Monday, February 16, 2009

Galatians - Week 3 I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry

Galatians 1:9-24

"9As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

10Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

11I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

13For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.

18Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. 19I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord's brother. 20I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. 21Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23They only heard the report: "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." 24And they praised God because of me."

False teachers (pop stars, politicians, liberal theologians, educators, sociologists, psychologists and the Oprahs of the day) have infiltrated the church and are causing trouble. Their teaching is throwing the church into confusion...into a terrible identity crisis so much so that they don't know what to believe and they have turned from what they did believe, Jesus saves, to something more comforting to their flesh - reliance on self. Not only have the Galatians turned away from Jesus but in the process they have thrown their beloved pastor, Paul under the bus.

I love music and can tolerate almost anything. As a kid I grew up listening to the "old country" music but I have to admit I am not a big fan of the "new country" music...You know, "I'd walk a mile through a field of wildflowers just to check you for ticks" music? In fact I hate the new country music and if you like it then some Johnny Cash and go and listen no more.

Galatians 1:9-12 reads like a country song gone bad. Paul is accused of being a people pleaser and making up the gospel. Paul's is accused of receiving his information from various untrustworthy sources and what little he knows as being taught to him by men and his testimony is attacked and deeply questioned. The only thing I couldn't find in this text was a line about the Galatians kicking his dog. You add that and you've got yourself a smash hit. So now we begin to see some of the sarcasm and anger and passion come out as Paul begins to respond to each of these allegations.

Galatians 1:9-10

#1 - Paul the people pleaser?

Paul asks the question...."Does it look like what I am doing is trying to make others happy? Do you really think so? Don't you think there are better ways to make people happy than to preach Christ crucified? Jesus saves? Jesus is the only way to heaven? I just said (Galatians 1:8-9) if anyone preaches anything other than Jesus saves then let them be eternally cursed...let them go to hell. Does this sound really sound like I am trying to win friends and influence people? Wouldn't free bass boats and firetruck rides be a better approach? Wouldn't Paul be more successful if he focused on the positive and downplayed the negative...sort of like a Joel Osteen of the middle east?

Paul is not a life coach. Paul is a preacher of the gospel, a man's man, a dude and His life is marked with the marks of Jesus (Galatians 6:17).

Paul was (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)
Put in prison over and over
Flogged an uncounted number of times
Faced death over and over
Received 39 lashes from the Jews 5 times
Beaten with rods 3 times
Stoned one time
Shipwrecked 3 times
Spent a day and night in the sea
And was in continual danger from rivers, robbers, his own people, Gentiles
Was in danger in the city, in the country, at sea, from false brothers
Was weary and in pain often, without sleep
Often hungry and thirsty, cold and naked
And continually concerned about the health of all of the churches

Paul considered anything he gained personally a loss and everything else as trash if it wasn't Jesus (Philippians 3:8). "Don't question my motives!" Paul seems to shout back...."For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (2 Corinthians 2:2).

Shakespeare wrote in his play As You Like it..."All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players..." and each of us play out our lives on this stage called life. Who do you perform for? Who is your target audience? What demographics are you trying to reach? Are we performing for family? Friends? The opinions of others? Or are we doing everything to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31)?

#2 Paul the author of unpopular fiction?

Did you just make that up? That was the accusation that was being leveled against Paul...that he just made the gospel up. That Jesus being born of a virgin, living a sinless life, dying in our place for our sins giving each of us forgiveness and eternal life was nothing more than make believe, a fable, fiction, folklore. There are many non-believers who have accused Christians of creating God in man's image. Those who travel along the evolutionary highway would argue that somewhere along the way we conceived of religion as a way to make it through the harsh realities of natural selection and survival of the fittest and that religion is a coping mechanism we evolved into to satisfy the electrical impulses and chemical emissions within our brains.

Paul's response is...."Are you kidding me? Do you really think if I were going to make up my own religion I would choose....God becoming man, living a perfect life, being executed as a common criminal, and then rising from the dead? Is that the religion you think I would make up?"

Throughout history there have been many people who have started their own religion and it usually looks something like this - man is god, sex plays a heavy part of the religion, food, wine, ritual all play an important part which to many many people is much more appealing to eat all you want, have sex with whoever you want, drink like a sailor and face no consequences. Some examples include the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, and Sevier County.

So Paul defends the uniqueness and the reliability of the gospel. Paul goes on to say that he did not make this up, didn't come across this idea on the Internet, didn't Google it, didn't pull it from some online chat room, and he wasn't taught it by another man (Galatians 1:11-12). Paul's source? He received it directly from Jesus.

Paul was doing his own thing, had no desire for Jesus, was going his own way when Jesus came after him, chased him down, got into Paul's grill and revealed Himself as glorious, victorious ultimate fighting King Jesus (Acts 9:4). From that point on Saul the destroyer, the persecutor became Paul the preacher and church planter, man's man aka "the Dude."

#3 Paul's testimony questioned and attacked

Galatians 1:13-16 Paul gives us his testimony which is a great model for us. Paul begins by telling us what his life was like before Jesus...I hated Jesus, I tried everything in my power to destroy His church. Paul tells us..this is how Jesus saved me...he called me before I was born, had plans for me, and even though I had my own plans...Jesus rescued me. And Paul tells of how Jesus saving him and changing him has impacted the purpose for his life....he now preaches to the gentiles.

God has a plan for each of us. First to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). Have you accepted that you are imperfect, a sinner, in need of help? In need of a savior? Do you believe that Jesus is God, that He died on the cross for your sins and have you confessed Him as Savior and Lord of your life? Secondly, for those who have received Jesus He has given each of us spiritual gifts of preaching, teaching, exhortation, hospitality and many more to do good works He has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Do you know your gifts? Are you using them?

Galatians 1:17-21 Paul continues his testimony showing what limited exposure he has had with the apostles in that he did not visit with anyone from the church for three years after Jesus revealed Himself. After three years he was finally able to meet Peter and James for 15 days and left again to preach the gospel.

Galatians 1:22-24 Paul points to not only his own words but to the reaction of the church in light of the wonderful work Jesus has done in Paul's life. Most people could not have recognized Paul if they had saw him but they had hear of his former way of life and were deeply afraid of him, of being beaten by him and arrested by him and now the same people who were once afraid of him rejoice over his testimony and praise God over his changed life in Jesus.

Does your life point other to Jesus? What does our testimony really testify to? How much we like great a treasure Golden Coral is? Or does it show the world that Jesus is our greatest treasure and our highest hope?

St. Francis once said..."preach the gospel always and if necessary use words." 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." And I wonder...when was the last time someone asked you? I know most of us are probably ready to give an answer but nobody's asking...why?

Could it be that our lives look no different than those without Jesus? That our lives testify that our great treasure is electronics and money, and our hobbies?

They say that if you play a country song backwards you get your dog lives, you truck gets unstuck from the mud, your wife still leaves but your best friend stays, and you are sober.

Paul was not a people pleaser...he worked to please God by preaching only Jesus. Who do you aim to please?

Paul did not make the gospel up. He did not pick it up from someone else and he was not taught it by another. Jesus revealed all things to Paul with the specific command to share the good news with the gentiles. Where do you get your theology from? Books? Other people? Or the Bible?

Paul has given us his testimony as proof that what he says is true and as a result of the dramatic heart and life change through Jesus others are encouraged and praise Jesus. What do people say about God when they look at your life?

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