Thursday, September 30, 2010

Redeemed from the Curse

What exactly is a curse? Can a Christian today find themselves in the same place as the early church? Paul has something to confront the Galatians about and now they must be ready for an awakening. 

Galatians 3:10-13
10. For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them." 11. Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "The righteous man shall live by faith." 12. However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "He who practices them shall live by them." 13. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us."...

When you have a moment, go back to Galatians Chapter 3 and read the start of this chapter.  Paul asks the Galatian Christians, who has "bewitched" them. Pretty strong accusations for Paul to hand out. What would we say today if someone came to speak at our church and stood at the podium and asked us that particular question? I would imagine we'd be pretty indignant and irritated. Can you imagine the gasps, denials, and finger pointing?  Yet, that's just what Paul did. He stood up and asked a pointed question of the Galatian church.

Lets look at two words here in the Greek that give us an indication of the seriousness of his topic.

The word "bewitched" in the Greek is "baskaino" which means "to charm, to bring evil upon", and the Oxford Dictionary gives the following: "to enchant, delight, cast a spell on, charm, fascinate, beguile" (with words)

The word "cursed" found in verses 10 and 13 "epikataratos" means "doomed, and to bring evil upon". The Oxford Dictionary gives these: "something that causes evil or harm, denunciation, misfortune, affliction, damned."

So we can see from looking at these words that Paul uses, that he was totally serious in his accusations. Life or death, blessings or curses... we hear this topic throughout the Old and New Testament. When we studied Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, back in February, we find that Adam and Eve's sin caused them to be evicted from the Garden of Eden and they were subject to living under "the curse". (read Genesis Chapter 3). Then again in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 28, we see again how "curses" can come upon us.

Now, I want to explain this thought about curses in a way that I feel the Lord has shown me. Don't think of this as God's maliciousness or ill will toward you or anyone else. Think of us individually walking with Jesus and he is holding an umbrella. It is pouring rain and hailing. Now, because of a personal decision, someone chooses to leave Jesus' side and walk out from under that umbrella of "blessing" and protection. Think "free will".

This is where we leave the "blessing" and walk "under the curse". I'm not saying that anytime anything bad happens that we have sinned or chosen to walk away from Jesus. We live in a world where "things happen", and I'm living proof of that. I didn't choose to have cardiovascular problems or heart attacks. Someone doesn't have cancer because they are "sinning". People don't die young because they have walked away from Jesus. I'm talking about a mindset that lures us away from the Word of God, prayer, and intimacy with our Father. When someone chooses to leave Jesus, and His way of thinking and doing things, He allows us, but we walk out from under that umbrella of blessing, and basically are on our own.

Hope you all understand what I'm saying here. This is what happened to the Galatians. Paul was fearful for them, because the Judiazers had "bewitched" them with their words. They had convinced and confused the new Christians at Galatia, and in their fear, they reverted back to the Old Testament Law, of rules, regulations and never being "good enough" to find salvation.

There are a lot of ideas, concepts, and theories out there that can subtly lure us away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It doesn't have to particularly be this idea of "the law".  The "New Age" doctrines can sound surprisingly close to scripture. This is why it's so important to know God's Word and be in it daily. This allows the Holy Spirit to speak to us and warn us when something isn't quite right. Beware being bewitched with false doctrines. If you have questions, don't be afraid to ask God about them. He will lead you into the truth. That's part of his "job description".

So, back to our scripture in Galatians; don't let anyone or anything try to drag you back "under the Law". The Law was given to the Israelites to be a "guideline", but not for salvation. It has always been a matter of "faith". God's grace is the key to salvation, not living by rules and regulations.

Thank you, Jesus!!

Next time we'll talk about Abraham, and why he is considered to be not only the Jew's spiritual father, but as Christians, ours also.

Thank you all so much for your prayers for my family as we celebrated the life of my father in law, and rejoiced at his "home going".

love, in Jesus,

Monday, September 20, 2010

Life in Christ

I'm sharing a personal thought today in this post. My husband's father passed away last Thursday evening after a long time diagnoses of Alzheimer's. He had been married for sixty-five years to my husband's mom. They lived a good life, but not always an easy one. He had been a POW in WWII, shot down over Czechoslovakia. So I have been thinking a lot this week about "life" and "death" and then what constitutes a successful journey. My own dad passed away almost eleven years ago, my brother over seven years ago. They have been on my heart this week also. My dad and brother both too young for passing. Each one knew the Lord, and had committed his heart to Jesus Christ.
I pondered what to write in this post today because the book of Galatians has not been in my sights this week, but as I read the next verses of our text in Galatians Chapter 2, I landed on a verse which has held such profound influence, emotion, and power in my own life.

Galatians 2:20

"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the [life] which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me."

Living a life void of Jesus isn't really living. Yes, we have a body, mind, and spirit, but without the power and presence of Jesus in our heart we live a life that is empty...artificial...without real purpose. We truly begin to LIVE when we lay our old life down for Jesus. Crucifying "ourselves" to let Jesus Christ "live" through us. Our old thoughts and life are left behind, we are reborn with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Then the new life in Christ that we receive is lived by faith. Not just faith for salvation, but faith in Jesus Christ for our daily lives. Committing daily, to living a life for Him, not ourselves.

I have had my own moments where "death" felt near. It has caused me to rethink my "living" re-evaluate what kind of life I want to live. When it all comes down to it, I know this in my heart; I am nothing without God in me. The life I live today isn't to be compared with our eternity with our Father.

I really think that this video from Phillips, Craig and Dean is one of the most powerful that I could share. It reached into me and powerfully transformed my outlook on life...and death. Even if you've seen and heard it a hundred times, please listen one more time, asking God for it to truly be manifested in your own personal life.

And then Paul says again in Philippians 1:21, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain".

We have a week of family and spending time with them. I'll be back next week, please say a prayer for my mother-in-law. She needs to feel God's arms around her.

Love you all,
in Jesus,

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Un-Masking Peter

In Galatians Chapter 2 we see once again, that Paul is meeting with Peter. Anyone who ever thought the disciples of Jesus were perfect, all we have to do is look at Peter. God had a big plan for Peter's life and ministry, but human he was, with some opinions and positions that God desired to change. God said it was time to remove the mask that Peter was hiding behind in regard to the Gentile believers.

Version: New American Standard
Galatians 2:11-13

11. But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I (Paul) opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he [began] to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13. And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.

The Oxford dictionary tells us that the word hypocrisy means to be insincere, two-faced, dishonest, a pretender, having a false claim to virtue, and pretense.

Hard to imagine that Paul was calling Peter out for this, but he was. Peter's personality had some flaws as we have seen in the Gospels. He was quick tempered, impulsive, and inconsistent. He walked on water to meet Jesus, yet began to sink as fear set in. In the Upper Room, he promised that he would be willing to die with Jesus, yet denied him three times during the arrest and trial of Jesus. When Jesus called him "Peter" meaning "the rock" I believe He was stating His great desire for Peter; one that changed his nature and molded him into a great apostle.

Peter knew first hand the meaning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are saved and "justified" not by works or the Law, but in faith and by the grace of God, through Jesus' death on the cross for our sin. Yet when push came to shove he reverted back to his old traditional ways of thinking and acting, that of the Old Testment Law. He was succombing to the pressure of the Judaizers and the Hebrew "church" once more. And feeling trapped in the middle, he sympathized with the Jewish Christians in their exclusion and fellowship of the Gentile believers.

As I did some online study for the word "hypocrite" I found the following. I thought that it was worth sharing with you. The following is taken from RBC Ministries.

"What is so dangerous about hypocrisy?

The word hypocrite originated when a Hebrew word with a general meaning of “godless” and a root meaning of “corrupt” or “defiled” was translated into Greek with a word having the meaning "to play a part."(Think about the Greek masks of Comedy/Tragedy) Religious hypocrites corrupt themselves by concealing their true nature beneath an outward show of uprightness."

“"But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. "They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, "greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ "But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. "And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. "But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. "And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:5-12 NKJV)

Jesus was especially concerned about hypocrisy (see Matthew 23). He condemned it more vehemently and frequently than any other sin. He described how hypocrites are more interested in appearing good to other people than seeking true inner goodness. There are several reasons that hypocrisy is a very serious matter.

Hypocrisy hates the truth. Because a hypocrite’s self-worth is based on maintaining an illusion of righteousness and godliness to himself and to others, he must continually deceive himself and others that his righteousness is genuine. However, since his righteousness is not genuine, he must be on constant guard against facts, circumstances, or people that might expose him. Instead of truth being the foundation of his life, values, and hope, it becomes a enemy against which he must always be on guard. (Matthew 6:23; Luke 11:34-36; John 3:19-21)

Hypocrisy excludes healthy relationships. Once a person’s self-worth is based on appearances and role-play rather than genuinely held inner values, he only associates with people who confirm his carefully-guarded illusions of self-righteousness and superiority. He shuns genuine relationships with people who care enough about him to confront him with things he needs to know about himself. Since love is founded on honesty and genuine relationships on heart to heart communication, the fact that a hypocrite isn’t in touch with his heart makes him incapable of a genuine relationship. He is frightened to know or acknowledge what his heart really is like. He avoids the very people who might bring love and light into his life.

Luke 6:42

"Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.

Hypocrisy makes self-knowledge impossible. Although it is a terrible thing to live without loving relationships, a hypocrite not only forsakes relationships with other people, but loses his relationship with himself.

Hypocrisy turns others against the truth. A person who is obviously evil is dangerous, but not nearly as dangerous as someone who appears to be good (Matthew 7:15; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

Hypocritical exploitation of the truth for evil purposes is profoundly harmful. The initial damage occurs when the innocent are misled (Isaiah 32:6; Matthew 23:1-13) Further damage occurs when victims of hypocrisy come to realize what has happened to them.

This is why Jesus overturned the tables of the money-changers and drove them out of the temple.

 (Matthew 21:10-14) This is why He said:
If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

It is a serious thing to reject the truth. But it is much more serious to cause others to reject truth by misusing it for our own evil and hypocritical purposes. This is why each of us must always be on guard against this most serious of sins."

OK, everything you ever wanted to know about the word Hypocrite? A lot of information, but well worth the time to read it. Jesus makes a point many times in the Gospels about not playing favorites: when he went home with the Tax man Zachaeus, when he ate meals with the "lower class" and social misfits, and even when he acknowledged the widow and her small gift.

Version: NAS
James 2:8-9

8. If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. 9. But if you show partiality (favoritism and hypocrisy), you are committing sin [and] are convicted by the law as transgressors.

So we see in Galatians why it was so important for Paul to confront Peter in his hypocrisy. He was lapsing once again into the law versus grace thinking. He ignored the Gentile believers in favor of the Hebrew believers. He sided with the "important and influential" thinkers. No matter that they weren't Biblically sound, Peter was swayed by the majority. Paul is continuously battling for "Grace" as the Jerusalem church and leaders are reverting back to the Law of the Old Testament.

On a personal note on this subject. God has made a point with me to have had me be in a small church start that included people from all walks of life. Rich, poor, "socially unfavored" such as drug addicts, unwed mothers, alcoholics, those from every race and ethnic background, people who had no "proper" church attire or manners. People from all walks of society. Nothing challenges and changes you like these surroundings and "out of the box" situations. Jesus made it clear to me He held no favoritism, and that to truly be a Christian means getting in the middle of it all, leaving all preconceived notions and status behind. When He said in John 3:16 "whosoever" He truly meant it.

love, in Jesus,

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Where Do You Live?

Do you live in the Freedom of God's Grace, or have you found yourself feeling like you're living under the Law? Knowing the difference can totally change your outlook on life and knowing God.


or here?

Version: NAS
Galatians 2:6-10

6.But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)-- well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. 7. But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter [had been] to the circumcised 8. (for He who effectually worked for Peter in [his] apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), 9. and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas (Peter) and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we [might] [go] to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10. [They] only [asked] us to remember the poor-- the very thing I also was eager to do.

Lest we ignore the elephant in the room, I guess it's now time to talk about the Covenant of Circumcision. OK, how to handle this with the importance that is due it? Bear with me all you gals, and guys too for that matter, we need to understand the significance of this in the Jewish culture. There are a lot of verses on this subject, but let's look at the two main ones that show the difference between the opinions and beliefs of the Old Testament Law and New Testament Freedom.

Version: NAS
Genesis 17:10-14

10. "This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. 11. "And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12. "And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a [servant] who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants. 13. "A [servant] who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14. "But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant."

God instituted the Covenant of Circumcision for several reasons I believe. God had set the Hebrew people apart from the rest of the races. He desired that they not marry outside their race, but remain within their own culture. God was and still is, a practical God. He wants us to be careful and wise about our personal health and hygiene. On one level circumcision of the males had to do with health and cleanliness. This practice, that is still used today, kept bacteria and disease to a minimum. In the days of infrequent bathing, there were many things God commanded His people to do that enforced their health. The book of Leviticus focuses on these practices. Amazing that God had them do these things that today we know minimizes sickness and disease, but at the time the people did not fully understand. The practice of Kosher eating that is still used by many Orthodox Jews, is a good example.

Then on another level the entrusting of such an important male body part to the Lord, signifies one's desire for letting God control our actions, our marriage, and to the male, of great importance, the "ego". Turning our bodies over to the Lord is what we all should do: male or female, married or unmarried, celibate or not. This not only goes for our reproductive organs, but our minds, hearts, mouth (talking and speaking), eyes (visually, such as pornography), ears (music and unwholesome talk), and feet (that can take us to some unwholesome and dangerous places).

Version: NAS
Romans 2:25-29

25. For indeed circumcision is of value, if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26. If therefore the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27. And will not he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter [of the Law] and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? 28. For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

So now, back to Galatians Chapter 2. We know that the Judaizers were infiltrating the Gentile Churches and trying to get the new Gentile converts upset and stirred up about circumcision. They were still going by the Old Covenant and were trying to bring this practice to play on formerly Gentile, adult men. So we can see the upset here. If it were a Covenant of Clipping our Fingernails I doubt that it would have caused much of a ruckus, but this is a little different matter, with some scary consequences for these Galatians. I'm sure that many of them were willing to submit to this, but Paul comes on the scene and says no. This was an Old Covenant practice for the Jews. He didn't see the importance or relevance of holding these people hostage to the practice. I'm sure that God spoke to Paul concerning this issue at the time. He's confident of his stance here and gives everyone something to think about when he basically says that being saved is not about what we do on the outside, but the condition of the heart.

There are alot of issues concerning Old Testament thinking transitioning into New Testament thinking. I want to talk about a few others briefly. Celebrating the Feasts, Tithing, Baptism, to name just a few. Jesus said He came not to do away with the Law, but to fulfill it.

Version: NAS

There is a "trend" going on in some of the churches concerning celebrating the Jewish "Feasts" or Holy Days. These are important covenants that we should study and bring into our spiritual life and thinking, but God has not asked us to revert back into Judaism by setting up a tent in our front yard, any more than He REQUIRES us to be circumcised. Some of this has been used as a blatant ploy for money and while it's always wonderful to give to our churches and Christian Networks we cannot let it be held over our heads for a guilt trip if we do not. One such evangelist basically said that if you don't give a particular offering you will be missing out in living in the blessing of God. To that, I put it before the Lord. I'm not one that wants to miss out on ANY blessing that God might desire to give. God basically asked me a question:
"Do you think the blessing and favor is conditional on whether or not you give a certain offering, for a certain amount, on a certain day? Do you not think you walk in my favor now?"

Matthew 5:17

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill."

This means the concepts are still the same, but they are not requirements for our salvation, pure and simple. Tithing, celebrating the Jewish Holy Days, and Baptism were instituted in the Old Testament and early New Testament times. They may have been required in the OT, but when Jesus died on the cross, was resurrected, and sat down at the right hand of God, these became guidelines, yes important ones, but not ones on which our salvation hinges.

To that I say do not be cajoled, or dragged, or pressured to walk back under the Law. We keep the Law by the Grace of God, and only that.

Love you all, dear friends,