Sunday, February 26, 2012

Boasting in Christ Alone

A sermon developed by Dr. Terry Dorsett based on Galatians 6:12-17.

             Galatians was written by the apostle Paul to churches that he had started to reach non-Jews.
             Some Jewish Christians told the non-Jewish believers that they had to follow all the Old Testament laws and Jewish traditions in order to be real Christians.
             Paul made it clear that salvation is by FAITH in Christ alone and not through religious activities or rituals.

Verse 12 - Those who want to make a good impression in the flesh are the ones who would compel you to be circumcised—but only to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.
             Many people are focused on making good impressions in front of others.
             When making an impression is our focus, we are often compelled to do things that we would otherwise not do.
             This even happens in the church, such as the case of circumcision.
             Though circumcision had spiritual value to the Jews as a sign of their covenant with God, it had no spiritual value to the non-Jews who were not God’s chosen people.
             Some Jews were trying to force non-Jewish believers into being circumcised just so they could boast about it.
             The Jews who were promoting this loved the Law more than they loved the Savior behind the Law.
             It is amazing what people are willing to do if pressured into it.
             Religion, when used wrongly, can be a very powerful control factor over others.
             There are some spiritual leaders who are more interested in controlling their flock than shepherding it.
             Those types of leaders will always lead the flock down roads of false spirituality.
             If someone does not speak up, those paths will only lead to disaster for both individuals and churches.

Verse 13 - For even the circumcised don’t keep the law themselves; however, they want you to be circumcised in order to boast about your flesh.
             Paul pointed out that people who are overly image focused do not keep their own rules, but they sure want others to keep them.
             People who are focused on making a good outward impression while ignoring big issues going on behind the scenes are living a double life, which is very unhealthy.
             If we spend all of our energy trying to look good in public while our lives are a mess, we feel terrible about ourselves regardless of how we look.
             Therefore, we are tempted to try to fix everyone else’s issues so we do not have to think about our own.
             We may even boast about helping others because it makes us feel better about our two-faced life.

Verse 14 - But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world.
             Paul had learned not to boast about his image as a Jewish religious leader because maintaining that image had forced him to do some terrible things.
             Remember, Paul was a Jewish zealot who persecuted the Christian church before his conversion. Paul talks about this in Philippians 3:4-8.
             Paul had a pedigree that made him look good.
             But his past pedigree became a predatory parasite when he trusted in it for spiritual direction.
             In Acts 9 Paul got knocked off his high horse on the Damascus road and he realized that his pedigree would not produce prosperous spirituality. Paul learned not to boast in his own greatness.
             Paul realized all he could boast about was the cross.

We Can Boast about the Cross Because
             Through the cross of Christ we are free from the guilt of the law, which is good since we constantly fail to keep the law.
             Through the cross of Christ we rejoice that we no longer desire to live for self but to live for Christ who died for us.
             Through the cross we discover the ability to walk in love toward Christ and toward others while offering ourselves as living sacrifices.
             Through the cross of Christ we find comfort, not only in the troubles we experience in this life, but also in the death of the saints. For we sorrow not as those who have no hope and we comfort others as we have been comforted.
             Through the cross of Christ we observe with reverence the most perfect example of patience, meekness and willingness in suffering. This urges us to run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith.
             Through the cross of Christ we find the strength to fight against the prince of darkness because it was on that cross that Christ crushed the head of the serpent and emerged the victor over the dark domain.
             Through the cross of Christ we find eternal life in the presence of a holy God.
             We can boast in all of these things through the cross, but without the cross our boasting would turn to mourning as we realized we have no freedom, no rejoicing, no walking in love, no comfort, no perfect example to follow, no strength against the evil one, no hope of eternal life.
             Let us rejoice in the cross!

Verse 15 - For both circumcision and uncircumcision
             Paul points out that from a spiritual perspective, whether a man had been circumcised or not meant nothing.
             What should have mattered to the non-Jewish believers in Paul’s day was that they had been born again of the Spirit and had become new creations in Christ.
             As we relate this to our modern culture, our salvation does not depend on whether we make a good impression at church or not.
             What matters is that we have become a new creation and have been born again.
             If we have not yet been born again, then nothing else matters until we get that settled!

Verse 16 - May peace come to all those who follow this standard, and mercy to the Israel of God!
             Once we settle the question of our salvation, then a peace comes upon us that is impossible to explain to someone who has not yet experienced it.
             We often lack a sense of peace because we know we cannot meet the standard of perfection that is required to be close to a Holy God.
             That focus on “being perfect” robs us of the peace we want in our lives and creates constant stress from trying to be perfect all the time.
             When we realize that our focus should be on loving Christ instead of impressing others through religious activities, we suddenly find great peace because that standard is so much easier to meet.

Verse 17 - From now on, let no one cause me trouble, because I bear on my body scars for the cause of Jesus.
             Paul’s body bore physical scars that he had received from the many beatings and imprisonments he had suffered for his faith.
             Those scars most likely made him unsightly to look at.
             Paul was never going to impress anyone with his outward appearance.
             But that did not matter to Paul because he was more concerned with loving and following Jesus than how he looked outwardly to others.
             Paul had progressed in his spiritual walk enough to have lifted his eyes off the mundane things of this world and set them on Jesus. What an example for us to follow!

             People who are overly focused on their outward image will also try to force other people into doing things that are not needed.
             This even happens in the church and can lead to spiritual abuse if we do not stand against it.
             We must accept the reality that all our boasting is vain except for the cross.
             If we have not yet been born again, we will have no peace in our lives nor hope for eternity until we come to the cross of Jesus.

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