Sunday, June 17, 2007

Paul Paints Pictures
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Paul Paints Pictures

Intro.: There is a picture downstairs on the wall that must have seen a hundred times before – but two or three weeks ago, it caught my attention.

  1. I was so impressed by that picture that I wrote a short essay detailing my response to it.

  2. Now when I wrote it, I had no idea that I would be using it as a sermon illustration a few weeks later.

  1. Pictures are a wonderful way to tell others of God's love. Whether it is the content of the picture, the emotions they may raise, or the meaning suggested by a work of art.

  2. The same can be said about word pictures. Not art that is drawn, but images that are conveyed by the words we use.

  3. I want to look at a passage today that includes word pictures to help us understand the Christian life.

Read: Galatians 3:23-29


Trans: Last week we mentioned that the letter to the Galatians was the earliest of Paul's letters.

  1. Having said that, there is some debate as to whom it is written.

  2. You see, there are two areas of the Turkish peninsula that bore the name Galatia during Paul's life time. The name originally referred to a geographic area along the southern coast of Turkey. Later, it came represent a Roman Province in the Northern part of the what is now Turkey.

  3. Though there are scholars that favor both sides of the argument, the fact that Paul could not have visited the Northern site till later in his ministy, and this book is though to be an early piece of writing, more and more scholars favor the southern location today.

T.S. Let's look at the two word pictures that Paul paints for us in Galatians 3:23-29.

  1. The First Picture - The Law

    1. Our passage suggests the Law was a jail or jailer. Listen to Paul's words: Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.

    2. My first thought when I read these word were, “That sounds strange.”

    3. I normally think of the Law as telling me how to have. It tells me the rules of the road, it tells me the responsibilities I have in paying back my debts, it tells me what I owe my country and what my country owes me. The law is not a jail or a jailer – but it tells me what I need to do to avoid meeting the jailer or going to jail.

    4. I normally think of jail as being the consequences of my bad behavior – no the cause of it.

(Ill.) One day, after a gospel meeting in a prison in Greece, the chief of chaplains of the prisons was discussing with the preacher the wonderful response by the prisoners of Greece to the message of the Gospel: “When you deal with a prisoner, you do not need to persuade him that he is a sinner. His imprisonment is a proof of it. But there are many out of jail who should be in, and because they are out they argue all is well with them and they need no Savior.” You see, for the purpose of the law was to convince us of sin just as the jail did it for those prisoners in Greece.1

    1. Our passage also suggests that the Law was a teacher. Paul tells us the a Law was “Put in charge to lead us to Christ”.

(Ill.) In most cases, the Greek words for “put in charge to lead us” are translated “became a tutor.” In the traditional Greek household the tutor was more than an educator. He was a slave, an unpaid worker, who walked along his charges in many different ways. He was responsible for seeing that they were ready for school in the morning, he would walk them to school. After school, he was responsible for seeing that they tackled their studies in a timely fashion. But because it was a lifetime commitment, the students became friends as well as students – and often, after the student moved from being student to being a productive member of society, he would be set free with enough of a stipend that he could live without employment for the rest of his life. And because his experience often exposed him to the best education of the era, he would often become a very important member of society.

(Ill.) Do you Remember that Olympic sport called curling. I am always fascinated by it, I never remember playing in school and I can't help wonder where the teams, at least in the US, first learn the sport. Anyway, as the stone is thrown the players rough up or smooth the ice in order to force the stone to go in one direction or another. That was what the tutor or the Law was supposed to do – prepare a direction for us to travel. Only, we never could do it.

    1. So Paul concludes this section by reminding his readers, “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

(Appl.) So what? It is a good question. Does it mean that since he law is no longer applicable, that there is no right and wrong. No – it means that we are responsible, not to the the law, but to God. It is with him that we are to have a relationship. And a relationship means that we listen -not so much with our ears, but with our hearts. What does God want from you?

  1. The Second Picture – A Family

    1. That is not quite true – it is really three families.

    2. The first family is the family of man. I don't really want to spend a great deal of time here – because it really comes back to what I have just said. It is because we are a part of the family of man, that we need the law to show us that we are sinners.

    3. The second family is the one with which we are most familiar – we are a part of the family of God.

    4. You are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

(Ill.) Do you remember the song “The Family of God”

I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God,

I've been washed in the fountain,

cleansed by His Blood!

Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,

For I'm part of the family,

The Family of God 2

    1. Paul goes on to say that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

(Ill.) The male Jews of the 1st century had a prayer that they cited every morning. Part of that prayer said, “Thank you God that you have not made me a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.” William Barclay in his Daily Study Bible Commentary suggests that till his conversion, this would have been Paul's prayer. It was a part of his culture, and as a leader of the Jewish community, it would have been part of Paul's life. We get a picture of how much Paul has been transformed by the Gospel when he writes “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

    1. The very things that used to divide us – no longer do so. As believers, we are all children of God. We are part of the family of God.

    2. And, finally, we are part of the Abraham's family - not physically, but adopted into the family to whom God made so may promises. The promises – they are ours, because we have been received into Abraham's family.

    3. But let all those rejoice who put

their trust in You;

Let them ever shout for joy,

because You defend them;

Let those also who love Your name

Be joyful in You.

For You, O Lord, will bless the


With favor You will surround him

as with a shield.3

The promises are ours.


1AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.


3Richards, L. (1998). Every promise in the Bible. Includes indexes. (99). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Doing It Doesn't Get It Done
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Doing It Doesn't Get It Done

Intro.: I don't know if I have ever been on a treadmill.

  1. I know that it can be a form of healthy exercise, but it seems like you are getting no where.

  2. I suspect that none of you would disagree with me if I said sin is like a treadmill – it gets us no where.

  3. But you might be surprised that there were times that Paul saw living a good life also being a treadmill – it would get you no where.

  4. Galatians 2:11-21 makes this clear

Read: Galatians 2:11-21


Trans: Galatians was written to a group of Christians who lived in the southern part of what is now Turkey. Written in 48 AD, it is probably the earliest of Paul's NT letters

T.S. Paul's position in Galatians 2:11-21 can be divided into three parts

  1. The Conflict

    1. There seems to be an unwritten rule in the church that there will be no conflict. Yet there was a point early in the history of the church where the result of conflict could have had totally changed the nature of the church.

    2. Took place a bit after Paul's visit to Jerusalem which we discussed last week. Peter came to Antioch to visit Paul shortly before his first missionary trip.

    3. And Paul was confused. When we hear the term “law” we think about a legal system that defines what is right and wrong. To the Jew, the Law meant following the ritual of the Old Testament – what they ate, how they worshiped, and how they practiced their religion. It defined the kind of relationship people were to have with God.

(Ill.) It was about 35 years ago that I started dating Sandra. There were probably times when we started dating that I wished that there was a rule book that defined what I had to do in every situation. It would list the kinds of chocolate, the type of flowers, and the words to say. And if I followed every rule, then I would end up with the girl of my dreams. And that same book would have worked for each of you. And you know the results – it wouldn't work. And just as it would not provide the perfect tools for finding a spouse, so the law could not provide a perfect relationship with God.

    1. But Paul knew that Christ had fulfilled the law – what the law could not do, Christ did.. Our relationship with God was cemented in Christ's death on the cross. It was done, it was completed – nothing that we could do could get us closer to God.

    2. But he was hearing something different from Peter. You see, Peter had begun to call the Gentiles, the Jewish term for those who were not under the law, to obey the law. But it would never work.

  1. The Resolution

    1. Paul had nit nail on the head. What the law could not do, Christ had done.

    2. Paul sums it up in verses 15-16, writing to Peter he says, “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

    3. We have already talked about what Paul meant by the Law, but there are two other words here stand out they are the words “justified” and “faith”.1

(Ill.) Have you ever noticed that the church can be as bad as computer science. In computer science we have a set of words that We have a set of terms that we use regularly that are totally foreign to those on the outside of our discipline. In the church we have similar words. Terms that we can use without thinking about them – but that when we use them will leave other in the dust. If we are going to win those around us Christ, we will want to express our faith in ways that the world can understand – not to water our faith down, but to communicate it to a broken world.

    1. Justification” is one of those words that the church uses too often without defining it. And if we use it too often among those who are not part of the church, we it might frighten them off. At one level justification can be mean that we are aquitted of all our sin, we are accepted by God, we are set right with God, we are saved despite our sin.

(Ill) Most of you know that I have training as a pastor and as a computing professional, and a degree in counseling. But if you go back even further you will find that my first college degree was in chemistry. I have forgotten more chemistry than I knew, but I remember one tool that we used regularly in the my very first high school chemistry class. It was a scale with two plates mounted on a fulcrum. We would put the sample on one side and then put increasingly small weights on the other, till the two sides are level. Our lives are like that scale. On one side is our life – all of it. We can try to put all kinds of good things on the other side, be better, live a good life. But you know what it will never bring that scale into a balanced state. But then we meet Jesus. And immediately, the scale is balanced. We may not immediately see it, we may not immediately feel it, but that scale that was out of balance is now set right. We are justified.

    1. The other word, faith, is also interesting. We too often think of faith as a passive grateful reception of God's mercy.

    2. But that misses the point – faith is an active participation in God's mercy. It is not just a noun (like the English word), but it is an active verb in which we are fully participating. A close English word that might help us understand the meaning of “faith” is “trust”.

    3. And when we experience faith, we are justified.

  1. The Problem

    1. But that leaves problems – when we are justified, we are admitting that we are sinners. Paul asks the question, “does that mean that Christ promotes sin?

    2. Paul answers emphatically, “Absolutely not!

    3. Christ not only justifies us – he also empowers us. Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

    4. The Christian faith is a living faith.

    5. Faith allows us to participate in it.

    6. But a living faith also means that God takes us and begins and continues to transform us.

(Ill) Transformation is something that comes to every believer. A. J. Gordon (1836–1895), converted at age fifteen, was a Baptist minister and author, for many years pastor of the Clarendon Street Baptist Church in Boston. He was the founder of what is now know as Gordon College The secret of his powerful ministry is described in his delightful, moving, and hard-to-find book, “When Christ Came to Church.”

In this book, he relates a dream that came to him early in his ministry at Clarendon Street. In this dream he came into his pulpit and stood there at the start of the service. As he began the service, the door opened at the back, and the usher admitted a very fine looking gentleman, brought him down the aisle, and showed him a seat. The man had a very refined face, and there was something very elegant about it. Through the whole service, Gordon couldn’t help noticing him and wondering who he was.

After the service when all the people had gone home, Gordon sought out an usher and asked about the man: “Who is that gentleman you showed in tonight?”

“Oh,” came the reply, “didn’t you know, that was Jesus Christ. He came into the service and asked that He might sit there. Didn’t you realize that?”

Gordon suddenly awoke from his dream, but his ministry was turned upside down from that day. The next time he went into his pulpit, he seemed transformed, refreshed, renewed. He was aware that Jesus was there, in the pew, in the pulpit, in that place.2

    1. A transformed life, is a life that God can use.


1Dunnam, M. D., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1982). Vol. 31: The Preachers's Commentary Series, Volume 31: Galatians/Ephesians/Philippians/Colossians/Philemon. The Preacher's Commentary series. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.

2Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (380). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

I've A Story To Tell
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I've A Story To Tell

Intro.: I tend to be a story teller.

  1. You certainly have heard it in my sermons.

  2. Even when I would teach my CS courses, I would include appropriate stories to cement the point I was trying to make.

  3. As believers we all have a story to tell – it is the story of how Christ has touched our lives.

  4. Once we have thought about our testimony, we will be prepared to tell others about our faith.

  5. Shortly after returning to the public view after spending some time alone, he began to tell his testimony.

Read: Galatians 1:11-24


Trans: During the next few weeks we will be looking at the book of Galatians.

  1. We will not look at every paragraph – but I have chosen those passages that are listed as part of the Lectionary for the next few weeks.

  2. The lectionary has its roots in the very earliest start of the church. The early church leaders wanted to insure that believers (who did not have personal copies of the Bible to read) were exposed to all of scripture.

  3. With the invention of the printing press and the publication of Bible translations that others could read, denominations and local churches chose other patterns to get their people through the scripture.

  4. During the next few weeks we will be reading through the lectionary readings as they take us through the book of Galatians.

T.S. The first reading takes us through Paul's model testimony.

  1. The past is always there. Galatians 1:13 - “For you have heard of my previous life in Judaism...

    1. As Paul writes to the Galatian church, it has been five years since that moment that Christ met him on the road to Damascus.

    2. One would think that with that amount of time, Paul would put his past behind him. One would think that those around him could forget his past.

    3. But it was not going to happen – at least not very fast. But Paul does not want to hide his past. As he discusses what Christ has done, it only makes sense if we know about his past:

      1. Paul persecuted the church – that's only quite true, he tried to destroy the church.

(Appl.) It is amazing, now 2000 years later, we still live in a world that wants to stand in opposition to the church. Whether it is in our schools or on the job or in our communities, there are those that would stop the church from reaching out and offering God's grace to a broken world. And like Paul, there are those in the church who spent time fighting the church before coming to Christ.

      1. Paul was also monitoring his growth in Judaism. More than one writer has stated that Paul was the greatest thinker of his time and perhaps of all time. For the first part of his life, Paul had taken his great mind and applied it to his faith in Judaism. He was mentally ahead of the Jewish leaders of his time and he was proud of it. Now, five years later, Paul is on the verge of using that same brain to tell the world about Christianity.

(Appl.) God took Paul's natural talent and used it for His purposes. God does the same for us – the talents that you have are just as valuable to the church as they are to the world. You know what you are good at, you know where your skills are strong. God is able to use those same skills in the church.

(Ill.) On Thursday night Sandra and I downloaded a movie from the internet. I had heard of “Fight The Giants” before, but had never seen it. It is the story of a high school football team that has had six loosing seasons. At one point the coach asks a student to do the impossible task of crawling the entire length of a football field with another 170 pound player on his back.. At any time the player could have stopped, all the coach wanted was everything the player had and when he had no more, he could stop. That is all God asks. Everything, all we have. God can use it. Paul took what he had and let God use it. We must let God use our talents as well.

      1. Paul not only persecuted the church and was ahead a great many other Jewish scholars, he committed himself to following the traditions of his faith. Traditions are not a bad thing, except when they get in the way of our serving God. Enjoy the traditions of the church – only do not let them define your faith. Your faith must be defined in scripture – and then let tradition inform your faith.

    1. Paul begins his testimony by discussing his past

  1. Conversion is a starting point.

    1. Most people, when they tell their testimony, begin with their life before God became an important part of it.

    2. They spend a few minutes discussing how they came to the point of understanding their faith.

    3. And this is what Paul does. He spends very little time talking about his conversion, but he does make one very important point: Everything that has happened to him was not the result of anything a man had done – it was God at work. The importance of this is seen in that he says it three times -

      1. I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

      2. But when God, who set me apart from birth[1] and called me by his grace,

      3. I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia

    4. Spiritual growth does not occur because of something we do, spiritual growth does not occur because of what church we attend, church growth does not occur because of what we do, but because of God does. Oh, we need to be involved (Paul left Damascus, went to Arabia), but unless God is involved, none of the other stuff makes a difference.

(Ill.) I try to take care of my car. When a problem arises, I take it to my mechanic. I get the oil changed regularly, I wash the car. But you know what, regardless of what I do, regardless of how much time I spend caring for my car, if I keep gas out of the tank, it will eventually stop running. It can look shiny on the outside, but without gas, it will go nowhere.

    1. Paul recognized that God was intimately involved in what had happened to him. Without God, everything he went through would be worth nothing.

  1. And change comes along slowly.

    1. A testimony most often will start with a statement about our life before faith, then a brief statement of how we came to faith. It will then end with some details of God has done since coming to faith.

    2. Paul tells us that he went from Damascus to Arabia back to Damascus and finally to Jerusalem. He had been a believer for three years before he met any of the disciples – and then only Peter and James.

    3. Even as Paul writes, the majority of the church does not know him other than as the one who persecuted the church. They have also heard rumors that something has happened – the one they feared is now preaching the gospel.

(Ill.) In fact, in verse 11 Paul makes a statement that clarifies his present role: the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. Do you hear those two words “gospel” and “preached.” In Greek they are almost the same word. An easy way to remember the connection between these two words is to paraphrase Paul's comment as “the gospel I gospelized the gospel “. Paul was called to preach the good news – and he had to do it because it not a human call, but a God's call upon his life.

    1. Paul's impact on the church was yet to occur – but God has prepared him for the work ahead.

Conclusion: Let me conclude by asking you this

  1. What would your testimony be like?
  2. How would you describe your life before Christ?
  3. How would you describe your conversion?
  4. How would you describe the impact that Christ has had on your life?