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A Freedom That Could Only Come From God, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
June 3, 2024 9:00 am

A Freedom That Could Only Come From God, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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June 3, 2024 9:00 am

Paul’s transformation from a Jesus-hating Pharisee to a passionate Christ-follower is nothing short of miraculous. But if you’re a follower of Christ, then your story is a miracle, too! And your testimony is powerful proof of the truth of the gospel! That’s our subject as Pastor J.D. continues our study of Galatians called, “Freedom in the In-Between.”

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Today on Summit Life with JD Greer. The gospel gives you lenses to see how in your life God has put talents and abilities and opportunities that he intends to use to make you a vessel of his grace.

Even your failures and your sins you begin to recognize are something that God allowed you to experience so that you could tell other people who are caught in the same failures and sins about the hope that you have found in Jesus. Welcome back to Summit Life with Pastor JD Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. So how many of you out there are fans of those fixer-upper TV shows?

They take the worst house on the block and they turn it into the envy of all the neighbors, right? Well, the truth is our Christian journey in some ways looks like that. After all, Paul's transformation from a Jesus-hating Pharisee to a passionate Christ follower is nothing short of miraculous and beautiful.

And guess what? If you are a follower of Christ, then your story is a miracle, too. Today, Pastor JD explains that your testimony is powerful proof of the truth of the gospel. It's part of our new teaching series called Freedom and the In-Between. Remember, you can catch up on any teaching you may have missed by visiting jdgreer.com. Today, we're finishing up our teaching we began last time that Pastor JD titled, A Freedom That Could Only Come From God.

Let's join him now. Often, our most persuasive evidence for Jesus' existence is the story, the personal story of what he has done in our lives. Well, see, I share that because in the last half of Galatians 1, Paul is going to use his story as his evidence of the truthfulness of his gospel. He says, I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin.

I did not receive it from a human source, and I was not taught it. It came to me by a direct revelation of Jesus Christ. Paul wants to show these Galatians that there is, in fact, only one true gospel, and that is the gospel that he, Paul, is preaching. And so part of his case for that is that only a resurrected Jesus with real resurrection power could have changed Paul's life the way that Paul's life changed. Paul seems to be responding, by the way, to a specific rumor going around Galatia that he had plagiarized bits and pieces of the gospel that he had heard from other apostles. He'd just taken little scraps and reassembled it into a brand new gospel without the apostles' permission, and that Paul's gospel was different than that of the other apostles, and he was twisting it to his own selfish agenda. And Paul says, Galatians 1, he said, first of all, I was never even around the other apostles for about 17 years to be able to plagiarize them.

Here's how he explains that. Verse 15, but when God, who from my mother's womb set me apart and called me by his grace on the road to Damascus, was pleased to reveal his son in me so that I should preach him among the Gentiles, watch, I did not immediately consult with anybody. I didn't go up to Jerusalem to those who'd become apostles before me.

Instead, I went to Arabia, read that, the desert by myself, and then I came back to Damascus. Verse 18, then after three years, I did go up to Jerusalem and got to know Cephas, that's a nickname for Peter, and I stayed with Peter about 15 days, but I didn't see any of the other apostles while I was there, except for James, the Lord's brother, I got to meet him. And then I declared to you on the side of God, I'm not lying in what I write to you. Then after 14 years, plus the three of them makes 17, I went up again to Jerusalem and presented to them the gospel that I preached among the Gentiles.

That was the first time, 17 years, that I really spent any time with the apostles as a group, and it's just impossible for me to plagiarize from them if I wasn't even around them. No, he says, he said, my gospel came straight from Jesus Christ, so it is the real one. And then he's going to offer three lines of evidence to try to prove that his gospel is divine.

Now, two of these pieces of evidence are what we would call objective evidence, and one piece is what we would call a subjective evidence. Here we are, objective evidence piece number one, Paul makes this claim. Only an actual vision of a resurrected Jesus could explain the conversion of Christianity's number one enemy into its number one emissary. He's going to say this in verse 13, he's going to say, you know, you know about my formal way of life in Judaism. You know that I was a Jew of the Jews, you know that I hated Christians, and I now, he says, verse 23, promote the faith that I once tried to destroy. Paul says, how else could you explain a conversion as dramatic as mine except that I actually encountered a resurrected Jesus?

Objective evidence number two is going to be this. He said, my message perfectly aligns with that of the other apostles and the prophets. Paul says it's amazing, it's miraculous even, but when I finally got to confer with the other apostles after 17 years, what I was saying and what they were saying was exactly the same. Here's how he says that, chapter two, verse two, I went up to Jerusalem, presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentile.

Watch it, this is amazing. I wanted to be sure that I was not running and had not been running in vain. Even after seeing the resurrected Jesus, Paul said, if what I've been saying had contradicted what the apostles were saying, then I would have known, even after seeing the resurrected Jesus, I would have known that I got something wrong. In fact, listen to what Peter says about Paul at the end of his second letter, I love this. Our dear brother Paul also speaks about these things in all his letters, in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. Amen?

The untaught and the unstable twist them to their own destruction as they also, too. The rest of the scriptures, two things you've got to see there. One, you're discouraged because you find the book of Romans and Galatians sometimes hard to understand. Be encouraged, Peter did too. Second thing, most important thing you should see is that Peter considered Paul's letters to be scripture. Peter recognized that the letters that Paul was writing were not just the letters of a Christian zealot, they were the word of God itself.

There is one unified witness that came out of the apostolic community, and it was a gospel that was exactly the same, preached by all the apostles and Paul. So again, objective evidence number one is that Paul gives only a resurrected Jesus, could explain the conversion of Christianity's number one enemy into its number one emissary. Objective evidence number two, Paul says my message aligns perfectly with that of the other apostles. Now we come to the subjective evidence, and the subjective evidence is Jesus changed my life.

Jesus changed my life. Paul is going to explain three ways that he experienced Jesus in his personal life. Listen, you probably have not experienced or probably haven't seen a visible manifestation of the resurrected Jesus like Paul did. But if you actually met Jesus, these three things, these next three things that Paul says about how Jesus changed his life will also be true of how he changed yours.

So this part of his story will be similar to how you can tell your story. First thing he says is, number one, I can see how God pursued me. Verse 15, when Paul starts talking about his conversion, he talks, listen, as if God were the one who was doing the acting and Paul was the one who was being acted upon. You see this verse 15? But when God, who from my mother's womb set me apart, called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me, who's the one that's doing the actions in that verse? God is doing the acting, Paul is doing the one who is being acted upon. Somebody who has had a genuine experience with Jesus usually feels like it was less about a decision that they made for Jesus and more like something that happened to them.

Less something that they took up and more something that took them up. Every person I know who has had a serious walk with Jesus for any length of time, you can look back and recognize that God was the one who was at work in your salvation. You start to see how God was putting people in your life, putting questions in your heart, putting you in random conversations, sometimes even putting you in painful situations as an attempt to draw you to Himself and you can see how God Himself was the one that drew you into the truth of the Gospel.

C.S. Lewis allegorizes his conversion through the story of one of the characters in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which is one of the Chronicles of Narnia. The character's name is Eustace and Eustace is a young boy who has developed an evil heart and that is symbolized in him by him taking on the hard and scaly skin of a dragon all over his body. About halfway through the book, he comes to his senses and he wants to get rid of his dragon skin and wants to become a boy again, so he goes to Aslan, who is the lion who represents Jesus, and says, Aslan, can you change me back into a boy? Aslan says yes and he takes him to this fountain of pure water so that he can bathe in this pure water.

Aslan says, this water will change you back into a boy, but first you've got to scrape off that dragon skin before you get in the water. Eustace takes his claws and begins to scrape off the skin and it works. He's able to get down below the scales and get back to the skin of a boy and he just scrapes it off so there's a big pile of dead dragon skin beside him and then he goes to step in the fountain of pure water and when he does, he notices that his skin has all changed back into dragon skin. So he does it again. He rips the skin off again.

He says it's uncomfortable and painful, but I got it off and I tried it a second time. Again, before I could get my foot in the water, it had changed back to dragon skin. He said, I did it a third time and then a fourth time. He said, every time before I could get in the water, it changes back to dragon skin and finally he looks at Aslan and says, Aslan, I can't do it. I can't change my skin and Aslan said, I know you can't.

I just wanted you to see that. He said, but I can do it. And so he said, come here. Lewis says he reaches out his lion's paw to peel away Eustace's scales. And here's what he says, the very first tear that he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I had ever felt in my life.

But when it was done, it was done and the skin stayed off. Lewis is describing his own conversion. Lewis said, God put things into my life to tear me down, to try to demonstrate my need for God.

He put me flat on my back so I finally be looking the right direction. That's what God does with you and you start to see that. There's a guy who's part of one of our prison campuses every weekend. We have two campuses in the prison who join us. It's just an incredible story that I heard. This guy is, let's call him a white collar criminal who's been in prison now for 14 years. All signs point to him being innocent, that he was set up by others in power in the pretty prestigious company he worked in. He had a high paying job. He was set up by others in that company to take the fall for some shady dealings the company was doing. And so they framed him so that he would get the route for it and they would be able to go three. And when he was convicted, he lost everything.

I mean, the story when you hear it is absolutely heartbreaking. And he says, listen, he says, but still, even though I am innocent, I thank God for this wrongful prison sentence because before this happened, I thought I was God. So God let this happen to me to show me I wasn't God. And in here, in prison, I found the real God. And I wouldn't trade now what I found in God for all the freedom and all the riches and all the world. Can you look back into your life and see how God was writing your story?

How he was drawing you, getting your attention, moving you to look to him. Part of that, by the way, is recognizing how God has shaped you to be a part of his mission. Did you see where Paul tucked that in when God was pleased to reveal his son and me so that I could preach among the Gentiles? Paul recognized that he'd been given opportunities and experiences and talents that God intended to use in his mission. You could almost say that Paul saw that God revealed Christ to Paul so that he could reveal Christ through Paul.

The same thing is true of you. When you have experienced the gospel, the gospel gives you lenses to see how in your life God has put talents and abilities and opportunities that he intends to use to make you a vessel of his grace. Even your failures and your sins, you begin to recognize are something that God allowed you to experience so that you could tell other people who are caught in those same failures and sins about the hope that you have found in Jesus. Thanks for joining us today on Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. If you don't know much about us, be sure to visit jdgreer.com for more information. We're currently in a teaching series here on the program called Freedom and the In-Between, looking at the book of Galatians.

We'll get back to it in a minute, but first I wanted to make sure that you knew about this month's featured resource that we just began offering. It's Pastor Tim Keller's devotional study through the book of Galatians called Gospel Matters. In the seven studies, Pastor Keller shows how the apostle Paul presents the wonderful, liberating, true gospel. He'll show us how our problems in the Christian life stem from forgetting or failing to live by that gospel. And he'll ask very plainly, which gospel are you relying on? Pastor Tim's clarity and insight will help anyone exploring this wonderful epistle, so get your copy of Gospel Matters today with your gift of $35 or more to this ministry. To join with us in our mission, call us now at 866-335-5220 or visit jdgreer.com today. Now let's jump back into our study with Pastor J.D.

Greer here on Summit Life. Second thing he says is God became even more real to me when I was alone. God became even more real to me when I was alone. After Paul met Jesus, he said, I didn't spend time with anybody.

I went off into the desert by myself. But during that time, during that time, Jesus worked in my life and he was so real to me. Now listen to me. I would never counsel anyone, particularly not a new believer, to separate yourself from other believers.

But one thing is true. If you have genuinely met Jesus, when you are alone, your relationship with Jesus is just as real, if not more so, as when you're with others. In fact, I would say that sometimes being surrounded by excited Christians all the time can keep you from realizing that you've never really had your own experience with him. That all you're doing is you're caught up in the excitement of other people's excitement.

But see, listen, you cannot piggyback off of somebody else's experience with God. The story of a grandfather and a grandson sitting on a porch out in the country. Ten dogs under the porch. And all of a sudden, one of the dogs, they're all taking a nap. One of the dogs kind of perks up, lets out a single yap, a bark, and tears off across the field. When that happens, all the other dogs snap up out of their slumber. They all start barking and yapping and chase off after that one dog. The grandfather looks at the grandson and says, let me tell you what is about to happen. He says, in just a minute, one by one, those last nine dogs are going to come back one by one with their tongue out and their tail between their legs, and they're going to get back under the porch and they're going to go back to sleep.

In about ten minutes, they'll all be back. He said, in about thirty minutes, the first dog will come back and he'll have a rabbit in his mouth. He says, you want to know why he's going to have the rabbit? You want to know why he's going to endure for thirty minutes and not ten?

It's not because he's more athletic or better, it's just that he's the only one that actually saw the rabbit. Now, here's how I would describe our church. It's great to be a part of a church like this when there's a lot of people excited about Jesus.

But there are some of y'all that are just barking and yapping because somebody else is barking and yapping. You see, there's a real danger when you're a part of a church like this one that you get swept up in a movement but you have no real experience with Jesus on your own. And see, that's proven by the fact that you don't actually meet with Him in private. It means you don't actually read His Word a lot and cling to His promises. You don't gain insight into decisions you're making from His will through His Spirit.

You don't have times where you regularly lay down the burdens of your heart at His feet and begin to trust Him with them. When you've really had an experience with Jesus, He is as real to you if not more so when you're alone, as you are when you are with others. Beware of Christianity overshadowing you but not penetrating you. And that is a real danger in a church like this one. Third thing Paul says, Jesus took away my hate and my fear.

That's what my experience was. He took away my hate and my fear. You see that in verse 23, and I now preach the faith once destroyed. Throughout this book, Paul's going to explain how the pride and the fear and the hate that used to characterize his life and drive him are gone. You see that always happens to a believer.

When you don't know God, you're filled with all kinds of insecurities and fears. Let me just use Paul as an example, because your story's not the same as his, but it'll have similarities. Before Paul came to know Christ, Paul had been in constant competition with others, driven by the pride to show that he was superior to them.

You can see that in what he says. I advanced in Judaism beyond all my contemporaries. I was a Jew of the Jews. His desire to prove himself made him constantly jealous of others, because see, pride always comes out of insecurity. You're trying to show everybody that you're something, and that jealousy made him hate other people, and that hate ultimately led him to murderous violence.

It's like C.S. Lewis said, pride's like spiritual cancer. It eats up the very possibility of love, because pride, listen, is inherently competitive. Pride, when I'm proud, it doesn't matter that I'm smart. It only matters that I'm smarter than you. It doesn't matter if I'm a good Christian.

It only matters that I'm a better Christian than you are. That's why, Lewis said, proud people can never get along. People with other vices, they can get along. Drunks like to get drunk together.

Immoral people like to get together and swap stories about immorality. But proud people, he says, they always hate each other. In fact, the quickest way to know that you have pride is that somebody else's pride ticks you off. He's like, how often do you get mad when somebody disrespects you or snubs you or doesn't care about your opinion or doesn't treat you with the respect you deserve? It doesn't take any notice to you or shows off in front of you. He said the reason you're mad is because they're trying to demonstrate they're something and they're somethingness is getting in the way of your somethingness. And the reason they're somethingness ticks you off or they're boasting about it is because you want other people to think you're something and that's why you hate it when they show that they're something.

Pride comes out of the insecurity because you feel like you have to demonstrate that you're something so you'll be considered worthy of love and acceptance. That was Paul's life. By contrast, he said the gospel, the real gospel gave me security because the real gospel showed me that I was not saved by how good I was. I was saved because of what Jesus did in my place. The real gospel taught me that God doesn't love me anymore because of what I've done.

He doesn't love me any less because of what I haven't done. His love is a gift He gave me in Christ and that in Christ I had the absolute approval of the only one whose opinion really mattered anyway and that gave me security and that security led me to humility. Rather than make me proud, it made me humble because I didn't do anything to set myself apart and when I was secure and when I was humble then I began to feel love toward others and I became generous. I was saved as a desperately lost sinner by a sheer act of kindness on God's part.

How could I ever show pride and hostility to others? It's like we say here at the Summit Church, people who really believe the gospel become like the gospel. They become generous instinctively.

How could they not become generous? God saved them by an act of generosity. Paul said that's the evidence that I met the true God.

My hate and my fear are gone. And when people encounter my story, all they can do is shake their head and glorify God because of me. Their attention is directed to the greatness of the God who saved me, not an impeccable life that earns salvation. By the way, for Paul, that's like his trump card, that his message is from God, it's a mark of the true gospel, is that his story and his gospel glorifies God, not man. All other religions you see glorify man, all of them.

You say, how so? Well, every other religion teaches you that you save yourself by how good you are. When you keep the eightfold path of Buddha or the five pillars of Islam, or you do the sacraments enough, or you're good enough to get good karma or whatever, then you'll be saved. You're the savior. You get the glory. The gospel turns that on its head and says, no, God saved you when you were unworthy solely because of his grace, and therefore he alone deserves all the glory. And in fact, rather than raising up and crushing those who sinned against him, and rewarding the victorious righteous, God lowered himself for his enemies and died for them. And that is a special, unique kind of glory that is particular to Christianity and demonstrates that the gospel is different than every other religion of the world that consistently glorifies man. Christianity is the only religion that celebrates a God who humbled himself. Therefore, when you hear the often repeated claim that is made by people like I just heard the other day by that great prophetess of our time, Queen Latifah, when she said, and I quote, the gods of the religions have different names, but when you peel back the layers, all the religions are teaching the same thing.

Just love others and be kind. When she says that, know that she cannot possibly be talking about Christianity because Christianity teaches a reverse message, and that is you're not saved by your goodness. You're saved by God's grace, and God alone gets the glory, which is why C.S. Lewis said, of course Christianity is from God, for who else would have thought it up? So see, there it is.

There it is. They're your objective and subjective evidences for the truth of the gospel. The gospel is objectively verifiable. Have you believed it?

Not a gospel you're making up, but the gospel the apostles believed and died for. And it's this. Let me make sure you understand it. You couldn't do anything to save yourself. You were doomed because of your sin.

You. The verdict on your life was death. Death and hell forever. And God in His mercy and compassion loved you and did for you what you couldn't do for yourself, by sending His Son to die in your place so that if you would repent of your sin and receive Jesus as Savior, He would give you heaven and salvation and His righteousness as a gift, and there's only one way to come to God as a broken, humble, desperate, dead sinner, black-hearted, wretched, and say, God, I need to be saved.

You alone will get the glory of my salvation because I got nothing to offer. That's the gospel. It's objectively verifiable. Have you believed it?

Number two, it's subjectively evidenced. Have you experienced it? Can you point to those things in your life and say, I see the evidence of God working in me? I can see how God is getting the glory from my salvation. I can see how all these things that are true of Paul took away my hate and my fear and He's real to me in my private life.

Have you experienced it? If you've never experienced that, never been transformed by the power of the gospel, we would love to help you learn more about what it means to be a follower of Christ. Send us a note while you're on jdgrier.com or give us a call at 866-335-5220. You're listening to Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of pastor, author, and apologist J.D.

Greer. Our message today is part of our teaching series in the book of Galatians called Freedom in the In-Between. And right now we have a brand new resource to share with you that pairs perfectly with this teaching series. It's called Gospel Matters, and it's a seven-part Bible study through the book of Galatians written by the late Tim Keller. Pastor Tim shares key insights from passages of Galatians with application questions to help us understand this rich scripture on a deeper level.

These Bible studies are ideal for use in small groups, but can also be used for individual study. We'd love to send it to you with your gift of $35 or more to this ministry. Your support is what makes Summit Life possible, and these gospel-centered resources are the least we can do to say thank you. To give, call us now at 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220. Or visit us online at jdgreer.com.

That's J-D-G-R-E-E-A-R dot com. I'm Molly Vidovitch. Be sure to listen Tuesday when Pastor J.D.

explains how the gospel sets us free from superficial differences and unites us in Christ. We'll see you Tuesday here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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