Jerusalem. Those represent the flesh, the Law, condemnation, bondage, and death. And there’s Sarah, and Isaac, and Mount Zion, and the heavenly Jerusalem. And those things represent promise, and grace, acceptance, freedom, and life. And what Paul is saying here is that you’re so focused on who is your Father, but that’s the wrong question, the question is, who is your mother? Are you of Hagar, legalism, or are you of Sarah, gracism?

What I wanna do is kind of give you a picture between the two, legalism, gracism, and I want you to make a choice today. Hagar, Sarah. Ishmael, Isaac. Unbelief, belief. Manipulation, miracle. Performance, promise. Slavery, freedom. Flesh, Spirit. Control, surrender. Trying, trusting. Achieving, believing. Wage, gift. Fear, faith. Earthly, heavenly. Temporary, eternal. Behave to belong, belief to belong. Burden, blessing. Inherit nothing, inherit everything. Law, grace. Which path do you choose?

Are you gonna be about Law and trying to work your way and earn your way? Are you gonna be about, no, no, it’s all God’s grace? Jesus plus nothing is everything, and I’m trusting what he has done, and only what he has done for my salvation.

Paul ends the chapter and then goes to chapter 5, verse 1, and says, “It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Don’t go back to works, it never worked. Been there, done that. Tried it, hated it. Because all it did is burden me and God wants us to be set free in Christ.

So, here are some questions for you. Question number one, what legalistic mindset is holding you back, it’s holding you hostage? Maybe there are some of you believing that you messed up so bad you have to earn your way back to God’s favor. Can you just release that and trust the grace of God in your life?

Second question, what legalistic standards am I putting on others? Maybe you’re giving yourself grace, but others you’re not. You’re like, “God, give me all the grace in the world, and others getting smite Almighty smiter.” You know, just get them. It’s all grace for you and for everyone else.

And finally, where in my life am I driven by worldly fears instead of heavenly promises? Are you a person of fear or are you a person of faith? Listen, the greatest promise in the Bible is actually in Romans chapter 10, verse 9, it says this, “If we confess that Jesus is Lord with our mouths, and we believe in our hearts that he rose from the dead, we shall be saved.” Have you made the decision to follow Jesus? Have you made the decision to say yes to Jesus, to say no to advice and yes to the news if what Christ has done on the cross?

Will you pray with me? Father in heaven, we know you are who you say you are, and you will do what you say you will do. We know that you sent your Son. And it was good news, you sent you Son to die on the cross for us, that we could have life in you. You loved us so much, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. You loved us so much that you gave your one and only Son to die on the cross for us, that if we believe in him, we would not perish but have eternal life.

And I pray for the person today who’s listening, whether it’s on-site, online, I just pray that they would say, “Yes, Jesus, I believe. It’s no longer about my works, about advice of how to get to you. I now believe that Jesus Christ died for me, died for my sin. I trust what he has done on the cross. He’s risen from the dead. He has the power to forgive me of my sin and I trust in you.” We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Listen, if you made that decision today, and you are here on campus, you can just go to back the back of the Worship Center and go to the Welcome Center and you can talk to someone about that. If you are online, there is a little button below your screen, you can say I Said Yes to Jesus on that button. At any time, you can always text 80875. Text the word Jesus to them and someone will follow up with you and celebrate God’s new life in you.

Mission Hills is has been fantastic to be with you the last couple of weeks. May God bless you and may God give you the grace to become like Jesus and follow him on mission.

FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

JULY

24/25

Galatians 5:1-12

Freedom is supposed to be a big part of the Christian life, yet many of us struggle to actually experience or allow others to experience it. Freedom is something we have to intentionally fight for every day. Join us as we learn four powerful weapons that will help us fight hard to live free.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT
Craig: Hey, welcome to Mission Hills. So good to have you with us today, whether you’re joining us online or in person, we’re just so honored that you’d take a little bit of time out of your weekend to spend this time with us. We’re in the midst of a series here called Live Free. And what we’re doing in this series is we’re exploring what God has to say in the Book of Galatians in the Bible, about how we go about narrowing the gap between our expectation and our experience of freedom.

We know that freedom is a big part of the Christian life, it’s at the very heart of the Christian life. Jesus himself said, “If the Son sets you free,” which is his favorite title for himself. So, basically, “If I set you free, you are free indeed.” So, clearly, freedom was a big deal to Jesus. The Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Corinth, says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Freedom is really at the heart of the Christian faith, but a lot of us kinda come into Christianity expecting an experience of this freedom that’s been promised, but our actual experience of it is not quite what we were expecting. So there’s a gap between our expectation and our experience.

And one of the reasons, we’re going to talk about it today, one of the reasons for that is the simple fact that freedom isn’t free, and it’s not automatic. It’s actually something that we have to intentionally pursue or it won’t happen. And one of the things we’re gonna see in the passage today is that Paul actually gives us four sort of weapons that we can use in this fight for freedom. Four kind of practical things that we can do on a regular basis that will help us to be intentional about moving towards a greater experience of the freedom that we’re offered by faith in Jesus.

Let me show you what I mean. Why don’t you go and grab a Bible, start making your way to the Book of Galatians. We’re gonna be in chapter 5, starting in verse 1 today. And by the way, if you’re just joining us or maybe you need a refresher, here’s what you kinda need to know about the Book of Galatians. Written by a man named Paul. Paul is the Apostle Paul, maybe you’ve heard that name, he’s a follower of Jesus. And he kinda went around the world proclaiming what he called the Gospel.

And what he encountered in the Book of Galatians, really is really the Book of Galatians itself, is an argument against an obstacle to the Gospel. It’s an argument against something we call legalism. And legalism, as we defined it in this series says, believing plus behaving leads to belonging. That’s basically what legalism is. It says, believing plus behaving leads to belonging. So, if you believe in Jesus, meaning, you put your trust in what Jesus did on the cross and his resurrection, and you behave in certain ways, then you get to belong to God. But it’s only when you believe and you behave that you get to belong to God and to his people.

And Paul says, “That’s not the Gospel. That’s not what I preached when I was in Galatia. These people who’re telling you something different than I taught you are moving you away from the Gospel itself.” The Gospel says that believing leads to belonging, and it’s belonging that leads to behaving. The Gospel says that if you believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, if you put your faith in that, then you belong to God and to his people. And it’s from that experience of belonging that behaving begins to change, not in the short term, but over the long haul, because it begins to transform who we are inside that comes out in that.

Unfortunately, after Paul had proclaimed that Gospel. in Galatia, some other people came in, and in his absence, they started saying, “Hey, you know, what he told you is totally right, but it’s just missing a little bit. Yeah, believing in Jesus is so important. Absolutely. You got to put your faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. One hundred percent, we agree with him. But he didn’t tell you was, in order to belong to God and his people, you also have a few other little things you need to do.”

Now, the people who were doing this were Jewish Christians. And so, the things they were saying the Galatians needed to do were Jewish social rules and regulations. So they were saying that you needed to be circumcised, you needed to follow the Jewish dietary restrictions, you needed to obey the certain holy days, and a series of those kinds of things. And so, they said, “If you believe in Jesus, and you behave like we do, as God’s people, then you can belong to God and to his people.” And Paul wrote the Book of Galatians, basically, to say, “That’s wrong. That’s not the Gospel. at all.” He’s pushing hard against that.

In fact, in Galatians 5:1, he says, really, they’ve missed the point, and you’re missing the point by listening to them because it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.” And in essence, what Paul’s saying there is, “Hey, don’t exchange one kind of slavery for another kind. You’ve gotten out of one kind of slavery to sin, but now what you’re doing is you’re kind of boomeranging back into another kind of slavery, this time, to legalism. To this idea that your ability to belong to God depends on behaving in certain ways.” He says, “Don’t exchange one kind of slavery for another.” And he has to say that because the reality is that we all tend to do that. We all tend to come back into that.

But he says, there’s a reason we can’t do it. Because whether it’s sin or legalism, both of them have the same impact. Both of them really become barriers to your relationship with God. Really, what he’s saying is, sin and legalism are both barriers to our relationship with God. And if you are set free from sin because you’ve said yes to faith in Jesus, that’s fantastic. You got over a barrier that was in the way. Jesus’ death on the cross removed the spirit. You can be in a relationship with God, that’s fantastic. But if you go back into slavery to legalism, that’s another thing that’s gonna create a barrier between you and God.

Now, sin and legalism do that in two very different ways. They create barriers in different ways. Sin creates a barrier because it separates us from God. When when we sin, we turn our backs on God, we walk away from God, we create a distance that we can’t backtrack on. Jesus had to come after us to do that. So, sin separates us from God, and that creates a barrier, obviously. Legalism doesn’t necessarily create the same barrier that sin does, but it does create a barrier. And the way it does it is that legalism inhibits intimacy. Legalism inhibits intimacy. It keeps us from experiencing a relationship with God, or really with anybody that is full of warmth, and affection, and love. Legalism inhibits intimacy. We see it in all of our relationships. It’s a fairly constant thing.

I realized that probably some of us grew up in homes where we had a mom or dad who withheld love and affection and warmth until we did the punch list, until we checked off the box in their list of do’s and don’ts, and they withheld it until we performed. And I can make a pretty safe guess. It’s a pretty safe bet actually. I’d put money on this one. If you grew up in a home where a mother or father did that, if their willingness to give you a sense of warmth and belonging was dependent on your behaving in certain ways, I can make a pretty safe prediction that you don’t have a close relationship with them today. That’s not a relationship that there’s lots of intimacy.

We can do it in our marriage relationships. If one or both of the spouses tend to withhold love and affection and warmth, and this experience of belonging and being a team, until the other one has behaved in certain ways, I can guarantee you, that’s a marriage where there’s not the intimacy that you went into it hoping would be there. And that’s true, whether you’re the one putting on the list, the legalism, or whether or not you’re the one on the receiving end of it. It just inhibits intimacy. And so, sin separates us from God and creates a barrier, but intimacy is limited by legalism, and that creates a new barrier as well.

Let me ask you a question. Think about a relationship that you have that is not as intimate as you’d like it to be. Just ask yourself this, what relationship would I like to be more intimate? Maybe it’s your relationship with your spouse, maybe it’s a relationship with a child or a parent, maybe it’s a friend or a significant other, or maybe it’s God. Because here’s the thing, if your relationship with God feels distant, if it feels cold, that’s not God’s fault. God has no intention of having a relationship with you that feels distant, that lacks intimacy.

The reality is that our relationship with God is often made less intimate because of legalism that we put into the relationship. So, maybe it’s God, maybe it’s a parent, maybe it’s a child, maybe it’s a spouse. But ask the question, what relationship would I like to be more intimate? And then ask this question, what legalism might be inhibiting that intimacy? What legalism might be inhibiting it? The reality is, if I’m just gonna be honest with you, like, I know that I do this in my marriage. I know that I inhibit intimacy in my marriage by kinda legalism.

Here’s one of the ways that I know it plays out. My wife is, she is really enthusiastic. And so, when we’re in conversation with people and she wants to tell a story, she’ll leap into it, and my wife… How do I say this in an honoring way? My wife remembers big. Can I say that? Like, my wife remembers big, so that she’s like, “Yeah, we hiked for seven miles.” And I’m a stickler for accuracy. I got a punch list when it comes to, like, let’s get the details right. I was like, “Well, actually we did, it wasn’t seven, it was actually three half.” “Well, so, it’s okay. It took us 12 hours.” “It’s four. It took us four.” And it’s really hard for me not to break in and sort of correct her in that conversation. I do it all the time. And I know every time I do that, every time I go, “No, you’re not checking the boxes of accuracy,” which is legalism, I undermine her confidence. I know every time I do that, she feels a little bit diminished, and that affects our relationship. Something I’ve been working on. I’m not making nearly as much progress as I’d like. I’ve done it even very recently.

But the thing is, like, what I’m saying is, I would like my marriage to be more intimate than it is. I have a great marriage, but I’d like it to be even more intimate. And I know that part of the problem is that I have a checklist of things that come out and strange ways. It’s that way with God. If you feel distant from God, if God was the one that came to mind when you said, “That’s the relationship.”

I know that if you have a tendency to think of God as a distant taskmaster, rather than a close and a loving Father. I know that it’s almost certainly because legalism is somewhere in the midst of the mix in that relationship. So, Paul says, listen, you cannot exchange one kind of slavery for another kind, both of them are gonna get in the way of the relationship that God wants you to have with him, the relationship God created you to have. And legalism will kill that relationship every bit as quickly as sin will.

And so, he gives us two commands. He says, “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.” Two commands that tell us two very important things. First, it tells us that freedom is a fight. Freedom is a fight. He uses war words here, he says, “Stand firm.” The original Greek word that he uses there typically was a word that you’d use for soldier, where you tell them, “Hey, plant your feet, get the shield up, get the sword out, because the enemy is coming and he’s coming at you hard.”

We have an enemy, and our enemy is not happy about the freedom that we found in Christ. He’s not happy about the fact that through our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross, that we are freed from sin and from his dominion. He is not happy about that. And so, there are all kinds of forces, personal and impersonal, working to push us back into some kind of slavery. And so, Paul says, you got to stand firm. Get ready, this is going to be a fight, and it’s gonna be the fight of your life.

The second thing these commands tell us, I think, though, is that slavery is our default setting. It’s part of the reason it’s such a fight. It’s because slavery is our default setting. He says, don’t let yourself be burdened again by the yoke of slavery. Again. Don’t go back to it again, because the reality is, we often go back to it. There’s something in us that’s just kind of hardwired to be enslaved to something, to serve something. It’s probably why that great theologian, Bob Dylan, said, “You’re gonna have to serve someone, somebody,” right? We’re hardwired for it.

I mean, can we be honest with each other? How many of us have ever gotten out of one bad relationship only to go into another bad relationship? Like, three of us? Okay. All right. How many of us have gone out of a bad relationship, only to go back into the same bad relationship? A few more, interesting. No, we’re just getting warmed up. Okay. How many of us have ever gotten out of debt only to get back into more debt? Yep. How many of us we’ve gotten out of one bad work relationship only to go into another bad work situation? How many there have broken one bad habit only to build another bad habit in its place?

Yo, I kicked the Mountain Dew habit. I’ve been drinking Mountain Dew my whole life, like massive quantities of Mountain Dew, and I am off that. I am not drinking any more Mountain Dew. Don’t applaud yet. Don’t applaud yet. I have replaced it with Pineapple Fanta. Dental hygienist came up to me after the last service and said, “You were a 10 in my book, now you’re a 9.” She said, “Pineapple Fanta is every bit as bad.” I was like, “That’s my point.”

Yeah, we all do this, right? We get out of one thing, we go back. There’s something in us that’s just kind of hardwired. Slavery is our default option, which is one of the reasons we have to fight so hard against it. Which, fortunately, Paul gives us several practical weapons that we can use in the fight to stay free. But before he does that, he tells us how not to do it. How not to fight to stay free. He says this. He says, “Again, I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised, that he is obligated to obey the whole Law.”

Circumcision is so much fun to talk about, by the way. And if you don’t know what circumcision is, I would tell you to Google it, but if you do, do not like use Google Image Search, don’t go that way. Go to Wikipedia or something. If you don’t, I just don’t want anybody to feel left out. So, basically, circumcision is where you cut off a little part of the male anatomy. Can we stop there? We good there? It was a Jewish custom. And so, basically, what’s happening is these people are coming and go, “Hey, you know, God’s people have always been the Jewish people, the Jewish people have always been circumcised. Therefore, if you wanna belong to God and his people, you’re gonna have to behave like God’s people, and you got to be circumcised.”

And Paul says an interesting thing, he says, “Listen, I tell you that every one of you who lets himself be circumcised, he’s obligated to obey the whole Law” And what he means is, listen, here’s the thing, when you do that, it might seem like a little thing, but when you believe and kinda act as though you have to do that to belong to God, you’re buying in to a system that says, belonging depends on behaving. That you can only belong to God and his people if you behave in certain ways. And if you buy into that, it’s not just that one you’re gonna have to deal with. That’s only sort of emblematic, it’s a symbol of a whole bunch of other rules and regulations. And so, listen, if you buy into that system, you’re buying into it wholesale. You’re buying into the whole package of it. And you’re gonna find that your ability to feel like you could actually belong to God is dependent on an incredibly long checklist that never really seems to get finished. He says, I tell you, don’t go that direction. It’s not gonna work.

He says, listen, you who are trying to be justified by the Law have been alienated from Christ. You have fallen away from grace.” These are two very strong words to say one really important thing, which is that, hey, when we think about grace and legalism, when we think about the Gospel. and legalism, it’s kind of an either/or situation. It’s not a both/and. You can’t embrace a little legalism and a little grace, a little Gospel. Just doesn’t work. It’s a binary system, it’s one or the other.

He says, when you start acting as though you can only belong to God and his people by behaving in certain ways, you’re disconnecting from the Gospel. You’re disconnecting from grace, from God’s undeserved kindness. You’re disconnecting from Jesus himself. It’s interesting, he says, “You’re alienated from Christ.” The word that he uses there often has a relational component to it. His point is, you’re putting a distance between you and Jesus relationally.

Think about it like this, I mean, imagine that, you know, someone you care about is in the second story of a burning building, and they’re at the window. And you love them, so you run over and go, “I can catch you, just jump.” And they go, “I’m not so sure about that.” And you go, “No, I really can. Do you do trust me?” The guy, “I did trust you.” Then you go, “Then jump.” And so they go, “I will, just hang on a second.” They go back in and they get a bunch of sheets and towels, and they tie them together to get a rope, they get themselves anchored. They’re like, “Okay, I trust you. Here I come.”

Do they trust you? Of course not. They’re depending on their own efforts. And how do you feel as the would-be rescuer when they’re depending on their own efforts? There’s a sense of distance. There’s a sense of alienation. He says, you’re alienated from Christ. He says, you’ve fallen away from grace. That’s an interesting translation. And I think it’s a good translation. But the Greek word that he uses for fallen can also mean drifted. It’s often used to talk about a boat, when the anchor breaks, the boat kind of drifts away.

And I wonder if that’s not what he meant, because the reality is that most of us don’t leap into legalism. We don’t make one big decision that suddenly turns us into people who think that we can be saved and belong to God by our own effort. What happens is we drift in that direction. There’s small steps along the way. It’s the reality of most big sin, right? Most of the big things that get in the way of our relationship with God, we don’t leap into. Nobody decides, they don’t wake up and go, “I think I’m gonna have an affair today.” Nobody wakes up and goes, “I think I’ll embezzle from my company today.” There’s a series of small decisions that don’t seem like a big deal until we find ourselves hopefully looking back going, “How on earth did I get here?” The answer is, we drifted.

He says, legalism is the same way. We don’t leap into legalism, we drift into it. Little by little, step by step. Making decisions and adopting ways of thinking that don’t seem like a big deal, until one day, they in fact, are revealed to have been a very big deal. And this actually is one of our most powerful weapons for fighting for freedom. And it’s this, we fight to live free by watching for the drift. We fight to live free by watching for the drift. So that we identify it when it’s happening, and we can turn away from it and move in the other direction before it’s taken us too far away. So we fight to live free by watching for the drift.

And you might be going, “Well, how do you do that? How do I watch for the drift?” I’m gonna give you a question that I have learned to ask myself. And I found that it has been really helpful in my own life. I will tell you right now, you’re not going to like it. Okay? It’s not a fun question. But it’s a really powerful question when it comes to watching for the drift of legalism, this the question, what am I most likely to judge others for? Told you, you weren’t gonna like it. Because we’ve all got our list, right? The list things that we judge people for.

We got our other stuff like, “Oh, I can give grace on that. But this one, yeah, boy, if you’re not doing that, or you are doing that, it’s hard for me to have grace.” So we have our list where we judge people. Here’s the problem, or here’s why this is so effective. See, I know that what we judge others for often reveals what we feel superior about. We don’t tend to judge other people for things that we’re not doing well, because then we’d be judging ourselves. So, what we do is we judge other people for the things that, like, we feel we are doing well. And that’s the red flag. Because it’s in those places where we feel superior to others that we’re actually identifying a list of the things that we tend to go, the way I’m behaving is making progress for me. It’s putting me ahead of others. It’s probably pleasing to God. It’s a whole series of those kinds of things. So, that’s a very powerful question. What am I most likely to judge others for? Because that reveals where legalism is really beginning to get a foothold in our lives.

To be honest, I do it with other pastors all the time. So easy to listen to a message and judge it on the basis of, like, theology, or the way they interpreted the Scripture there, or the way they applied it, or something like that, and it’s so easy for me to do it. What that tells me is, I feel a little superior about my theology and my doctrine, and my expository skills. You know what, none of those things get me closer to God. But in those places where I feel like I’m doing pretty well, I’m not leaning into grace, for others or for myself. Which is probably why, to be perfectly honest, I know that my relationship with God doesn’t depend on how well I preach. And yet every single time I preach, when I don’t feel like it went really well, I feel like God’s disappointed in me.

Because, see, I got that list. The list of things that I usually I’m doing pretty well. And so, now I need to do pretty well, and if I don’t do pretty well, then surely God must have a problem with me. And God’s going, “Dude.” He says that to me all the time. “I don’t love you because you perform well, in whatever your set of dos and don’ts.”

It’s a good question to ask. It’s how we watch for the drift, it’s our first weapon. We fight to live free by watching for the drift. Paul says, “For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith of righteousness for which we hope.” And that actually might be the most important verse in this section. But it might be the most important verse in the Book of Galatians. And probably one of the top five most important verses in the whole Bible, honestly.

He says, “For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.” What he’s talking about here is ultimately, I think, the primary reason why most of us don’t experience the freedom that we’re called to in Christ, why we struggle so hard with it. See, here’s the problem, we tend to define freedom halfway. We only have a half-formed understanding of what freedom is. We tend to define freedom primarily in terms of what we’re freed from, right? I’m freed from that bad relationship. Awesome. I’m free from it now. I’m freed from my parents. I’m in college now, I’m free. I’m free from, as followers of Jesus, I’m free from sin. I’m no longer enslaved by sin. We talk primarily and almost exclusively of what we’re freed from. The problem is, that’s only half the definition of freedom.

The true definition of freedom not only pays attention to what we’re freed from, it also pays attention to what we’re freed for. And the reality is, because we don’t focus on what we’re freed for, we end up drifting back into what we were freed from. Here’s a principle that we need to grab ahold of. If we don’t lean in to what we’re freed for, we will drift back to what we’re freed from. Think about relationships. You get out of a bad relationship. “I’m so glad I’m out of that relationship.” But unless we give very careful thought to what kind of a relationship we really want. What will a God-honoring relationship look like? Who do I wanna be in that relationship? What kind of person am I gonna be? How are we gonna treat each other? What is this relationship going to look like? Unless we’re very intentional about that and becoming ourselves the kind of person who would attract somebody like that, we end up going back into a relationship that was just like the one that we left.

If we don’t lean into what we’re freed for, will drift back into what we were freed from. It happens in debt, in finance stuff. People go, “I’m finally free from debt.” But unless we lean into what we’re freed for, which is a new way of thinking about finances. Honoring God with our finances, saving, making financial decisions that are wise, we’ll end up back in debt. There’s a reason why most people who win the lottery end up broke within a couple of years. Because they didn’t lean into what they were freed for, and so they drifted back into what they were freed from. It happens with every relationship, with bad habits.

Yeah, I know that Mountain Dew is bad, but I wasn’t really deliberate about going, “I’m gonna adopt a new healthy lifestyle.” And so, I drifted back into Pineapple Fanta. This is a weird analogy, I know. But you see the point.

Okay. So, we’ve been set free from sin. What are we free for? What do we lean into that we’re freed for so that we don’t drift back into what we were freed from? What does Paul say? It’s righteousness. “For by the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness we hope for.” And it’s at this point that a whole bunch of people who are listening this message breathe a big sigh of relief, because this whole series has made you nervous. I know because I’ve gotten emails. I’ve had the conversations. And I get it, I’m not bothered by that. I’m not upset by it, I understand it.

People are nervous, they’re like, I don’t feel like you’re talking enough about behaving. It’s almost like you’re saying that behaving according to God’s commandments doesn’t matter. Absolutely, it matters. It just doesn’t matter to get us into a relationship with God. And if you really want long-term change in behavior, the only way to accomplish that is to allow people to belong to God by faith and to allow God to do what our insistence that they behave so that they can belong with us can never accomplish.

So, here’s where he leans into it. Here’s where he lives into the behavior, remember, the Gospel says, believing leads to belonging, which leads to behaving. It’ll come, but we got to get it in the right order, and we got to do it in the way that God says, okay, so, how do we do it? How do we lean into righteousness? By the way, it’s a little bit like this interesting thing that Jesus said once, right? He said, right? So, I’m gonna cast a demon out. And it goes away through errant places. And then it comes back, and it finds the house has been swept clean, but there’s nothing better in there. So, it brings in several others, and the condition of that person is worse than it was before.

So, Jesus has swept clean the house. What’s the better thing we put in there? And the answer is righteousness. Okay, but how do we do that? How do we put righteousness in that place so that we don’t drift back? And he says, it’s not by building a list. It’s not by insisting on people behaving so that they can belong. He says, it’s through the what…? Through the Spirit. He says, through the Spirit, we actually change the way we behave. And this is one of the most powerful weapons that we have in our fight for freedom. We fight to live free by learning to live by the Spirit. Not by the lists, but by the Spirit.

Now, we’re gonna talk a lot more about that next week. He gets into a lot more detail in the following passages, and so, we’ll unpack that. But here’s probably what I think you need to know for now, when we say yes to following Jesus, three important things happen. Number one, we’re freed from sin. Jesus wipes our slate clean. We’re freed from sin. Number two, we belong to God. We’re adopted as sons and daughters of the king. And number three, we’re given the Holy Spirit who enables us to lean into righteousness. We’re given the Holy Spirit who begins to change us from the inside out so that we actually become righteous. We lean into righteousness and fill that space that was filled by sin with true righteousness. But not by our own efforts, and not by trying to follow the list of dos and don’ts, but by the power of the Holy Spirit who leads us.

By the way, if you’re new to church, or maybe you’ve been in church your whole life, and the Holy Spirit’s always been a little fuzzy, here’s kind of a helpful way to think about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the person, presence, and power of God. The person, presence, and power of God, who every follower of Jesus has, enabling them to become the people that God designed them to be in the first place.

Paul continues on, but before he gives us a couple more weapons, and before he really kind of digs into what living by the Spirit looks like, he gives us kind of a big picture of, like, how you know if it’s happening. He says this, he says, “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself as love.” He says, circumcision, you know, that list, or uncircumcision, that list, none of the lists really are the best way to tell if someone is in a relationship with God. It’s not really the best way to tell if they’re becoming more like Jesus. That’s not the best way to tell. What’s the best way to tell? Is if they love others. If they love. That’s the best way to tell.

He says, the best evidence of belonging to God is loving others. And we struggle with that one. Because it’s so much harder. It’s so much easier to go, “Well, if they’re followers of Jesus, they’re gonna begin to obey God’s commands. And so, I just look and see how they’re doing, you know, check, check, check. Ooh, not doing so good on that one. But okay, we’ll get back to it.” And if we feel like there’s enough checkmarks, well, then they must really be in a relationship with God. They must really be saved, that’s awesome. That’s the easiest way to do it. Unfortunately, that’s not what Jesus told us to look for.

Because what Paul says here is exactly what Jesus said. And here’s what Jesus said, he said, “By this standard, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you follow the rules.” No, he said, “If you love one another.” It’s not the list, it’s love. Now, does that mean that the followers of Jesus are gonna break God’s commandments? Of course not. It’s just that, how well someone’s doing at following the commands, the rules, the regulations, is no real sign of how much they’re actually in a loving relationship with the Father and being led by the Spirit who’s in them.

I mean, it’s a little bit…have you ever seen, you know, you’re at a pool and the lifeguard tells a little kid, “Hey, stop running.” The little kid is like, “I’m not running.” And technically, they’re not. But there’s a heart of rebellion there, right? I have known people who are really good at the rules and making sure other people were following the rules, but they were cold and contemptuous, rather than compassionate. And honestly, I worry more about those people and whether or not they’re in a real relationship with God than the people who struggle with the rules but love others. It’s not an either/or, but we’re told very clearly, the best evidence of belonging to God is love for others, which, by the way, means that this is one of our weapons for fighting to stay free. We fight to live free by learning to love others. We fight to stay free by learning to love others.

So, here’s a dangerous prayer. I just tell you right now, it will mess you up. Start your day out with this prayer, “Holy Spirit, open my eyes to opportunities to love.” It will ruin your day, gloriously. Because you’re gonna suddenly find that you have all kinds of opportunities. It’s in the little ways, just the ways that we respond to people when they irritate us. It’s in the little steps of sacrifice that we make for our families and our friends. It’s in those conversations that we wouldn’t have leaned into that we go, “Hey, how you doing?” And they said, “Fine.” And the Holy Spirit goes, “Ask him again.” “How’d you say you’re doing?” “I’m fine.” Holy Spirit is like, “They’re lying.” “How are you really doing?” And then the guard comes down and the truth comes out and the tears come and suddenly, you’re loving that person in a way that you would have missed because you hadn’t taken that one little opportunity even just ask the question the second time. It’s a dangerous prayer. But it’s a powerful prayer for staying free.

It seems counterintuitive, right? The idea that we would experience more freedom by trying to love others more. But remember, we’re freed from and we’re freed for. And this is what we’re being set free for. He says, you were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? You guys were doing this, he says. You were growing in righteousness that exhibits itself as loving others. And then somebody cut in, and they tripped you up and you fell. That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. And then you got people telling you, “This is what Jesus wants.” Yeah, no, it’s not. That is not Jesus.

A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. I don’t make a lot of bread. But come Thanksgiving, sometimes that’s my task. And I’m a purist when it comes to Thanksgiving, so, like, we’re going from scratch. And I’m always astounded how that little tiny packet of yeast can go into this big batch of dough and affect the whole thing, turn into something different. That’s what Paul’s saying. But he’s talking about it here in a negative way. He’s like, the reality is, sometimes a little thing can do a lot of damage, and legalism is like that.

It might seem like a little thing. They’re just asking you to cut off a little part of the male anatomy. They’re asking you to take a couple of little steps to belong to God and to his people. But the reality is, that little thing can do a lot of damage, and we have to remember that. In fact, that’s our fourth weapon for fighting to stay free. We fight to live free by remembering that a little legalism does a lot of damage. It does a lot of damage to our own relationship with God. Because what happens is we end up with a list of things that we feel like we have to perform before there’s gonna be intimacy with God, and we’re just creating a distance that we were trying to overcome because we’re not trusting in God’s grace and his love.

So, a little legalism affects our relationship with God. It affects our ability to be on a mission. I mean, here at Mission Hills, we’re all about helping people do two things, become like Jesus and join him on a mission. Listen, you let a little legalism into your gospel, you’re off mission. Because you don’t have any good news to share. You tell people, “Oh yeah, Jesus died for you, and if you believe in him, you can belong to God, as long as you also just do a couple of the little things we got.” That’s not good news. That’s the same bad news the whole world’s already been suffering under believing was necessary. He says a little legalism goes a long way. We have to remember that we fight to live free by remembering that a little legalism does a lot of damage.

He says, I’m confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who’s throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case, the offense of the cross has been abolished. Apparently, these people that were bothering the Galatians were telling them, “Oh, Paul didn’t tell you you got to be circumcised? Well, I don’t know why he forgot it here. But he’s telling other people in other places that that’s what you got to do.” And he’s like, “No, I’m not telling them that.” And you wanna know how I can prove that I’m not telling anybody they got to be circumcised? My own people are persecuting me for it. The Jews are persecuting me because I’m telling people, “You don’t have to behave like Jews to be part of God’s people. You don’t have to be circumcised.” Whatever these people are telling you about what I’m telling others, they’re lying to you.

And here’s what he thinks about the people that are saying this to the Galatian followers of Jesus. He says, “As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves.” That’s a great passage. Like, it starts out with, you know, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free, and it ends with I wish they would call off their own beep. And I’m not trying to be crass, but that’s what Paul says.

He says, they’re saying you just got to cut off a little part? I wish they’d cut off the whole stinking thing. It’s blunt. It’s rough. Those are fighting words, right? Those are fighting words. Which is kind of the point. Paul’s using fighting words because he says, this is a fight we have to win. Your relationship with God and your ability to be on mission with Jesus with actual good news to share with the world, it depends on winning this fight. We have to fight hard to stay free. Bottom line. We have to fight hard to stay free.

We’ve been given four weapons. Number one, watching for the drift. We watch for the drift. When you ask yourself that question, where am I letting legalism slip in? How am I judging others? Because that might be my only way to see what otherwise would be invisible to me. We watch for the drift. Second, we learn to live by the Spirit. We’ll talk more about that next week. Third, we learn to love others. We focus less on trying to check off the boxes and more on trying to love others like Jesus loved us. And then, fourth, we remember that a little legalism does a lot of damage.

In addition to the other questions that I’ve asked you to wrestle with, I’m gonna give you a couple more, some homework. And the first one is this. Where do I see a drift towards legalism in my life? Maybe it’s in your relationship with God, maybe it’s in your relationship with other people. Legalism kills intimacy in both of those, and God wants us to experience intimacy in all of our relationships. But legalism will make it impossible. So, where do you see a drift towards legalism in your relationship with God or with others?

Second question I encourage you to wrestle with is, where am I doing well at loving others? Because I know many of you are. I get to hear the stories, it’s the best part of my job. I hear the ways that people of Mission Hills are loving their neighbors and each other and their families and doing sacrificial things that advance the Gospel, and it’s awesome. I know you’re doing many of these things. And I want you to celebrate those places in your life. We tend to become what we celebrate. And so, I think it’s good to take a moment and go, “Hey, I think I’m loving people well in this area, and this area, and this area.” And recognize, this is evidence the Holy Spirit’s working in you. Celebrate that. It’s awesome.

But then also, ask the question, and where do I need to grow in love? Because it’s in those places you’re gonna realize I need to grow in love there that you’re gonna find that the Holy Spirit is like, “Yep, come with me.” I’m gonna move you forward, and we’re gonna get you experiencing all the righteousness that you were freed for as you leave the sin you were freed from far behind.

Would you pray with me? God, we thank you for this Word, and we acknowledge it’s not an easy Word. Because in some ways, we’re all guilty of giving up on grace. We understand, we’re saved by grace. It was your undeserved kindness that sent Jesus to pay the price for our sin. It was your power that raised him from the dead. And it’s only by our trusting in the life, the death, and resurrection of Jesus that your power comes into our lives and changes us, and makes us into the men and women that we long to be. It’s so easy for us to substitute your grace and your power with lists that make us feel superior. We do that in our relationships with you. We do it in a relationship with others. And we ask for your forgiveness. We ask for strength through the power of your Holy Spirit to learn to say no to legalism and to leap into grace.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, if you have experienced the grace of God, would you do me a favor? Would you begin praying right now for the people listening to this message that have never experienced that? And if that’s you, if I can just speak to you for a moment, it may be that you’re listening this message, and there’s a fair amount of it, honestly, you’re not quite sure what to do with, and that’s okay, because there’s really only one thing in this message you need to hear clearly, and that is this thing we call the Gospel. The idea that if you believe in Jesus, then you belong to God and everything else will come from that. You just need to understand that God loves you so much that he sent his Son to die on the cross to pay the price for your sin. To remove that barrier.

Three days later, he rose from the dead, and he offers everyone who says yes to faith in Jesus, to trusting Jesus, to following Jesus. With your trust in that and nothing else, he offers salvation, forgiveness of sin, adoption into his family, and life eternal with him and his people. And if you’ve never received that gift, I wanna give you a chance to do it right now. There’s nothing standing in your way. Here’s how you do it. You’re just gonna have a conversation with God in your heart. You’re gonna say something like this to God right now, say, “God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay the price of my sin. I believe you rose from the dead. I’m ready to accept your forgiveness, belonging to God and his family and eternal life. Jesus, I’m gonna follow you. I am yours for now and forever. Amen.”

I’ve had several people make that decision already this weekend. I’m sure we did just this moment. Can we celebrate that decision together as a family? We love it, love it, love it. Hey, if you did make that decision for the first time today, we would love, we’d be so honored to be able to celebrate that with you. And we would love to put some resources in your hands. So, would you let us know you made the decision? If you’re in one of our campuses, you can text the word Jesus to 80875. If you’re on one of the platforms online, where you don’t see a button that says “I committed my life to Jesus,” you can do that too. Just text “Jesus” 80875. If you do see the button, go ahead and click that. If you’re in another one of our campuses, you can also swing by the Welcome Center on your way out, and you tell them, “I said yes to Jesus.” And they’d love to give you those resources that we wanna put in your hands.

So, just you’re gonna read some resource to help you figure out what does this relationship look like? And what do I do next? What’s my next step? So, my next step in a relationship with a God who loves me, and whose love for me is not dependent on my behavior. But a God that we don’t have to clean ourselves up to get to. But a God that when we get to him starts to clean us up. He’s a good God. Amen? Stand up. And before we end our time today, let’s worship our good God.

FINDING FREEDOM FROM THE SELF-DESTRUCTION OF SELF-CENTEREDNESS

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

JULY/AUGUST

31/1

Galatians 5:13-26

Those who belong more to themselves than to God will not inherit the kingdom of God without the help of the Holy Spirit. Fortunately the Spirit can guide us from self-centeredness to other-centered. Check out this week for some tips on changing your course.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT
Craig: Hey. Welcome to Mission Hills. So good to have you with us today. I thought I’d start off our time together today with a story. I’m gonna tell you right now I’m not 100% sure the story is true. It kind of feels like an urban legend, but I’ve had multiple people in multiple countries tell me the same story. And I did check it out on snopes.com. So it might be true.

It basically is how to catch a monkey. And apparently, a very effective way to catch a monkey is you take a log, kind of a heavy log, you hollow it out, then you put something in the log that monkeys like, like an orange. And then you kind of seal up the ends of the log and you drill a hole in the middle of the log that’s just big enough for a monkey’s little hand to go through. And apparently what happens is they’ll come along, they’ll see the orange, they’ll stick their hand in there, grab the orange, but then they can’t get their hand out because they got to hold the orange. And apparently, monkeys are so stupid, that they will not let go of what they want. And they’re so fixated, obsessed with getting what they want, that they’re oblivious to the fact that people come along and throw nets over and catch them.

And first time I heard that I was like, how dumb are monkeys? Followed very quickly by another question, which I still haven’t asked, which is, “Am I smarter than a stupid monkey? Or am I oblivious to the self-destructiveness of my own self-centeredness? That I get so obsessed with getting what I want, that I’m kind of oblivious to the reality that I’m doing a lot of damage to myself and other people?” And I say not a bad question for all of us to ask. Let’s just kind of start that question, or start our time off today with that question, am I smarter than a stupid monkey? Or do I get obsessed with getting what I want to the point that it does damage to other people and to me?

What we’re gonna talk about today, in our continuing study through the Book of Galatians, is really what Paul has to say about getting free from the self-destructiveness of self-centeredness. You’re gonna grab a Bible, we’re gonna be in Galatians chapter 5, starting in verse 13 today. If you’re with us last week, you may remember that we saw that we have a little bit of a tendency to have an incomplete definition of freedom. The Book of Galatians is all about freedom. But we struggle because we don’t really understand freedom, we have an incomplete definition.

We tend to think about freedom in terms of the things that I’m freed from, the bad things that I’m set free from. But in reality, that’s only half the definition. Freedom is also about the better things that we’re freed for. And as we saw last week, unless we lean in to what we’re free for, we’ll drift back into what we were free from. If we don’t lean into the better things we’re free for, we’ll end up drifting back to the bad things we were freed from.

And that’s really where Paul picks up this week in Galatians chapter 5, verse 13, he says this, he says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather serve one another humbly in love.”

And we have both things there, what I’m free from, the flesh, and what we’re free for. And so he says, “Do not indulge the flesh,” what we’re free from, “But rather serve each other humbly in love.” That’s what we’re free for. Now, it probably bears just a quick little word of explanation as to why he’s using the word, the flesh. If you’re kind of new to church, you may be confused by that. And here’s the reality, the Bible often uses the flesh as a synonym for sin. And the reason for that is not that the flesh is inherently bad. It’s not that our physical desires are inherently bad, they’re not. But and this is a key thing to understand, the desires of the flesh are inherently self-centered. The desires of our flesh and are inherently self-centered.

Now, again, that doesn’t necessarily make them bad, because God gave us the desires of our flesh, our physical appetites so that we would meet our physical needs. I mean, think about it, if we never got hungry, we would never eat and we would? We would die, right? It’s not a bad thing to get hungry. If we never got thirsty, we would never drink and we would die. If we never had sexual attraction to members of the opposite sex, we would never get married and have kids and the human race would die. So all those physical appetites, they’re not bad things, but here’s the problem, when we disconnected from God by our sin, those physical desires became problematic. And there’s a couple of things that happened.

The first one is that when we’re disconnected from God, by our sin, we end up craving what we were never meant to consume, we crave what we were never meant to consume. We begin to have appetites for things that we weren’t supposed to have appetites for. And that might be actually totally new perverted appetites that have nothing to do with what that physical desire was initially for. Or it might be that we crave them in ways they were never intended to be met outside of God’s boundaries. Or we end up craving them in quantities that we were never intended to crave them. Okay? But in some way that those desires get twisted and we end up craving we were never meant to consume because we’re disconnected from God by sin.

The second thing that happens when we’re disconnected from God, the desires of the flesh become our primary motivation. It’s not the way we’re supposed to be. We’re body and spirit. And we’re supposed to be connected to God by the Spirit. And the desires of the Spirit are very different than the desires of the flesh. But when we’re disconnected from God and disconnected from the life of the Spirit, really all that’s left is the physical desires. And so they become our primary motivator. And as we said, that the problem with that is that they’re all self-centered.

And so when the only things that drive us are self-centered motivations, we become very self-centered. And that’s really what Paul’s getting at here. He says, “Hey, guys, you’re followers of Jesus, here’s what you need to understand this is so important. Faith in Jesus sets us free from the self-centeredness that we used to live in, and it sets us free for others-centeredness. Because when you said yes to Jesus, you got set free from the desires of the flesh. You got set free from a life that was motivated only by those self-centered desires. And now you’re free for a life that’s motivated by a different set of desires. It’s the desire to serve others.” And we have to lean into that. We have to love others. That’s what we’re free for. And he says this, “For the entire Law, is fulfilled in keeping this one command. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Let’s just think about that for a moment. He says the entire Law, he said about the entire Old Testament, all 613 commands that we find in the Old Testament, he says all of them basically boil down to this idea, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” They all boil down to love. Every one of those 613 commands in some way or another points us towards what love looks like, or what love doesn’t look like so we can avoid the opposite side of it. Okay, he says it all kind of boils down to that. And understand Paul isn’t coming up with this idea. Jesus revealed this. Paul’s just repeating it. But Jesus himself is the one who revealed this. Jesus himself, pretty famously, we’ve talked about several times in the series, John 13:34, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”

Three times in that same short little set of sentences. He says, “Love one another,” so Paul’s just repeating what Jesus himself revealed. And the bottom line here is that he says, everything that we find in Scripture ultimately points us towards this reality of loving others. Now, some people might go, “Hang on a second, aren’t we supposed to love God too? In fact, aren’t we supposed to love God first?” And the answer is, absolutely we are.

But what Jesus revealed, and what Paul repeats is that there’s no loving God without loving others, that if you say you love God, but you don’t love others, you don’t actually love God. There’s no loving God without loving others because God loves people. He created them and longs to be in a relationship with them. They’re his beloved sons or daughters. Estranged from him by our sin, absolutely. But God still longs for that relationship with him for all of eternity. He loves people. And if we say we love God, but we don’t give a rip about what he cares so deeply about we’re fooling ourselves. We don’t actually love God, there’s no loving God without loving others. Now, I don’t know about you but that makes me a little uncomfortable because others are hard to love. Can I get an amen there?

Together: Amen.

Craig: Like, it is a terrible thing for a pastor to say, but I’ll be honest with you, I’m like being a pastor would be the best job in the world if it weren’t for all the people. Loving others is not an easy thing. It’s not an easy thing. And here’s why, because we spent all of our lives up until we said yes to Jesus, being driven by the self-centeredness of the flesh. And loving others always requires a certain degree of sacrifice. It requires other-centeredness, and it’s just not natural.

But here’s what I think we have to understand, what Jesus revealed and what Paul here is repeating, is that the way we tend to think about righteousness isn’t quite right. We tend to think about righteousness as following the rules. If I do what God says to do, and I don’t do what God says not to do, if I avoid the big stuff, then I’m righteous.

And what Paul is saying here because Jesus himself taught it is that loving others isn’t an aspect of righteousness. It’s not just one of the things that we do to be righteous. It’s not an aspect of righteousness. It’s the essence of it. Loving others isn’t an aspect of righteousness. It’s the essence of it. See, we tend to go, “Well, I checked off the boxes of the dos and don’ts. And on top of that, if I really wanna go for icing on the cake, I’ll love others a little bit.” And he goes, “No, loving others isn’t the icing on the cake. It’s the cake.” It’s not one aspect of righteousness. It is the essence of it, which means the best test of our righteousness isn’t the rules, it’s our relationships. The best test of our righteousness isn’t the rules, it’s our relationships.

Now, let me be clear, I’m not saying that if you love others and ignore God’s commands that you’re righteous. It doesn’t work that way. In fact, I would say that if you claim that you love others, but you ignore God’s commands, you’re not being righteous, that you’re not loving others even because it doesn’t work that way. I mean, here’s the thing, you can’t really love others apart from God’s statements and teaching about what the life that we’re called to live looks like. I mean, if I have an alcoholic in my life, and I say I love them, but I never challenge them on what their alcoholism is doing to themselves and the people around them, I’m not actually loving that person. Okay, so there’s no love apart from God’s commandments.

The problem is that we tend to stop at the commandments, we tend to stop at the rules and go, “I must be righteous because I followed the rules to this point.” Like we go, “Hey, you know, the rules, say, “Don’t commit adultery, I’ve never done that. I must be righteous.” And the reality though, is that we’re entertaining attractions to people that are not our spouses all the time. We’re doing it on screens, we’re doing it at the gym, we’re doing it in work situations, and we’re not acting on it, but we’re thinking about it. And Jesus had a word for that and the word is lust. We’re entertaining attraction to people, we shouldn’t be entertaining. But we’re self-centeredly thinking through and then those thoughts that we think become lenses that we look at the people that were supposed to be loving and they affect those relationships. Our selfishness does damage those relationships.

And Jesus actually said that, that thought life stuff, that’s every bit as bad as not actually breaking the black and white rule. I mean, the rule says, you know, “Don’t commit murder,” and we go, “I’ve never killed anybody, yeah, I’ve come close a couple of times. But I’ve never actually done it, therefore I’m righteous.” And Jesus said, no, if you’re entertaining anger in your heart, if you’re building up lenses of bitterness that you look at other people through, that’s actually every bit as bad as to whether or not you actually break the black and white rules. We have a tendency to go, you know, the rules, and what we’re told here is now the best test of our righteousness isn’t the rules, it’s our relationships. And all God’s people went?

Together: Amen.

Craig: Oh, really? My response is, “Oh, no,” but okay, all right. That’s a harder one. It’s just a lot harder. And Paul tells us here’s the reality. We live in a liminal space. And how many even know what a liminal space is? Few people some of you don’t. I’ll give you a…it’s a new vocabulary word you didn’t know you’re gonna get vocabulary lesson at church today, did you?

Liminal space is the place between what was and what will be. It’s between what we were and what we will be but it’s that place we’re not really either one. How many of you have ever woken up in the morning or kind of woken up, and you’re not quite asleep but you’re not really awake yet either, how many ever have had that? Okay, that’s liminal space. My youngest daughter’s heading off to college here in a couple of weeks. She’s no longer a kid. But she’s not quite an adult yet either. She’s in a liminal space. My wife and I are going, “Hey, we’re in liminal space. We don’t have kids that are gonna be living at home all the time anymore. But we’re not totally empty nesters yet either. So you know, we’re kind of in liminal space.”

And as followers of Jesus, we all live in liminal space. We’ve been set free from the selfishness of the flesh, and free for the other-centeredness that God calls us to. But we’re not really either one of those yet, right? We’re not fully free, we can still hear that voice of selfishness. And we’re not fully leaning into the other-centeredness that we’re called to where we kind of live in liminal space. And here’s the truth about liminal space. The thing that defines liminal space is that we have to make choices. We have to choose whether or not we’re gonna drift back into what was or lean forward into what will be.

In the morning when you wake up, you have to decide, “Am I gonna get out of bed, am I gonna go back to sleep?” My daughter has to decide, all college students, by the way, a lot of college students heading off to college soon you got to decide, “Am I gonna lean into being an adult and make decisions as an adult? Or use your newfound freedom to live like a kid?” It happens a lot in college, and it often ends up causing damage and destruction you pay for the rest of your life. If you wanna be an adult, you got to lean into making wise responsible decisions, okay?

My wife and I are making choices, you know, what are we gonna do? Are we gonna just miss the fact that we don’t have kids? Or are we gonna lean into new opportunities that we have to be on mission with Jesus with some more freedom that we have, and some new space and opportunities?” We have to make those choices. And as followers of Jesus, we have to make a choice in the liminal space that we live in? Where am I gonna listen to the voice of self-centeredness? Or am I gonna listen to the voice of other-centeredness? What are we going to do?

And Paul kind of warns us here’s what’s gonna happen if you drift back. Here’s what’s gonna happen if you listen to the old voice. He says, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be consumed by each other,” or you’ll be destroyed by each other. It’s interesting he chose those words bite and devour. They’re both eating words. He’s talking about cannibalism. And he’s doing that because he’s making an incredibly important point and he needs to drive it home. The reality is that we tend to consume each other to satisfy our cravings. We bite and devour, we look at other people we go, “What can I get from you?” That’s our primary question. That’s the voice of the flesh is the voice of self-centeredness as we look at other people in our relationship we go, “How can I get out of you?”

And when Paul says, “If that’s the way you live, if you’re biting and devouring,” working to get out of other people, they’re gonna look at you the same way you look at them. You’re looking at them as a commodity to be consumed, they’re gonna do the same thing for you. Well, you’re gonna bite and devour me? Then I’m gonna have to do bite and devour you to get what I want. And then you’re like, “You’re doing that to me, well, I’m gonna do that back to you.”

And pretty soon we got this spiral of destruction. And here’s the reality. It’s a little bit of an ironic and maybe the most ironic reality of the world that we live in, self-centeredness is inherently self-destructive. Self-centeredness is inherently self-destructive. The world teaches us but if you’re not self-centered, you’ll never get what you need. And so we say things like, “You know, you got to look out for number one, life’s a dirty game, you got to play dirty to get it.” No, that’s the world’s wisdom, and it’s not wisdom. Because it’s pulling you towards a self-centeredness that is inherently self-destructive, it actually ends up giving you much less of what you need, and none of what you actually crave in your heart of hearts, and deep in your soul. It can’t be done that way.

But he says, if you do it that way, it’s gonna play out in destruction. And here’s the reality. I know that when I described that way of biting and devouring each other and going, how do I get out of what I want out of you, and you’re doing it to me, some of you’re going, “You’re describing my marriage. You’re describing my relationship with my kids or my parents. You’re describing work relationships that I’m in,” and you may be going, “Okay, I see it, I see that that’s exactly what happens. It’s a spiral of self-destruction. But how do we change it?”

And here’s how you change it. Someone has to break the cycle. Someone has to break the cycle, someone has to say, “I’m not gonna do relationships like that anymore.” Someone has to say, “I’m not gonna do life that way anymore.” And here’s the bad news today. If you’re listening to this message, that someone is you. It’s not another person’s responsibility to break the cycle. Someone has to break the cycle and that someone is you.

How do you do that? How do you do life different? How do you do relationships, different? Paul says this, “And so I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” He says when you said yes to Jesus, three things happened. When you said yes to Jesus, our sin was forgiven. The barrier between us and God was removed. Secondly, we were adopted into the family of God, we became his beloved children in an actual relationship with our Heavenly Father. And third, he gave us the Holy Spirit, who begins to change us from the inside out, who begins to speak to us with a different voice. And what he says is you have to decide which voice you’re gonna listen to. If you wanna do life differently, wanna break the cycle, what you have to do is you have to walk by the Spirit. You have to decide to listen to the voice of the Spirit, rather than the voice of the flesh.

Again, we live in a liminal space, we hear both voices, I have not managed to find the mute button for my self-centeredness, has anybody? I don’t even know where I should be looking. But I can’t shut the voice off. But what I can choose to do is go, “Yes, I hear the voice. But it’s not the one that I’m gonna listen to, I’m gonna listen to, I’m gonna act on this voice of the Spirit.” And in that way, Paul says when we were walking by the Spirit. And really what he’s telling us is this, it’s only when we’re guided by the Spirit that we stop giving into the flesh. It’s not something we can do naturally, it’s not something we can just go, “I’m gonna try harder.” It’s only something that we can do as we listen to the voice of the Spirit. And so it’s only when we’re guided by the Spirit that we stop giving in to the flesh.

Paul says, “For the desires of the flesh,” or for the flesh desires, what is contrary to the Spirit. And the Spirit desires, what is contrary to the flesh, that they are in conflict with each other so that you’re not to do whatever you want. Because those two voices, they’re speaking radically different things. And so you can’t just go back to going, “Well, I’m just gonna do what I want.” He says, “No, that’s the voice of the flesh and the voice of the Spirit is asking something very, very different from you.”

The bottom line, he says yet you live in this liminal space. Yes, you hear these voices, and you have to make a decision about which of these voices you’re going to indulge. And really, in essence, kind of the theme of this entire section is a call to stop indulging the self-centeredness of the flesh and to start indulging the other-centeredness of the Spirit. That’s what this whole thing’s about. It’s that invitation. Stop indulging the self-centeredness of the flesh, stop listening to the self-centered voice of the flesh, and start listening, start indulging the other-centeredness of the Spirit.

And it’s at this point that Paul anticipates an objection to what he’s saying. If you’ve been with us throughout the series, you know that the Book of Galatians is an argument against some opponents that Paul was dealing with in the City of Galatians. Paul had preached the Gospel in Galatia. And the Gospel said that if you believe in Jesus, then you belong to God. And it’s because of that belonging that you begin to change the way that you behave because of the work of the Holy Spirit. But Paul had some opponents who came and they said, “No, no, that’s not right. You have to believe in Jesus, and you have to behave according to the Law, you have to follow the rules, you have to get yourself righteous enough to belong to God.”

And so Paul has been arguing about those people knows that when he says, “Hey, we got to stop indulging the self-centeredness of the flesh.” He knows that his opponent’s gonna go, “Whoa, hang on a second. That’s exactly what we’re trying to have people do. We’re on the same page, Paul, we’re all about helping people to stop indulging the self-centeredness of the flesh. We’re just saying the best way to do that, the best way to stop listening to that self-centered voice is to start obeying the Law, start obeying the rules and regulations. That’s the best way to stop indulging the flesh.” And Paul says, “No, it’s not. You’re wrong.” He says, “But if you were led by the Spirit, you’re not under the Law.” If you’re led by the Spirit, you’re not under the Law.

And what it means is not that the Law is bad. Not that there’s no use of the Law. In fact, Paul, later in his writing says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and it’s useful.” And he’s already told us, we saw it a few weeks ago, the Law guarded us until Jesus came and until the Spirit was given by faith in Jesus. The Law guarded us, it kind of limited sin so that we didn’t destroy ourselves completely. But what he’s saying now is, if you’re under the Law, you’re not under the Spirit, if you’re under the Spirit, you’re not under the Law. It’s kind of an either-or. And so what he says is, “Listen, as followers of his who have the Spirit, you don’t need to be guarded by the Law, because you’re now guided by the Spirit.”

As followers of Jesus, you don’t need to be guarded by the Law anymore. That’s not your best way to say no to the selfishness of the flesh, because you’re now guided by the Spirit. And the reality is that the Spirit can take you where the Law, can only point you. The Law, can say, “Hey, this is what loving relationships look like. And if you do these things, you’re not actually loving others. And if you don’t do these things, you know, you’re getting farther away from it.” And it can point us in that direction. But it can’t take us there. But he says the Holy Spirit can. And so if you’re guided by the Spirit, you don’t actually need to be guarded by the Law, because the Spirit can take us where the Law can only point us. You have to walk by the Spirit.

And so the question then becomes, how do we do that? How do we walk by the Spirit? And this is one of those things in the Christian life, I think that sometimes it’s over-spiritualized. I don’t know. Can you over-spiritualize walking by the Spirit? I think you can because it seems mysterious. And it seems mystical. And it seems complex. But let me simplify it radically. Let me show you practically how to be guided by the Spirit. It’s just a prayer actually, one of the best ways is to start a very simple but dangerous prayer. Give you a dangerous prayer last week, I’ll give you another dangerous prayer this week.

Here’s the prayer. “God, how do you want me to serve someone today?” Can we just take a moment right now? Let’s actually ask God, and then let’s just take a few seconds to listen, for God to answer that question. Just think about how can I serve someone? So I’ll pray it over us. But just pray this to God. Close your eyes, bow your heads. God, how do you want me to serve someone today?

How many of us thought of something we could do? Cool, do it. Is that too complex? Do it. If you thought of something you could do to serve someone do it. And you might go, “Well, how do I know that was the voice of the Spirit?” I don’t care. Because if it’s truly other-centered, it’s probably from the Spirit. Now, if you’re saying, “Well, if I could do this for them, and then that would cause them to do this for me,” okay, well, that’s a problem. That’s not other-centeredness. But if you thought, “Well, here’s how I could actually serve someone,” then let’s just assume that was probably the Holy Spirit because we know that’s what the Holy Spirit’s doing. He’s moving us in that direction. We just do it. And then when we do it, and then we go, “Okay, God, what’s next?” And whatever we find ourselves led to do we do that.

And, you know, here’s the thing, you go, “God, what can I do to serve somebody?” You take that step and then you serve somebody. And then you go, “What else could I do?” And you do that, you serve somebody and you know what we’re doing now? We’re walking. We’re walking by the Spirit. We’re walking in an attitude of looking to serve others. That’s how we do it.

Now just in case, people still want a little bit more guidance, make sure they’re heading in the right direction Paul says, “Okay, let’s talk about these two voices and what they lead us to.” He says, “Now the acts of the flesh are obvious.” And he’s speaking about the followers of Jesus who have the Holy Spirit. It’s not honestly true for you who don’t have the Holy Spirit but if you’re a follower of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit. And what the Holy Spirit’s doing is he’s making the acts of the flesh obvious, he’s making it clear to you.

Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. We spent a lot of time talking about each item on that list, but we don’t need to do it. Because, A, this is not an exhaustive list it’s just a set of examples to point us in the right direction. And B, the point of all these things is actually the same. These are all examples of self-centered behavior. That’s it. That’s what you need to know, these are all examples of self-centered behavior.

Now, most of those are probably obvious, right? You look at those and go, “Yeah, I see it. That’s a self-centered behavior.” That the two that probably people struggle with the most are idolatry and witchcraft. And people don’t immediately recognize how that’s selfish. But here’s what we need to understand. Idolatry. See, we tend to think of idolatry as anytime we worship something other than God, okay. But in the ancient world, that’s not quite what idolatry was. In the ancient world idolatry was making some kind of an image, a statue, or a figurine or something like that of a god or a goddess, and then doing things around that idol for a purpose. And the purpose wasn’t worship, the purpose was to get that god or the goddess to give you what you wanted. So if you made sacrifices to it, if you prayed to it, if you did various things around it, though, the end goal was always to convince, to manipulate really those spirits to give you what you want. It’s a deeply selfish thing.

Witchcraft. Similarly, actually, I’m not even sure witchcraft is the best translation, the Greek word there is pharmakeia, which is where we get pharmacy or pharmacology from. Now in the modern world, that’s all about medicine, right? It’s about things that help people. In the ancient world, that was about mixing up potions to manipulate people. It was about mixing up potions and slipping into people’s drinks so that they would fall in love with you love potions are very common, you could buy them in the ancient world, people made them for that. Or it was about mixing up potions and pouring them out in front of idols to get the gods to give you what you wanted. Both idolatry and witchcraft are deeply self-centered behaviors. It’s a self-centered religion, really. Every item on this list is a self-centered behavior.

And so he says, “Hey, the fruit basically, the outworkings of the desires of the flesh is selfish behavior.” By the way, that this entire list if you’re interested in this, this entire list kind of breaks down into four categories. And the four categories are this, self-centered sexuality, the first three are about that. So here’s the reality. God intended us to enjoy sex. And I know some of you were like, “What just happened? Did the pastor just use the word sex and enjoy in the same sentence?”
Because honestly, we have this idea or the world has this idea that Christians think that sex is dirty and nasty, and that’s not the case at all. God invented it, it’s great. But it’s meant to be enjoyed, it can only be enjoyed in the way it should be within the boundaries that God set for it. And the Bible is very clear those boundaries are in a committed marriage between a man and a woman. That’s what the Bible teaches. And in anything outside of those boundaries is actually an exercise of selfishness. It’s trying to satisfy a desire that’s selfish. It’s me-centered, and it’s not God-centered, but it’s not other-centered either. And sexual impurity or immorality, impurity, debauchery, those are all just examples of ways that we try to satisfy sexual desires and selfish ways.

We got self-centered religion, we just talked about idolatry and witchcraft. And the reality is, we all do the same thing. The reality is that we often find ourselves worshiping God, not because we recognize that he’s worthy of us, but because we want something from him. We go, “I’m struggling in my life right now I really need God to move. So I guess I should go to church.” And maybe you’ve never done that but let me ask you this. If you’ve ever had the thought, “God, I don’t know why God’s not doing what I’m asking him to do because I’m doing everything right. I’m following the rules. I’m giving my money. I’m giving my time. I’m doing everything God wants me to do. But he hasn’t done what I want him to do.” You know what’s happening there? That’s actually a self-centered approach to religion.

There’s self-centered social interactions, by the way, that’s the longest list because it’s the easiest place to let our selfishness come out. And ultimately, you get self-centered consumption, drunkenness, orgies, both of those are ultimately about overconsumption of all kinds of things. These are all selfish behaviors. He says the fruits or the results of the desires of the flesh, they are obvious, self-centered behavior. And he says, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

And it’s important that we understand that he’s not saying that those things can’t be forgiven. Every one of the items on that list can be forgiven. And so if you’re listening to this message, you’re going, “I’ve done some of those.” Some of you may be listening and going, “I’ve done all of those.” And you go, “Well, does this mean that I can’t be forgiven, that I can’t be in a relationship with God?” No, not at all, every one of those can be forgiven. The blood of Jesus shed on the cross is sufficient for every sin we’ve ever committed, or will ever commit.

What Paul’s saying here, and he uses a very particular Greek tense to say it, he says, “Those who live like this.” And what that means is those who continually live like this, those whose lives are characterized by this. They’re not giving any evidence that the Spirit of God is in them, which is what’s gonna be necessary to inherit the kingdom.

In other words, this is a warning for those whose lives are continually characterized by selfishness. Because those whose lives are continually characterized by selfishness, betray no evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit at work in them. There’s no evidence of they actually belong to God because if they did, they would be moving not instantaneously, not perfectly, but gradually over time moving towards other-centeredness. So it’s a warning for those who continue to have lives characterized by selfishness.

He says, “But the fruit of the Spirit.” And this is a very famous verse, by the way, if you’ve ever been to Hobby Lobby, even if you’ve never cracked the Bible, you have seen this verse. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there’s no Law. Again, we can spend a lot of time looking at each individual item on this list. But A, it’s not an exhaustive list, and B, it all boils down to the same basic idea, which is that these are examples of other-centered behavior, every one of them.

And again, that’s pretty obvious for most of them. The one I think that people might struggle the most with to see as being other-centered is joy. Because in our culture, we think about joy is very me-centered, it’s joy I have, it’s joy I feel. And we tend to think what’s joy because I got what I want.

It’s not what Jesus says, it’s interesting in that same speech, where he called us to love one another. He also said this is in John 15:11. He said, “I’ve told you this so that my joy may be in you, that you might have joy, and that your joy might be complete. My command is this, love each other as I have loved you.”

And that is a very counterintuitive, or at least a very counter-cultural approach to joy. Notice that that joy and loving other is deeply connected there, right? It’s not how we tend to think about it. But the reality is that what Jesus reveals is that true joy comes from loving others. So when Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit being joy, he’s actually talking about experiencing something that is rooted in serving others, sacrificing brothers being other-centered.

You know, as I contemplate my two daughters, off in the world, one’s already out there adulting and the other one’s kind of in that liminal space, she’s moving that direction. I’m gonna be honest with you, I’m really proud of my girls. They both love Jesus, and they’re both mission-minded. They’re Kingdom-minded. They’re in very different ways. One is pursuing, extending God’s influence in the nonprofit Christian world. That’s awesome. We love it. One’s pursuing extending God’s influence in the scientific world. She’s deeply passionate about that. Very, very different approaches to living on mission with Jesus but both committed to it in ways that humble me honestly.

But then I think a little bit about how they got there, how we got to the point of being able to have that joy in them? And I will tell you this, the joy that I feel for my daughters loving Jesus and being on mission with him exceeds any other joy I’ve ever experienced in life. But how do we get there? My wife and I sacrificed. We love them, we serve them with time, with some suffering along the way, with money. I mean, so many different ways we sacrificed when we were other-centered. And when I look at what God is doing through them now, I have joy. Every sacrifice I ever made in serving my daughters I look at now and I go, “Worth it. Absolutely worth it.”

That’s what Paul’s talking about here. True joy comes from loving others. He says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires,” the self-centeredness of the flesh. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking, and envying each other.” He says, “Yeah, we live in a liminal space.” In one sense, the desires of the flesh are crucified, but we still hear the echoes of the voice. And so we have to make a choice. We have to accept an invitation, and that invitation is to stop indulging the self-centeredness of the flesh and to start indulging the other-centeredness of the Spirit. How do we do it?

Well, let me give you four things, four important steps to accepting that invitation. The first one is this, make sure you have God’s Spirit. Because nothing we’re talking about here is possible apart from the work of the Spirit of God in your life. And so if you’re here today, and you go, “Well, I’ve been coming to church my whole life.” Or maybe that’s your first time ever setting foot in a church. But you realize in this moment, I’ve never actually put my faith in what Jesus did for me. But maybe I’ve been sort of depending on the fact that I’m a pretty good person. And I’ve done some of the things that God wanted me to do.

That’s not how we come into a relationship with God, we come into a relationship with God by trusting the fact that he loves us so much he sent his own Son to die for us. Three days after he died to pay for our sins, remove that barrier, Jesus rose from the dead. And when we say yes to faith in Jesus, we’re forgiven of our sin, we’re adopted to the family of God, and we received the Holy Spirit who begins to change us and make it possible for us to do what we’re being called to do here.

So the first step is to ask, “Have I said yes, to faith in Jesus?” And if you’re listening to this message wherever you are and you realize the answer is no, then this is your first step. Let me ask everybody to close your eyes, bow your heads. If you’ve never said yes to faith in Jesus, today is the day. Here’s how you do it. You’re just gonna have a conversation with God in your heart right now. Say something like this to God right now.

God, I’ve done wrong, I’ve sinned, I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for being other-centered. Thank you for dying for me. I believe you rose from the dead. I’m ready to follow you. I’m saying yes to faith in you, Jesus. I accept your forgiveness, your adoption into the family of God, and your Holy Spirit. Jesus, I’m yours now and forever. Amen.

We’ve had a number of people make that decision this weekend already, take that crucial first step. Can we just celebrate that for a moment? Is that awesome or what? If you made that decision for the first time today, we really wanna know about it, we wanna celebrate with you. So if you’re watching online, you can click the button right below me, says, “I Committed My Life to Jesus.” You can also stop by the Welcome Center on one of our campuses, tell them, “I said yes to Jesus.” Or wherever you are, you can always do this, text the word “Jesus” to 80875. And you’ll tell us, you made the decision, we’re gonna get some resources in your hands.

That’s your first step. Assuming, you’ve made that step whether it was 50 years ago, or 50 seconds ago. The second step is this. Do a relationship audit. This is not gonna be easy, but do a relationship audit, take a look at your relationships this week. And ask the question in this relationship, am I looking to give more or get from? You might even use those categories we talked about. And by the way, if you have never done it, download the Mission Hills app, you’ll get all the sermon notes there. So you can go through those categories again but those categories of kind of where our sinfulness tends to lead us. And maybe even ask the question in each relationship, you know, where do I find myself is just kind of coming out in which of these ways? But do a relationship audit. Figure out where you’re looking to get more than you’re looking to give.

Step number three is to confess selfishness to God and others. And the good news is that you confess your selfishness to God and it’s forgiven. I can’t promise you and confess your selfishness to somebody else. When you realize you’ve been driven by self-centeredness and relationship and you confess that to them, I can’t promise you that they’re gonna forgive you right away. I can promise you that if you never confess it, you’ll never experience the freedom that comes from that forgiveness, though. So confess to others as well.

Step number four is, ask God to lead you forward. So asking that question, what’s the next thing I can do to serve someone? Take that step and ask the question. Take that step and then we’re walking by the Spirit, which is the only way to stop indulging the self-centeredness of the flesh and to start indulging the other-centeredness of the Spirit.

DOING GOOD

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

AUGUST

7/8

Galatians 6:1-10

Last week addressed pitfalls of self-centeredness and this week Craig presents its counterpart, other-centeredness. He lays out practical applications of doing good for others as a way to point them to God’s goodness. You will be rewarded with a life that is fundamentally different from what you’ll get from a self-focused life.

NEW CREATIONS

REZA ZADEH | read his bio

AUGUST

14/15

Galatians 6:11-18

This week’s sermon concludes our series on Galatians with the vital message that we as his followers do not need to behave a certain way to belong to God. Instead, our belonging to God and being a part of his family comes solely from the truth that because of what Jesus did on the cross we are new creations IN CHRIST.