Tuesday, January 17, 2017, 10:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Sheep.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Galatians 5:1-15 (NASB).
Keep Standing Firm (v. 1)
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
What were we, as believers in Jesus Christ, set free from? Well, first of all Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, so we were set free from slavery to sin. We were also delivered from the punishment of sin, which is spiritual death and eternity in the fires of hell. As well, we were delivered from reliance on self, which includes man-made religion and trying to earn our way to heaven by good works. When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin so that we might live with Christ to his righteousness. The old has gone. The new has come. Jesus doesn’t just clean up our old lives a little. He transforms us away from living for self and sin to walking in his holiness.
So, that brings me to this question: What were we set free to? A lot of people focus solely on what we were saved from, and based on that, they promise us eternal life with God when we die, but is that all there is to it? NO! Jesus didn’t die just so we could be forgiven of our sin, escape hell, and go to heaven when we die. We were set free to be slaves (servants) of Christ’s righteousness. We were saved to obedience to Christ and to walking in his ways and in his truth. We were set free to live godly and holy lives, pleasing to God, no longer conformed to the ways of this sinful world. We were set free to come under the control and rule of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and to be who God planned we should be even before the creation of the world. As well, we were set free to live in God and him in us and to live in love. And, we were set free to rest (trust) in Jesus and not in ourselves.
So, this is to encourage us strongly that we must not return to who we were before we put our hope and faith in Jesus Christ. We must not go back to living for sin and self. We must not return to self-reliance or to man-made religion. We must not go back to living by human standards and values, in order to be accepted and approved by humans, either. We died to sin! How can we live in it any longer? Know this, that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin), we are liars, and we don’t have the promise of eternal life (1 Jn. 1:6; Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14).
Fallen from Grace (vv. 2-6)
Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
What did circumcision represent to the people who lived under the law? It was the outward physical sign of the old covenant between God and Abraham and his physical descendants. Yet, when Jesus came, and he died for our sins, and he was resurrected from the dead, then we were brought under a new covenant with God, by faith in Jesus Christ. So, circumcision is no longer required. Now we are sealed with the Holy Spirit who is our deposit guaranteeing the inheritance of those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives. And, the outward signs that we are in covenant relationship with God are spiritual in nature, not physical.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn. 13:35). Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples” (Jn. 8:31). “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (Jn. 15:8). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires,” (Gal. 5:22-24) etc.
So, if we are trying to earn favor with God through following a set of man-made rules and regulations, or through religious ritual and tradition, it will gain us nothing. Christ will be of no benefit to us. And, I am not making these remarks to legalists, only. Today’s modern institutional church is largely based on man-made religion. Even the pastors are being trained in human-based methods for how to grow their “churches,” i.e. their businesses. “Worship” services are often nothing more than Christianized entertainment for the world, and for the worldly professor of faith in Christ. And, “Bible” studies are frequently studies of books written by modern authors who are also following human-based teaching, values and philosophies. And, thus, the gospel is diluted to appeal to the flesh of humans so as not to be an offense.
So, if this is the religion you are following, Christ and his cross is of no benefit to you, either, for your faith is based in human teachings, philosophies and values, instead of in the truth of God’s word.
What is important to God is faith working through love, but not love as humans define it, but as God defines it, which has God as its center, and which values what God values, and prefers what God prefers. God is the moral center of this kind of love which gives of itself freely to meet the legitimate needs (not wants) of others, i.e. it considers what is in their best interest, i.e. what is God’s good for them, and it does not cater to the flesh or to the will of man (humans). Jesus is our prime example of how to love others with this kind of love, which includes speaking the truth in love. So much of what is called love in the worldly church is not God-like love, but is self-love (selfish) and considers self above all others. But God-like love is patient, kind, not proud, not self-seeking, does not keep an accounting of tit-for-tat, and does not act improperly or indecently, etc. (1 Co. 13:4-7).
Who Hindered You? (vv. 7-12)
You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is. But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.
So, the question is, “Who is hindering you from obeying the truth?” In other words, who is leading you to follow man-made religion, whether via legalism or libertinism? It could be your pastor, or your church denomination, or it could be a close friend or relative, or a fellow professing Christian. It could also be a TV preacher or evangelist, or a particular website or a blog on the net that you follow. Or, it could be your government, i.e. your political leaders, especially if they claim to be Christians, and if they are preaching ecumenicalism, i.e. “promoting or tending toward worldwide Christian unity or cooperation” (M-W); mixed; interreligious.
Yet, this is not speaking of unity of mind or spirit with Christ, but with man. And, it is working its way toward unity of all people regardless of religion or chosen lifestyle. What multiple world leaders are pushing, whether religious or political in nature, is solidarity of all people, the breaking down of all which divides us as the people of the world, and compromise of faith in order to be one with the people of the world. They want the world to hold hands with each other and sing “Kumbaya.” And, Trump is one of them, too.
The cross of Christ is abolished whenever man takes over in place of the Spirit of God and humans decide what we should think, believe and how we should act. So, if you don’t know if you are actually following Christ or human-based religion, then I would encourage you to examine whatever you are being taught in prayer, by the Spirit, and in the Word of God, reading scriptures in context, and comparing scripture with scripture. A lot of what is being taught in today’s church here in America is man-made, and is false, and is misleading, and is leading many people to hell, not to heaven.
Called to Freedom (vv. 13-15)
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
So, in conclusion, we were called to freedom – freedom from sin and self, freedom from human-based religion, and freedom from reliance on self and on human reasoning and logic. We were set free from slavery to sin, so that we could now become servants of Christ’s righteousness, and walk in the Spirit, and no longer according to our flesh. And, we were set free to now put our trust in God and to walk in his ways and in his truth, instead of relying on ourselves or on the teachings of mere humans. God’s grace is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. His grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14). Love does no harm to its neighbor, so walk in love.
My Sheep / An Original Work / June 24, 2012
Based off John 10:1-18 NIV
My sheep hear me. They know me.
They listen to my voice and obey.
I call them and lead them.
They know my voice, so they follow me.
They will never follow strangers.
They will run away from them.
The voice of a stranger they know not;
They do not follow him.
So, I tell you the truth that
I am the gate, so you enter in.
Whoever does enter
Will find forgiveness and will be saved.
Nonetheless whoever enters
Not by the gate; other way,
He is the thief and a robber.
Listen not, the sheep to him.
Oh, I am the Good Shepherd,
Who laid his own life down for the sheep.
I know them. They know me.
They will live with me eternally.
The thief only comes to steal and
Kill and to destroy the church.
I have come to give you life that
You may have it to the full…
They know my voice, so they follow me.