Monday, March 2, 2009
Galatians - Week 5 Justified
What is on your iPod, in your CD collection, on your MP3 player, the one song, one artist in your tape collection that you love but would be embarrassed for anyone else to know about?
Michael Bolton? Milli Vanilli?
Even if you won't admit it you know who are...driving into the office, on your way to work, or to workout or to the store and the system in the Ford Fiesta is rocked out full blast and there you are singing along at the top of your lungs. The sun is shining, the windows are open, the air is blowing through your hair and you think to yourself..."it doesn't get any better than this." Nothing could be better than this moment and then the light ahead turns red forcing you to come to a complete stop along with the car beside you....a flashy convertible, filled with kids and in a flash, without thinking about it your body goes into convulsions as your hands push buttons to roll up windows and your fingers twist knobs to turn down Ricky Martin as quickly as possible and just like that your moment of musical bliss, your sweet Latin utopia is gone, strangled by the fear of being found out that your aren't as hip and as cool as you thought you were.
Galatians 2:12 Peter is caught up in a similar situation during his visit to Antioch....fearful as to what other men think of him, buckling under the pressure cooker of peer pressure, relapsing into the old ways of a religion before Jesus.
Paul finishes up his defense against those who claim the gospel he has preached is man made (Galatians 1:11) and that his authority comes from men (Galatians 1:12). Paul tells us that he went to Jerusalem, stood shoulder to shoulder with the leaders, the pillars, of the church, Peter, James, and John (Galatians 2:9) and that they all agreed that Jesus saves and Jesus alone, apart from any religion or any law is the one true gospel.
Some time later Peter visits with Paul and the gentile church in Antioch. Antioch was base camp for Paul and his ministries. It was the HQ for the gentile church, it was a heavily Greek populated, influential trade city of almost half a million people and was often referred to as the "third Rome" and it is in Antioch where we see followers of Jesus for the first time being referred to as Christians (Acts 11:26).
Peter visits with Paul and the church at Antioch sometime after Paul's visit to Jerusalem. Everything is going great, the fellowship is sweet, the church is loving one another, worshiping together, they have started back their Wednesday night meetings....even have a few kids in Awannas and Peter is really getting to know the church and he is right there with them eating, worshiping, serving, loving.
This is huge! Peter, the Jew, hanging with the Gentiles, those regarded by the Jews as godless, unclean, dogs, are now friends of Peter through the grace of the gospel and the freedom found in Jesus and he is not only eating with them but Peter is eating their food! Remember Peter's vision in Acts 10:9-28? Peter is up on the rooftop praying when God gives Peter a vision...a large sheet unfolds from heaven and on it are all the animals previously stated in God's law as "unclean" and "unfit" to consume, associate with, or touch. God commands Peter to "kill and eat." Acts 10:14 - "Surely not! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." Peter answers back. Yet God responds, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean" (Acts 10:15) and God wasn't just referring to the cloven hoof buffet He had set before Peter look at Acts 10:27-28 - "God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean."
Everything is going great until......James (Galatians 2:12) and others come from Jerusalem, leaders within the Jewish church pay a visit. Even though the issue of religion had been settled back at the council in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:5) word has gotten back to the religious people that the church in Antioch isn't very religious and so they make their way over to see what is going on.
Galatians 2:11-12 As the church gathers together to eat lines of class, social standing, race, ethnicity that were previously invisible become all too clear as those Jews from Jerusalem begin to self segregate....Gentiles eating in one area, Jews eating in another. Peter, staring at his chuck steak is torn..."do I sit with my new brothers in Christ or do I go sit with my brothers from Jerusalem? What will James and the others think of me if I, a Jew, sit with these Gentiles?"
Peter caves to the pressure cooker of peer pressure and relapses into a self-righteous religion and legalism, fearful of what other men will think of him. Fearful of offending his friends, he disses his new found friends at Antioch, sits across the way with his fellow Jews, bigots, racists and offends God and tarnishes the gospel of Jesus.
Paul gets all up in Peter's grill in front of the entire church (Galatians 2:14)...."Are you kidding me Peter? Are you telling me that you aren't going to fellowship with your brothers here because they do not follow the law, aren't "religious" haven't converted to Judaism, when you yourself do not follow the rules? Why are you doing this? You are two faced and a hypocrite!"
Question? Does your Saturday night match up with your Sunday morning?
Are you the same person here as you are out there? Do you have your multiple sets of friends? Friends from college, work, church? Would you be embarrassed for any of these to meet? To see how you act? To see what you do?
It would have been very easy for Paul to complain about Peter to others, gossip behind his back, criticize Peter's actions, blogged about how much he hated what Peter did, send out mass emails, phone calls, even avoided Peter but Paul didn't do that. Paul addressed the issue head on. He didn't let the sun go down on his anger (Ephesians 4:26) he biblically confronted Peter (Matthew 18:15).
Even though Peter is a leader in the church, hand picked by Jesus, an apostle, author of books of the Bible, he is still a man and still succumbs to the pressure of those around him and it doesn't take much to bring good men down around him either (Galatians 2:11-13) even Barnabas, the great encourager, is sucked back into legalism and racism.
Galatians 2:15-16 - At the heart of this controversy is the question....How can man be right before God? When God looks at us, views our lives, what is it, what does it take for God to see us as righteous instead of unrighteous? Just instead of unjust? Forgiven instead of condemned?
There are two opposing answers: 1. Works of the law, our actions, deeds, service increase our standing before a Holy God. 2. Faith in Jesus and Jesus alone for what He did on the cross.
Paul states - "We know that a person is not justified (key reality and concept here) by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ" (Galatians 2:16). "Peter, you and I know that the law only shows us how bad we are (Romans 7:7-10). Peter, we have tried to keep the law our entire lives and have failed over and over again and again. All the law does is condemn us."
What is Paul talking about?
What does it mean to be "justified"?
What does justification do or accomplish?
I have studied this word, justification, and have celebrated it all week long! Justification has saturated my heart and my mind and it is burned into my bones and I will not let go of it and if you and I can grasp this crucial reality of the gospel and how God justifies us before Himself in this time at this moment our lives will never be the same again!
Justification is defined by Wayne Grudem as: An instantaneous legal action from God in which He 1. thinks of our sin as forgiven and declares Christ's righteousness as belonging to us and 2. declares us to be righteous in His sight.
Justification is the dividing line between the false gospel of salvation through works and obedience to the law and the great gospel message of salvation through faith in Jesus.
It looks like this.....the gospel is shared (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) God's Holy Spirit testifies to our spirit, we accept Jesus as our savior and follow Him as Lord trusting Him with our life - this is conversion. Then scripture tells us that if we place our faith in Jesus that God promises to forgive us (2 Chronicles 7:14, Mark 2:5). Yet justification is more than just forgiveness! Justification is God legally declaring us righteous before Himself.
Here is an example: Suppose you and your family were in an accident and incurred serious medical injuries and the bills from these injuries were massive...in the millions of dollars and no matter how hard you worked, how many jobs you had there would never be any way you could make enough money to pay off all the debt incurred. Now suppose you are called into court because you could not pay for your bills. You stand before the judge, he reviews your file...."So, it shows here that you owe the hospital $2.5 million dollars? "Yes your honor you see I have tried to work...." "Silence! Enough! I declare that this man's debts are all forgiven." "Oh thank yo..." "And, in addition to that I order that all the income from Bill Gates be immediately deposited into this man's bank account. Court is adjourned."
God not only forgives us of our sins but He then declares us righteous before Himself. How can this be? How can we as sinners appear before God anything other than sinners? How can God not only forgive us but declare us righteous and without sin in the past, present, and future when we still sin?
1. When Adam sinned, his sin was imputed (put on) all of mankind.
2. When Jesus died on the cross all the sins, past, present, and future, were imputed (put upon) Jesus where He took God's wrath and punishment for those sins.
3. When we accepted or when a person accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior God instantly, the hour you first believe, takes the righteousness and the holiness of Jesus and puts in on us!
This is the amazing grace of God! This is the unmerited favor of God and it has nothing to do with us. It does not change who we are internally, it does not keep us from sinning, it is not based on our works as it is all about how God sees us when He looks at us....God sees those saved by Jesus as perfect in Jesus - past, present, and future.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing it is the gift of God not a result of works..." This is grace in contrast to works! It is God's unmerited favor toward you and I that saves us...not anything we do...and the mechanism God uses is faith.
Why did God choose faith as the component and not love? Joy? Humility? Meekness? Because faith is the polar opposite of depending on ourselves. When we come to Jesus we are saying.."I quit! I give up! It's not me, not my works, not my actions! I can't do it! I NEED YOU JESUS!"
Right now some of you have questions..."Are you saying that if I accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, believe that He is God, that His death on the cross not only paid for my sins but that God will see me as holy and righteous always, regardless of what I say, think, or do?"
That is exactly what the scripture says.
"But I need rules, do's and don'ts. I know myself too well. Isn't this just irresponsible teaching? Isn't this just a license for you to do whatever you want to do?"
No! Galatians 2:20 those belonging to Jesus have had their old ways crucified with Jesus. Jesus now lives within each believer and has God's Holy Spirit living within. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches and we will not want to freely sin at His expense as our old self has been executed and we seek to live daily to glorify Jesus not out of duty or in an effort to look good before God but out of the overflowing joy of our hearts for what He has done for us.
Don't throw away the greatest gift ever given (Galatians 2:21). The grace of God has been poured out on the cross and the free gift of forgiveness and eternal salvation is through Jesus and Jesus alone. If you and I could gain access and favor to God through our works then Jesus' death on the cross was unnecessary, useless, a waste, and in vain...for nothing!
Justification is the sweet reality of God declaring the unholy - holy, the condemned - free, the unrighteous - righteous in the great work of Jesus.
Does your Saturday night match up with your Sunday morning?
How can we be right before God?
Where do you stand this morning?
Are you still trying to earn favor with God? Make up for past sins? Are you still struggling with guilt and shame?
Or have you come to the complete realization of what Jesus has done for you on the cross? Not only forgiveness of sins past, present, and future but a total declaration that God will always see you as righteous!
May the full realization of God's amazing grace grab hold of your heart and cause you to never doubt again. May it cause you to break out into great joy and celebrate Him!