October 26, 2021 9:00 am
In a new study of Galatians called, Freedom in the In-Between, we’re discovering how the gospel frees us to live with confidence in a world of uncertainty.
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Today on Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. I say God the reason you should accept me is because I had so much faith this week that I walked on water. I had so much love in my heart that I forgave my enemies when they were crucifying me.
I had so much self-control that when Satan tempted me to my face I said no to him every single time. I of course didn't do any of those things this week but Jesus did them and his record is mine and that's the basis of my acceptance before God. Hey, welcome back to Summit Life with Pastor J.D.
Greer. I'm your host Molly Vidovitch. Well, guess what? Today we're diving into a new study in the book of Galatians called Freedom in the In-Between. We're going to be learning how the gospel frees us to live with confidence in a world of uncertainty and we're kicking it off with a message that Pastor J.D. preached about this same time of year, a few years back on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It's a great reminder of why the actions of an ancient German monk named Martin Luther still matter to us today. So grab your Bible and open it to Galatians and place your bookmark because we're going to camp out here for a little while and see what freedom in Christ truly looks like. Pastor J.D. titled this first message a freedom worth fighting for. Does anybody know what happens on October 31st of this year?
Anybody know? You say, duh, Halloween of course. Yes, you pagans will have Halloween, but you real Christians know that on October 31st of this year we celebrate the 500th year anniversary of the Reformation. On that day 500 years ago a deeply conflicted monk named Martin Luther walked the one-half mile from his home in Wittenberg to the door of the primary cathedral there and he nailed up 95 theses demanding change in the church. The changes that Luther brought about in the church for how we think and talk about the gospel cannot be overstated.
Luther believed that centuries of religion and man-made tradition had covered up the gospel that Jesus taught and the apostles proclaimed. Now whether you agree with Luther or not he is undoubtedly one of the most significant figures in church history and because a 500th year anniversary doesn't come along that often we're going to spend the next few weeks studying the book of Galatians. Now you say, well why Galatians? Because Luther considered Paul's letter or epistle to the Galatians to be the most important book in the Bible. He called the book of Galatians my epistle and said if it were possible to marry an epistle Galatians would be my wife. He said it would be better to read Galatians a thousand times before you ever read the first word by him. He said that in many ways the book of Galatians is more important even than the book of Romans because whereas the book of Romans tells you most clearly what the gospel is Galatians he said explains to you what it is not and sometimes that's even more important to understand.
Now one small caveat before we get going. Many of you in here were raised Catholic. I understand that every weekend as a part of our church we have many in that category and there are some of you who would still consider yourselves to be Catholic and I want you to know that you are welcome and you are loved here at the Summit Church.
At the Summit Church we come from all different backgrounds and for the most part we've left brand names behind. So as we consider some of the things of what Galatians says I don't want you to hear it as a Catholic or a Protestant. I just want you to hear to somebody who wants to know what God's word actually says. That's how I'm going to preach it. I'm not going to preach it as a Catholic or Protestant just as a guy who's reading the Bible and trying to understand what it means. So here's a question. What was it about the book of Galatians that Martin Luther and many others have found so powerful?
Thought you'd never ask. Let's take a look. Galatians 1 verse 6 is where I will start. I am amazed Paul said that you were so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and you're turning now to a different gospel. The thing to notice here is that Paul skips all of his usual affirmations and gospel celebrations that he normally puts in his epistles and he just gets right into business. You see every speaker, every writer has a pattern to kind of break the ice. I, you know, get up here and I always welcome all the campuses and I'll talk about something going on at the church and then I'll try to affirm you and then I tell a light-hearted story and then I tell you to take out your Bibles and open them and then I yell at you for 45 minutes. That's my pattern.
Okay, well what Paul's pattern is is he starts with gospel affirmations and celebrations and usually spends a chapter doing that. If I got up here one weekend and the lights came on and it's just me standing here with my arms crossed and I said I got something to say to you people. Y'all would know something was wrong.
Well that's what's happening here. Something is wrong with Paul. Something is he's angry. Paul is appalled you might say. Verse six, I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel. Not that there is another gospel. There is no other gospel. But there are some who are troubling you and want to distort or pervert the gospel of Christ. But I tell you even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, a curse should be on him.
Now that's a big old statement isn't it? I don't care if an angel shows up here next week and floats down from the ceiling. If he says something different than what I and the other apostles have already said to you then let a curse be on him. By the way that is a verse I always use when I'm talking with a Muslim or a Mormon who tells me that the reason that I should listen to Muhammad or Joseph Smith is because an angel appeared to them and gave them the the missing part of Christianity which is what both of those different religions claim. And I always take them to this verse in Galatians and say Paul anticipated that.
And he said I don't care if it is an angel that showed up and did that. If they're saying something different than what the apostles and Jesus himself said then they are under a curse and they're lying. Then Paul is going to repeat that statement for emphasis in verse 9. As we have said before I now say again if anybody is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you already received let a curse be on him.
I have only two real points I want to make with you today. The first point is that the apostle Paul wants us in no uncertain terms to reject the perverse gospel. And then number two he wants us to fight be willing to fight for the true one.
Number one reject the perverse gospel he says. There was a group in the early church known as the Judaizers. You see most of the earliest Christians were Jews and Jews of course had been raised on the law and they believed that obedience to the law was how you got close to God and how you obtained favor and blessing from God. Well after these Jews had come to faith in Christ which meant that they recognized that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah who had been sent by God to take away our sins.
After they believed that they still kept some of this old law mentality because old habits die hard. So they taught that in addition to faith in Christ there were certain law things that you still needed to observe in order to make yourself acceptable to God and that by forcing yourself to obey these laws you could transform yourself into being the kind of person that God wanted you to be. Chief among their concerns was the Old Testament command to be circumcised. For 1500 years circumcision had been the primary distinguishing mark of the Jews.
It was the thing that set them apart from the nations. It was the symbol that they were fully submitted to God. Paul calls what these Judaizers are teaching that is in addition to faith in Christ you got to be circumcised and keep parts of the law. He calls that not just a corruption he calls that a different gospel. It's a different gospel verse six verse seven a perverted gospel verse eight a contrary gospel. By the way technically in verse seven when he says perverse the word he uses in Greek is the word that means reversal.
What the Judaizers are teaching actually reverses the flow of the gospel. The real gospel he says is that in salvation God did for us what we were utterly incapable of doing for ourselves. He did it all by himself and we can only receive it by faith. Paul probably encapsulates that in verse four with the word he uses to describe Jesus. Verse four he says Jesus gave himself for our sins to rescue us. Rescue means we were helpless and so he saved us in two primary ways. First we were condemned so Jesus gave himself for our sins by living the perfect life we were supposed to live and then dying to death we were condemned to die in our place. What Jesus did is he lived the life we were supposed to live then died to death we were condemned to die then he took our record and died for it and then he gave us his perfect record and now we stand complete not because we are righteous but because Jesus was righteous in our place.
In addition to that we were dead. Jesus infused new life into us through the resurrection. The gospel is not that we were spiritually weak and we needed a little law to strengthen us. The gospel is that you were spiritually dead no breath no pulse no life at all. I've heard it compared before sometimes heard salvation compared to like we were drowning in a sea of our sin and condemnation and Jesus comes along in a life raft and he throws us a lifeline and he pulls us back in. That's I understand the analogy there but that is not what salvation is in the bible. Salvation if you're going to use that example is you were floating face down in the water already dead already drowned and Jesus picked you up out of the water and he brought you back to life. Or to slightly shift the analogy one I often use is you know it's like conversion is like waking up in an ambulance and you have no idea how you got there but the doctor attending physician says you were in a terrible accident and you actually died. But me and my team of doctors here we brought you back to life.
Now at that point that doctor is not asking you to get up and help him. He just wants you to lay right there and consent to him doing the saving work on you. When you are converted it's because you recognize that Jesus has done not everything necessary to save you already and that you simply wake up to the fact that he has accomplished your salvation 2,000 years ago and you say yes and you consent to him doing it. What part do you contribute to salvation? You did all the sinning that was your part of salvation. Jesus did all the saving and did everything after that. That is the true gospel. It teaches us that God saves us and blesses us as a free gift of unmerited grace and in response to that we do good works. The perverted gospel reverses that. It says you do some good works and then in response to that God saves you and blesses you. Now most of us today are not going to be hung up on circumcision or aspects of the Jewish law but let me just try to suggest for you a few ways that I see Christians today believing the same perverse gospel. They just substitute different things in for circumcision. I give you a handful of ways.
Here's one. We do it whenever we make something to faith something else besides faith in Christ necessary for salvation. For example for some people they think you need to accept Christ as your savior and take communion and belong to the church and go to confession. Accept Christ and be baptized. There is no and in the gospel.
There is faith plus nothing else in what Christ has done that saves or it's when we assume that God's acceptance of us is also based on how well we've been living. I've described that like this before. It's like when you come into worship and you've had a really good week. I mean you did everything right spiritually.
You read your bible every day. You told some people about Jesus. You gave him the offering. You were nice to the neighbor's kids or whatever and so you just feel like oh I just feel so close to God. I just feel like man I just feel like he just wants to give me whatever I'm asking him and wants to bless me and and then the next week the next week you you come in because you haven't had a good week and you know you just you didn't read your bible and you didn't give any offering and you kicked the neighbor's dog and you didn't recycle. I don't know whatever it is that you think makes you have a bad week and you you come in and you just feel like I just feel so far away from God and I feel like I just he doesn't hear me and I'm not really accepted by him so then what you do is you start to make promises to God about what you're going to do as if like you're trying to buy his acceptance on credit.
I'm going to become like this so accept me for that reason. What the gospel teaches or actually when you do that what you're showing is that you don't really believe the actual gospel because what the gospel teaches is that when you come in God's acceptance of you is not based on anything except for how Jesus Christ has lived and what he did in your place. It means when worship starts I don't measure my closeness to God based on how well I live. I base it on what Jesus accomplished and finished for me 2,000 years ago. It means I say God the reason you should accept me is because I had so much faith this week that I walked on water. I had so much love in my heart that I forgave my enemies when they were crucifying me.
I had so much self-control that when Satan tempted me to my face after I fasted for 40 days in the wilderness I said no to him every single time. I of course didn't do any of those things this week but Jesus did them and his record is mine and that's the basis of my acceptance before God. So you do you substitute it whenever you do anything you do anything that adds to Christ finished work for you.
Here's a second way. Some more progressive Christians assume that it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are a sincere loving and good person. Y'all that sounds so inclusive but it really is just another way of saying that what you do determines whether or not God accepts you because there's still a standard you have to reach even if it's a really loose one. You're still going to be a good person. Nobody assumes that everybody makes it to heaven. We always assume murderers and child molesters and rapists and racists and bigots and Adolf Hitler and people like him are not going to make it. But the gospel is not that God saves all good people. Even if you have a really definition of what a good person is. The gospel is that there are only bad people only bad people who receive the rescue of Jesus Christ by faith.
Now here's a third way we do it. Sometimes we do it and we try to grow ourselves spiritually through self-effort. You realize you're saved by grace but you think now becoming Christlike is on you. In chapter three of Galatians Paul is going to explain that any growth in the Christian life is not the result of you willing it into your life but it is the fruit of the spirit in you.
Listen to this. The power of the spirit is released by faith in Christ not by resolution or self-discipline. Life doesn't come from self-discipline. Life comes from faith in Christ finished work period.
Here's the fourth way. I realized this week that I often believe a false gospel when I think that I can produce spiritual change in other people. A lot of times when I'm getting up here ready to preach and I'm thinking what's going to make me successful as a preacher. When you peel back the layers what I'm most depending on are my speaking abilities, my ability to persuade, my study, and my preparation. Or sometimes when I think about whether how I'm going to be successful as a dad and I think what's going to make my kids turn out the way they should. I think well it's the strength of my personality.
It's the fact that I've mastered these parenting techniques or whatever. Paul would say that is foolish. Only the spirit can produce eternal life in your congregation or in your kids. And listen the spirit is not released into your kids or your congregation because of your personality or abilities. The spirit is released in others through faith in the gospel. And when you depend on yourself to produce spiritual life in others you are buying into a false gospel. Basically anytime we focus on anything beside God's power released through faith in Christ finished work we are believing a version of the false gospel. Paul hear this.
This is very important. Paul was not against the law. Paul would explain in Galatians that the law has a place.
What he was against was elevating the law to a place where you assume that it makes you more right with God or you assume it is the secret to experiencing power in the Christian life. You see often we commit the error of the Galatians not by believing bad things but by simply taking good things and making them the central thing the life-giving thing. For example some of the churches that I grew up in and around had a tendency to emphasize conformity to a set of rules as a mark of the real Christian. Real Christians do this. The real Christians don't do that. Real Christians talk this way. Real Christians don't say that. Real Christians don't go to movies. They don't listen to rock music. They don't drink or chew or go with girls that do. They don't have premarital sex because it might lead to the worst of all sins, dancing.
Right? You just don't do that. Real Christian boys have short hair and real Christian girls wear dresses. Now could we just be honest for a minute? Let's just be real. There's nothing wrong with rules and standards. We all have them.
Right? I mean let's just again I don't but let's just be honest it's an unspoken rule in our society that you shouldn't if you're a girl you shouldn't show up at church wearing a string bikini. Fair? I mean we don't have that posted anywhere but you just say you don't yeah come to church in the string bikini. It's just not um you know I don't um have my kids use four letter words.
I don't have them. I don't use four letter words from the pulpit or pretty much any time but especially from the pulpit. Um it's does that make us a legalist because we have rules? No.
Right? Everybody has rules. The problem the problem was that with the rules that I grew up with and many of the churches that I was a part of is that they were the center of Christianity for us.
They were the thing that we most focused on. If we did them God would accept us and we would be spiritual. So see I usually left these religious gatherings thinking about what I needed to do to make myself more acceptable to God rather than trusting in what God had done for me and promised to do in me as the source of my spiritual life. Other churches emphasize learning correct doctrine and y'all I love doctrine but these churches measure how close you are to God by how much theology you know.
Education does not equal transformation and transformation does not come from a mind stuffed full of knowledge. It comes from simple childlike faith in the gospel. There are other churches that focus on practical tips for living. You listen to the sermons and they're all about how to do this or how to become that and how to accomplish this and that's good. Y'all I love relevance.
I love practicality. It's kind of in my nature but the problem in these churches is that you leave thinking of a how-to list of what you are supposed to do rather than looking to what God has done for you as the secret to the power to change in the Christian life. The power in Christianity is not found in a helpful to-do list from Uncle JD. Power in Christianity is found in faith in what Christ has done. Some churches are going to put all their emphasis on some dimension of social justice. Real Christians care for the poor. Real Christians are into racial reconciliation or whatever and y'all that's great. Those are all an essential part of being a disciple but the power in Christianity comes not from a new social agenda.
The power in Christianity comes from simple faith in what God has done. Do not mix up ever the implications of the gospel with the gospel itself. The gospel itself is not about what you are to do in any sphere. The gospel is not about what you are to do. It's about what Jesus has done and when you put faith in what Jesus has done into you has released all the power to do. Jesus' last words on the cross were not I got it started now you go finish it up. His last words on the cross were it is finished and when you believe that it credits you with righteousness of Jesus Christ to your account and it infuses Jesus' resurrection power into you that is it nothing more.
Which leads me to number two. Paul says after you reject it I want you to fight for the true gospel. I want you to fight for the true gospel. Paul has used the strongest language imaginable here. He has said that preachers and teachers or even angels who distort this gospel should be cursed. Now most people don't like any kind of fighting or controversy in the church and honestly I agree. I don't like strife. But Paul says some things are worth fighting for.
Some things are matters of life and death. If you pervert the gospel he says you're going to do two things. You notice this verse six he says you're going to turn away from him who called you by the grace of Christ. In other words you're going to desert Jesus and the last person that you want to walk out of his presence is Jesus.
This is not a matter of this range of what we can believe unless us all get along. This has to do with whether or not we are connected to Jesus' saving power. Secondly he says you condemn people by pointing them to another gospel that's actually not another gospel at all. There is no other gospel.
You're giving people who are dying of thirst you're giving them a cup of hydrochloric acid and it might look like water but it's not water it's not going to bring life it's going to bring death. And Paul says those two things the presence of Jesus in your life and the way of salvation those are things we're striving for even if it means you have to sometimes offend people and even if it means you have to create division and enemies. If you're a Christian then there's definitely a point in your past when God saved you which then means that there's a point in the future when you'll be with him in heaven but for now we live in between those two things and this new series gets to the heart of the gospel and how it transforms us from the inside out while we live in this in-between time. You're listening to Summit Life with Pastor J.D.
Greer. Our greatest resource for living in between is the Word of God and we're really excited this month to offer a custom Summit Life Bible. We worked with the publisher Crossway to create a custom ESV or English Standard Version of the Bible but what's so special about it for our listeners J.D.? Yeah well let's just be clear when we say custom Bible we don't mean that we have re-edited the Bible you know in any way it's the English Standard Version of the Bible but it's small it's compact it fits easily in well a purse I don't carry a purse or a man bag or anything but a backpack a computer bag it's got a custom get this Summit Life Bible reading plan printed right on the inside. The main goal of this is that we wanted you to grow in your daily interaction with God where you read the Bible the way you understand it and be able to connect the individual stories and teachings of the Bible to the bigger picture of what's going on so that when you get done you're like not just I've checked a box and read some read the Bible but I love and know Jesus more. One year 52 week Bible reading plan this is a Bible you can use as an adult it's I think it's great to share with your kids you know I know for for both of our families Molly I have time in the week that we try to read the Bible together this is a great resource that you can use and be sharing parts with your kids to help them get the big picture of the Bible. If you learn just 10 books of the Bible better than you knew them before after working through the plan then that's a huge win right? We'll send you a copy today as our way of saying thanks when you donate to support this ministry. Summit Life is funded by listeners like you when you link arms with us today you're helping us bring gospel-centered Bible teaching to the radio television and web you can do that with a one-time gift or by joining our team of regular monthly gospel partners just give us a call 866-335-5220 that's 866-335-5220 or you can give and request the Summit Life Bible online at jdgrier.com if you'd rather mail your donation our address is jdgrierministries p.o box 122 93 durham north carolina 27709 i'm molly vidovich we're so glad to have you with us today be sure to listen wednesday when we continue our new study in the book of galatians on summit life with jd greer ministry today's program was produced and sponsored by jd greer ministries
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