Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Freedom in Christ



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Part 12 of a series through Galatians

Text: Galatians 5:1-15

"It’s a free country!"

"Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including the freedom of the press and other media of communication; (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and (d) freedom of association."—Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

F. D. Roosevelt’s four freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

"Live free or die."—the official motto of New Hampshire

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free" (v. 1a).
  • Freedom should be valued.
  • Freedom can be costly.
  • Freedom is often abused.
What is Christian freedom? Three facts about Christian freedom:
  1. I am free from the law’s curse. "Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (v. 1b). The law was given for a limited time (until Christ came) for a limited purpose (to reveal sin). We cannot be justified by obeying the law, no matter how hard we try. This is the law’s curse. When Paul wrote, "You have fallen away from grace" (v. 4), he was not saying that salvation can be lost. Rather, he was saying that the Galatians had moved from enjoying God’s grace to trying to earn God’s favor by observing the law. The gospel is offensive (v. 11) because it declares that we are incapable of earning justification.

  2. I am not free to excuse my sin. "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature" (v. 13a). We are free from the curse of the law, but we are not free from the morality of the law. Freedom in Christ is not a license to sin. Jude wrote about "godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Christ our only Sovereign and Lord" (Jude 4). Canada is a free country, but we are not free to do whatever we want. Abraham Lincoln said, “Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but what we ought.” To be free in Christ means to be free to live as God wants me to live.

  3. I am free to serve others. "Rather, serve one another in love" (v. 13b). Christian freedom is voluntary slavery. The Greek word for "serve" (douleuo) means "to be a slave." "He who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave" (1 Corinthians 7:22). "Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God" (Romans 6:22). Our freedom is not self-seeking; it is self-sacrificing. "The only things that counts is faith expressing itself through love" (v. 6). Love is defined by Christ. He "loved me and gave himself for me" (2:20). Love is inspired by the Spirit. "The fruit of the Spirit is love" (5:22). Love is expressed by serving others. "As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of God" (6:10). Paul gives two incentives to love: (1) Love is the essence of the law. "The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (v. 14; cf. Leviticus 19:18). The Greek word for "summed up" (pleroo) can either be translated "summarized" (Jesus summed up the law with two commands, Matthew 22:37-40) or "fulfilled" (Romans 13:8) The law can be boiled down to a one-word command: "Love." (2) Love is the eliminator of discord. "If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other" (v. 15).
How should we respond to the freedom we have in Christ?
  • Don’t say, “I can do whatever I want.”
  • Say, “I can do whatever you need.”
  • Don’t ask, “What must I do?”
  • Ask, “What can I do?”

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pleasing Our Father



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Part 11 of a series through Galatians


Text: Galatians 4:8-20

This week my son brought home his report card. Thankfully, he received A’s and a couple of B’s. Not every child should be expected to get all A’s. But what we don’t like to see is our children regressing academically. When Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians, the Galatians were regressing spiritually.

Parents want what’s best for their children (basic needs, safety, education, health, etc.). What does God want for His children? Four desires that God, our Father, has for us, His children:
  1. Our Father wants us to know Him. "Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God" (vv. 8-9a). The Greek word for "know" (eido) in v. 8 means "to know intellectually." The Greek word for "know" (ginosko) in verse 9 means "to know personally." The Galatians had progressed from ignorance to intimacy. It’s important for parents to have bonding time with their children (reading, playing catch, etc.). Sometimes we feel we are too busy. But our Heavenly Father is never too busy for us. Are we too busy for Him? Are you growing closer to God?

  2. Our Father wants us to live like children who love Him, not slaves who fear Him. "How is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?" (v. 9b). The Greek word for "turning" (epistrepho) is used in the NT to describe: (1) Conversion (repentance + faith). "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out" (Acts 3:19). "They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God" (1 Thessalonians 1:9). (2) Apostasy (leaving the faith). "It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then of turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: 'A dog returns to its vomit,' and 'A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud'" (2 Peter 2:21-22). The Galatians had turned from paganism but now are considering a turn to Judaism (v. 10), which is really "turning back" to the "weak and miserable principles" of their former life without Christ. ("Turning back" is in the present tense. They have not completed the turn.) If they turn to Judaism, they will return to their life of slavery. A child usually obeys his parents because of the fear of discipline. But the greater motivation is love for his/her parents. God wants us to obey Him because we love Him. Are you enjoying your position as God’s child?

  3. Our Father wants us to love our brothers and sisters. "What has happened to all your joy? 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?" (v. 15-16). In verses 8-11, Paul states the problem. In verses 12-20, he makes his plea. He writes, "You have done me no wrong" (v. 12). When we hurt one another, we hurt our Father more. When I was a child, I often fought with my brother. As adults, we no longer physically fight. But what about envy, bitterness, unkind words, etc.? Christians don’t often get into physical fights with one another, but are we are often guilty of other sins that destroy unity. Parents are saddened when their children don’t get along (especially as adults). It’s tragic when brothers and sisters in Christ become enemies (v. 16). Imagine how God’s heart is grieved. Are you promoting unity in the family of God?

  4. Our Father wants us to become like our older brother. "Until Christ is formed in you" (v. 19b). (Christ, of course, is the unique Son of God.) "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Romans 8:29). Parents want their children to mature. Our Father’s goal is that we "become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). Are you increasing in Christlikeness?
When a child becomes an adult, he/she often defies his/her father’s wishes. Parents are sometimes wrong about what is best for their children. But our Father knows best.
  • He wants us to know Him.
  • He wants us to obey Him out of love.
  • He wants us to love His other children.
  • He wants us to become mature.
Will you make our Father’s desires your desires?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Full of Hope (Easter Sunday)



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THE EMPTY GRAVE


My Easter basket is empty this year. The empty basket can symbolize the feeling of emptiness that many people experience. Many people who seem to have “everything” feel empty. People try to fill the emptiness with many things that give temporary satisfaction. I believe that the only thing that can truly fill the emptiness is faith in the risen Jesus.

Text: 1 Corinthians 15

"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" (vv. 3-4).

The list of eyewitnesses (vv. 5-8) is a powerful piece of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus:
  • Peter and the Twelve. The one who denied Jesus became someone who was willing to die for Jesus.
  • More than 500 of Christ’s followers. Many of these people were still alive when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians.
  • James, the half-brother of Jesus. Before the resurrection the brothers of Jesus “did not believe in Him” (John 7:5).
  • Paul, the former enemy of Christians. The church’s most feared persecutor became its greatest missionary.

FULL LIVES


How does the empty grave fill our lives with hope? In 1 Corinthians 15, we discover three reasons why we can be full of hope:
  1. Our faith is not empty (vv. 12-19). "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith" (v. 14). Don’t despair, your sins are forgiven!
  2. Our future is not empty (vv. 20-24, 35-38, 42-57). "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (vv. 19-20). Don’t despair, your life will be transformed!
  3. Our labor is not empty (vv. 58, 30-32). "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (v. 58). Don’t despair, your service matters!

DON’T GIVE UP!


The empty grave fills our lives with hope.

Keep on believing; keep on hoping; keep on working. We are not believing in vain; we are not hoping in vain; we are not working in vain.

There are over 100 books in print with titles that include the phrase “…That Changed the World.” Here are a few examples:

Gunpowder: The History of the Explosive That Changed the World
Mayflower: The Voyage That Changed the World
Model T Ford: The Car That Changed the World
Glass: The Story of the Substance That Changed the World
The Cable: The Wire That Changed the World
Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World
The Twist: The Story of the Song and Dance That Changed the World
Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World

You might wonder how the twist or mauve changed the world, but there is another book on the list that really is about a world-changing subject: The Weekend That Changed the World: The Mystery of Jerusalem’s Empty Tomb.

The empty grave has changed my world. Has it changed yours?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Children of God

Part 10 of a series through Galatians

Text: Galatians 3:26-4:7

MEMBERS OF GOD’S FAMILY

When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He began His model prayer with the words "Our Father in heaven." God wants us to view Him as our good and loving Father.

Parents sometimes make a list of rules for their children. Imagine if a father put this list of rules on the fridge and said, "If you don’t follow these rules, you will lose your membership in my family." Many people think that God is like that. They believe that they have to earn God’s love by following His rules. But Paul writes that we become members of God’s family by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Through faith in Jesus Christ:
  • We are no longer slaves.
  • We are now sons. "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (3:26).

MEMBERSHIP HAS ITS PRIVILEGES

What are the privileges of God’s children? Four great privileges of being a child of God:
  1. We are equal before God. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (3:28). Sometimes a parent will say, "Why can’t you be more like your brother?" God doesn’t have a favorite child. We are "all" members of one family. Racial, social, and gender distinctions do not make us better or worse in God’s family. We are to treat one another as family (1 Timothy 5:1-2). It's often said, "Blood is thicker than water." (Family relationships are more important than friendships.) We have been made one family through the blood of Christ. "Let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (Galatians 6:10).
  2. We are adopted by God. "But when the time had fully come, God set his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights [adoption] of sons" (4:4-5). Jesus is (1) divine ("his Son"), (2) human ("born of a woman"), and (3) Jewish ("born under law"). We are been redeemed ("to redeem those under law") and adopted ("that we might receive the full rights of sons"). "So you are no longer a slave, but a son" (v. 7). Adoption is an act of God’s grace. We shouldn’t take for granted the blessing of adoption.
  3. We are heirs of God. "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise" (3:29). "So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir" (4:7). In the first century, the inheritance went to the sons. That’s why in this passage both men and women are called "sons of God." We now enjoy what was promised to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you" (3:8). We have been blessed (justified) through faith in Abraham’s "Seed" (3:16). Both men and women are "heirs…of the gracious gift of life" (1 Peter 3:7). But our inheritance includes more than justification. "If we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17). Christ is "their heir of all things" (Hebrews 1:2). You may have seen a bumper sticker on a Cadillac that says, "I’m spending my children’s inheritance." That’s not what God says! Our inheritance "can never perish, spoil or fade" and is "kept in heaven for [us]" (1 Peter 1:4).
  4. We are loved by God. "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father'" (4:6). "Abba" is Aramaic and means "Father." Some see it as a term of endearment, like "Dad." Remember who God is. "The Lord your God is a consuming fire" (Deuteronomy 4:24). "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31). The Jews would not even say the name of God. But God says, "Call Me Dad." Sometimes an adopted child wonders if his parents really love him. We don’t have to wonder if God loves us. "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" (1 John 3:1).

OBEDIENT CHILDREN

The key to obedience: Love leads to obedience.

If there is no relationship between a father and his child, there will probably be rebellion. "Fathers, do not exasperate your children" (Ephesians 6:4). Where there is love, there is a much greater likelihood of obedience.

Will you live in disobedience to the One who redeemed and adopted you?

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

That's My King!



We used this video from IgniterMedia on Palm Sunday.

Crown Him King (Palm Sunday)

KING OF KINGS

When I say "the King," who comes to mind? Elvis Presley? Elvis is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll." He is the best-selling solo artist in the history of popular music. He was nominated for 14 Grammy awards. At age 36, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He has been inducted into four music halls of fame. To many, Elvis was "the King." But Jesus is "the King of kings."

"They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is the Lord of lords and the King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers" (Revelation 17:14).
  • He was born as a King. The wise men: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2). Gabriel to Mary: “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:32-33).
  • He was celebrated as a King. The triumphal entry: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38).
  • He was accused as a King. Jesus’ enemies to Pilate: “[He] claims to Christ, a king” (Luke 23:2). Pilate to Jesus: “Are you the king of the Jews?” (John 18:33). Jesus to Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 19:36). Jesus to Pilate: “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born” (John 19:37).
  • He was mocked as a King. “[The Roman soldiers] stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’” (Matthew 27:28-29). ·
  • He was crucified as a King. “Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is Jesus, the king of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37).
  • He was raised as a King. “[The Father] raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:20).
  • He will return as a King.

Revelation 17:14 says that Jesus will return as the King of kings, but right now He wants to be the King of our lives.

KING OF OUR LIVES

Why is Jesus worthy to be the King of our lives? Revelation 17:14 gives us three reasons why Jesus Christ is worthy to be the King of our lives:
  1. Jesus is the courageous King. "They will make war against the Lamb." "They" are the "ten kings" of v. 12. Somehow Satan will move them to "make war" against "the Lamb." "Lamb" is the most common title for Jesus in Revelation (used 28 times). "Then one of the elders said to me, 'Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.' Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain" (Revelation 5:5-6). The Lion is a Lamb! A lion is an animal of strength ("king of the beasts"). A lamb is an animal of vulnerability. The Greek word for "Lamb" is arnion, which means "a little lamb." He is the lamb who was slain for our sin. The sacrificial lambs of the OT foreshadowed Christ. "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter" (Isaiah 53:7). "Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed" (1 Corinthians 5:7; cf. Exodus 12).
  2. Jesus is the victorious King. "But the Lamb will overcome them because he is the Lord of lords and the King of kings." Many people believe that Elvis is still alive. Imagine what that comeback concert would be like! Jesus is alive (risen from the dead), and He’s coming back! He is the Lord who will judge sin. John the Baptist, concerning Jesus: "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29; cf. v. 36). "Takes away" could be interpreted two ways: (1) to bear sin or (2) to abolish sin. King Nebuchadnezzar to Daniel: "Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings" (Daniel 2:47). Presently, Christ is allowing the "kings" of the earth to exercise authority, but one day He will take back that authority. And He will "overcome" all those who oppose Him.
  3. Jesus is the generous King. "And with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers." Christ has promised to reward those who are "faithful" to Him. Jesus to the church in Smyrna: "Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10). Mary’s little lamb went wherever Mary went. We who are the Lamb’s followers will follow Him when He returns to earth. He will allow us to share in His victory. He is the leader who will reward His followers. The King of kings demands much. But He rewards richly.

YOUR KING?

Elvis left the building a long time ago, but the real King is alive and well. He’s coming back as the King of kings. But He also wants to be your King. Why should Christ occupy the throne of your life? (1) He is the courageous King who died for you. (2) He is the victorious King who will overcome evil. (3) He is the generous King who will reward you. Christ is worthy to be the King of your life? Is He the King of your life today?
  • Christ desires an initial commitment to Him.
  • Christ expects a daily commitment to Him.

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