Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; Galatians 5:16-26; 24-November-2013

Scripture Readings: Galatians 5:16-26

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV  // CEB // The Message

clip_image002

There is a story of a Christian man walking across a bridge one day. As he was walking he saw a man standing on the edge, gathering the last shreds of courage and despair, preparing to jump off.

The man walking across the bridge ran over and said pleadingly, “Stop! Don’t do it!”

“Well, why shouldn’t I?” the despairing man said.

“Life is so beautiful and there is so much to live for!”

“So what. Nobody loves me. Nobody even likes me. I am sure that nobody will even miss me…”

“That is not true. God loves you… I obviously care…”

They talked for a couple of minutes and the Christian man steered the conversation towards God’s love and forgiveness. He told him about his faith.

“I used to go to church all the time,” replied man standing on the ledge.

“What church did you go to?”

“I used to go to the Baptist church in the center of town.”

“Really?! My wife and I attend a Baptist church down the road from here. As a matter of fact, ours is the Original Baptist church.”

“The church that I used to attend is Original Baptist Church as well…”

“What a coincidence,” replied the man that was trying to talk his neighbor from jumping off the bridge. “Our church subscribes to the Missouri Synod, confession of 1876. What about your church?”

“Really?! Ours is also Missouri Synod, but we subscribe to the confession of 1912,” replied the man standing on the ledge.

Upon hearing that, our traveler came closer to the man standing on the ledge, pushed him with all his strength and said emphatically, “Die, you heretic! Die!”

clip_image004

Funny, isn’t it?

How often do we choose to totally disregard the bonds that unite us, to instead focus and act on one or two things that differentiate us from each other and from our neighbors. And how often do we separate ourselves from each other based on these small differences.

clip_image006

Today we will continue with a short series based on this letter that Paul wrote to the Galatians. The letter to Galatians was written approx. 49 CE (less than 20 years after Jesus was crucified and resurrected).

The Letter to the Galatians gives us a window into what life was like for the first Christians less than 20 years after Jesus’ resurrection; what they were struggling with and what it meant to be followers of Jesus living in a world that had beliefs and convictions different from their own. It is my hope that we will be able to draw parallels between issues that the Early Christians struggled with and issues that we face today.

In the first sermon in the series we looked at who the Galatians were and what their worldview and understanding of God was, and we saw why it was so attractive to them to learn about the God of the Jews and to accept that God as their own. Their difficulty was not in accepting the God of the Jews as their own; they found it difficult to give up their own pantheon of gods (small g) and their own traditions. (Here is the link to that sermon)

In the second sermon in the series we saw how mature, intelligent, thoughtful and rational adults could conclude that, in order to follow Jesus, the converts to Christianity had to first become Jewish and abide by all the laws found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. To us such a notion sounds preposterous; in Galatia, on the other hand, when the new Christian converts accepted Jewish customs they were exempt from paying taxes to pagan temples, from military service, and from the obligations to worship the Emperor. It made a lot of economic sense to become Jewish before becoming a Christian. (Here is the link to that sermon)

The letter to the Galatians was written to refute the notion that in order to become followers of Jesus, new converts had to become observant Jews first. Today we call the proponents of that teaching the “Judaizers.”

clip_image008

After the teaching portion of the letter is completed, Paul gives practical advice to Galatian Christians and Jews as to how to live out their faith, how to live their love and devotion to God in tangible ways. If I had to summarize that last portion of the epistle, I would quote the Beatles, “All you need is love” and an unknown comedian who said, “God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts.”

clip_image010

That practical advice starts in Chapter 5. Chapter 5 verse 1 reads, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Paul is saying that we are not created to blindly follow or to be enslaved by the rules (613 to be exact), but we are instead created to be malleable and flexible in order to hear, discern the guidance and to follow the Holy Spirit. Paul teaches that the way the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit manifests itself in our lives is through love, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5: 6b, NIV2010). The Message translation says it this way, “What matters is … faith expressed in love” (Galatians 5:6b, The Message).

In chapter 5 verse 16 Paul continues, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh [or sinful nature]” (NIV2010 and NIV). Paul even lists some of those desires and expressions of our sinful nature in verses 19-21. Who among us has not felt ambitious to accomplish something at one time or another? Who among us has not felt jealous or envious of something or someone? Who among us has not said something like “I do not like so and so?” We live in a fallen world and that fallenness manifests itself in us.

clip_image012

And that brings us to probably the most famous passage in the whole of the Epistle to the Galatians. Most of us learned that passage in Sunday school when we were 6 or 7 and it has to do with the Fruits of the Spirit.

clip_image014

NIV2010 Galatians 5: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

The way I read this passage is through the lens of Colossians 3:12-14.

clip_image016

NIV2010 Colossians 3: 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

clip_image018

The way I understand the fruits of the Spirit is that there is only one fruit and it is LOVE {Philos}. PHILOS is the sum of joy, peace, forbearance [or tolerance + understanding], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Elsewhere in the Epistles, Paul gives more clarification about what God’s Love (AGAPE) is and how we are to imitate it with our love (PHILOS).

clip_image020  

NIV2010 1 Corinthians: 1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.

clip_image028

That love, God’s Love towards us [AGAPE] that we strive to imitate in our own lives [Philos] is what should be our engine or our source of energy that renews and guides our lives. Because whether we like it or not all of us are different. Whether we like it or not all of us have different ethnic and racial features. Whether we like it or not some of us are created male and some are created female. Whether we like it or not some of us are better off economically than some others. Whether we like it or not some of us like affirmation of faith #881 and some others like affirmation of faith #883 (illustration in the beginning of the sermon). God is the author of this wonderful diversity.

With all that being understood, when we look at the world through the lens of God’s Love “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).

clip_image030

When it is all said and done, Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation” (Gal 6:15, NIV2010). What counts is whether we are aware of the Spirit’s presence and guidance in our lives, and whether we are willing to allow that Spirit of God to guide our lives.

“All we need is love…” ~ Beatles

“God needs spiritual fruit, not religious nuts…” ~ unknown

Have you ever allowed God to circumcise your heart?
Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to renew you?
Are you allowing the Love of Jesus infuse your life with meaning?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: