COMMITTED to train men and women
to have minds for the Lord Jesus,
hearts for the truth, and
hands that are skilled to the task.

Sermons by Pastor Ernest Amstalden (Page 2)

CHRISTIAN COUNTER-CULTURE

This account shows everyone is living the same life on Instagram by Cara Curtis —
“When scrolling through your Instagram feed, do you ever feel like you’re getting déjà vu? This is probably because people seem to be living the same life on Instagram.
Whether it’s a perfectly shot piece of avocado toast alongside an artistic looking latte or a breathtaking image of someone jumping from a waterfall, it’s been done before. A million times.
Long before over-sharing online was a normal thing to do, humans have always been attracted to tourist destinations to capture the perfect photograph.
I think we’re all guilty of it to some extent, but now, instead of taking home a gift shop souvenir and relaying your trip to your close friends, people post every detail of their lives online to hundreds of followers who they may not necessarily even know.
Because of this urge to document our lives in real time, originality is becoming a thing of the past and a new-age of copycatting is creeping up on us.”

Before we go to our text, let me read from a chapter titled “the Instagram Life”
“Every society has a way of transmitting its values to the young. Some societies do it through religious festivals or military parades. One of the ways we do it is through a secular sermon called the commencement address……Many young people are graduating into limbo. Floating and plagued by uncertainty, they want to know what specifically they should do with their lives. So, we hand them
• THE GREAT EMPTY BOX OF FREEDOM.
The purpose of life is to be free. Freedom leads to happiness! We’re not going to impose anything on you or tell you what to do. We give you your liberated self to explore. Enjoy your freedom!
The students in the audience put down the empty box because they are drowning in freedom. What they’re looking for is DIRECTION. What is freedom for? How do I know which path is my path?
So we hand them another big box of nothing –
• THE BIG BOX OF POSSIBILITY!
Your future is limitless! You can do anything you set your mind to! The journey is the destination! Take risks! Be audacious! Dream big! But this mantra doesn’t help, either. If you don’t know what your life is for, how does it help to be told that your future is limitless? That just ups the pressure. So they put down that empty box. They are looking for a SOURCE OF WISDOM. Where can I find the answers to my big questions.
So, we hand them
• THE EMPTY BOX OF AUTHENTICITY.
Look inside yourself! Find your true inner passion. You are amazing! Awaken the giant within! Live according to your own true way! You do you!
This is useless too. The “you” we tell them to consult for life’s answers is the very thing that hasn’t yet formed. So they put down that empty box and ask, “What can I devote myself to? What cause will inspire me and give meaning and direction to my life?”
At this point we hand them
• THE EMPTIEST BOX OF ALL – THE BOX OF AUTONOMY.
You are on your own, we tell them. It’s up to you to define your own values, No one else can tell you what’s right or wrong for you. Your truth is to be found in your own way through your own story that you tell about yourself. Do what you love!
You will notice that our answers take all the difficulties of living in your twenties and make them worse. The graduates are in limbo, and we give them uncertainty. They want to know why they should do this as opposed to that. And we have nothing to say except. Figure it out yourself based on no criteria outside yourself. They are floundering in a formless desert. Not only over their heads.

David Brooks “The Second Mountain – The quest for a Moral Life”
The author summarizes the big SIM TO NOWHERE with these words:
“The average American has seven jobs over the course of their twenties. A third of recent college graduates are unemployed, underemployed, or making less then $ 30,000 a year at any given moment. Half feel they have no plan for their life.
These are peak years for alcoholism and drug addiction. People in this life stage move every three years. 40% move back in with their parents at least once. They are much less likely to attend religious services or join a political party. People in their odyssey years tend to be dementedly optimistic about the long-term future. 96% of 18-24-olds agree with the statement “I AM VERY SURE THAT SOMEDAY I WILL GET TO WHERE I WANT TO BE IN LIFE.”
But the present is marked by wandering, loneliness, detachment, doubt, underemployment, heartbreaks, and bad bosses, while their parents go slowly insane.”

You still don’t believe it; let me give you one more example written by the same author:
“When enough people are going through this phase at once, you end up with a society in which everything is flux. You end up with what the Polish philosopher Zygmunt Bauman calls “liquid modernity.” In the age of the smartphone, the friction costs involved in making or braking any transaction or relationship approach zero. The Internet is commanding you to click on and sample one thing after another. Living online often means living in a state of diversion. When you’re living in diversion you’re not actually deeply interested in things; you’re just bored at a more frenetic pace. Online life is saturated with decommitment devices. If you can’t focus your attention for thirty seconds, how on earth are you going to commit for life?
Such is life in the dizziness of freedom. Nobody quite knows where they stand with one another. Everybody is pretty sure that other people are doing life better. Comparison is the robber of joy.”
“You know that at some point you should sit down and find some overall direction for life. But the mind wants to wander from the meaty big questions, which are completely daunting and unanswerable, to the diverting candy right on your phone – the tiny dopamine lift.”
All of this points in one direction; INTO THE DITCH. Political freedom is great. But personal, social, and emotional freedom – when it becomes an ultimate end – absolutely sucks. It leads to a random, busy life with no discernible direction, no firm foundation, and in which, as Marx put it, all that’s solid melts to air. It turns out that freedom isn’t an ocean you want to spend your life in. Freedom is a river you want to get across so you can plant yourself on the other side – and fully commit to something.”

Dallas Willard in his book “Divine Conspiracy” writes:
“Perhaps many people will find that they are already humble. Just be humble, they say. But such a way of reading the beatitudes also gives various other kinds of people automatic access to the kingdom of heaven in terms nicely suited to them – especially if they have a distant God and not a present King. If they are not in a position to be humble, they perhaps can mange to mourn, or be meek, or become persecuted, and then one of the other Beatitudes will, on the interpretation in question, take over to secure their blessedness.

THINGS ARE ABOUT TO CHANGE

Dallas Willard in “The Divine Conspiracy”
Bar-Code Faith
Think of the bar codes now used on goods in most stores. The scanner responds only to the bar code. It makes no difference what is in the bottle or package that bears it, or whether the sticker is on the ‘right’ one or not. The calculator responds through its electronic eye to the bar code and totally disregards everything else. If the ice cream sticker is on the dog food, the dog food is ice cream, so far as the scanner knows or cares.
On a recent radio program a prominent minister spent fifteen minutes enforcing the point that ‘justification’, the forgiveness of sins, involves no change at all in the heart of personality of the one forgiven. It is, he insisted, something entirely external to you, located wholly in God himself.
His intent was to emphasize the familiar Protestant point that salvation is by God’s grace only and is totally independent of what we may do. But what he in fact said was that being a Christian has nothing to do with the kind of person you are. The implications of this teaching are stunning.
The theology of Christian trinkets says there is something about the Christian that works like the bar code. Some rituals, some belief, or some association with a group affects God the way the bar code affects the scanner. Perhaps there has occurred a moment of mental assent to a creed, or an association entered into with a church. God ‘scans’ it, and forgiveness floods forth. An appropriate amount of righteousness is shifted from Christ’s account to our account in the bank of heaven, and all our debts are paid. We are, accordingly, ‘saved’. Our guilt is erased. How could we not be Christians?
For some Christian groups the ‘account’ has to be appropriately serviced to keep the debts paid up, because we really are not perfect. For others – some strong Calvinist groups – every debt past, present and future is paid for at the initial scan. But the essential thing in either case is the forgiveness of sins. And the pay-off for having faith and being ‘scanned’ comes at death and after. Life now being lived has no necessary connection with being a Christian as long as the ‘bar code’ does its job.

R.T. France in his commentary gives us the answer:
“These large “crowds” are said to “follow” Jesus, the same term which in verses 20 and 22 denoted the first disciples’ total change of lifestyle….
A radical commitment to accompany Jesus.
Yet as the narrative progresses, we shall find only a few who are Jesus’ constant and committed companions, while a less easily defined “crowd” comes and goes. This wider group represents a pool of possible “full-time” recruits, but generally their “following” seems to be more sporadic and temporary.
The verb “follow” alone is not therefore a sufficient indication of full-scale discipleship. Mark 3:7-8 is perhaps more exact in describing this interprovincial crowd as simply “coming to” Jesus.”

Michael Heiser in “Supernatural” writes:
“The members of God’s family have a mission: to be God’s agents in restoring his good rule on earth and expanding the membership of his family. We are God’s means to propel the great reversal begun in Acts 2, the birth of the church, the body of Christ, until the time when the Lord returns.
As evil had spread like a contagion through humanity after the failure of the first Eden, so the gospel spreads like an antidote through the same infected host. We are CARRIERS of the truth about the God of gods, his love for all nations, and his unchanging desire to dwell with his family in the earthly home he has wanted since its creation. Eden will live again.
Everything we do and say matters, though we may never know why or how. But our job isn’t to see – it’s to do. Walking by faith isn’t passive – its purposeful.”

THE NAZARETH MANIFESTO

Christopher Wright in his book “The Mission of God”, writes:
“The reign of YHWH, when it would finally come, would mean justice for the oppressed and the overthrow of the wicked. It would bring true peace to the nations and the abolition of war, the means of war, and training for war. It would put an end to poverty, want and need, and provide everyone with economic viability (under the metaphor “under his own vine and fig tree”). It would mean satisfying and fulfilling life for human families, safety for children, and fulfillment for the elderly, without danger from enemies, and all of this within a renewed creation free from harm and threat. It would mean the inversion of the moral values that dominate the current world order, for in the kingdom of God the upside down priorities of the beatitudes operate and the Magnificat is not just wishful thinking.”

J.D. Green in his book “Christology in Cultural Perspective”
“As Jesus stood on trial before the highest political-religious authority in all Jewish society, he calmly took to himself the identity of the “Daniel’s Son of Man”, whose authority would ultimately overthrow the beast of oppressive and persecuting powers (Daniel 7).
No wonder the chief priest tore his robes and cried blasphemy. It just won’t do when the chief priest is cast in the role of chief beast. Jesus’ radical claims and teachings were not just bursting old wineskins; they were enough to burst some political blood vessels.”
Matthew 4:17
From that day Jesus began TO PREACH, saying: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

John McArthur in his commentary on this verse writes:
“Jesus preached His message with certainty. He did not come to dispute or to argue, but to proclaim, TO PREACH. Preaching is the proclamation of certainties, not the suggestion of possibilities.”
“Repent involves a change of opinion, or direction, of life itself. To repent is to have a radical change of heart and will – and, consequently, of behavior.”

Christopher Wright writes:
“A change of political or economic or geographical landscape, a change of government, a change of social status may all be beneficial in themselves, but they will be of no eternal benefit unless the spiritual goals of exodus are also met. So to change people’s social or economic status without leading them to saving faith and obedience to God in Christ leads no further than the wilderness or the exile, both places of death.”

DO YOU BELIEVE?

Carmen Joy Imes in her book “Bearing God’s Name” writes:
“Matthew’s gospel breaks neatly into five blocks of teaching, mimicking the five books of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy).
These five blocks of teaching are preceded by an introductory story in which Jesus’ life is in danger because King Herod, like Pharaoh, is killing Jewish babies. To escape, his parents take him to Egypt. It’s an inside-out Exodus story. When the coast is clear, they return to Palestine, retracting Israel’s journey from Egypt to the promised land. Next, we fast forward to Jesus’ adulthood, where he passes through the waters of baptism in the Jordan, reminding us of Israel’s crossing both the Red Sea and the Jordan.
After this, Jesus is sent by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days, where he reenacts Israel’s wilderness wanderings.”

Baptism does not produce salvation in this text, Rather, it corresponds to something that does, THE DEATH OF JESUS (v 19) and the RESURRECTION (v 21)
“Baptism saves” if one makes a decision; a pledge of loyalty oath,
a public proclamation of who is on the Lord’s side in the cosmic war between good and evil.
Every Baptism is therefore a reiteration of the past and future doom of the Watchers in the wake of the gospel and the kingdom of God.
Early Christians understood the typology of this passage and its link back to 1 Enoch and Genesis 6:1-4.
This is why early baptismal formulas included a renunciation of Satan and his angels. Baptism was anything but routine. It was a symbol of spiritual warfare.” Dr. Michael Heiser “Reversing Hermon”

Who is Azazel?
We find the Biblical text in Leviticus 16:7-10
“And Aaron shall take the two goats, and he shall present them before Yahweh at the tent of assembly’s entrance. Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for Yahweh and one for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot for Yahweh fell, and he shall sacrifice it as a sin offering. But the must present alive before Yahweh the goat on which the lot for Azazel fell to make atonement for himself, to send it away into the desert to Azazel.”

R.T. France
“His Father is testing him in the school of privation, and his triumphant rebuttal of the devil’s suggestions will ensure that the filial bond can survive in spite of the conflict that lies ahead.”

Dr. Michael Heiser in the “Unseen Realm” makes this comment about that temptation:
“Had Jesus given in, it would have been an acknowledgment that Satan’s permission was needed to possess the nations. It wasn’t. Satan presumed power and ownership of something that, ultimately, was not his but God’s. The messaging behind Jesus’ answer is clear: Yahweh will take the nations back by his own means in his own time. He doesn’t need them to be given away in a bargain. Jesus was loyal to his Father.”

A NEW BEGINNING

Christopher Wright in his book “The mission of God” asks the question:
“How big is our Gospel? If our gospel is the good news about God’s redemption, then the question moves on to, “How big is our UNDERSTANDING OF REDEMPTION?
Where do we turn in the Bible for our understanding of redemption?
If you would have asked a devout Israelite in the Old Testament period “Are you redeemed?” the answer would have been a most definite yes. And if you had asked “How do you know?” you would be taken aside to sit down somewhere while your friend recounted a long and exciting story – THE STORY OF EXODUS.”
Christopher Wright is referring to Exodus 6:6: Say therefore to the people of Israel, “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will REDEEM you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.

Repent is not a feeling, repent is an ACTION.
Repentance speaks of a CHANGE OF DIRECTION,
NOT A SORROW OF HEART.

Michael Heiser in “Unseen Realm» comments on this chapter:
“In Isaiah 40:1 we learn that God is the speaker. He issues four commands. All four commands are grammatically plural in Hebrew. That means that Yahweh is commanding A GROUP. The group cannot be Israelites or a collective Israel, since it is Israel that Yahweh is commanding the group to comfort, speak to, and call. You should know the identity of the group by now: THE DIVINE COUNCIL.”

“In response to the commands in Isaiah 40:1-2, a lone response comes:
A VOICE IS CALLING IN THE WILDERNESS, “CLEAR THE WAY OF YAHWEH! MAKE A HIGHWAY SMOOTH IN THE DESERT FOR OUR GOD!” (Isaiah 40:3)

Michael Heiser comments on this scene:
“Like the prophet of old, John the Baptist has “stood in the council and answered the call. To a Jew familiar with the Old Testament, the pattern would not be lost. As had been the case at the time of Isaiah, Yahweh’s council had met in regard to the fate of an apostate Israel. Isaiah had been sent to a spiritually blind and deaf nation. The calling of John the Baptist tells the reader that Yahweh’s Divine Council is in session again, only this time the aim is TO LAUNCH THE KINGDOM OF GOD WITH THE SECOND YAHWEH, NOW INCARNATE, AS ITS POINT MAN.”

FEARLESS LIVING

“It is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and what not. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.
It’s because he is smart.”
The reported asked: “So what’s he doing now?”
Scalia replied: “What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.” Antonin Scalia

In May 2016 the GUARDIAN, a highly respected British daily news, published this report:
“We live with an epidemic of anxiety. In 1980, 4 percent of Americans suffered a mental disorder associated with anxiety. Today half do. The trends in Britain are similar. A third of Britons will experience anxiety disorder at some stage in their life, with an explosion of reported anxiety among teenagers and young adults. Anxiety, depression, self-harm, attention deficit disorder and profound eating problems afflict our young as never before.
Anxiety has always been part of the human condition – as has depression and tendencies to self-harm – but never, it seems, on this scale. A number of trends appear to be colliding. This is an era when everyone is expected to find their personal route to happiness at the same time as the bonds of society, faith and community – tried and tested mechanisms to support wellbeing – are fraying. Teenagers in particular – fearful of missing out – are beset by a myriad of agonizing choices about how to achieve the good life with fewer social and psychological anchors to help them navigate their way. Who can blame them if they respond with an ever rising sense of anxiety, if not panic?”

THE HOPE FOR THE NATIONS

Carmen Joy Imes “Bearing God’s Name”
“The Israelites lived in a time when people were desperate to know what the gods were saying. Since the god’s didn’t normally SPEAK audibly as you and I do, priests were trained to read the signs they left in the natural world. Sometimes they manufactured situations in which the gods could reveal things to them, such as the elaborate rituals in which they dropped oil or flour into water and interpreted the results. They sacrificed animals and studied their livers or intestines for clues what the gods were thinking or what they would do next.
They watched for strange births of newborn animals with defects. THEY STUDIED THE STARS. They contacted the dead, doing whatever it took to forecast the future or discern the will of the gods. An answer was not guaranteed. Sometimes they simply could not figure out what the gods wanted.”

Barclay’s in his commentary on Matthew writes:
The Magi were originally a Median tribe. The Medes were part of the Empire of the Persians; they tried to overthrow the Persians and to substitute the power of the Medes. The attempt failed. From that time the Magi ceased to have any ambitions for power or prestige and became a tribe of priests. They became in Persia almost exactly what the Levites were in Israel. They became the teachers and instructors of the Persian Kings. In Persia no sacrifice could be offered unless one of the Magi was present. They became men of holiness and wisdom.
These Magi were men who were skilled in philosophy, medicine and natural science. They were soothsayers and interpreters of dreams.
In those ancient days all men believed in astrology. They believed that they could foretell the future from the stars, and they believed that a man’s destiny was settled by the star under which he was born.
It was not difficult to see how that belief arose. The stars pursue their unvarying courses; they represent the order of the universe.
If then there suddenly appeared some brilliant star, if the unvarying order of the heavens was broken by some special phenomenon, it did look as if God was breaking into His own order and announcing some special thing.”
It may seem to us extraordinary that these men should set out from the East to find a king, but the strange thing is that, just about the time when Jesus was born, there was in the world a strange feeling of expectation, a waiting for the coming of a king. Even the Roman historians knew about this.”
Suetonius in the “LIFE OF VESPASIAN” writes:
“There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judea to rule the world”
Tacitus in “Histories” writes:
“there was a firm persuasion that at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers coming from Judea were to acquire universal empire.”
Josephus in “Wars of the Jews” writes:
“The Jews had the belief that about that time one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth.”

Pastor Tom Doyle in his book “Dream’s and Visions”

According to BibleArcheology.org:
“Since the early days of Christianity, Biblical scholars and theologians have offered varying interpretations of the meaning and significance of the gold, frankincense and myrrh that the magi presented to Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew (2:11). These valuable items were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil.
In fact, these same three items were apparently among the gifts, recorded in ancient inscriptions, that King Seleucus II Callinicus offered to the god Apollo at the temple in Miletus in 243 B.C.E.
The Book of Isaiah, when describing Jerusalem’s glorious restoration, tells of nations and kings who will come and ‘bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.’” (Isaiah 60:6)

YAHWEH SAVES

Biblical scholars have long ago arranged Matthews Gospel into five main sections, which they point out correspond with the five books of Moses, also known as the TORAH. The Jewish people call the entire Old Testament THE TANACH. All five main sections refer to Jesus’ teachings:

Section One: SERMON ON THE MOUNT 5-7)
Section Two: JESUS PERFORMS MIRACLES AND SENDS HIS DISCIPLES (8-10)
Section Three: PARABLES ABOUT THE KINGDOM (13)
Section Four: HOW GREATNESS WORKS IN THE KINGDOM (18)
Section Five: JUDGMENT IN THE KINGDOM TO COME (24-25)

Matthew simply states WHO JESUS IS and NOW YOU HAVE TO WRESTLE THROUGH THE IMPLICATIONS YOURSELF. Matthew is fully convinced that presenting Jesus this way to us, we will get to know Jesus and also get to know who we are.

In the Hebrew text the words used to describe the earth are TOHU and BOHU.
IN THE PHYSICAL REALM MEANS: without form and void or chaotic.
IN THE SPIRITUAL REALM MEANS: that which is nonfunctional and unproductive

John Walton in his book: “The Lost World of Genesis One” writes:
“In the Old Testament God has no needs and focuses functionality around people. Consequently, functionality cannot exist without people in the picture.
In Genesis people are not put in place until day six, but functionality is established with their needs and situation in mind.
This conclusion is further supported by the meaning of the repeated formula “it was good,” which I propose refers to “functioning properly”.
Such a conclusion is not arbitrary but based on the context.
Throughout Genesis 1 any number of possible meanings have been proposed for “good”. In the history of interpretation, it has often been understood in MORAL/ETHICAL terms or as a reference to the QUALITY OF WORKMANSHIP.
While the Hebrew term could be used in any of those ways, the context indicates a different direction. We can find out what the author means when saying all of these things are “good” by inquiring what it would mean for something NOT TO BE GOOD.
Fortunately, the near context offers us just such an opportunity: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18)
This has nothing to do with moral perfection or quality of workmanship – IT IS A COMMENT CONCERNING FUNCTION.
The human condition is not functionally complete without the women. Thus, throughout Genesis 1 the refrain “it was good”, expressed the functional readiness of the cosmos for human beings. Readers were assured that all functions were operating well and in accord with God’s purposes and directions.”

HIS NAME IS JESUS

Dr. Michael Heiser (The Unseen Realm)
“The kingdom of God had failed in the Old Testament, but it would rise from the ashes when the divine king made his appearance. The messianic king would inaugurate a kingdom that would spread throughout the earth and eventually succeed in restoring Eden.
These ideas are familiar. Less apparent, however, is the way the Old Testament characterizes the launching of God’s kingdom as a war between gods and men.”

Michael Kibbe in his book “OUR FUTURE IN THE FACE OF JESUS”
“Through the incarnation, Yahweh has come to be with his people and save them. The name “Immanuel” implies not only that God’s presence is evident in the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, but that Jesus is Yahweh himself, come to be with his people.”

Carmen Joy Imes in her book “Bearing God’s Name”
“For Jesus, CALLING on God’s name is not enough, nor is prophecy, exorcism, or miracles done in his name. The key disposition of one who truly belongs to God is a commitment to action – doing his will rather than one’s own.
The name of God is not a charm to be used at will. It is not a magic amulet to guarantee protection. Those who fail to carry out God’s will bear his name in vain. Jesus had no patience for those whose verbal proclamations do not match their agenda.
He condemns the Pharisees and scribes for having lips and hearts that contradict each other, saying that they “worship God in vain.”
They walk around wearing official religious titles, but their hearts are haughty and self-reliant.”

TWEET AND WATCH

Founder, Jack Dorsey, explains,
“We came across the word ‘twitter’, and it was just perfect. The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,’ and ‘chirps from birds’. And that’s exactly what the product was.”

Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet law at Harvard says,
“The qualities that make Twitter seem insane and half-baked are what makes it so powerful.”

But just because a message is short, does not mean it is insignificant.
Horatio Spafford saw his life collapse when he heard his four daughters had drowned in a shipwreck. This news came from his wife’s poignant telegram: “Saved Alone.”

What made Gordon Wilson a standout was that he as a Christian forgave those who planted and activated the bomb that killed his daughter. Many other Christians could not understand what Gordon Wilson was doing.
Mary McAleese writes:
“It was as if Gordon and spoken those words of forgiveness for the first time in human history, as if Christ had never uttered the words, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.” One outspoken critic, who was Christian, said to me about Gordon Wilson. “Surely, the poor man must have been in shock,” as if offering love and forgiveness is a sign of mental weakness instead of spiritual strength.”

FROM THE THRONE TO ASHES

“Those who cherish worthless idols abandon their faithful love, but as for me, I will sacrifice to you with a voice of thanksgiving. I will fulfill what I have vowed. Salvation belongs to the Lord.”
Jonah learned this sentence of good theology in a strange college.
Most of the grand truths of God have to be learned by trouble. They must be burned into us with the hot iron of affliction; otherwise we will not truly receive them.
No man is competent to judge in matters of the kingdom of God until he first has been tried – since there are many things to be learned in the depths that we can never know in the heights. We discover many secrets in the caverns of the ocean, which though we had soared to heaven, we could never have known.” Charles Spurgeon

Jonah’s sermon was 5 Hebrew words;
• Jonah gives a time (40 days)
• Nineveh will be overthrown
• He never says how Nineveh will be overthrown
• nor does he mention WHY Nineveh will be overthrown.
• He does not say HOW THEY COULD AVOID THIS DISASTER
• Jonah is there to represent Yahweh yet never mentions Yahweh

THE GOD OF ANOTHER CHANCE

John H Walton in his book “The Lost World of Genesis” writes:
“As complicated as translating a foreign language can be, translating a foreign culture is infinitely more difficult. The problem lies in the act of translating. Translation involves lifting the ideas from their native context and relocating them in our own context.
When we move to the level of culture, the same type of problem occurs. The “very act of trying to translate the culture requires taking it out of its context and fitting it into ours.
(However), the minute anyone attempts to translate the culture, we run the risk of making the text communicate something it never intended.“

Eventually John Walton arrives at the conclusion that:
“We can begin to understand the culture BY BECOMING FAMILIAR WITH ITS LITERATURE.”

In other words, regarding Jonah, we read the story in English and outside it’s cultural context and that’s the reason we read and hear so many different approaches to what God is communicating with this story. Remember, the Bible was never written TO us; the Bible was written to the people that lived during those days when it was written, primarily to ISRAEL.
But the Bible was written FOR us. Jonah was written FOR US, and we can learn the incredible lessons about God and God’s people.

Circumstances are not reliable indicators of WHO GOD IS AND IF HE LOVES US OR NOT. THE ONLY RELIALBE INDICATOR OF WHO GOD IS AND HOW HE LOVE US is to look to Jesus, His life, His death, and His resurrection. That’s exactly what Jesus meant when he answered the religious people of his days WHAT SIGN HE WOULD GIVE THEM. Matthew 12:39-41

THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA

Jonah has free will and can run away from the presence of the Lord, just like you and I can if we chose to do so, BUT GOD WILL BRING A STORM INTO THE LIFE OF JONAH THAT WILL AFFECT NOT JUST JONAH, BUT EVERYONE WHO IS IN DIRECT CONTACT WITH JONAH.

Tony Evans in his book “DESTINY” writes:
“The Bible is not an anthology of random stories. The thread that ties the entire Bible together is the theme of the kingdom. God’s goal is to see His rule and authority cover the earth through the expansion of His kingdom. That is God’s purpose in history.
Scripture was penned in order to facilitate that one agenda. The unifying central theme of the Bible is the glory of God through the advancement of His kingdom. Every event, story, and personality from Genesis to Revelation is there to stitch that theme together.
Without that theme, the Bible becomes a collection of disconnected stories that seem to be unrelated to one another.”

To quote Tony Evans one more time
“When you live out your destiny, you don’t measure what you have done according to what someone else has done. Nor is your destiny to be CONFUSED WITH A BUSY LIFE.
When your life is filled with purpose, you measure what you have done according to what you were created to do.”

THE GREAT CHALLENGE

Chuck Swindoll in his Study Bible says:
“Jonah’s prophetic ministry to the Assyrians is an example of God’s care for all the nations of the earth to turn from their sin and idol worship and to recognize Him as the one true God.”
The book of Jonah stands as an important link in the prophetic chain,
giving readers a picture of Christ’s death and resurrection hundreds of years before these events occurred.”

Nineveh is the capital city of the Assyrian Empire.
Ashur-Dan III (772-754) sat on the throne of Assyria.

In 1912, Lewis Spence published the book titled:
MYTH & LEGENDS OF BABYLONIA & ASSYRIA. According to Lewis Spence,
“The entire faith in and dependence on their beloved deity on the part of these early Assyrian rulers is touching. The monarchs of Assyria retained the right to call themselves ‘priests of the god Asshur’.

Archeologists found a tablet where the prayer to Asshur was engraved:
“A prayer TO ASSHUR, the king of the gods,
ruler over heaven and earth,
the father who has created the gods,
the supreme first-born of heaven and earth,
the supreme muttallu who inclines to counsel,
the giver of the scepter and the throne.
TO NIL-LIL, the wife of Asshur,
The begetter, the creatress of heaven and earth,
TO SIN, the lord of command, the uplifter of horns,
The spectacle of heaven,
TO THE SUN-GOD, the great judge of the gods,
Who causes the lightning to issue forth,
TO ANU, the lord and prince, possessing the life of Asshur,
The father of the great gods.
TO RAMMON, the minister of heaven and earth,
The lord of the wind and the lightning of heaven.
TO ISHTAR, the queen of heaven and the stars, whose seat is exalted.
TO MERODACH, the prince of the gods,
The interpreter of the spirits of heaven and earth.
TO ADAR, the son of MUL-LIL the giant, the first born.
TO NEBO, the messenger of Asshur,
TO NERGAL, the lord of might and strength
TO THE GOD who marches in front, the first born
TO THE SEVEN GODS, the warrior deities,
TO THE GREAT GODS, the lords of heaven and earth.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Michael Heiser in his book “The Unseen Realm” in a summary statement says:
“The kingdom of God is already a present reality but isn’t yet realized. John the Baptist announced it. He introduced its king. Jesus preached its arrival and demonstrated what life in God’s Edenic world could and would be like; no disease, no infirmity, no demonic opposition.
The New Testament makes the rebirth of a struggle thousands of years in the making. The people of God have been isolated and under foreign rule. The divine presence of the days of Moses, David, Salomon, and the prophets is nothing but memory. When angels visit Mary and Zechariah to announce the impending births of Jesus and John, centuries of divine silence are broken. Thirty years later, Judea will explode. The unseen spiritual conflict is even more volatile.
Every chapter of the New Testament provides a glimpse into this conflict. The cosmic geography of the Old Testament is evident in the New. Where Jesus goes and what he says and does when he gets there is framed by confrontation with unseen powers. The conflict pursues him unto death – as God had planned, and as Jesus provoked. THE KINGDOM OF GOD ESTABLISHES A PERMANENT BEACHHEAD AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS AND THE DOOR OF THE EMPTY TOMB.

GOD SEEKS OUR WORSHIP

Worship has its focus on what we do with our lives.

John R.W. Stott
“Christians believe that true worship is the highest and noblest activity of which man, by the grace of God, is capable.”

Chuck Swindoll in his study Bible writes:
“It is attributing supreme worth to God, who alone is worthy of it. When we worship, that’s what we’re doing.
The purpose of the church is to cultivate worshipers. It isn’t a place to make business contacts or to go to check something off the weekly list or to bring your kids so they get something out of it. No, it’s a place to learn about our God so that our worship and understanding of Him become increasingly deeper and more meaningful. It’s a place where we give Him our praise and our gratitude.
Why is worship so important? Because it turns our full attention to the only One worthy of it.”

Jesus was using the element of water as a metaphor to describe a spiritual reality, something that would meet not just a need of the moment but a need for all eternity.

Chuck Swindoll has a wonderful commentary on verses 19-20
“Oh, you’ve been to seminary. You must be extremely smart. Let me ask you something I’ve always wondered about. How do you reconcile the great existential problem of God’s sovereignty and the free will of man?”
Only in her culture, the great debate revolved around the most appropriate place to worship an omnipresent God.

John 4:23-24
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth,
for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

THE COVENANT-KEEPING GOD

A few important questions:
• Who initiated the Covenant Idea? (6:18)
• Why did God pick Noah as a covenant partner? (6:8-9)
• What did Noah do after the promise of God? (6:22-7:1-5)
• Who made sure Noah was safe? (7:16)
• What was Noah’s response to God? (8:20)
• What was God’s response to Noah? (8:21-22)
• Was Noah fully convinced? (9:8-17)

Chuck Swindoll has this to say about Genesis 11:1-9
“One of the greatest enemies of the Christian life is the religious life. Religion is the broad way that most people take, thinking that somehow, they can do something to please God. Christianity is the narrow way that helps us understand what God has done for us.
Religion is what I do for God. Christianity is what God has already done for me. Religion is an EFFORT. Christianity is a GIFT.
The reason religion is so appealing to us is that we like feeling as if we are giving God a boost. We enjoy talking about all we’re doing for God rather than emphasizing what He has done for us. It makes us feel important. At first, religion might sound like it’s focused on God. But in the end, it’s all about us – our achievements, our glory, and our pride.”

THE POWER OF SALVATION

The Meaning of the Word Salvation:
The Greek word is “soteria” meaning to provide recovery, to rescue, to effect one’s welfare.
The Hebrew root word is “yesha” (the basis for the name Joshua and Jesus) signifies freedom from what binds or restricts and thus effects deliverance.
Salvation for many Christians has to do with something that happened to them in the past, or something they hope happened in the past.
For those people salvation has primarily to do with getting OUT OF HELL and getting in to HEAVEN.
I have no idea where this originally came from, but what I do know is that no matter how intense we search the entire Bible, NOT ONCE ARE WE BEING TOLD THAT WE ARE SAVED FROM HELL. It’s just not there.
What the Bible does say is THAT WE ARE SAVED FROM SIN. And Sin in its essence is A BROKEN RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. Sin separated us from having a relationship with God.
Salvation is the gracious work of God whereby He delivers undeserving, gospel-believing sinners from sin and its results; brings them into a right, vital relationship with Himself; and bestows on them the riches of His grace.

Dallas Willard in his book: LIVING IN CHRIST’S PRESENCE says:
“It’s not by accident that he (Jesus) says this, because that oneness, that community, is God’s signature. He doesn’t say, “May they be given ability to out-argue all their foes.” He doesn’t say, “May they be given the power to change the culture.” He doesn’t say, “May they be given really cool worship services.” Trinitarian fellowship is the foundation of the existence of that which is real.”
But eternal life is not AN EVENT. SALVATION IS NOT AN EVENT. SALVATION IS A PERSON. There is only ONE SAVIOR.

THE GLORY OF GOD

we have four texts taken out of the Word of God, all dealing with God’s Glory, and yet they all seem to say something different.
• Is God’s Glory the shining clouds
• Is it something the clouds point to
• Is it God’s honor or reputation connected with what we eat or drink
• Is it some standard to which you and I did not live up to
What is it?
What is the Glory of God?
כָּבוֹד kavod (Hebrew)
Literal meaning of this word is HEAVINESS, WEIGHT

In English we use the word heavy also as a metaphor.
• My heart is heavy when I heard your story
• This is a heavy message
We use this metaphor to describe that this message was intense and difficult to absorb or understand. And
• Literal: heaviness, weight
• Metaphorical: importance, reputation, honor
• Physical manifestation of one’s importance
• A Personal KAVOD = wealth & possessions

Why is this all important to understand? Because what the Biblical writer wants you to know is that KAVOD describes the reality of the physical weight, the wealth, the possessions, the importance, the reputation, the honor of people on this earth and then go OUTSIDE OF THOSE MANMADE ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND LOOK UP TO HEAVEN at night, look at the towering mountains, the beauty and splendor of God’s creation. It’s all real, things you can see and experience, we see and experience. The entire creation IS A REFLECTION OF GOD’S GLORY.
The entire realty of God’s Creation is God’s KAVOD.

YOU ARE HOLY

Diplomat and Philosopher Dag Hammarskjold wrote in the book titled MARKINGS:
“Respect for the word is the first commandment in the discipline by which a man can be educated to maturity – intellectual, emotional, and moral. Respect for the word – to employ it with scrupulous care and an incorruptible heartfelt LOVE OF TRUTH – is essential if there is to be any growth in a society or in the human race.
To misuse the word is to show contempt for man. It undermines the bridges and poisons the wells. It causes man to regress down the long path of his evolution.”

Easton’s Bible Dictionary
“Holiness in the highest sense belongs to God ( Isaiah 6:3 ; Revelation 15:4 ), and to Christians as consecrated to God’s service, and in so far as they are conformed in all things to the will of God ( Romans 6:19 Romans 6:22 ; Ephesians 1:4 ; Titus 1:8 ; 1 Peter 1:15 ). Personal holiness is a work of gradual development. It is carried on under many hindrances, hence the frequent admonitions to watchfulness, prayer, and perseverance ( 1 Corinthians 1:30 ; 2 Corinthians 7:1 ; Ephesians 4:23-24).

קָדוֹשׁ “qadosh”
Qadosh literally means “to be set apart for a special purpose”.

The fundamental and core meaning, of the word “hagios”, is… “different, and unlike the rest”.
If you’re a Christian, then you are one of “the holy ones”. And do you know why you’re holy? It’s because you’re different. While we may not think of ourselves as “holy,” we are in fact set apart from the world to be Yahweh Elohim’s servants and his representatives. Yahweh set us apart for this very special purpose, to REPRESENT HIM ON THIS EARTH, not in the future only, BUT HERE A NOW. TODAY.

TRUTH IS MORE THAN PROPER DOCTRINE

We all know that JESUS IS THE TRUTH and the Way and the life that we need. This is no mere metaphor, it is the very meaning of truth. The truth is alive and incarnational. TRUTH IS PERSONAL, RELATIONAL, AND COMMUNAL.
Parker “To know as we are known”

Knowing truth demands ACTION ON OUR PART.
Encountering truth involves our surrendering to honest self-examination, rooting out the old beliefs, receiving light to see things the way God sees them, and doing the work of engaging with the Holy Spirit so that He can anchor truth in our soul. That is the meaning of truth in the way that Jesus uses the term.

ATONEMENT
1 John 1:5-2:2
1:7 “the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin”
1:9 “he will forgive us and cleanse us from all sin”
2:2 “Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice (propitiation) for our sins”
• The blood is a metaphor of Jesus death on the cross. The death of Jesus cleanses us from sin
• The death of Jesus provides the means of forgiveness
• The death of Jesus by which we are forgiven is the atonic sacrifice for our sins.
“Atonement” = At-one-ment, to make right to reconcile Oxford English Dictionary

John wrote his sermon in Greek.
Greek: Hilasmos
Hebrew: kipper
Meaning: to “cover” someone’s failure; to erase the debt; to purify the relationship

This truth is more than doctrine, this truth is personal, relational and communal. It affects every aspect of our life.
Colossians 1:9-10
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking
• That you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
• So as to walk in the manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing him,
• Bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

THE TRUTH ABOUT LIES…

There is more than one reason for this state of affairs. But mostly it comes down to not knowing how to participate with God in ways that allow truth to alter our very way of PERCEIVING AND UNDERSTANDING OUR OWN LIFE.

“It costs a man just as much or even more to go to hell than to come to heaven. Narrow, exceedingly narrow is the way to perdition!” Soren Kierkegaard

“To depart from righteousness is to choose a life of crushing burdens, failures, and disappointments, a life caught in the toils of endless problems that are never resolved. Here is the source of that unending soap opera, that sometimes horror show known as normal human life. The cost of discipleship, though it may take all we have, is small when compared to the lot of those who don’t accept Christ’s invitation to be a part of his company in the way of life.” Dallas Willard, “The Spirit of the Disciplines”

Transformation is about changing our very character – not our environment, not the people around us, not even our behavior – it is about changing who we are from the inside out.

OUR WILL WAS NEVER DESIGNED TO BE ABLE TO FORCE OUR HEART TO CHANGE.

“IN THE BEGINNING”

Christianity Today Magazine published an article titled:
“The Epidemic of Bible Illiteracy in Our Churches”
“Christians claim to believe the Bible is God’s Word. We claim it’s God’s divinely inspired, inerrant message to us. Yet despite this, we aren’t reading it. A recent LifeWay Research study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day.”
……Our lack of biblical literacy has led to a lack of biblical doctrine. LifeWay Research found that while 67 percent of Americans believe heaven is a real place, 45 percent believe there are many ways to get there—including 1 in 5 evangelical Christians. More than half of evangelicals (59 percent) believe the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being—in contrast to the orthodox biblical teaching of the Trinity being three Persons in one God. As a whole, Americans, including many Christians, hold unbiblical views on hell, sin, salvation, Jesus, humanity, and the Bible itself.

Chuck Swindoll in his commentary on this subject writes:
“When Moses told the story of creation, he drew upon the literary symbol of light to communicate an important truth. After the formation of space and matter, the Lord filled the void and formless earth with light – literal light, yes, but not merely illumination. Before He fashioned physical sources of light on the fourth day – the son, moon, and stars – He filled the universe with the light of His presence, with truth, the foundation upon which everything else would be built. Before giving the world order (dividing day from night, sky from earth, dry land from ocean), the Lord suffused every atom with His truth so that everything would reflect His character.”

FROM DISMAY TO DETERMINATION

Here is a definition what dismayed really means.
Dismay is defined as a sudden or total loss of courage. An example of dismay is feeling defeated after applying to dozens of jobs and being offered none of them.
As Chuck Swindoll once pointed out:
“This numbers game is one of the most fleshly games congregations can play. Another game we play is the glitz-and-glamour game. The bigger and flashier our Sunday morning productions, the more we feel like we’ve worshiped to the max! But bright lights, loud bands, big budgets, huge crowds, and hyped-up emotional responses mean ntohign if they lack real substance. How easy it is to boast in the flesh, focusing on the outward actions rather than the inward reality.”

This proves the point of Galatians:
Not only is the sinner saved by grace, but the saved sinner also lives by grace.

LEARNING TO LIVE TOGETHER

Here is what Chuck Swindoll has to say about this subject:
“This simple yet important command represents a transfer of the control of our lives from ourselves to the living Lord. But being filled with the Spirit does not end in a private realm or some mystical experience. It’s not about speaking in strange tongues or performing miraculous signs and wonders. It’s not even about having some kind of emotional response or a profound encounter with the Master. Biblically speaking, being filled with the Spirit primarily affects our relationships WITH OTHERS.”

Love one another (John 15:12, 1 Peter 1:22)
Accept one another (Romans 15:7)
Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25)
Be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32)
Comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18)
Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

G. Walter Hanson notes that:
«the verb RESTORE calls for spiritual therapy so that a broken member of the body can once again work properly and perform its vital functions for the benefit of the whole body.”

Tony Evans says it this way:
“To find restoration or to restore someone spiritually, you need to understand what being spiritual is. “Spiritual” in this context means seeking God’s assessment of the problem, allowing God both to define the problem and to provide the solution.
A spiritual solution comes when the Holy Spirit illuminates God’s truth from His Word in your heart, your mind and your life.
A spiritual approach to life’s addictions and sins is needed because the outward symptoms aren’t typically the underlying cause.
Many times we want ot help people out of a circumstance without identifying the spiritual root of the problem. But if the spiritual is the cause, the spiritual must be the cure.
A snare is always rooted in the spiritual cause because the root of any snare is Satan, our flesh or both.
Healing is restored by addressing the SOURCE, NOT THE SYMPTOMS. To get to the source, we need to have a spiritual approach to restoration.”

F.F. Bruce comments on this problem:
“What Paul stresses here is personal responsibility. It is not for one Christian to assess or judge the ministry of another; each one is answerable to God for his own.”

Let me quote commentator G. Walter Hansen one more time as he points out the difference between to Greek words Paul uses: “Burden” (baros) in 6:2 and “load” (phortion) in 6:5
“Though these two words are basically synonymous in other contexts, the change of nouns in this context indicates a change of reference. Verse 2 refers to the need to come to the aid of others who cannot carry the crushing burden of the consequences of their sin. Verse 5 refers to work given to us by our Master, before whom we will have to give an account of how we used the opportunities and talents he gave us to serve him.”

LEARNING TO WALK IN GOSPEL FREEDOM

HOW CAN WE WIN THIS WAR? The solution is SURRENDER TO THE HOLY SPIRIT.
The Issue here is CONTROL. To whom do we surrender? To the fleshly desires (self) or to the Holy Spirit?
It is here were we many times get confused. Too many Christians doubt the assurance of their salvation because of this intense struggle with sin. But let me tell you that the very fact that you care about the struggle is a sign that the Spirit is working in you. If the Holy Spirit was not fighting this battle on your behalf, you would not care one bit about struggling against sin.
This is important to understand. When we are fighting this battle of surrendering to the control of the Holy Spirit, we often get approached by well meaning Christians with the suggestion that we should just retreat into legalism. They never use this term, but instead telling us that our battle with sin is because we are NOT DOING ENOUGH FOR OUR LORD. IF WE WOULD BE BUSY we would have not time to get involved in sinful behavior. THAT’S ANOTHER WAY OF SAYING THAT OUR BUSYNESS HAS BECOME OUR POWER OVER SIN. That’s contrary to the Gospel. THE HOLY SPIRIT living in us gives us power over sin. There is simply no Substitute for the Holy Spirit.

Biblical Scholars divide those deeds into four major subjects:
• Sexual sin:
This includes things like adultery, fornication, homosexual practice, prostitution, and pornography.
• Religious sin:
This includes things like occult involvement, false religions, New Age spirituality, superstition, and idolatrous materialism.
• Social sin:
This includes things tat are destructive to our families, churches, and communities, such as slander, gossip, harboring bitterness, bearing grudges, taking revenge, and physical or verbal abuse.
• Personal sin:
This includes sins against one’s own body, such as drug addiction, workaholism, alcoholism, gluttony, and other forms of self-destructive behavior.

PASSIONATE for FREEDOM

• Would you say that the Apostle Paul is passionate about our freedom in Jesus Christ?
• Would you say that the Apostle Paul is willing to fight for this freedom?
• Would you say that the Apostle Paul is fully aware that some people try to snatch that freedom in Jesus Christ from the Believers?

Chuck Swindoll in his commentary on this text is asking three probing questions which all of us need to answer somehow:
HOW HIGHLY DO I VALUE MY FREEDOM IN CHRIST?
Does it mean more to me than money, home, family, friends, job, or reputation? Do I compromise on Christian freedom in order to fit in at church, among my Christian friends, or at my job? Do I succumb to the slavery of legalism, submitting to human rules and regulations?
HOW STRONGLY DO I RESIST HAVING MY FREEDOM STOLEN?
Do I submit to rules that strap me down spiritually, stopping or even reversing my Christian growth? Do I actually check the bases for the accepted Christian norms fed to me at church, at home, or from other sources? When was the last time I took a firm stand against legalism?
HOW TOLERANT AM I OF OTHER CHRISTIANS AND THEIR EXERCISE OF FREEDOM?
Do I insist that fellow believers adopt my personal preferences on nonessential matters? Or do I flaunt my freedom in front of those with weaker consciences?

Once we’ve thoroughly examined our zeal for freedom, we need to exercise it! Every day is a new opportunity to live and breathe the liberty Christ has provided. Don’t lose your freedom. Don’t give it away like the Galatians did. Don’t fall under the influence of legalism. Let grace be your way of life.

Chuck Swindoll has this to say about those who think and live that way:
“Believers caught in the yoke of legalism always search for partners to share the burden with them, recruiting more converts to the cause of slavery. The more legalists attached to the chain gang, the better – that’s their mentality.”

David Zahl wrote a book titled: Seculosity: The subtitle says: “How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics, and Romance became our New Religion and what to do about it.”

“At the heart of our current moment lies a universal yearning, not to be happy or respected so much as ENOUGH – what religions call “righteous.”
To fill the void left by religion, we look to all sorts of everyday activities – from eating and parenting to dating and voting – for the identity, purpose, and meaning once provided on Sunday morning.
In our striving, we are chasing a sense of ENOUGHNESS. But it remains ever out of reach, and the effort and anxiety are burning us out.
Seculosity takes a thoughtful tour of American “performancism” and its cousins, highlighting both their ingenuity and mercilessness, all while challenging the conventional narrative of religious decline.
Zahl unmasks the competing pieties around which so much of our lives revolve, and he does so in a way that’s personal, and incisive. Ultimately he brings us to a fresh appreciation of the grace of God in all its countercultural wonder.”

Now, let me give you three snippets from this bock:
“Our religious crisis today is not that religion is on the wane, but that we are more religious than ever, and about too many things. We are almost never NOT IN CHURCH.”
“We may be sleeping in on Sunday mornings in greater numbers, but we’ve never been more PIOUS.” Let me give you a definition of the word “Pious”: “devoutly religious, making a hypocritical display of virtue; which means being: insincere, self-righteous, holier-than-thou, churchy…..” (English Dictionary)
“The marketplace in replacement religion is BOOMING.”

The Apostle Paul gives us three consequences of living a lifestyle of legalism:
1. Christ will be of no advantage to you. (verse 2)
2. You will be obligated to keep the whole law. (verse 3)
3. You will be alienated from Christ’s grace (verse 4)

STOP FENCE STRADDLING

C.S. Lewis in his book THE GREAT DIVORCE wrote these powerful words:
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.”

C.S. Lewis in “THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS” writes:
“The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts… The long, dull monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather (for the devil).

Paul comes full circle. Making his point once again that just as Isaac was supernaturally born AS A RESULT OF GOD’S PROMISE, so all Christians are “born-again” as a RESULT OF GOD’S PROMISE that all nations would be blessed through Abraham. (Genesis 22:18).
Not everybody in the church or outside the church likes that truth. Paul wants the people In Galatia to know that this introduces us to a spiritual conflict of major proportion.

Final thoughts
• We should expect to be persecuted by religious people.
It has been this way throughout history, beginning with Jesus himself. The religious leaders of His day opposed, mocked, condemned, and eventually executed the true Seed of Abraham.
The Judaizers made life and ministry difficult for Paul and all those who, like him, took a stand for the freedom that comes through grace.
During the Reformation, Popes and kings brutalized Protestants who took a stand on the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith.
In our own day, legalistic Christians who have never experienced the sweet liberation of grace can make the Christian life a miserable experience for true believers, overwhelming them with an endless, uncompromising list of dos and don’ts.
Therefore when it comes to law and grace, we have to get off the fence. We can’t fluctuate between rules and faith, mixing them in our approach to God. He won’t allow it.

• Man-made religion is incompatible with God’s grace.
Hagar and Ishmael symbolize human attempts to achieve what God only God can do. Just as Hagar and Ishmael were cast out of Abraham’s household, so must works-oriented religions and beliefs be removed from God’s family (Galatians 4:30).
Once we stop fence straggling, we will realize that free life can’t survive the structured demands of rule-centered living. Conversely, law keeping can’t maintain a grip on the truly liberated life. As Christians, we are called to a life of freedom.

TRUTH HURTS AND HEALS

Chuck Swindoll writes:
Paul’s situation is relevant for us today. Teaching the Scriptures often means communicating truth to people who don’t want to hear it. In fact, those who once appreciated your teaching may turn on you and hate you for it. G.Walter Hansen draws out the implications of this reality for both pastors and congregations:
“The dramatic shift from the Galatians’ warm welcome to their cold rejection of Paul serves as a sober warning to both pastors and their churches. Pastors should not be so naïve as to think they will always receive a warm welcome if they consistently teach the truth. In fact, teaching the truth will always run the risk of alienating some people. And people in the church need to be aware that their initial positive response to pastors who teach the truth will be severely tested when the truth cuts like a two-edged sword. During such a time of conviction, people need to maintain their loyalty to their pastors precisely because they have the courage to preach the truth even when it hurts.” G. Walter Hansen
“Don’t Wrestle, Just Nestle” – Corrie Ten Boon

FAMILY RELATIONS REQUIRE TIME

Charles Spurgeon, in a sermon on Romans 5:20 declared:
“There is no point of biblical interpretation and application where men make greater mistakes than the relationship which exists between the Law and the Gospel…..some put Law instead of the Gospel, some modify the Law and the Gospel and therefore preach neither Law nor Gospel.
If men blend the Law with the Gospel or Faith with Works (which is the same thing), especially in the area of Justification, they will obscure the glory of redeeming grace and prevent themselves and others from having the real joy and peace in believing. They will also retard their progress in holiness.
Ah! But if men, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, are able to see the glory of the whole plan of Redemption – if they are able to reconcile the passages of Scripture which seem contrary to each other (and there are some) they would ADVANCE IN TRUE HOLINESS AND SPIRITUAL CONSOLATION.
To see the glory of the whole would be means to calm the conscience in times of mental and spiritual trouble. You see, a troubled conscience cannot properly quieted unless the Gospel is rightly distinguished from the Law; on the other hand, there will be no troubled conscience to be quieted without the Law.” Charles Spurgeon

Ernest C. Reisinger I his book titled ”The Law and the Gospel” says it this way:
..”If then a man cannot distinguish the law from the gospel, he cannot rightly understand so much as a single article of divine truth. If he does not have spiritual and just apprehensions of the holy law, he cannot have spiritual and transforming discoveries of the glorious gospel. And if his views of the gospel are wrong, his notions of the law cannot be right.”

THIS NEW RELATIONSHIP AS CHILDREN OF GOD IS MORE THAN POSITIONAL; IT IS ALSO EXPERIENTIAL.

• Simplicity
Uncluttering our lives and minds from things that distract us from God
• Silence and solitude
Slowing our pace and making space in our schedules for God
• Surrender
Releasing our grip on things that take our attention from God
• Prayer
Calling out to God with our praise, thanksgiving, and petitions
• Humility
Bowing our entire lives before the will of God
• Self-control
Holding back our own priorities in favor of God’s priorities
• Sacrifice
Giving up the things God expects us to surrender to Him

THE DECEPTION OF SELF-JUSTIFICATION

The Purpose of the Law:
• The Law acted like a prison for men.
• The Law accuses and condemns men. As soon as a person violates the law, the law charges him.
• The law has no life and no power to deliver man from the punishment due him for his violation.
That’s exactly what the Apostle Paul is saying here in our text:
The law reveals the violation and condemns man, it imprisons him; it holds him captive.
• The Law was a schoolmaster or guardian

The English playwright and poet Dorothy Sayers in her book “Creed or Chaos?” published in 1949, is wondering why the churches had exchanged the Greatest Story Ever Told for bland moralism:
“Official Christianity, of late years, has been having what is known as “a bad press.” We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine – “dull dogma,” as people call it. The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man – and the dogma IS the drama….
This is the dogma we find so dull – this terrifying drama of which God is the victim and the hero. If this is dull, then what, in Heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting? The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused Him of being a bore – on the contrary; they thought Him too dynamic to be safe.
It has been left for later generations to muffle up the shattering personality and surround Him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certifying Him “meek and mild” and recommended Him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.” Dorothy Sayers (1949)

Carl Teichrib in his book “Game of Gods” describes it this way:
“The one before Eve is shrewd and deliberate, showing an exceptional understanding of the human propensity to rationalize. The serpentine-dragon imagery is a powerful expression of his very potent nature. In the Garden he comes TO DIALOGUE, TO QUESTION AND TEST, and to masterfully engage in the salesmanship of self-justification.
It started with a simple yet suggestive question: “Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” The query INTROUDCES DOUBT.
Eve responded by confirming God’s admonition, but a seed had been planted in her mind.
“You will not surely die,” was the response given to Eve. “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good an evil.”
THE BENEFITS OF PARTAKING APPEARED TO SURPASS THE COST.
Life would go on, wisdom was to be granted, and the human status would be elevated. This “knowledge” allowing one to apparently become as Yahweh Himself, WOULD ACHIEVE A GREATER GOOD.
Enlightenment was before them. Following the angelic advice, they engaged in the act of taking and eating, the first TECHNIQUE of human-proclaimed SELF-DIVINITY.
In so doing, they discovered the tempter had wiled them with a HALF-TRUTH. Immortality vanished and the idea of becoming “as God” proved illusionary. Of course, the truth-part was we experientially and spiritually entered the realm of the ‘KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL.”
We had now tasted its capability, but as the Garden incident demonstrated and human history shows, we were personally and collectively unable to control its capacity. IT CONTROLS US.
While acts of goodness are open to us, we have nevertheless been plagued by “divine nightmares” – kings and powers and nations “playing God” against one another.

What is Responsibility?
The Swiss Theologian Emil Brunner in his book “Man and Creation” explains it this way:
“Man is, and remains, responsible, whatever his personal attitude to his Creator may be. He may deny his responsibility, and he may misuse his freedom, but he cannot get rid of his responsibility. Responsibility is part of the unchangeable structure of man’s being. That is: the actual existence of man – of ever man, not only the man who believes in Christ – consists in the positive fact that he has been made to response – to God.”

“The human cry of I AM GOD is the first act of identity theft.”

John Stott comments on this verse in his writings:
“Paul’s statement does not mean that racial, social and sexual distinctions are actually obliterated…When we say that Christ has abolished these distinctions, we mean not that they do not exist, but that they do not matter.”

THE UNCONDITIONAL PROMISE

A.W. Tozer (The Knowledge of the Holy; pages 85-87)
“I think it might be demonstrated that almost every heresy that has afflicted the church through the years has arisen from believing about God things that are not true, or from over-emphasizing certain true things so as to obscure other things equally true. To magnify any attribute to the exclusion of another is to head straight for one of the dismal swamps of theology; and yet we are all constantly tempted to do just that.
For instance, the Bible teaches that God is love; some have interpreted this in such a way as virtually to deny that He is just, which the Bible also teaches. Others press the Bible doctrine of God’s goodness so far that it is made to contradict His holiness. Or they make His compassion cancel out His truth. Still others understand the sovereignty of God in a way that destroys or at lest greatly diminishes His goodness and love.
We can hold a correct view of truth only by daring to believe EVERYHTHING GOD HAS SAID ABOUT HIMSELF. It is a grave responsibility that a man takes upon himself when he seeks to edit out of God’s self-revelation such features as he in his ignorance deems objectionable.
Blindness in part must surely fall upon many of us presumptuous enough to attempt such a thing.
We need not fear to let the truth stand as it is written. There is no conflict among the DIVINE ATTRIBUTES. God’s being is unitary. He cannot divide Himself and act at a given time from one of His attributes while the rest remain inactive. All that God is must accord with all that God does. Justice must be present in mercy, and love in judgment. And so with all the divine attributes.”

…Upon God’s faithfulness rests our whole hope of future blessedness. Only as He is faithful will His covenants stand, and His promises be honored. Only as we have complete assurance that He is faithful may we live in peace and look forward with assurance to the life to come.
Every heart can make its own application of this truth and draw from it such conclusions as the truth suggests and its own needs bring into focus. The tempted, the anxious, the fearful, the discouraged may all find new hope and good cheer in the knowledge that our Heavenly Father is faithful.
He will ever be true to His pledged word. The hard-pressed sons of the covenant may be sure that He will never remove His loving-kindness from them nor suffer His faithfulness to fail.”
A. W. Tozer (The Knowledge of the Holy; pages 85-87)

What’s an Unconditional Covenant?
An unconditional covenant reveals that GOD DOES NOT REQUIRE ANYTHING of the human being with which He entered into a covenant.

What’s a Conditional Covenant?
A conditional covenant holds both parties to certain obligations, specifying penalties for breaching the covenant.

CURSED OF FREE?

In that little book you find Spurgeon explain the difference between a “gold leaf” Christians and a “SOLID GOLD” Christian. From the outside you cannot seen the difference.
“It is a lamentable fact that many who are called Christians, because they belong to a Christian nation, are a grievous dishonor to the name of Christ. The heathen, judging of Christianity by them, have often been heard to say, “We had better remain as we are than become as drunken, or swear as profanely, or act as viciously as these so-called Christian people do.”
I have nothing to do now with merely nominal Christianity. Do what you like with it.
Neither do I at all identify a man in Christ with one who is profoundly conversant with all the externals of the Christian religion, and who gives himself up devotedly to them, but never looks into the center – into the heart and kernel – of the matter.
I am also bound to confess that there are members of evangelical churches, not devotees of ceremonialism, but advocates for the bares simplicity of worship, who make a very high profession of being real Christians, and talk a great deal about vital godliness, who, nevertheless, are not men in Christ.
The church of Christ has been plagued by hypocrites from the first day even until now. There was a Judas among the apostles themselves. Are you surprised at this? I confess I am not.
Because Christianity is in itself so valuable, therefore there are many worthless imitations. Men counterfeit a sovereign because it is worth having; if it ever should become worthless the trade of the counterfeiter would be gone; and it is because the possession of true godliness is so valuable at thing that there are so many who pretend to have it who know nothing about it.
I distrust full often those who are so loud in their professions. I know that the cart which rings the loudest bell when it goes through the street only carries dust; but I never hear a bell rung when they are carrying diamonds or bullion through the city.
The best actions which are wrought in this world are for the most part done in secret by those who desire no eye to observe them except the eye of the Almighty God. But some, under the pretense of doing that, are rather standing up for themselves than for Christ, and are not quite so anxious to cry, “Behold the Lamb of God”, as to say, “Come, see my zeal for the Lord of hosts! Admire me; and see what a wonderful honor I am to the religion of Jesus Christ.”
Now I give up these religious pretenders to the world’s utmost scorn. I have nothing to say in their defense, but very much by way of disgust at their untruthfulness.” Charles H. Spurgeon

Chuck Swindoll in his commentary on Galatians writes:
Paul’s point, then, is that all people who fail to keep the Law in its entirety live under the shadow of God’s impending judgment. How different this is from the Judaizers’ deceptive “pick and choose” approach to the Law! They thought their pursuit of certain aspects of the Law would earn God’s favor. That teaching, however, is an affront to His grace and mercy, only provoking His judgment.”

Dr. Michael Heiser in his book “What does God want?” writes:
…The sad truth is that many genuine Christians live tormented defeated lives, not because of the Gospel, but because of the way THEIR GUILT has distorted the clarity of the Gospel.
.Working hard to make someone else think you have value requires you to focus on yourself. You can’t be focused on someone else when the goal is to make another person think you are worthy of their attention or love.
We want to feel good about ourselves (i.e., we legitimately deserved something, so we aren’t taking what doesn’t belong to us). We also want others to feel that way about us, too (i.e., we want others to give us something because of the way we make them feel about us).
The Gospel strips this away and casts it aside. It exposes us, demanding naked humility. It insists the focus be entirely on God and Jesus. That’s why it’s a hard pill to swallow for so many. It doesn’t let us take any credit.
What it comes down to is that the gospel cares NOTHING about what you do, but cares EVERYTHING about who you already are.”

Dr. Michael Heiser gives us a summary on page 63 of his book
“Salvation is NOT about performance. It never was, never will be, and never can be. We can do nothing to put ourselves at the level of God, to make ourselves fit for his presence. We lack God’s perfect nature. We are like God, created to image him, but be definition we are LESS THAN GOD, and God knows it. That’s why his solution was Jesus, NOT YOU.

WHAT CAN POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

Let me give you a few quotes: some of them are found on their website, others are found in his books and workshop papers.
Brian McLaren:
“I must add, though, that I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts.”

Brian McLaren (Finding the Way Again):
“And during his lifetime, Abraham – like Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad – had an encounter with God that distinguished him from his contemporaries and propelled him into a mission, introducing a new way of life that changed the world.
How appropriate that the three Abrahamic religions begin with a journey into the unknown.

Tony Jones:
“A New Theology for a New World” A workshop for the Emergent Convention in San Diego
“We do not think this Emerging Church Movement is about changing your worship service. We do not think this is about how you structure your church staff. This is actually ABOUT CHANGING THEOLOGY. This is about our belief that THEOLOGY CHANGES. The message of the gospel changes. It’s not just the method that changes.

Rob Bell in his book “Love Wins”:
“A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance of anything better…
This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.”

Doug Pagitt in his book “Preaching Re-Imagined”:
“I’m writing with the assumption that most of you who are reading this book have concluded what I have: Preaching doesn’t work….preaching, as we know it, is a tragically broken endeavor…
The value of our practices – including preaching – ought to be judged by their effects on our communities and the ways in which they help us move toward life with God.”

“Future of Religion Workshop”:
• We have reached the end of separating faiths; unity and oneness must now frame our religious beliefs and actions. Exclusive spiritual truth claims are anathema.
• The emerging global spirituality includes the unification of religions and secularism, the mystical and material.
• Humanity is moving from Me to We; the experience of group consciousness and group emotions, holistic identity, collective models, and planetary community,
• The only viable future religion is spirituality itself; our shared inner experiences will demonstrate that we are ultimately inseparable.

Victor Kazanjian, Executive Director of United Religions Initiative:
“There is no place for exclusivism in religion or in our politics or in our world. It has arguably been the single greatest source of suffering throughout history. Religious exclusivism – the belief that my truth is the only truth – violates the core spiritual tenants of all religions. The claim of exclusive knowledge of the truth is, in a religious sense, idolatry; in a political sense, extremism; and in a psychological sense, narcissism.”

November 1-7, 2018, the parliament of worlds religions had their annual meeting in Toronto, Canada. There were also panel discussions throughout the entire week. One of those Panel titled INTERFAITH ENGAGEMENT: PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE.
Attendees were from the
Temple of Understanding
The Islamic Society of North America
The Parliament’s Board of Trustees
Religions for Peace
The United Religious Initiative.
The main discussion point was how to break down the walls surrounding evangelical Christianity which has not fully embraced the interfaith movement yet.

Here are the 3 main points they came up with:
Christian Researcher Carl Teichrib (attendee):
• When making contact with an evangelical church, do not approach the lead pastor. Spend time, rather, building relationships with the associate pastor or youth leader.
• Couch the interfaith agenda within the acceptable language of community development, social justice, and acts of compassion.
• Leverage Bible verses in a way that appeals to a wider sense of love and acceptance.
• Have the younger/junior-pastor meet his equivalent from one other faith only. Do not bring more religions into the mix until a bridge between the two faith leaders has been solidified. This is best accomplished by having them jointly participate in community projects.

WHEN ACTIONS CONTRADICT DOCTRINE

Chuck Swindoll in his commentary writes:
“The Apostle Paul does not do this to simply hang out the church’s dirty laundry or to meet some ideal of “total transparency”. Paul knows like anybody else that not everything should be broadcast to the public. Furthermore, Paul certainly isn’t trying to hang Peter out to dry..…..
So, what motivated Paul to report his conflict with Peter to the troubled churches in Galatia?
The key to answering the first question comes from one small word: BUT.”
Chuck Swindoll refers to verse 12
“For BEFORE certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles, BUT when they came, he drew back and separated himself, FEARING the circumcision party.

We could call it Peer-pressure from his Jewish friends. Fear of rejection by his Jewish friends. You see, in Jerusalem, under James, “which was known as “JAMES THE JUST” because of the unimpeachable devotion he exhibited among the Jewish people.” (John Stott, “The message of Galatians”)
John Stott provides some insight into the assumptions of this question found in Galatians 2:17
“Paul’s critics argued like this: “Your doctrine of justification through faith in Christ only, apart from the works of the law, is a highly dangerous doctrine. It fatally weakens a man’s sense of moral responsibility. If he can be accepted through TRUSTING IN CHRIST, without any necessity to do good works, you are actually encouraging him to break the law, which is the vile heresy of antinomianism”. People still argue like this today: “If God justifies bad people, what is the point of being good? Can’t we do as we like and live as we please?”
As Chuck Swindoll wrote in his commentary:
“But what seems like a sturdy staircase built to lead us to God’s favor actually turns out to be a rotten wooden trap that will crumble beneath us. As Paul explains, only the cross of Christ can give us the assurance we need to step out in faith and live a truly grace-filled life.

Our justification, sanctification, and future glorification are all results of God’s grace alone, effected through faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone.

THIS IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR

In his new book titled “The Basics of the Christian Life”, Sinclair B. Ferguson makes this comment:
“What a tragedy it is that our modern society is no longer interested in either character or characters. It’s interested in success. It’s interested in opinions, but it’s interested very little in character. Perhaps, it should not surprise us that, alas, the same has been true in the evangelical church. That we are so interested in people’s positions, or what they do, or what they have, or how well they speak, when in the New Testament the really big thing is THE CHARACTER.
……God is not going to ask me or be very interested in me in terms of, “So, how many books did you write, or how many conferences did you go to?” He is much more discerning than that. What He is really interested in is what kind of person you were. “What was produced in you by the Word of God and the Spirit of God? How well trained were you as My child?”

“Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.” Woodrow Wilson

“The real rulers in Washington are invisible and exercise power from behind the scenes.
US Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter (1939-1962)

The Apostle Paul would have said it this way:
“The real rulers in Jerusalem are invisible and exercise power from behind the scenes.”
I love what Paul says in verse 5: “to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved FOR YOU.”
On January 20, 2017, our newly elected President of the Unites States, Donald J. Trump:
“Today’s ceremony has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another – but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the American people.
For too long, a small group of our nations’ Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished – but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered – but the jobs left, and the factories closed. The Establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.
Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nations Capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.
That all changes – starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment; it belongs to you.
It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This your celebration. And this, The United States of America, is your country.”

2014, July 3, The Washington Times ran an article on their website, stating:
“The real government of the United States is not the Congress, not the president, not the courts, not the Constitution, but the federal bureaucracy.”

James Boice in his commentary on verses 4-5 says:
”false brethren” constitute a military metaphor, used to indicate the subversive and militant nature of the evil that Paul was fighting.”

AND THE BEST WAY TO DESTROY GRACE IS TO ENSLAVE BELIEVERS WITH A STRENUOUS RELIGIOUS SYSTEM.
• Prerequisite for meriting salvation
• Rituals to receive salvation
• Righteous works to maintain salvation

GENUINE SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION

“Living by grace instead of by works means you are free from the performance treadmill. It means God has already given you an “A” when you deserved an “F.” He has already given you a full day’s pay even though you may have worked for only one hour. It means you don’t have to perform certain spiritual disciplines to earn God’s approval. Jesus Christ has already done that for you. You are loved and accepted by God through the merit of Jesus, and you are blessed by God through the merit of Jesus. Nothing you ever do will cause Him to love you any more or any less. He loves you strictly by His grace given to you through Jesus.” Jerry Bridges (Transforming Grace, 73)

Evangelist Morgan Campbell in his commentary on Galatians writes:
“One teaching that is totally absent from all the cults is the gospel of the grace of God. No one is taught in the cults that he can be saved from eternal damnation by simply placing his faith in Jesus Christ. It is always belief in Jesus Christ and “do this” or “follow that”. All cults attach something to the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith…..It is never taught that faith in Christ alone will save anyone.”

“Paul is concerned here to show that no one can be educated into the kingdom of God. Paul had not, he says, learned his gospel in the presumed Christian catechetical schools of Jerusalem. Where then had he learned it? It had come directly through a revelation, “unveiling”, of Jesus Christ, he says. On the road to Damascus, Paul had received a transforming revelation. The source of all revelation is God; and the content of this revelation was Christ.” Alan Cole, Commentary on Galatians

Carl Teichrib in his research book “GAME OF GODS” writes:
In California the Black Panthers waved guns and demanded “justice and peace. The US Supreme Court said “no” to public prayer in school. America’s fabric was torn by domestic assassinations, and the “political truth” of the JFK inquiry undermined public confidence. Paul Ehrlich was selling population control: “We can no longer afford merely to treat the symptoms of the cancer of population growth; the cancer itself must be cut out.” “Hip Marxism” – the New Left – promised can end to oppression; a bright future of social quality and cultural transformation. Radical student movements made the evening news.
As the Esalen Institute a “religion without religion” was being birthed, combining psychedelics, yoga, sex, psychology and liberal theology into a new humanistic spirituality – adjustable to one’s felt needs. In San Francisco, Anton LaVey formalized a pragmatic, anti-Christian religion – the Church of Satan – “a temple of glorious indulgence” that would “recapture man’s mind and carnal desires as objects of celebration.” To LaVey, his Church was the real counter-culture. It certainly embodied the spirit of the age.
Closer to Los Angeles, members of Elysium were shedding their clothes “for the well-being and advancement of the public.” In Laurel Canyon, a new music scene was churning out anthems for America’s Cultural Revolution; leaving a trail of personal wreckage. Colorado’s Drop City became an artistic vortex for “a new society in which the individual may fill both his spiritual and physical needs while doing just what he wants. On a farm in New York, 400,000 people danced and frolicked in the mud and rain. Woodstock, “An Aquarian Exposition,” celebrated “love and peace.”
Dreams for sexual freedom, social and political utopia, and a world imagining itself into a new reality flittered in the minds of millions…
America wandered in a maze of moral dilemmas…
Mistrust and anger marked the domestic spirit. Mass demonstrations tore at the nation’s fabric. Troops were not just being sent to the jungles of Asia, they were marching on the streets of Detroit, Chicago, and Washington D.C. At Kent State university, members of the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four students. America wandered in a daze of lost meaning.” Carl Teichrib “Game of Gods”

FREEDOM IN DEPENDENCY

Alan Cole (1965) “The Epistle to the Galatians is SPIRITUAL DYNAMITE, and it is therefore almost impossible to handle it WITHOUT EXPLOSION.
At every point it challenges our present-day shallow, easy acceptances and provokes our opposition. It was a controversial letter, and it is vain to expect any commentator, however humble, to avoid controversy when expounding it – especially when the issues are just as alive today.”
In true faith, God is always the initiator, and man is always the responder. This means that God says something is true, and man responds by acting on it, DEPENDING ON GOD FOR THE RESULTS.
The problem Paul is addressing here with the Galatians is that they had abandoned a personal, loving God, who has manifested that love by calling them IN THE GRACE OF JESUS CHRIST.
In his scholarly research book titled “Game of Gods”, Carl Teichrib is addressing this problem and many more by stating:
Humanity has three great desires:
TO BE AS GOD
TO BE MASTER OF MEANING AND DESTINY
TO BUILD HEAVEN ON EARTH
“Tolerance without definition becomes the new norm. Inclusion and broad interpretations represent the progressive path, and personal transformation means conforming to ever changing cultural cues….
Truth and falsehood are no longer discernible, and what is known to be factual becomes blurred and distorted – including biology, identity, and sexuality.
In such a milieu there is an almost irresistible pull to elevate SELF. Our personal reality is fashioned in the IMAGE OF OUR FELT NEEDS. The psychological cult of SELFISM, a “form of secular humanism based on worship of the self, attempts to fill the vacuum of lost value.
Yes, mankind has always struggled with pride and hubris, but Selfism elevates vice to virtue and packages it as illumined personal discovery. Selfism, a product of the human potential movement, feeds our desire for meaning while stoking our ego. The self rises as a divine spark. We are each divine selves, masters of destiny and voices of self-authority.
The cult of Selfism is a horizontal heresy, with its emphasis only on the present, and on self-centered ethics.”
Carl Teichrib goes on to ask the question:
“How could this not be? For decades, public education and mental health services have washed our brains in the “holy waters” of the human potential movement; the theories of Erich Fromm, Carl Rogers, and Abraham Maslow. Following Sigmund Freud’s guilt-based theory of human development and B.F. Skinner’s behavioral models, Maslow’s teachings on self-actualization – the “third-force” in psychology – saturated Western thinking. From the experiential encounters at the Esalen Institute to your neighborhood clinic, from daytime television to church pulpits, the feel-good mantra of Selfism rang across the land.”

“A life of faith is our LOVE FOR GOD,
resulting in DEPENDENCY UPON GOD,
resulting in OBEDIENCE TO GOD.”
Ian Thomas
Listen,
• Apart from having a heart that is truly learning to love God, we will have no motivation for obedience other than abject fear of punishment.
• On the other hand, apart from an understanding of what it means to live dependently, we will have no ability to live obediently.
• What’s the result when we change our mind about these truths?
We will return to the law, trying to work to get approval from man.

The Love of God is our motivation.
The Life of God is our power.
The Freedom is found in Dependency

PAUL’S CHALLENGE TO ALL OF US

“The Martyrdom of Man” by Winwood Reade (1872)
“Thus Man has taken into his service, and modified to his use, the animals and plants, the earth and stones, the waters and the winds…..By means of his inventions and discoveries, by means of his arts and trades, by means of the industry resulting from them, he has raised himself from the condition of a serf to the conditions of a lord. His triumph, indeed, is incomplete; his kingdom is not yet come…
Earth, which is now a purgatory, will be made a paradise, not by idle prayers and supplications, but by the efforts of man himself….When we have ascertained, by means of Science, the method of nature’s operations, we shall be able to take her place and perform them for ourselves. When we understand the laws which regulate the complex phenomena of life, we shall be able to predict the future.
Hunger and starvation will then be unknown….Population will mightily increase, and the earth will be a garden. Governments will be conducted with the quietude and regularity of club committees. The interest which is now felt in politics will be transferred to science….
Not only will Man subdue the forces of evil that are without; he will also subdue those that are within….he will obey the laws that are written in his heart; he will worship the divinity within him….
Man then will be perfect; he will then be a creator; he will therefore be what the vulgar worship as a god.” (pages 512-515)
“Supernatural Christianity is false. God-worship is idolatry. Prayer is useless. The soul is not immortal.”Page 522
In 1941, Julian Huxley wrote a book titled: “Religion without Revelation”
“It is obvious that any religion which lays primary emphasis on salvation in the next world will be something of an obstacle towards getting the best out of this world as speedily as possible……
Once we have rid ourselves of this doctrine of a Divine Power external to ourselves, we can get busy with the real task of dealing with our inner forces.”
That was written almost 80 years ago.

In 1917, Samuel Butler, a Victorian-era novelist published ‘THE NOTE-BOOK OF SAMUEL BUTLER:
“Science is being daily more and more personified and anthropomorphized into a god. By and by they will say that science took our nature upon him, and sent down his only begotten son, Charles Darwin, or Huxley, into the world so that those who believe in him, etc.”

In 1880 The sophisticated German thinker Friedrich Nietzsche wrote a philosophical novel “THUS SPOKE ZARATHUSTRA”
Let me give you two paragraphs from his book:
“Man is something that shall be overcome….What is ape to man? A laughing-stock or a painful embarrassment. And just the same shall man be to the Uebermensch…
The Uebermensch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The Uebermensch shall be the meaning of the earth!
Remain true to the earth, and do not believe those who speak to you of otherworldly hopes! They are poison-mixers.” (Pages 9-10)
Nietzsche in his book “The Gay Science” wrote:
“God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How can we console ourselves, the murderer of all murderers! The holiest and the mightiest thing the world has ever possessed has bled to death under our knives; who will wipe this blood from us? With what water could we cleanse ourselves? What festivals of atonement what holy games will we have to invent for ourselves? Is the magnitude of this deed not too great for us? Do we not ourselves have to become gods merely to appear worthy of it? There was never a greater deed – and whoever is born after us will on account of this deed belong to a higher history than all history up to now.” (Page 120)
German philosopher Martin Heidegger proclaimed:
“The spirit of community as found in National Socialism is a new configuration of the people, an inner reeducation of the entire people toward the goal of wanting its own unity and oneness.”

JESUS BROUGHT A SWORD

The sword of which He spoke is the sharpest of all implements of conflict: THE TRUTH. And those who hold it will find themselves hunted by evil. Chuck Swindoll

“Much of our Christian life is nothing more than a cheap anesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty life.” Lewis Sperry Chafer (founder of Dallas Th. Seminary)

“May not the inadequacy of much of our spiritual experience be traced back to our habit of skipping through the corridor of the kingdom like children in the marketplace, always chattering about everything, but learning the true value of nothing.” A.W. Tozer

John MacArthur in his New Testament Commentary on Matthew is quoting Mel White, the author of the book Deceived:
“Walter Mondale wrote that the pastor was an “inspiration to us all.” The Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare cited the pastor’s outstanding contribution. We are told “he knew how to inspire hope.” He was committed to people in need, he counseled prisoners and juvenile delinquents. He stared a job placement center; he opened rest homes and homes for the retarded; he had a health clinic, he organized a vocational training center; he provided free legal aid; he founded a community center; he preached about God. He even claimed to cast out demons, do miracles, and heal.”

British pastor Andrew Murray in his book: Abide in Christ: Thoughts on the Blessed Life of Fellowship with the Son of God (1864):
“It is to be feared that there are many earnest followers of Jesus from whom the meaning of (abiding) is very much hidden. While trusting in their Savior for pardon and for help and seeking to some extent to obey Him, they have hardly realized to what closeness of union, to what intimacy of fellowship He invited them when He said, “Abide in Me.” This is not only an unspeakable loss to themselves, but the church and the world suffer in what they lose.”

“The focus of a Christian’s activity is not to work hard enough to make fruit, but to keep his connection to Jesus Christ clean and strong. One way to do that is to absorb the teaching of God’s Word, the 66 books of the Bible. Read God’s Word…..think about it, apply it, talk about it with others, ask questions, commit sections of it to memory. Strength and productivity come from staying connected. However, according to Jesus, failing to remain connected to the vine leads to tragic consequences. Someone who fails to abide is someone trying to transform his or her own character in order to produce Christlike qualities without maintaining a connection to Christ. And that’s futile; it never works. In fact, it’s a perfect plan for drying up and withering away.” Chuck Swindoll

AUTHORIZED

Charles R. Taber, in his book “Missiology and the Bible” states:
“The very existence of the Bible is incontrovertible evidence of the God who refused to forsake his rebellious creation, who refused to give up, who was and is determined to redeem and restore fallen creation to his original design for it…
The very existence of such a collection of writings testifies to a God who breaks through to human beings, who disclosed himself to them, who will not leave them unilluminated in their darkness…..who takes the initiative in re-establishing broken relationships with us.”

As Charles Van Engen in his book: “THE RELATION OF BIBLE AND MISSION IN MISSION THEOLOGY” writes: “The whole Bible renders to us the story of God’s mission through God’s people in their engagement with God’s world for the sake of the whole of God’s creation.”

Authority authorizes; it grants freedom to act within boundaries.
Authority is the source and boundary of freedom.
Authority must be connected to reality.

“The authority of the Bible is that it brings us into contact with reality – primarily the reality of God himself whose authority stands behind even that of creation. Reading and knowing the Scriptures causes us to engage with reality. That in turn functions to authorize and to set boundaries around our freedom to act in the world.
The authority for our mission flows from the Bible because the Bible reveals the reality on which our mission is based.” Christopher Wright

This God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Holy One of Israel, is the very AUTHORITY that those Scriptures mediate, because we have no other access to YHWH’s reality than through these Scriptures. Only in the Bible can we find God’s identity and God’s character.
The entire Old Testament is telling a story about the reality of God, the reality of the story (real live) and the reality of God’s people, all pointing to an anticipated future in the purposes of God.

What does that mean?
If it is true that the Bible reveals the reality of this Only True God, the reality of this story that answers the four fundamental questions
Where are we?
Who are we?
What’s gone wrong?
What’s the solution?
And also reveals the reality of this people called Israel, what should be the impact of the way Israel in the Old Testament and the Church in the New Testament SHOULD LIVE NOW?
In Jesus we meet this God who shares the identity and character of YHWH and ultimately accomplishes what only YHWH could. So, to know Jesus as savior and lord is to know the reality of the living God. It is to know the way, the truth, and the life, the Word, the Creator, Sustainer and heir of the universe.
God’s mission is our mission and it flows from the AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE.
This is the God we worship, this is the story we are part of, this is the people we belong to.

FAITH DEMANDS UNCERTAINTY

Chuck Swindoll in his commentary ON ACTS:
“The Lord used the old covenant to prove that HEARING the word of God isn’t our primary problem. HEEDING the word of God is our constant challenge. With the inauguration of the new covenant, our Master has taken a different approach. Instead of standing before us to issue orders, He now lives within us to transform our minds (Romans 12:1-2) so that we begin to think His thoughts. As the Spirit gradually takes over, defeating our old, selfish, vain, foolish manner of life, we begin to cherish what God cherishes, make decisions according to His values, and view life from His eternal perspective.” Chuck Swindoll

In his essay on prayer, C.S. Lewis suggested that God treats new Christians with a special kind of tenderness, much as a parent does with a newborn. He quotes an experienced Christian: “I have seen many striking answers to prayer and more than one that I thought miraculous. But they usually come at the beginning before conversion, or soon after it. As the Christian life proceeds, they tend to be rarer. The refusals, too, are not only more frequent; they become more unmistakable, more emphatic.”
C.S. Lewis asks: “Does God then forsake just those who serve Him best? Well, He who served Him best of all said, near His tortured death, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” When God becomes man, that Man, of all others, is least comforted by God, at His greatest need. There is a mystery there which, even if I had the power, I might not have the courage to explore. Meanwhile, little people like you and me, if our prayers are sometimes granted, beyond all hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our own advantage. If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver, we might be sent, with far less help, to defend far more desperate posts in the great battle.”

The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, in his book “Philosophical Fragments”
“Christians remind me of schoolboys who want to look up the answers to their math problems in the back of the book rather than work them through.”

“Faith like Job’s cannot be shaken because it is the result of having been shaken.” Rabbi Abraham Heschel

THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF

Herbert Lockyer in his book: All the Miracles in the Bible, says:
“No longer is the Lord the One suffering with and in His people. Here He stands ready to lead them into the Promised Land. Israel is now to look upon Him, not as an ally or an adversary, BUT AS THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF.”
Jerry Boykin in his book “The Warrior Soul” made a small list of those flaming darts of the evil one.
• Every temptation to cheat is a bullet.
• Every temptation to shade the truth is a bullet.
• Every temptation to take unearned financial benefit is a bullet.
• Every temptation to develop an illicit immoral relationship is a missile.
• Every temptation to slight your King of Kings is a major missile.
Live and die by your training in the finest warrior’s manual ever written – the Word of God.

ONLY TWO SURVIVED

“You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is required. The stars neither require it nor demand it.” Annie Dillard
“Imagine a world designed so that we experience a mild jolt of pain with every sin and a tickle of pleasure with every act of virtue. Imagine a world in which every errant doctrine attracts a lightning bolt, while every repetition of the Apostle’s Creed stimulates our brains to produce an endorphin of pleasure.” Philip Yancey
In fact, for the Israelites it nearly eliminated the need for faith at all; clear guidance sucked away FREEDOM, making every choice a matter of OBEDIENCE RATHER THAN FAITH.
Power can do everything but the most important thing; it cannot control love. Love does not operate according to the rules of power.
In other words, just as God found it nearly impossible to live among sinful people, the Israelites found it nearly impossible to live WITH A HOLY GOD IN THEIR MIDST.
“In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” Oscar Wilde

THE ONE WHO CONQUERS

George Elliot said it right:
“What makes life dreary is absence of motive. What makes life complicated is multiplicity of motive. What makes life victorious is singleness of motive.”

Francis Schaeffer:
“Man, made in the image of God, has a purpose; to be in relationship to God, who is there. Man forgets his purpose and thus he forgets who he is and what life means.”

In one of the commentaries on the book of Philippians, the author writes:
“Christians who cease to stand out begin to blend into their surrounding culture.”
“When the mindset and values of secular society concerning lifestyles, faith, morality, responsibility, conduct, marriage, sexuality, and truth influence one’s mind and take hold of ones’ heart they inevitably affect one’s attitude and behavior. Society begins to influence the life and mission of the church rather than the other way around…
Tragically, light gives way to darkness.”