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 3)

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.”

ABRAHAM, YOU NEED TO MOVE

Salvation is not based on behavior. Abraham believed and was accepted by God BEFORE he obeyed any rules.
Belief and Loyalty are related but not interchangeable.
“God’s laws were about showing God they weren’t going to be disloyal and align themselves with some other god. Being loyal believers would allow God to use the Israelites to minister to all the other nations like “a kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:5-6).
God wanted humanity in his family. He was starting with one group – Israel. If they were loyal believers, they would be a blessing to all the other nations (Genesis 12:3)” Dr. Michael Heiser

A TITANIC STRUGGLE

Let’s make sure we all understand the most fundamental principal:
God placed his new creation, made in His image, in a special place called GARDEN OF EDEN, and gave them dominion over the entire earth to subdue it and to populate it. It went south right from the get-go.
But God still intended to dwell with humanity. However, there would be opposition. As Michael Heiser points out: “Divine beings in service to Yahweh could defect. Enemies of Yahweh and his rule, from the human to the divine to something in between, lurked over the horizon. Heaven and earth were destined to be reunited, but it would be a titanic struggle.
In the meantime, any effort to recapture God’s original intent apart from God’s own strategy and will for restoring Eden would end in disaster. There would be no Eden utopia revived by human beings or other gods. It would be a painful lesson.” Dr. Michael Heiser
Chuck Swindoll in one of his commentaries writes that Christians often talk about “walking with God”, so much so that these words can easily become cliché.
He gives this advice, which I pass on to all of you:
What happens when we walk with God?
1. The discipline of silence increases our sensitivity.
When I am always moving fast, always making noise, always being active, I become insensitive. But when I am quiet, the veneer is peeled away. I become more sensitive to God.
2. The reassurance of His will decreases our anxiety.
When I spend time with God, my anxiety is washed away.
3. The submission of obedience proves our humility.
When I do what God says, I prove to Him I am willing to submit to His will. I listen to Him and obey. This interaction solidifies our relationship and brings us into closer communion.

WE CANNOT STOP THE SEASONS

In 1997, William Strauss and Neil Howe wrote a book entitled:
“The Fourth Turning”
The subtitle reveals the rest of the story: “What the Cycles of History tell us about America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny.”
Here are their findings:
• The FIRST TURNING is a HIGH, an upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individualism, when a new civic order implants and the old values regime decays.
• The SECOND TURNING is an AWAKENING, a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when the civic order comes under attack from a new values regime.
• The THIRD TURNING is an UNRAVELING, a downcast era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when the old civic order decays and a new values regime implants.
• The FOURTH TURNING is a CRISIS, a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one.
The authors make it very clear that these turnings, these rhythms of history do not reveal the outcome of the coming crisis; all they suggest is the timing and dimension.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

“Nachash” means A SHINY DIVINER, one who gave out divine information. That’s exactly what Eve is getting from this divine being, divine information.
ANOTHER SPIRITUAL BEING THAT WE ENCOUNTERED IN THE GARDEN IS THE CHERUBIM.
The tempter in the Garden, that serpent of old, also known as the Devil is not a cherubim, but rather a Seraphim.
Seraphim: The meaning of the Hebrew word for “seraphim” is ‘FIERY SERPENT.”
Seraphim are reptilian/serpentine beings, also known in the Bible as watchers. There are good seraphim who PROCLAIM the Holiness of God and there are wicked seraphim who rebelled against the Most High at various times, and who became the pagan gods of the other nations.
Brian Godawa in “Enoch Primordial Appendix” explains:
“In Hebrew, satan is prefixed by the definite article HA which makes it translate more accurately as THE SATAN, or THE ACCUSER.
In the New Testament Greek, Satan is prefixed by the definite article HO, carrying the same result of THE SATAN as the adversary or the accuser.”
Why is all this important to know? Answer:
For way too long we have been taught that Satan was the highest cherub in God’s heavenly host, a worship leader with the name of Lucifer, who long before the Garden of Eden, rebelled by trying to usurp God’s seat of authority in heaven. He wanted to be “like God”. He was then cast out of heaven with one third of the angels and fell to earth, where he tempted Eve in the Garden as a snake, and now he is “Prince and Power of the air”, over the earth.
Lucifer was actually a Latin translation for the Hebrew words HELEL BEN SHAHAR, which means “Morningstar”, known to the ancients as the planet Venus.
“Satan occurs 27 times in the Hebrew Bible. Ten of those occurrences are without the article. Of these ten occurrences, seven refer to human beings and two refer to the Angel of Yahweh. That means nine of the ten instances clearly do not refer to the Devil or proper personal name, Satan.”
Peggy L.Day (An adversary in Heaven: Satan in the Hebrew Bible)

GOD CANNOT BE DEFEATED

Final Thoughts from last week:
• Eden was lost, God intends that it be restored
• His rule and His kingdom will return in its full scope when Jesus comes back and God creates a new heaven and earth.
• In the meantime, we can spread the truth of God and the gospel of Jesus everywhere.
• Consciously thinking of ourselves as God’s representative – his imagers- mean the decisions we make matter.
• We are a glimpse either of life with God or of a life without God. There is no middle ground.
• Understanding this truth will have an impact on how we see each other and relate to each other.
• Racism has no place in God’s world. Injustice is incompatible with representing God. The abuse of power – at home, at work, or in government – is ungodly.
• God cares about how each of us represents him where we are. We either stand against the darkness, sharing the life God wants everyone to ultimately experience, or we don’t. The opportunity does not need to be spectacular; it just needs to be taken.

No wonder so many Christians today are totally confused what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, what it means to be A CHILD OF GOD, what it means to LIVE THE RESURRECTED LIFE TODAY. And certainly, most people don’t even believe that it is important to know all these things.
• Do we really need to know what happened in the Garden of Eden?
• Do we really need to know that the “serpent” in the Garden wasn’t really a member of the animal kingdom?
• Do we really need to know about the connection between Genesis 3, Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14?
• Do we really need to know what the Hebrew word NACHASH, translated “Serpent” really means?
• Do we really need to know what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote;
“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the women was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” 1 Timothy 2:12-15

“the proper context for interpreting the Bible is the context of the biblical writers – the context that PRODUCED the Bible.”
“We do not share the cognitive framework of the biblical writers. While the implications may seem uncomfortable, it is hermeneutically pointless to pretend otherwise.” Dr. Michael Heiser

FREEWILL IMAGERS

In is book “What love is this?” Dave Hunt writes:
“The Calvinist claims that God, in His sovereignty (if He so desires), could stop all sin and cause everyone always to keep the Ten Commandments perfectly. This would be possible only if man had no free will. If that were true, however, what would be the point of giving the Law? God could have controlled human thoughts, words, and deeds so that without even knowing the Law, everyone would do exactly what the Law required.
Incredibly, Calvinism teaches that God gave the Ten Commandments, caused man to break them, then damned him for doing so. The Bible is thereby turned into a charade, man into a puppet, and God into a monster whom the atheist rightly rejects.
C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity:
“God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free.
Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (…) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.”
Dr. Michael Heiser:
“Despite the risk of evil, free will is a wonderful gift. God’s decision was a loving one. Understanding that requires only a consideration of the two alternatives:
1. Not having life at all
2. Being a mindless robot, capable only of obeying commands and responding to programming.
If our decisions were all coerced, how authentic would those “decisions” actually be? If love is coerced or programmed, is it really love? Is any such decision really a genuine decision at all? It isn’t. For a decision to be real, it must be made against an alternative that could be chosen. We all know the difference between freedom and coercion. The IRS doesn’t tell you that YOU MAY PERHAPS pay your taxes by April 15.
When you behave wrongly, where would the emotional healing of forgiveness be if the person you offended was merely programmed to say those words, or coerced to say them? Free will is a gift, despite the risk.”

The idea of God wanting us to join his divine family, to be part of his council and live in his presence, helps us understand some amazing things the Bible says:
• It explains why the Bible refers to believers as “sons of God” or “children of God” (John 1:12; 11:52; Galatians 3:26; 1 John 3:1-3
• It explains why believers are described as being “adopted” into God’s family (Galatians 4:5-6; Romans 8:14-16)
• It explains why we are said to be “heirs” of God and his kingdom (Galatians 4:7; Titus 3:7; James 2:5)
• It explains why we are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4)
• It explains why, after Jesus returns, he says he will grant believers “to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7)
• It explains why he has promised to share the rule of the nations with us (Revelation 2:26-28)

Final Thoughts
• Eden was lost, God intends that it be restored.
• His rule and His kingdom will return in its full scope when Jesus comes back and God creates a new heaven and earth.
• In the meantime, we can spread the truth of God and the gospel of Jesus everywhere.
• Consciously thinking of ourselves as God’s representative – his imagers- mean the decisions we make matter.
• We are a glimpse either of life with God or of a life without God. There is no middle ground.
• Understanding this truth will have an impact on how we see each other and relate to each other.
• Racism has no place in God’s world. Injustice is incompatible with representing God. The abuse of power – at home, at work, or in government – is ungodly.
• God cares about how each of us represents him where we are. We either stand against the darkness, sharing the life God wants everyone to ultimately experience, or we don’t. The opportunity does not need to be spectacular; it just needs to be taken.

WORKING WITH GOD

In our text we notice 4 incredible statements that will guide us through our study:
• Jesus Christ IS THE IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD
• Jesus Christ IS THE CREATOR OF EVERYTHING IN THE SPIRITUAL AND THE PHYSICAL REALM.
• Jesus Christ CREATED THRONES OR DOMINIONS OR RULERS OR AUTHORITIES (all in the spiritual realm)
• Jesus Christ CREATED THE CHURCH OF WHICH HE IS THE HEAD, the firstborn from the dead to bring us back into fellowship with our Creator.
Dr. Michael Heiser (THE UNSEEN REALM)
“God does not act without purpose. He created the heavenly host, intending that they carry out his will. Did he create them to meet some need in him? No. A complete, perfect being has no deficiencies. God has no need of a council, but he uses one. Similarly, God did not need humans to steward his creation, or later on, to reveal that Messiah had come. But those were his choices as well. God delighted in creating proxies to represent him and carry out his wishes. His decisions in that regard have ramifications.”
Patrick D. Miller (Israelite Religion and Biblical Theology):
“The creation of the human creature is the establishment of a representative from the divine world to rule the created order. The image of the divine ones is placed on earth to embody and represent the divine ones in subduing, ruling, and governing the earth. The creation of male and female provides for the sustaining of that rule in the perpetuation of the creation.”
Dr. Michael Heiser:
“…. God rules over the heavenly realm and the earthly realm with the genuine assistance of his imager-representatives. He decrees and they carry out his commands. These points are clear. What is perhaps less clear is that the way God’s will is carried out and accomplished is open – imagers can make free decisions to accomplish God’s will. God decrees the ends, but the means can (and apparently are at times) left up to the imagers.
This balance of sovereignty and free will is essential for understanding what happened in Eden. The choices made by human and nonhuman beings described in Genesis 3 were neither coerced nor needed by Yahweh for the sake of his greater plan. The risk of creating image bearers who might freely choose rebellion was something God foresaw but did not decree.”

WHAT IS OUR DESTINY?

David Burnett in his MA Thesis titled: “Abraham’s Star-like Seed: Neglected Functional Elements in the Patriarchal Promise of Genesis 15”, states:
“Most Bible Interpreters take the promise of Genesis 15:5 as a numerical one. This is certainly the case, but here is a noteworthy stream of Second Temple Jewish interpretation – culminating in the New Testament – that considers the promise QUALITATIVE as well. The point is that believers, the children of Abraham through faith in the promised messianic seed, would not only be as numerous as the stars but would be made divine, as stars, the members of the heavenly host, were considered to be. Being made “like the stars” is part of the biblical theology of glorification or THEOSIS.”
“God does nothing but in answer to prayer.” John Wesley

THE GOD OF ORDER – Part II

Dr. Michael Heiser:
“A biblical writer would use “Elohim” to label any entity that is not embodied by nature and is a member of the spiritual realm. This “otherworldliness” is an attribute all residents of the spiritual world possess. Every member of the spiritual world can be thought of as “Elohim” since the term tells us where an entity belongs in terms of its nature.
The spiritual realm has rank and hierarchy; Yahweh is the Most High.”

“The New Testament marks 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, Solomon, 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.” Dr. Michael Heiser “The Unseen Realm”

THE GOD of ORDER

The church of today is bending under the weight of its own rationalism.
Today’s church tradition forces us to believe that God’s heavenly hosts is another term for angels.
The term that describes the NATURE of the heavenly host
The nature describes what the members of the heavenly host are or are like
The term that describes the STATUS of the heavenly host
The status describes the hierarchical rank of the members of the heavenly host with respect to God and each other
The term that describes the FUNCTION of the heavenly host.
The function describes what the members of the heavenly host do.

Francis Schaeffer in his book “True Spirituality” is talking about this very subject:
“The Mount of Transfiguration makes is very, very plain that the supernatural world is not a long way off. One does not have to take a spaceship and fly for two generations, producing the second generation in flight, in order to reach the supernatural world……
This is the emphasis of Scripture, that the supernatural world is not far-off, but very, very close indeed.
Speaking of Christ on the Emmaus road, Luke wrote: “And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight” (Luke 24:31)
It would in fact be better to translate: “He ceased to be seen of them.” Luke does not say that Christ was no longer there. In this particular place they simply did not see him any longer.”
Dr. Michael Heiser:
“A biblical writer would use “Elohim” to label any entity that is not embodied by nature and is a member of the spiritual realm. This “otherworldliness” is an attribute all residents of the spiritual world possess. Every member of the spiritual world can be thought of as “Elohim” since the term tells us where an entity belongs in terms of its nature. The spiritual realm has rank and hierarchy; Yahweh is the Most High.”

STRANGE but TRUE

• Heaven will be on Earth (Revelation 21-22)
• Eternal Life will be lived out in a new Eden – a global paradise.
• Having been transformed to be like the risen Christ, believers in the new Eden inherit the rule of the nations.
• Jesus grants us the privilege of sharing his throne with him to rule the earth.
• The nations are currently ruled by fallen sons of God, who enslave their populations. (Psalm 82:1-7)
• The Apostle Paul declares that these fallen sons of God will be removed and we as believers will be judging these “Angels”. (1 Corinthians 6:3)

“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. Dr. Michael Heiser
Understanding the Supernatural, which must include the theology of the heavenly host, is indispensable for conceiving our eternal destiny as co-rulers with Jesus.
• The term that describes the NATURE of the heavenly host
The nature describes what the members of the heavenly host are or are like

• The term that describes the STATUS of the heavenly host
The status describes the hierarchical rank of the members of the heavenly host with respect to God and each other

• The term that describes the FUNCTION of the heavenly host.
The function describes what the members of the heavenly host do.
Terms that describe THE NATURE of the heavenly host
• Spirit RUAH plural RUAHOT
• Heavenly Ones SAMAYIM
• Stars KOKEBIM
• Holy Ones QEDOSIM
• Gods/Divine Beings ELOHIM
• Angels MAL’AKIM
• Mighty Ones GIBBORIM
• Demons SHEDIM
Each of those terms in the Old Testament describes the SPECIFIC NATURE of God’s heavenly host. Those names do not describe their rank in the spiritual hierarchy. The names simply reveal to us WHO THEY ARE AND WHAT THEY ARE LIKE.
They are first and foremost SPIRITUAL BEINGS. Most of them do God’s biddings, that is they are loyal to God Almighty and execute God’s decrees. They are also a part of God’s Divine Council. They have access to God’s Throne Room where all decisions are made.

YOU ARE COMPLETELY FREE

Philip Yancey ins his book “DISAPPOINTMENT WITH GOD writes:
I found that for many people there is a large gap between what they expect from their Christian faith and what they actually experience. From a steady diet of books, sermons, and personal testimonies, all promising triumph and success, they learn to expect dramatic evidence of God working in their lives. If they do not see such evidence, they feel disappointment, betrayal and often guilt.” Philip Yancey

C.S. Lewis nails it when he writes in Mere Christianity:
“Either we give up trying to be good, or else we become very unhappy indeed. For, make no mistake: If you are really going to try to meet all the demands made on the natural self, it will not have enough left over to live on. The more you obey your conscience, the more your conscience will demand of you. And your natural self, which is thus being starved and hampered and worried at every turn, will get angrier. In the end, you will either give up trying to be good, or else become one of those people who, as they say, “live for others” but always in a discontented, grumbling way – always making a martyr of yourself. And once you have become that you will be a far greater pest to anyone who has to live with you than you would have been if you had remained frankly selfish.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
“The God of the cannibals will be a cannibal, of the crusaders a crusader, and of the merchant, a merchant.”