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Archive for March, 2011

March 22.11 ethot

Galatians 3:3 (1-9) “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

We are a religious people. We worship ourselves, each other, games, TV, work and when we’re not worshiping a god we’re worshiping no god. I think God made us to worship and so when we’re not worshiping Him we’re worshiping something or someone else. I don’t remember who it was said that there is a God shaped hole in each of us and we’re trying to fill it with anything but Him.

Maybe this is why we are so easily attracted to rituals that make us feel like we’re doing the right thing. But Paul shows us that when Abraham believed there were no rituals to perform for his salvation, just belief, 3:6-9. It’s like belief and then simply following God’s lead is not enough for us.

But what we don’t realize is that you can’t make that which is perfect more perfect, 3:3. Salvation from that judgment to come is obtained only one way, faith, that is trusting God’s word, John 5:24. He has promised those who believe eternal salvation from judgment. After all He is God we should just trust Him to keep His word. Anything we do after that step might be great, but doesn’t make us any more or less saved.

Joyfulness involves keeping our eyes on the promise then living that out right where we are.

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March 21.11 ethot

Galatians 2:12 (11-21) “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 sloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.

In v. 2:9 Paul indicates that James, Peter and John had all understood that there was to be no separation between Jew and Gentile, Acts 15. But apparently, while James and John were out of the city, certain Judaizers had come in and made a big deal about there distinctiveness as Jews and got Peter to separate himself from the gentile Christians.

When I was in Ecuador, a few years back, we encountered a meal that made us all shudder. It was a special delicacy to the Ecuadorians, like turkey on Thanksgiving is to us in the U.S. But to us it was weird and we failed to be sensitive to them and showed our disgust. Although they laughed at us understandingly I felt we had offended them, culturally.

The incident that Paul is talking about is what happens when we make accomidations for culture and then forget they are merely accomodations and not law. When we make culture part of the Salvation equation we change the Gospel from a free gift of God to a type of salvation you need to earn. It is a fault we all suffer from and will continue to do so as long as we’re here.

I don’t know that there actually was a circumcision group bent on changing the Gospel or just concerned about loosing their Jewish distinctiveness. Today there are plenty of Jewish Christians who are proud of both there Jewishness and there faith in Christ alone for salvation. Culture and faith do not have to cancel each other out.

I found interesting, too, that Paul calls this group “the party of the circumsision”, yet wasn’t he of the circumsicion?

Sincerity is demonstrating, by word and action, in who we really trust.

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March 18.11 ethot

Galatians 2:4 (1-10) “But it was because of false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.

I bring up this verse because I’m getting tired of listening to some churches preaching about our liberty as believers right out of the context of scripture.

In Acts chapters 9-11 we have the story of how Peter was lead to Caesarea to preach the Gospel to a gentile and then had to defend that action to the church in Jerusalem. Those Jewish believers were amazed that God had stopped requiring anyone from having to observe the Law to be considered God’s people and saved.

What this meant was that believer don’t have to obey the Old Testament Jewish Law to be saved. This would be adding to the free gift of God a requirement He had not. Culture is a powerful thing to overcome, and that is what Judaism at that time had become.

Today, believers don’t have to be concerned about the Mosaic Law and others requiring us to observe it. What we do have is a bunch of groups that did compromise and watered down Jesus’ salvation plan with works, requirements (Roman Catholics for example).

The decision to believe is the only thing that saves us, John 3:16 & 17. But after we make that decision to accept Jesus as our Savior, He does require of us certain behavior, His Law, New Testament Law, John 15:10. Failure to observe that Law is an indication, as John said, that you were never of us, 2 John 2:19.

Security involves learning to abide in God’s love by understanding and obeying His commands.

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March 17.11 ethot

Galatians 1:11 (11-24) “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.

With this verse Paul offers a defense of himself and the gospel. What Paul was preaching didn’t come from an interpretation of scripture or a commentary he read (the Talmud). In spite of what the Judaizaers were saying about him and his message, every one in Jerusalem knew about Paul, vs. 22-24.

In contrast to the Judaizers, who received their knowledge by studying what would later be called the Talmud (that body of commentaries and interpretations that had grown up around the Law) Paul got his info directly from Jesus, the same way the eleven apostles got their info, v. 12. The advantage Paul had over those apostles was that he had studied the Talmud and was considered an expert in it, v. 14; Acts 22:3.

What I find interesting here is that Paul is not afraid of anyone investigating any area of his life. Paul lived wide open for all to see. When he persecuted the church and now that he was planting churches he had not changed (maybe one of the reasons God chose him). The question for us is how open to scrutiny are our lives? What are we hiding?

Sincerity involves being more concerned for the reputation of God than my own.

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March 16.11 ethot

Galatians 1:8 (1-10) “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!

Paul is so emphatic about what he states in this verse, that he says it again in the next, v. 9.

The letter was written because certain individuals (Judiazers, Jesus called them scribes and Pharisees) had crept into the churches Paul, Barnabas and Luke had founded, after they left the region, to impose Jewish tradition on the congregations. Jewish tradition was a body of commentaries and interpretations that had grown up around the law, that had developed from the time after the Babylonian captivity until Paul’s time.

In contrast the message Paul and his travel partners brought was that God had been merciful and now was being gracious by providing the way to avoid ultimate judgment. The Jews all knew that God was going to judge all men. But they thought that they had a special in with God and if they practiced their traditions they could earn their way out of judgment.

See when we accept Jesus as our Savior, we effectively eliminate the need for earning salvation, because He is providing it (grace). Any laws or traditions I observe after that don’t save me, but they may help me to become the person God needs me to be.

Faith involves resting all my hopes for tomorrow on God’s proven promises rather than on man’s faltering word.

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James 5:19 (19-20) “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back,

The question that popped into my mind first was, who is this person doing the turning? James tells us that anyone in the church can do this. Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians that it is those who think of themselves as spiritual (mature) who are responsible and suggests how it’s to be done, 6:1-5.

Throughout the history of the church there have been believers who go off into an old sin pattern or develop a new one, it’s not anything new, and Paul says that it can happen to any one of us in spite of what we think our spiritual condition is. See, it’s in that moment when we think that we’re spiritual, that Satan helps us think we’ve earned the privilege to sin a little without consequence. Everything we do has consequences.

So James, as Paul, encourages each one of us to be alert to each other. This would be a way in which we would be obeying the command to love one another, because none of us wants to be left unattended in the error of our way.

Love involves seeing the basic need of another and meet it, as I would want another to meet mine.

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March 14.11 ethot

James 5:17 (13-18) “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.

I don’t remember the last time any of us prayed for no rain and it stopped for three and half years. So, I’m thinking that that is not how we are similar to Elijah. But, when you go back and read about Elijah and the conversations he had with God, then you can see how he was just like us.

Elijah wasn’t always sure of what God was doing and at times it felt like God was trying to hurt him on purpose. He was not a spiritual giant with radio programs, TV and published books. But, Elijah understood that Jehovah was the only God that existed and the things He could do were amazing, so he trusted Him. And, he knew that sometimes representing God would cause him trouble, in that sense we’re all like Elijah.

I’m not expecting us to perform any wonders, but remember that everything Elijah did was with the purpose of showing people that God, Jehovah was the one and only God and He is the only one that should be praised, honored and obeyed. The Lord, our Lord has left us hear with that same task.

Obedience involves acting on the light that God has shown you.

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