Called to Freedom
Galatians V: Acting in Church
January 27, 2013
* Father, take the reins of this church. It is yours, only you can heal and do what needs to be done here.
SCRIPTURE READING: Gal 2:11-14 (Eddie Kelley)
Picking up from last week, Paul has been DEFENDING his MINISTRY against the Judaizers who were saying that the Gentiles had to follow Jewish laws to be really good with God.
* This was far bigger than eating BACON, it goes down the heart of the Gospel: We cannot do anything to EARN God’s FAVOR.
In another ATTEMPT to DISCREDIT Paul, these false teachers accused Paul of being a RENEGADE who fought with the original disciples. Paul sets the record straight:
Galatians 2:11-12a When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles.
To give some BACKGROUND, in the antiquity, who you ate with meant a lot more than who happened to be in the restaurant with you. It reflected FELLOWSHIP, CONNECTION, and a BOND.
* Cf. SEGREGATION in the South
Eating together meant even more to the Jews – it was their strict laws that allowed them to PRESERVE their national IDENTITY, and meals were a key part of that.
* Food and meals became a key “BOUNDARY MARKER.”
* It also distinguished OBSERVANT Jews from LUKEWARM.
This was something that was well known about them; TACITUS said Jews had hate for other groups and refused to eat with them.
* But then CHRIST CAME and changed all of that.
PETER, MEET CORNELIUS
You have to remember that all of JESUS FOLLOWERS were JEWS and they did not see Christianity as a new religion – it was Judaism fulfilled.
* The disciples were SHOCKED when God accepted the SAMARITANS, but it took an ACT of GOD to bring the GENTILES in.
In ACTS 10, we watch TWO SCENES play out: A God-fearing Roman centurion, Cornelius and Peter. Cornelius is visited by an angel who tells him to get Peter as to hear the Gospel.
God knows Peter isn’t going to be keen on the idea, so he sends Peter a vision of unclean food, telling him “Do not call anything IMPURE that God has MADE CLEAN,” three times.
* Peter gets the idea and see Cornelius; as Peter preaches to them, the Holy Spirit comes on them and they speak in TONGUES.
Despite everything Peter used to believe about Gentiles, he is FORCED to REALIZE that God has accepted them as well. God has granted forgiveness to the world, not just them.
But not everyone was happy about this:
Acts 11:1-4 The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened...
In the end, they all understood and rejoiced at just how GREAT God’s GRACE was, far beyond anything they imagined, that God accepted the GENTILES as GENTILES (not converts to Judaism).
* In this context, BREAKING BREAD with the Gentiles was a huge ACT of ACCEPTANCE of Gentiles and the breaking of barriers.
IMPRESS THE LEADERS
And so, if ANYONE UNDERSTOOD the importance of a meal together and of accepting Gentiles, it was Peter. But then...
Galatians 2:12b But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.
Q WHAT HAPPENED?
Just as in Peter’s situation, IMPRESSING the big wigs and the people we think spiritual makes it worse.
* Story of RAY at LIFE and the Simpsons.
Q Have you ever ACTED DIFFERENT when a pastor walked in a room?
* EITHER you were doing something you knew you shouldn’t or else you were trying to pretend you aren’t; either way it is BAD.
Peter broke fellowship with the Gentiles because of FEAR, fear of MAN. Sometimes we fear what the non-Christians think of us, but sometime it is the Christians.
As I studied this passage, this struck me as a huge, HUGE WARNING to us:
It is so, so EASY to SLIDE back into legalism. It is SO EASY for us to slide off the path of grace.
* TWO CLIFFS (note Vi’s picture), a bit of a slope, but then...
We understand that we are saved by grace, but slide so easily back to trying to EARN POINTS.
We know that SIN is SLAVERY, yet is looks so good.
That is why I have to KEEP PREACHING it to you and to myself.
Q And who is REALLY being HURT by this?
Paul is deeply concerned how this is affecting the GENTILES – he has been teaching them that they are accepted by God by Christ’s grace, but then they are being REJECTED.
* “Yes, you are saved by grace, but because you aren’t circumcised, we can’t eat with you. I am sure you understand.”
The tone in this next passage is HARSH, because Paul is mad, as well as he should be.
* Imagine you had recently led a WORK FRIEND to CHRIST, but I snubbed them because they are still pretty rough.
The situation is DIRE, Paul needs to respond and respond quick, so he goes STRAIGHT to the SOURCE.
Galatians 2:13-14 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
ACTING A PART
Q But WHAT does this have to do with US?
We don’t have that much of a problem with EATING MEALS with Gentiles – we all are Gentiles.
* But as I read this, my GREATEST FEAR is the HYPOCRISY that we all suffer from, NOT ACTING in line with the Gospel.
Hypocrisy is such an EASY ACCUSATION to throw out, especially at Christians, but let’s look closer at it:
* As you probably know, the Greek for HYPOCRITE meant “ACTOR;” hypocrisy is literally playing a part.
The EARLIEST PLAY I ever remember seeing was my dad acting the part of Cain in Sunday School. The funny thing is that he hates public speaking. It is safer when playing a part.
* I know you pretty well, I am not so worried about you going to work and PRETENDING to be a great CHRISTIAN while STEALING.
I am much more worried about you COMING HERE and PLAYING a PART, about you going to COMMUNITY GROUP and putting a GOOD FACE on, so that the rest of us think you are doing well.
Q How many of you feel you are PLAYING a part this MORNING?
* The church is the ONE PLACE we should be most real; because of the power of the Gospel and grace, we don’t need to hide.
I am starting to understand what Martin Luther meant when he said “If you sin, SIN BOLDLY.”
Among the people of grace should be the ONE PLACE we don’t need to put on a MASK, we can be FREE with our failure, knowing that ACCEPTANCE isn’t based on PERFORMANCE, it is based on God’s grace and love.
* In the WORLD, your value is based on what you DO.
* HERE, with these people is where we can be MOST OPEN and honest because we know acceptance.
Q WHY are we so afraid to be honest?
Because we LOOK AROUND and think we see a bunch of people who have THEIR ACT together. Guess what – they are ACTING TOO. Why because you think you have your act together.
Q WHAT can we do about it?
1. Repent in humility
PRAY: Father I’m TRYING to IMPRESSING others, I worry too much about what THEY SAY about me and not enough about what YOU SAY:
* I am YOUR CHILD, loved and accepted by you. Nothing can separate me from your love. You are all I need.
Lean into GRACE and ACCEPTANCE
2. Step out
I try to model this – I try to show you MY WEAKNESSES, which can be unnerving if you expect your pastor to be the professional.
* When I PROCLAIM the Word, I do so BOLDLY; when I say, “FOLLOW ME as I attempt to follow Christ,” I do so with HUMILITY.
CS Lewis: The church is a FIELD HOSPITAL were the less wounded help the more wounded.
* BY God’s GRACE and THROUGH God’s GRACE, step out.
3. Respond to each other in grace
The problem is that we DO JUDGE each other. We feel SO FRAIL in our identity in Christ that we try to BUTTRESS it by comparing ourselves to others. Quit it!
Galatians 6:4-5 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.
Your main concern is “working YOUR OWN SALVATION with fear and trembling.” Of course we need to help each other grow, but until we are truly looking through a lens of grace instead of judgment, we are unable to do so.
GROW IN GRACE
I love that this church DOES BETTER in this than many, but yet I want to prod all of us – grow in grace. STOP ACTING on SUNDAYS, stop acting at COMMUNITY GROUP. Stop acting in FRIENDSHIPS.
* So long as you have that MASK UP and don’t let anyone in, you are blocking off the main tool God would use for your HEALING.
Now we worship the God who loves us; experience that love, in the songs and in the bread and wine.