Called to Freedom
Galatians III: Pleasing God, Not Man
January 13, 2013
SCRIPTURE READING: Gal 1:8-10
Q How many of you READ GALATIANS?
I want you to read it one more time (for now), in a different translation (one LITERAL, one INTERPRETIVE, one NEUTRAL).
One of the tricks of reading the epistles is that they were letters written to address a situation, but we only get to hear one HALF of the CONVERSATION.
* One of the things we have to do is read BETWEEN the LINES to see what Paul is responding to.
Let’s back up a couple of verses:
Galatians 1:8-10 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
This is very STRONG LANGUAGE, “God damn them.” Then in verse 10 Paul is basically saying, “So these false teachers say I am just a people pleaser. How do you like THEM appleS?”
* These HARSH WORDS PROVE he is not in this to please people.
Q But WHY are they accusing him of being a people pleaser?
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE WORLD
To understand what is going on, I need to give you a very BRIEF HISTORY of the world:
After the Fall, when man REBELLED against God, God promised he would one day restore what was lost, and put into action a MASSIVE PLAN to save the world.
The first major piece of that plan was CHOOSING ABRAHAM to be the father of the nation of Israel and that Israel would be his people, chosen by God’s GRACE not their goodness.
* God promised that through them, the ENTIRE WORLD would be blessed, and they would be KEY PLAYERS in God’s rescue plan.
Throughout the OT, Israel did NOT do anything to REACH OUT to the nations around them, but Gentiles could COME and CONVERT to become Jews (as Rahab and Ruth did).
Many people (“GOD FEARERS”) in Jesus day were interested in Judaism and followed many of the laws, but WEREN’T CIRCUMCISED. Not just because “ouch” but it would bring contempt from others.
* Until Jesus came, the ONLY WAY to GOD was through the LAW and through JUDAISM; after Jesus, he was the only way to God.
Q Can you start to see the false teachers are accusing him of being a PEOPLE PLEASER?
In their mind, Paul has taken Judaism and just made it EASIER to accept, watering it down and making it easier, JUDAISM LITE.
On Saturday is the NOOKACHAMP Winter Run. If you were to go on that run, you can choose between the 5k (3.1 miles), 10k (6.2 miles), or the half marathon (13.1 miles).
* You get a RIBBON for the 5k and 10k, but medal for the half; they figured you’ve earned it for just crossing the line.
As way the false teachers saw it, Paul was handing our “HALF-MARATHON MEDALS” to 5k finishers, just to make everyone feel good. But that only proved they MISSED the whole POINT.
SALVATION and ADOPTION has ALWAYS been about GRACE, never about what we do. The OT laws were not was to earn grace, but ways to demonstrate that you were part of the family.
* To run with the marathon imagery: Grace means that we are DOUBLE AMPUTEES without a wheelchair or prosthetics.
Grace means that the only way we are going get across the STARTING LINE is if Jesus is carrying us. The only way we are going STAY in the race is if Jesus carries us.
* The only reason we will cross the line and receive a FINISHER’S crown is because of Jesus.
WE SHOULD BE MISUNDERSTOOD
* If we hold to the Gospel LIKE PAUL, we will be accused of offering “CHEAP GRACE” and making Christianity too simple.
Despite what the false teachers say, cheap grace is not relying on Jesus to carry us, it is when you keep jumping off his back and WALLOWING in the MUD (and I mean the cow pasture mud).
* Some preachers say if we’re not ACCUSED of CHEAP GRACE, then we are not preaching grace enough; that is TRUE and UNTRUE.
It is untrue in that it is POSSIBLE to teach properly about grace, avoiding the TWO PERVERSIONS of grace.
* That is why I keep using the CLIFF ANALOGY, freedom from both slaveries.
I want you to be sick of that analogy before we are done, because it is so thoroughly ingrained in you.
On the other hand, it is true SINFUL NATURE will immediately take GRACE and use it as an EXCUSE to SIN, as permission to cannonball off of the “destructive disobedience” cliff.
* So we must RETURN, again and again to the truth that the Gospel is FREEDOM from SIN and SALVATION by WORKS.
We must remember that grace is not simply what gets US on the RACE TRACK, it sustains and CARRIES us every step of the way.
To preach the Gospel like this is to be unpopular with everyone, with both the LEGALISTS and REBELS.
The legalists hate you for making it TOO EASY. And they hate you for removing everything they use to make themselves FEEL BETTER than the masses.
* Expect a VIOLENT REACTION to that; if you want to make someone mad, knock them off their high horse.
Remember the parable of the WORKMEN PAID the SAME WAGES (Matt. 20:1-16).
The rebels who want to be “FREE” to do what every they want will hate you for being so INTOLERANT: How dare you tell me that sleeping with my boyfriend is wrong! That is so self-righteous.
NOT FEARING MAN
Q How can you SUCCESSFULLY NAVIGATE that?
* Our MEASURE of SUCCESS can’t be what THEY think, but what GOD thinks.
How you RESPOND to such OPPOSITION speaks loudly about who you REALLY FEAR and who you really care about pleasing.
Galatians 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
You must, at your very core, FEAR GOD, not man.
You must be far more worried about God saying, “Well done, my GOOD and FAITHFUL SERVANT” than people saying, “You are so DIFFERENT from OTHER CHRISTIANS!”
* This is a lesson that STRIKES ME very DEEP.
I want to be a GOOD WITNESS, I want to COMMUNICATE well, but it so easily SLIDES into being worried about how they respond.
The Fear of the Lord brings FREEDOM – I don’t need to worry about pleasing everyone else, please God and let the chips land where they may. This creates a SINGLE-miNded life.
Q WHO do you fear? What are ways you have seen yourself bend truth or keep SILENT to MAKE NICE?
PLEASE PEOPLE BY PLEASING GOD
Q Does this mean that you are now FREE to be a JERK; who care what they think? If they misunderstand you it’s their problem?
A thousand times “no.” When you do that, you are now living to please yourself, not to serve:
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
* Here is the IRONY and deep truth: The only way you can possibly PLEASE mAn is by PLEASING GOD.
On Christmas, I got to start reading “HARRY POTTER” to my daughters. Toward the end is one of my favorite quotes:
“As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all - the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.” Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
* That is a very APT DESCRIPTION of us – what we want what will hurt us the most in the end.
PARENTING is one long choice between giving our children what they WANT and what they NEED. You don’t need to be a parent to understand that, just watch NANNY 911.
* We want our child to grow up as HEALTHY, GOD-HONORING, joy-FILLED adults; they want to EAT CANDY all day.
God is GOOD, that means that in every aspect, everything that POURS from him is GOODNESS. It’s not like he has his loving side and his judgment side; you are just as loving when you punish.
* When we do what pleases God and not man, the things that please God in the end are the ONLY THINGS that can bring JOY.
I know that sounds a little PHILOSOPHICAL, but is a vital way to understand life and how to REALLY SERVE OTHERS: You can only really help others when you give them what God has for them.
PUSHING OR PROTECTING?
* Let’s make this very PRACTICAL and OFFEND you a bit:
Before I have asked you to carefully evaluate which cliff you are more inclined to fall off of, now I want you to evaluate which one you are more inclined to SHOVE others OFF of.
You have an audience, people that you listen to you and whose lives you can speak into.
Q Are you encouraging them to FALL into JESUS’ grace and STAY on the PATH?
We have one of two tendencies:
1. Push them off the destructive disobedience cliff.
There are shades of this:
OBVIOUS: I have seen Christians actually ENCOURAGE others, Christians and non-Christians, to SIN – to cheat on taxes, to hook up with a girl, to lie, to be unforgiving.
Matthew 18:6-7 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!
* This is a SERIOUS WARNING to be taken very seriously.
As both a PASTOR and a FRIEND, I have had to say some very harsh things, things that have NOT always been WELL RECEIVED, but I take comfort in knowing two things:
* 1) They know I LOVE THEM, even if they hate what I said, and
* 2) I made it IMPOSSIBLE for them to IGNORE GOD.
SUBTLE: Failing to SPEAK UP. In one of the weird nuances of English, we call this “SHOWING GRACE.” Words like grace has a couple of meanings:
* GRACE can mean the gift of FREEDOM from sin and the requirements of the law or it can mean BEING NICE.
* LOVE can mean VALUING another and being willing to suffer their anger rather than CODLING them as they SELF-DESTRUCT.
Q How often have you confused BIBLICAL GRACE and LOVE with ENABLING GRACE and LOVE?
PROTECTING FROM SIN’S CLIFF
There are two ways we must CORRECT this:
To the NON-CHRISTIANS we say, “Look at this, this clear evidence that ‘ALL have SINNED and fallen short of the glory of God.’ This is clear evidence that you DESPERATELY NEED GRACE.
To the CHRISTIAN we must remind them again and again of God’s HOLY STANDARDS that are the EVIDENCE of a life changed by grace, we must boldly speak the truth in love.
2. Push them off the earning God’s favor cliff.
OBVIOUS: The popular teaching that you get to Heaven by being good. There might be some of you that either MISUNDERSTAND the Gospel or that haven’t really BOUGHT into it.
* If you are teaching others this, you are shoving them off of the cliff of legalism, the JESUS’ WARNING is for you to.
SUBTLE: Our intentions can be so good – we just want to HELP them do better. DO this thing, READ this book, FIX this problem. We NUDGE people towards legalism by:
* Spending more time encouraging people to do the RIGHT THING than ensure their RELATIONSHIP with Jesus is right.
* VALIDATING people according to what they DO than who they are IN CHRIST.
I am GUILTY of this because I ASSUME everyone gets it – we are saved by grace not works, we don’t earn God’s favor. But everyone doesn’t get it.
* This series has been a HUGE RESET for me.
PROTECTING FROM LEGALISM’S CLIFF
To NON-CHRISTIANS, we must clearly repeat the truth – being a nice guy doesn’t EARN any POINTS with God. You are dead in your sins. Christianity takes the most PESSIMISTIC view of humanity.
* Don’t deny them REAL GRACE because of your NICE GRACE.
To the CHRISTIAN, we need to keep pushing them to finding this IDENTITY in CHRIST, not what they do, to find their assurance in Jesus’ grace, not their own goodness.
* Please text Sunday School Teachers ; service is almost over
TO THE GLORY OF GOD
I can SUM this up this way: The more God teaches me to PLEASE HIM, the more clearly I see how WONDERFUL he is and how much pleasing him PLEASES me.
* This is why the WESTMINSTER CATECHISM says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
By glorifying him, we learn to ENJOY HIM, to see how good and loving he is in all his ways. Understanding his grace and love and righteousness drives us closer to him.
The better we see how much we NEED him, how much we are DEPENDENT on him for every step of this race, the greater our GRATITUDE and praIse.
* As I said before, GRACE and GRATITUDE go naturally together.