Freed to be Free #5
A Slippery Slope
Moving on in our study in Galatians, we found Paul addressing conflict in the church. Some of that conflict was between true brothers in Christ and resulted in a separation in ministry focus in a semi-denominational fashion. But the more serious conflict was between true brothers and false brothers. Paul addressed the false teaching head on and without apology.
One of the issues that this raises for the church today is how far is too far?
Does grace mean we are to be completely open and expect nothing from fellow believers and church members?
Are we supposed to just look the other way when someone within our body is acting differently than the clear expectations of the scriptures saying, “well we are all sinners, and it is all grace, so it doesn’t matter”?
Or can we hold people accountable for living the Christian life?
If so, how far is too far?
Well that’s a slippery slope.
I enjoy skiing. I wouldn’t say I’m a skier, because I don’t do it enough or am good enough to call myself a skier, but I do like to ski and with a little practice I can get myself around the slopes alright.
In 2002 I was in upstate NY visiting my parents and decided to go to Lake Placid and ski White Face Mountain, the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics. Now I’ve skied taller mountains, but I don’t know that I’ve skied any more challenging conditions. It was beautiful that day and kinda warm for a ski day. Of course the warmth causes a little melting which causes a little icing. Then you add the mix that I had been traveling and visiting and had only had about 5 hours sleep in 2 days. And then that I was 37 not 27. Well, we polled our way over to a run we hadn’t been on, pretty high up on White Face. It didn’t look like much on the map. It was a green which was supposed to be medium. We moved to the edge of the run and it was nearly straight down. AND it was full of moguls. I watched my brother, a regular skier, who lived up there, as he weaved back and forth down, and then I took my turn, I moved to the right, made a turn to the left, and moved back across, made a turn back to the right, and my fatigued legs gave out under me as my skies tried to grab on the ice and I started sliding … and there was no stopping. I slid easily a hundred + yards down the mountain, snow going everywhere. I finally got stopped and Looked at my ski which was about 20 yards above me. I finally got on my feet on the slick surface and before I could get up to my ski I heard “oh oh oh oh” and this lady came careening into me, knocked me off my feet and I slid another 40 yards down the mountain. The problem, besides my fatigue and suspect abilities, was a very slippery slope.
Let’s just jump right into the problem for the church today, not so much of dealing with the false brothers here, but of dealing with True Brothers and sisters who overstep their bounds
It is a very slippery slope
Paul has VERY strong words here for Peter and the true brothers.
We don’t know all the details, but Paul makes it clear that Peter had relaxed standards when he was in Gentile territory, acting, Gentile himself, probably in regards to foods eaten and similar practices, but then demanding Gentiles to be law compliant when he was back in Jerusalem.
It is mentioned that somehow they had even gotten Barnabas to be sucked into the hypocrisy as well
It is a slippery slope when we begin holding people to a standard.
I am NOT saying that we should not hold people accountable, but I AM addressing the dangers.
So, let’s start there because it is a slippery slope …
Two things and both are fear based. There is that four letter word again … FEAR … we’ve talked about it haven’t we.
The first reason that the slope is slippery …
A. Seeking Approval of Men
1. It is obvious why Peter and ultimately Barnabas were sucked into this … these leaders … who remember Paul had said were false brothers, were obviously prominent men in the church in Jerusalem and Peter and others were afraid of these men, or didn’t want the hassle.
2. I’ve seen this all my life in churches. Pastors and leaders who are otherwise solid people, give in to the pressure of other leaders and place restrictions on people that shouldn’t be placed.
3. there are people of influence in every church. Some have influence because of money, others because of longevity, and others because of relationships and they sway their leverage for control. And we make concessions over smaller issues, followed by bigger and bigger, and place tighter and tighter controls.
4. It might start with pressure over who can have certain positions, and then it’s over which ministries can be operated, and before long the Pastor is being pressured over how he should or should not preach. It is a slippery slope.
5. That’s why well meaning people place unnecessary restrictions on people … but what about not so well meaning people?
For them it is often …
B. Fear of Losing Control
1. These that had infiltrated the church in Jerusalem and had gained control did so FIRST because they were afraid of losing religious control over these rogue Christians. Then as the churches were growing in Gentile regions they sought to gain control over them as well
2. People will seek to regain control at any cost.
At its simplest some will hurt feelings and damage relationships to regain control. But at it’s worst churches will lose all effectiveness, fail to reach the lost, fail to disciple new believers, fail to take their place in the advancement of the Kingdom all to regain control.
3. Perhaps you are a new Christian or new to the Church and you are saying “Can church really be that way?” Well … is your job that way? Are politics that way? Is school that way? What’s the common denominator? PEOPLE … as long as there are people involved, as long as we are on THIS side of Heaven, as long as people fail to submit to the hand, instruction, and leading of God, YES it can happen in the church.
4. Now again, I am NOT saying that the church should not hold it’s members accountable for being discipled and walking after Christ.
Jesus said, “if anyone would come after me … let him deny himself.”
There IS an expectation that we would come AFTER him
Jesus commanded us to MAKE DISCPLES …
Disciples are those who come after him …
5. But the Danger is when I take my eyes off Jesus and put my eyes on me and want people to be like ME …
That’s when our feet get cut out and we start sliding down the hill … and it’s HARD to stop …
2. How Do We Slip?
What are some ways that we bind people seeking Christ? How do we slip down this slope?
A. we slip when we don’t KNOW the Truth of Scripture
1. The greatest danger of the slippery slope is that as we seek to be people who hold one another accountable to walk in a sound, faithful Christian Life, we pass that along to unbelievers.
2. Hear me, we SHOULD challenge each other to walk with Christ. There IS a way to live. There IS light for our path. We do NOT live in darkness any longer. We have been given the Word of God as a Light to our path. Furthermore, that light is not just meant to give us information. But the light we have been given is to GUIDE our path, to direct us in the way we should live. We do this NOT FOR eternal Life, but that we might start LIVING like Citizens of Eternity now, before we get there. It is Eternity Practice.
David said “search me, Oh God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”
3. There IS a right way and we SHOULD be learning to walk IN it. The Slippery slope comes when we IMPOSE OUR way more than God’s way.
4. And as we challenge believers to step up and live as they should … the most dangerous thing is when we try and impose that on a lost world.
5. Now, do NOT get me wrong I do NOT believe, in a CIVIL sense, that we should have a lawless world. We don’t have to just say “oh well, they are lost so let them do what they want.” Let them steal, let them murder, let them take innocent life, just because they are Lost? NO that is NOT what I’m saying. No we should pass laws to help direct an fair and orderly society
6. But with that said, we can’t expect Lost people to do anything godly, righteous, or wholesome. Sure people without Christ do some horizontally good things toward one another. But we cannot place on them the yoke of a system of righteousness that we ourselves can’t live up to and expect them to come to Christ.
7. And when we, in our lost state, actually step up and do something good, right, even what we would call righteous, it doesn’t do anything for us before God. Our righteousness is like filthy rags. There is none righteous, not even one. People are NOT justified, brought into righteousness by being good. If they are then Jesus need not have suffered.
V15 says “… a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.
8. if a person without Christ has destructive habits in their lives and they are looking for advise, I’m going to help them. However, I’m also going to say “you can reform yourself, but it won’t make you deeply happy, truly changed, or right with God.” I’m always going to bring it to the mind of the person seeking change that ultimately they need Jesus.
The Adulterer doesn’t need faithfulness he needs Jesus
The Murderer doesn’t need a gentle spirit he needs Jesus
The Thief doesn’t need to give up envy, he needs Jesus
The Liar doesn’t need to be more truthful, he needs Jesus
The Abortionist doesn’t need only a respect for life, he needs Jesus.
Just like the nice guy down the street trying to make his way in life needs Jesus.
Because he can be a faithful husband, a gentle spirit, a generous man, and honest citizen, a prolife advocate, and still be dead in trespasses and sins and die and spend an eternity in hell.
So I don’t need to heap a bunch of rules on them. I need to show them the law, explain to them what sin is, so they see that All have sinned and come short of the glory of God and the wages of sin is death, but not to make them righteous but to cause them to fall on their knees and cry out to God for salvation through Jesus.
We need to know the Truth but also
B. we slip when we know the scriptures but don’t have a balanced view of the scriptures
1. - Martin Luther says “Let us therefore diligently… exercise ourselves in the study of the holy Scriptures … then he goes on to explain how satan sucks us in and deceives us … he writes, in the hour of temptation it may suddenly come to pass, that by the subtlety of the devil, all the comfortable places of the Scripture shall be taken out of our sight, and such places only as contain threatenings, shall be set before our eyes, which shall oppress us and utterly confound us
2. What happens sometimes is the judgmental spirit takes over our spirit of grace and forgiveness and then all we can see are the true scriptures of judgment and righteousness, and we cannot see the true scriptures of mercy and grace.
3. Yes, God expects us to walk in righteousness, but he also forgives us when we fail. He lifts us up, sets us back on the road of righteousness.
The third way we slip is …
C. we slip when we don’t remember where we were or would have been without Christ
1. “but for the grace of God go I”
2. remember how you were when he saved you
Ephesians 2:12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the World
1 Cor 1:26 think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth
In 1 Cor 6:9-11 Paul is giving a list of horrible sinners, among those he lists thieves… drunkards… slanderers… swindlers… and that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
3. when we forget how we were, we are more likely to heap things on others.
The last way we slip, that I’ll point out is …
D. we slip when we expect immediate transformation
1. righteousness is immediately given to our account as we are justified in Christ, but sanctification is a process of discipleship and glorification to be like Christ will not come until we get to heaven.
2. 2 Cor 3:18 we, … all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord
So, with all that said …
3. How Do We Confront the Slippery …
And at the same time be faithful to the call to make disciples who are like Jesus?
A. Speak the Truth
1. There is a time for confronting error
Paul says in verse 14 “when I saw they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel”
Young’s Literal renders it “when I saw that they are not walking uprightly to the truth”
2. You have to know the truth to speak the truth
Remember my quote from Luther “Let us exercise diligently the scriptures”
3. Do you think a diligent search of the scriptures could solve a lot of our conflicts in the church? When there is error, or disagreement, if both sides would agree to search the scripture for and answer and unity, could we move forward together?
4. Whose fault is it if we do NOT know the scripture? Are you committed to knowing ALL the scripture? Are you committed to putting into practice the teaching of scripture?
Are you humbling yourself under godly teachers?
WEDNESDAY NIGHT “BODY Life” Foundations of Faith – “WE BELIEVE” join us at 6:30 … come in as soon as you are able …
5. Let me just add one reminder from earlier. Remember the danger is when you allow Satan to cause your gaze to fall ONLY on scriptures of instruction and judgment, or as he called them “threatening passages”. You need to let your gaze fall on what Luther calls “comfortable passages” … that is Look on the Glory of the Grace of God as much as you look on the Fear of God. It must be balanced equally between the two.
Know then Speak the Truth
B. Be Consistent
1. The situation should be addressed in a manner appropriate for the situation
2. notice Paul said that he had spoken earlier with Peter in Private when necessary
3. but When Peter took a public stand or failed to take a public stand and refused to publically address the obvious wrong, Paul addressed it publically. Peter had publically approved of the Freedom Gentiles, and now was failing to publically address the error, Paul addressed it consistently and accordingly
4. Private issues should be dealt with privately. Public issues addressed publically. And private issues that are addressed privately but continue and are potentially damaging to the body will also be addressed publically.
C. Crucify the Flesh
1. I’m going to come back to this verse next week but this verse is a critical part to every part of the Christian Life
2. we are in a constant battle with our flesh. Whether that’s in moral issues, in personal conflicts, anger, jealousy, and even when confronting wrong in the lives of others, we have to crucify the flesh.
3. our flesh wants to become self-righteous, angry, vengeful, make it right. But we can’t deal with it that way.
4. Remember, we have no personal righteousness. So when we address wrong actions in the lives of others we have to stand on God’s mercy and grace ourselves and from THAT vantage point we can address other situations
D. Live the Resurrection Life
1. the most effective voice in addressing issues is one living in the Power of Christ
2. Paul says “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, not I, but Christ lives IN me”
3. we’re not talking about perfection, but one with their eyes on Christ.
4. Paul’s entire argument was based on the efficacy of the Cross. The cross has said it all. The Cross IS the answer. The Cross is still ENOUGH.
5. the Cross does not just save us, but the cross makes us righteous. A Proper understanding of the power of the cross will give us the proper faith shield to lift up.
6. A list of rules didn’t save Paul nor will they set us right. It is ONLY in the Power of the Cross that we can live the Christian life. So when we address error we address it through the lens of the cross. We offer to people NOT a list of rules to follow but a Christ to observe. “What would Jesus do”, seems such a trite a answer, but that is what Paul is saying. “What would Jesus do?” “What has Jesus commanded?” “what does the Word of God say?” “What has Jesus DONE for you?”
7. The biggest thing we hear when addressing wrong is “I can’t” or “I won’t” But shouldn’t we lift up Jesus. Shouldn’t we say “no, you can’t, but by the power of the Cross, Christ IN YOU, is the Hope of Glory” …
I Am crucified with Christ, yet I live, but not me, Christ IN ME … I live by Faith … Faith in WHAT?
Faith in the Cross of Christ,
Faith that there truly IS Power in the Blood
Faith that the Power of Satan has been broken at the cross
While Paul was being faithful to the simplicity of the Gospel he also desired to see Unity instead of division
Let’s be true to the truth
Let’s be committed to unity as we move toward the sanctification in this life and glorification in the next.
Listen you might be here today dealing with marital issues, hatred in your heart, jealousy, anger issues, alcohol or drug abuse may have a stranglehold on you.
You don’t need a reformation, you need a transformation.
You need to be reformed you need to be reborn FIRST.
That is my greatest concern for you today.
Let Jesus Christ clean house. But he has to do it from the inside.
Jesus said that if you kick a demon out, on your own, eventually he will come back with more than before and it will be worse than before.
Have you experienced that?
Stop trying and start trusting.
If you are a believer and dealing with some of these issues, the answer for you is found as you surrender to the Spirit of God that lives within.
The answer lies in the Word of God which is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
We may not always like correction but in it is LIFE
Surrender to the truth.
What does God want from you today?
Will you surrender to him?
Will you join us as we reach out to this community?
Pray with me