Called to Freedom
Galatians VI: Faith in Christ
February 3, 2013
SCRIPTURE READING: Gal. 2:11-16
Catching us back up, Paul is RECOUNTING a CONFLICT he had with Peter. Jewish traditions didn’t allow Jews to eat with Gentiles, but in CHRIST that BARRIER had been BROKEN.
Peter had been good about eating with Gentiles, until some of the BIGWIGS showed up. Paul had to confront him because this was leading the Gentiles to THINK that they had to follow Jewish LAWS to be ACCEPTED by God.
GOOD CHURCH BOYS
Galatians 2:15-16a “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law...
This is a little TONGUE in CHEEK; he doesn’t mean they weren’t sinners. Rather it’s more like:
“Peter, you and I grew up in CHURCH. We went to Sunday School, never rebelled. You and I weren’t SMOKING POT behind the gym, we got good grades. We weren’t the bad kids.”
And that is a GOOD THING. Paul never regrets growing up Jewish instead of pagan. He knows the GREAT PAIN he avoided. His soul wasn’t wrecked temple prostitutes. His parents demonstrated obedience and love of God.
* I don’t for a moment REGRET my BORING TESTIMONY.
Yet, Paul says to Peter, we also know that stuff is USELESS. It didn’t get us closer to God. It DIDN’T SAVE us. We had to go to JESUS for that.
* Growing up in a good CHURCH and FAMILY can be a great place to BEGIN but a horrible place to END.
SECOND CLASS CITIZENS
Paul is reminding Peter that there are no second class citizens in the kingdom of God. All are accepted by grace.
* It isn’t only the CONVICTED MURDER that brags of grace; it is SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER as well.
Jesus told the “PARABLE of the WORKERS” (Matt 20:1-16) to make the point that those who started with God have no rank over those who come late, and this testifies to God’s generosity.
Last week I said the CHURCH should be the MOST ACCEPTING PLACE in the world (of course the world confuses acceptance with apathy), yet it is where we are so inclined to wear masks.
* Likewise, we should be known for ACCEPTING OUTSIDERS, yet this “GENTILE SINNER” mentality is far too prevalent.
Having now learned how to avoid the CLIFF of DESTRUCTIVE SIN, we tumble off the CLIFF of LEGALISM and JUDGE SINNERS who are still falling off the other cliff.
* It is a sad irony; we cannot see the LOG in our EYE because it is of a DIFFERENT TYPE than the splinter in theirs.
GALATIANS IN A VERSE
After reminding Peter of all this, proceeds with the most theologically dense verse of the entire book – this one verse ENCAPSULATES the ENTIRE BOOK.
Galatians 2:15-16 “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”
In this one phrase, Paul SUMMARIZES the whole message of Galatians, indeed of the GOSPEL, “a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.”
* That is why he REPEATS it three times.
The rest of Galatians is practically COMMENTARY on this idea. There are THREE KEY IDEAS that require explanation; I won’t say much about the first two because we will get to them later:
Justification is this big massive idea that we will spend a lot more time with, but it has three key concepts tucked away in it:
1. We, who are guilty before God, separated by sin, have been declared “NOT GUILTY.”
2. God puts his RIGHTEOUSNESS in us.
3. God ACCEPTS us into his family.
These LEGAL, MORAL, RELATIONAL aspects are all key and none should overpower the others.
Imagine you are a world famous “DOG-WHISPERER,” and one of your kids brings home this snarling, filthy, starving stray dog. The dog catcher is in tow because he is ready to take it away.
* Out of love, you legally adopt it, pay the fines, bring it into your family, feed it, clean it, and train it.
That give some of the big picture of what justification is all about. The dog has DONE NOTHING to earn it; its behavior has not merited your compassion.
2. Observing the Law
This expression “OBSERVING the law” is extremely important. Most translations translate it more literally, “works of the law.” This is where we get the expression “WORKS” from, “we are not saved by works.”
Q What are the works of the law?
It simply means doing what the LAW SAYS to do. This means the rules that no longer apply, like circumcision and eating kosher. But it also means the rules that still apply:
Don’t commit adultery.
Don’t get drunk.
Don’t have sex outside of marriage.
Don’t have sex with the same sex.
Do help the orphans and widows.
Do be generous with your money.
Do raise your children well.
These are all GOD’S RULES that he expects us to obey. He is our KING, and we are OBLIGATED to obey him. What’s more, obedience brings JOY.
* But doing these ARE NOT what makes us ACCEPTABLE to God.
Like the Paul and Peter, who GREW UP in “CHURCH,” we understand that these are not the things that save us.
* Why not? Because we are NOT CAPABLE of keeping them sufficiently to merit God’s adoption.
“By observing the law no one will be justified” is a subtle quote from PSALM 143:2. Paul changes it slightly – instead of “no one living” to “no flesh.” The point is flesh can’t do it.
* That DOG could never EARN its PLACE in the family, but your hope would be that it would be live up to its place.
3. Faith in Christ
This is the idea I want to focus in on this week. It is the idea that is BEST KNOWN in our culture but LEAST UNDERSTOOD. To the world it basically means believing something without proof.
BTW: “FAITH” “BELIEF” and “TRUST” are the same words in Greek.
* The funny thing is that PRIOR to CHRISTIANITY, “faith” was not a major component of religion.
To outsiders, it was bizarre that belief was the core of Christianity. The fact that being a CHRISTIAN could simply be described as being a “BELIEVER” is striking.
* The ENTRY POINT of Christianity is NOT a RITUAL or RITE of passage, it is simply “faith.”
Romans 10:9-11 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
Q So what does faith in Christ MEAN? What is this one key to Christianity?
Q Is it agreeing with a DOCTRINE? Knowing a set of FACTS?
No, “even the DEMONS BELIEVE...”
* Saving faith in not agreeing to doctrine, but RELYING on, DEPENDING on, TRUSTING in GOD.
It is moving your SOURCE of POWER and ASSURANCE from yourself and everything you can do to God and everything he can do.
* It’s like trying to start your car with a DEAD 9V BATTERY, but you unplug it from that and plug in a brand new Die Hard.
The reason faith is so central is not because you MUSTER up all of this WILL POWER or MENTAL POWER and pump enough juice into your LITTLE BATTERY.
* God doesn’t say, “Wow Josh, has SO MUCH FAITH I can accept him,” it’s “Finally he gets that it ISN’T ABOUT him!”
“Faith means COUPLING the recognition of the IMPOSSIBILITY of our achieving our salvation with the ACCEPTANCE of the truth that God has done all that is necessary.”
* When you see faith this way, you see why it is all we need for salvation.
I have talked a lot about how GRACE is not simply the STARTING POINT of Christianity. It is Jesus carrying you onto the track, for the entire race, and over the finish line.
Q Is FAITH a ONETIME thing or ONGOING?
In the same way that we grow in grace the LONGER we walk with Jesus, the more we learn to place our faith MORE DEEPLY in Jesus. The less we try to run on our own little 9V and the more we plug into Jesus.
Being a follower of Jesus requires CONTINUALLY PLACING your faith in Christ:
Romans 1:17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
We have NOTHING in ourselves to COMMEND us to God, nothing to make us worthy. We lack the ability to do what is right on our won. So we must KEEP PLUGGING our source back into God.
Q Who is YOUR faith in? Who are you trusting – GOD or YOURSELF?
It is easy to answer that with the right answer, but there is a SIMPLE TEST to determine the real answer:
Q 1st look at your FEARS: What is going on that keeps you up at night?
* Not having enough?
* Your marriage?
* Not being married?
* Your kids?
* Losing your job?
* Not being able to find one?
* How your friends and family view you?
Get that fear that just kind of rumbles around in the PIT of your STOMACH out of your stomach and INTO your HEAD, and let’s talk about it.
Q Second, finish this sentence: It will be ALRIGHT because_____?
* I am getting a second job?
* Going to counseling?
* Found a new program?
* Working harder?
The answer of faith is “because I am PLUGGING myself into GOD and seeking his power. I am going to do things HIS WAY by HIS POWER.”
Q What is the NUMBER ONE WAY that we plug into God?
PRAYER. Prayer is an the response of faith, absolute desperation on God to see you through.
It doesn’t END THERE of course, as some point it is time to get off your knees and do something with wisdom and power he gave you.
* Prayer and faith is not a substitute for action, but the first action which makes the following actions POSSIBLE.
Let’s say you are in a really big hurry to get to work, but the car is EMPTY. If you see a GAS STATION, you won’t say “I don’t’ have enough time to get gas,” you don’t have enough time not to!
* If you begin with prayer, you are FILLING on the RESOURCES that you need to get the JOB DONE.
Otherwise, you are on the SIDE of the ROAD, arguing whether the problem is the old STEREO or how DIRTY the car is.
* Please text Sunday School Teachers ; service is almost over
MY PAINFUL JOURNEY
This is where your pastor is at right now: I am being pushed to LIVE by FAITH and be DEPENDENT on God through PRAYER. For the past two weeks, one passage has been my constant companion:
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
The way forward as a church is NOT RELYING on OURSELVES, but on God. He is the only one who can raise the dead, whether that is my dead heart or a church that is dead without him.
* The way forward is PRAYER.
Our first response must be asking God to RAISE the DEAD and move us forwards.
Q Is your MARRIAGE dying? Rely on God who raises the dead?
Q Are you FEARFUL of TOMORROW? Trust in God who holds it.