Sunday, November 27, 2011

It’s All About Faith

A sermon developed by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett based on Galatians 3:1-9.

               Galatians was written by the apostle Paul to churches scattered across what is now central Turkey.
               Paul had started a number of churches in that area that were made up of non-Jewish believers.
               Some Jewish Christians had come into the area after Paul left and told the non-Jewish believers that they had to follow all the Old Testament laws and Jewish traditions in order to be real Christians.
               This was causing a lot of stress for these non-Jewish believers because Paul had told them that all they needed was faith in Christ alone for salvation.
               Though over 2000 years have passed, people still struggle with this same issue.
               Many people are confused about whether we are saved by following the laws of the Old Testament and the traditions of the church, or are we saved by faith in Christ alone?

Verse 1 - You foolish Galatians! Who has hypnotized you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified?
               In answering the question of how we are saved, Paul calls the Galatians foolish for thinking salvation could be found in anything other than Christ alone.
               Paul uses the Greek word anoetos, which means that the person can think but fails to do so.
               Paul acknowledges that we HAVE the ability to think this thing through, we just do not do it.
               Though we often think of a “foolish” person as being someone uneducated or ignorant, the biblical definition of a “fool” is a person who does not believe God. (Psalm 14:1, 53:1)
               God has declared that salvation is found in no one else but Christ alone (Acts 4:12).
               God has declared that salvation is not by good works, but is a gift of God to those who believe (Ephesians 2:8-9).
               In some translations the word hypnotized is translated as “put the evil eye on.”
               The Gentiles to whom Paul was writing were terrified of someone putting the “evil eye” on them.
               It was a curse that would cloud their thinking and make them do whatever the spell caster wanted them to do.
               The only defense the Gentiles knew for the evil eye was to NOT look at it to begin with.
               The ONLY defense for not thinking foolishly about salvation is to not even consider other methods of salvation.
               Let us keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)
               They knew that Christ had been crucified for their sins.
               The crucifixion of Christ was not a thing done in secret, but something that many people had heard about even though they may not have been in Jerusalem when it happened. (Acts 26:26).
               Even today most people know the story of Christ’s death, even if they are not followers of Christ.
               Though there may be a few pockets in the world where the name of Christ is not yet known, those pockets are rapidly disappearing thanks to Christian radio and television.
               People in Vermont know ABOUT Jesus. They need to discover RELATIONSHIP with Jesus.

Verse 2 - I only want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith?
               Paul asked a rhetorical question in order to get them to think about their own experience.
               The Galatians knew very little about the Old Testament laws or Jewish traditions when they first decided to become followers of Christ.
               So the laws and traditions were not what drew them to Christ since they barely knew those things.
               But the Galatians knew the transforming power of the Spirit because they had experienced it.
               Likewise, we may not know all the nitty gritty details of the Old Testament, nor know when to stand, sit, or kneel at all the right times, but most of us have experienced the POWER of Christ at some point in our lives.
               Many of us trusted in Christ with child-like faith knowing little about the teachings of the Bible or about the traditions of the church.
               We just believed and it transformed us!
               Though it is VERY important for us to learn more about the teachings of the Bible and the traditions of the particular church the Lord has drawn us to, we must never let those things make us doubt our salvation.
               Such teachings and rituals should ENHANCE our walk with Christ and make us BETTER Christians, but they are not the FOUNDATION of our faith.

Verse 3 - Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh?
               Through the power of the Spirit, the Galatians had overcome a lot of the problems they had in their lives.
               Knowing little of the Old Testament or religious traditions, they had no choice but to trust in Christ alone for all they needed to get through the day.
               As they became more acquainted with Jewish religious rituals, they were tempted to stop trusting in Christ and start trusting in their own abilities.
               The same thing can happen to us if we are not careful.  When we first become Christians we are filled with gratitude toward the Lord.
               But as time goes by, we can become too focused on the rules and the rituals.
               When that happens we tend to forget where we have come from and become stuffy in our faith while loosing our joy.
               When that happens, we also tend to become judgmental of others who are not as “good” as us yet.

Verse 4 - Did you suffer so much for nothing—if in fact it was for nothing?
               Paul reminds the Galatians what a struggle it was for them to believe that Christ could really change their lives.
               It was a real struggle for them to let go of their past and embrace a life changing faith in Christ.
               We often have the same struggle to believe that God can really change messed up people like us.
               At some point we must stop trying to do it all on our own and just jump into the arms of Christ, trusting that He will make the difference in our lives that we have been waiting for.
               When the Father begins to call us to salvation we  have this inner longing for something more and we suffer in our inner spirit until we find it.
               We seldom can articulate it completely to others or even to ourselves, but we know there must be something more to life than what we have been able to do on our own.
               When we finally let go of all our fears, failures and faults and trust in Christ alone, we know deep inside we have found what we were looking for (Hebrews 12:14-16.)

Verse 5 - So then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles
among you by the works of the law or by hearing with faith?
               Paul reminded the Galatians that this was not all just intellectual gobbligock about hard to understand doctrines and traditions.
               This was about the POWER of God in their daily lives.
               The Galatians had experienced miracles in their lives without understanding any of the Old Testament laws or Jewish rituals.
               Take a moment and think back on our own experiences as believers. Have we not also seen God do amazing things in our lives, things that can only be described as miracles?
               Were those miracles dependent on our intellectual understanding of the Old Testament? Did they depend on following the religious traditions of some particular church?
               NO!!!!! They were dependent on the power of the Spirit at work in our lives as we trusted in Christ alone.
               This does not mean that the Old Testament teachings have no value or that we should ignore all the traditions and rituals of our particular church, it just means that we must keep all those things in proper perspective.
               The Old Testament “shalls” and “shall nots”  make far more sense when viewed through the lens of Christ’s life, death, burial and resurrection.
               The traditions of any particular church only have value when understood through the lens of God’s unmerited favor toward those who believe.
               Only when we have placed our faith in Christ alone will all the rest of that stuff have any value or meaning to us.
               If we have not yet placed our trust in Christ alone, we need to do that FIRST and then go back and experience all those rituals and learn all those teachings over again.

Verse 6-7 - Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, so understand that those who have faith are Abraham's sons.
               Since it was the Jewish Old Testament teaching that seemed to be causing the problems for these Galatian believers, Paul reminds them that even Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, had faith.
               It was Abraham’s faith that gained him salvation, not his following of religious tradition (Hebrews 11:8-10).
               If faith is what mattered most to Abraham, who started the whole Jewish experience, why should faith be any less important to anyone else?
               We tend to focus on the religious ACTIONS of those we view as spiritual, when instead we should be focusing on their FAITH.

Verse 8 - Now the Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and foretold the good news to Abraham, saying, All the nations
will be blessed in you.
               Paul then goes on to point out that the whole idea of non-Jews becoming followers of God without having to keep all the Jewish traditions was not a surprise to God.
               God had planned this from the beginning. (Genesis 18:17-19)
               God planned for US to become His followers too!

Verse 9 - So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.
               Paul concludes by pointing out that Abraham was blessed by his faith.
               Likewise, those of us who have that child-like faith are blessed as well.
               Why should we continue to toil and struggle on our own through the difficulties of life when we can be blessed through faith in Christ?

Prayer of Faith
               Dear Lord, I have tried my own way long enough and it just is not working. Today, I put aside following both people and rituals. Instead I place my faith in YOU alone. I turn from my own way and commit to Your way. Give me the courage and the strength to become all that You want me to be. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.

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