Sunday, June 1, 2008

What, Exactly, Was It I Was Supposed To STOP?

I never made it back yesterday to comment on the sermon thoughts. I'm feeling much better today and the kids are outside in the lovely weather. Taking my laptop out (fun!) to listen and take notes. Look out, there is a lot that was significant to me here. I realize it may be easier to read this than to listen to a sermon. I'm trying to write it out (for my own benefit too) to make it easier. You have to know, I'm not getting it all though.

The sermon was very interesting and the more I listen to it, piece by piece, the more I get out of it and the more I understand my faulty thinking the past few months especially and even further back in my life. I have felt like Peter who lapsed into sin despite his good theology, his precious love for Christ, and his understanding of Justification.
You know how we tell our children that God disciplines us too. You know, when they get a spanking and say that it's not fair that mommies and daddies don't get spankings and we tell them that God does spank us in a way? Well, I'm sure that Peter felt the blow of this discipline from God through Paul. My revelations on my sinful thinking have not been as stark as Peter's reproof, (and I thank ya Lord for being gentle with me!) but it is just as joyful to be joyfully pained for the reward of reconciling to the heart of the Savior. Oh, His great love to bring us back!

The scenario is in Galatians chapter 2 when Paul has to confront Peter in front of the whole congregation for his behavior. Peter had been fellowshiping in length with the gentile believers until he became fearful of the opinion of the jewdisers.

This is Paul's reply to Peter when Paul confronted him about Peter's sinful behavior in the church at Antioch. Galatians chapter 2, starting in verse 11:

11When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
14When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

From Shane's Message:
"This church at Antioch was thriving and experiencing fellowship that never before happened because the church was made up of both Jews and gentiles. They were enjoying this beautiful fellowship based upon the truth of the gospel and Peter came up from Jerusalem and participated in that fellowship and it was for a time. He didn't just come and have a meal and then left he was there with them for a while... they were enjoying fellowship. This was truly amazing because before the gospel came the Jews and gentiles were separate. They ate separately and they worshiped separately. But, now the gospel united the two.

BUT...then as we saw , the jewdisers came up. Now remember the jewdisers said "Yes, we believe in Jesus, we believe that he came and died for our sins, and we believe that it's important to trust in him ... BUT... you also must follow the law to be saved." And when the jewdisers came to the church Peter began to slowly withdraw from the gentiles. Slowly withdraw fellowshipping with them. He slowly withdrew from worshiping because he feared the jewdisers. Probably because he was fearful of his reputation in Jerusalem being damaged, and his reputation amongst the Jews being damaged.

Well, the situation went from bad to worse. Because, remember we saw, not only did Peter start to withdraw, but then the Jewish Christians began to withdraw, and not only that but then Barnabas the pastor of the church, he began to withdraw as well. And so what you have here is this situation where beautiful gospel driven fellowship based upon the cross of Jesus Christ was being destroyed and this church was splitting down the middle, it was being torn apart because people were not living in the truth of the gospel. Remember the gospel puts all of us on level ground. We are all saved through faith in Jesus Christ and there's nothing we can do to add to that salvation, to work in such a way that God looks down and says "Oh, that's pretty good, I'm going to save you." We are all saved by grace. Not one of us is more righteous in the eyes of God than another because of our works.

So this church was essentially being split in two. Paul confronted this situation head on. Not only does he confront Peter, but he confronts him publicly before everyone and this probably occurred during the church service. You can imagine just being there. You've got Paul, this new apostle in one sense, who's been commissioned to the gentiles, and then you've got Peter. This man who walked with Jesus, was commissioned by Jesus to go lead the church and here is Paul confronting this man publicly. This was a huge confrontation. It was by God's grace that Paul confronted Peter.

So let's look at this confrontation in vs. 14, and I believe all of this text here is part of Paul's reply to Peter. He says in verse 14 half way down.

I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
15"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' 16know 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.

What Paul is doing here is pointing out the apparent inconsistency in Peter's life. He says 'If you being a Jew live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how do you compel them to live like Jews?' In other words 'Peter, you live like a Gentiles! You've abandoned the ceremonial law, you abandoned the traditions, you've enjoyed this great fellowship with them and you know you are free from this, and yet you're persuading them to live as you were? You hypocrite! This makes no sense at all!'

Now look at verse 15: 'we are Jews by nature (and notice how Paul includes himself in these words) and not sinners from among the Gentiles. Nevertheless, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus. So that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law since by the works of the law, no flesh will be justified. '

Now before I go on, I need to clarify something here. In verse 15 when Paul says "and not sinners from among the Gentiles" I want to clarify what that means. You see, when he says that, he's not inferring that Gentiles are these moral sinners and the Jews are not. Rather, the words he uses here are very Jewish. The Gentile was considered a sinner because he didn't have the law and he didn't follow the mosaic law, and so in a legal sense he was a sinner because he did not follow the law. But the Jews had the law and they followed the law so in that sense they weren't sinners. In that narrow sense, okay? So that's a very Jewish legal term that's being used there. A

So with this understanding in mind, Paul says, if I can summarize him as saying this: we
Jews, God's chosen people who were given the law are still only saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone just like the Gentiles who live their lives apart from the law. Hence the Gentile sinners. We're all saved with the same way. He says there's nothing we can do to accomplish or aid in our salvation. We know the works of the law and we know it cannot save us. Ironically Peter said the exact same thing in Acts 15:10-11. Peter stood up in front of these jewdisers, and said this:

'now therefore why do you put God to the test? By place upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers, nor we have been able to bear! But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way that they also are.'

See, Peter knew the truth, he knew that we're all saved by grace, and faith in Jesus Christ. He wasn't changing his theology, he was just lapsing into sin from fear.

(this was one moment in the sermon when I could almost feel God hitting me in the head with a thud! A loving thud, but a thud nonetheless)

(Shane goes on to talk about the importance of justification and what it means, I am skipping some of that for the sake of length, but it's in the message!)

"The deeper our understanding of Justification, the deeper our understanding of the gospel, and the deeper our understanding of the gospel, the deeper our love for Christ, and the deeper our love for Christ, the deeper our obedience, and the deeper our obedience, the deeper our joy."

(Shane then visits the element of sin Psalm 51:5, Jer 17:9, John 8:34, Rom 3:10, Rom 3:23, Rom 5:6-12, Rom 6:20-23, Rom 8:6-8, Eph 2:1-3, Col 1:21)

"Mankind's problem is what mankind is, not what mankind does."

"We think that if we think a certain way, or we act a certain way, it will change what's inside. It's completely backwards. How is a man changed? From within."

"Faith is the channel of salvation. Faith is the opposite of relying on ourselves, it is the complete opposite of that. It is putting absolutely no trust in our works, no trust in our righteousness, and putting all of our trust in the righteousness of Christ. It is staking everything on Him; trusting in God and his free gift of grace and falling completely and fully upon Him declaring He to be the Lord of our life."

"Are you living the justified life?"
"By default our natural tendency is to live the self-justified life. It offends us to think that we can do nothing to save ourselves and we like to think that we contribute. We bring something to God and say "this is my righteousness!" We work and we labor and we try harder to be more righteous in the eyes of God. But as we will see when we attempt to live this way, when we attempt to live the self justified life we declare ourselves to be sinners and we nullify the grace of God."

(If righteousness comes by my homeschooling, then Christ work is nullified. Eeeek!)

Galatians 2
19For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

They (Paul and Peter and the christian Jews) have abandoned their attempts to be righteous by following the law and have instead turned to Christ and been justified by his grace, and because of this, they are then found to be sinners in the eyes of the jewdisers. again meaning they've ceased to follow the law as a means of righteousness and salvation and to the jewdisers, this would mean to live a life in sin. but it is not sin to cease to depend on the law for salvation. If it is sin, Paul brings a shocking conclusion: Christ is a minister of sin! To which he immediately replies "May it never be!" So what Paul is doing here is putting the jewdisers and really peter because of his actions, against the sinless perfection of Christ. He's saying, in this powerful argument "Look, either Jesus is right, and we are saved solely by grace, or, you are right and Jesus is wrong, making him a minister of sin. because Jesus ministered and he ate with the gentiles, but you are withdrawing from them, trying to convince them they need to live according to the law....if you are right Peter, Christ was in sin. And this must have just cut to the heart of Peter. It must have been the same feeling that he felt when he denied Christ for the third time to a little servant girl and heard the echo of the rooster fade away into the Jerusalem air, and looked up and saw Jesus Christ looking down on him. Oh, the feeling of that guilt and shame. Because, Peter hadn't changed his theology, he loved Jesus dearly, and this solid argument defense by Paul would have cut him to the heart. Of course Jesus wasn't a minister of sin! Abhor that thought! Clearly, Peter, the christian Jews,and Barnabas were in the wrong, Christ didn't promote sin, he brought freedom from sin! It almost seems Paul knows the bluntness and cutting words he has spoken. For instead of just continuing to hammer on Peter and just say "you, you, you!" listen to what he says in verse 18, he in a sense says "Peter, if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor! For through the law, I died to the law that I might live to God. In other words, Paul had destroyed his belief of trusting in works for salvation. He had instead turned to trusting in Christ. He has abandoned relying on himself to save him, and if he abandoned this grace that he experienced from Christ and turned again to the law for righteousness all the law would do was show him how much of a sinner he really was! And that's the whole purpose of the law."

Paul is saying :'Peter, I would be a hypocrite and still a sinner without a savior if I return to trusting in the law, and so would you. I've died to the law, and I've ceased to try to save myself so that I might live to God.' See friends, to rely on ourselves for righteousness is not only the epitome of foolishness, but it makes a mockery of the cross of Christ. To rely on ourselves for righteousness, not only the epitome of foolishness, but makes a mockery of the cross of Christ.

And it's so tempting to begin to trust in what we do, and begin to rely upon ourselves. We trust in our theology, we trust in our high moral character, we trust in our church... friends we must trust and rely only on Jesus Christ. Don't buy into the idea that you can add to your righteousness, don't begin to trust in your own righteousness for salvation. You will be living in foolishness and mocking the cross of Christ. You'll be saying 'the cross of Christ does not bring enough salvation and righteousness, I need to help out.'

Listen to Paul:
20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

...when Paul says he's been crucified with Christ he means his old self is now dead with Christ. his works righteousness they're dead, his attempts at keeping the law are now dead, his glorious earthly achievements...dead, his self-reliance, his self-confidence...dead, his sin life...dead. Fascinating here, Paul i the Greek uses the perfect tense indicated that this incredible power that happened at the cross of Christ continues throughout eternity with that same power that it had at that initial moment. You don't fall out of righteousness.

John Piper wrote this:

"What does it mean to be crucified with Christ? I think it means this: First that the gruesome death of the all glorious, innocent, loving Son of God, for my sin is the most radical indictment of my hopeless condition imaginable. The Crucifixion of Jesus is the open display of my hellish nature. And second, when I see this and believe that he really died for me, then my old proud self which loves to display it's power by climbing ladders of morality and intellect and beauty and daring...dies. Self reliance and self confidence can not live at the foot of the cross therefore, when Christ died I died. "

You see, the christian life is dieing and allowing Christ to live through us, and when we trust in Christ we become intimately united to him. We become united to him in his death, but praise God, we become united to him to him in his life.

The gospel does more than just save us, justification does more than just save us, it unites us with Christ. Through justification we're declared forgiven and we're declared righteous. You know what, I don't deserve that, and neither do you. That is why it is by grace we have been saved. That is why we are saved according the the eternal plan of God and not ours.

So, how do we live the justified life? Paul writes this "I live by faith." We must live our lives crucified to Christ. High morality..great! Don't trust in it! High tithing...don't trust in that either! High anniversary number? That's wonderful, but don't trust in that! High bible memory, great, but don't trust in that! High knowledge of God's word, great, don't trust in that either. Trust in Christ, live by faith in Christ.

You see, what Paul is stating here, is that there must be a complete and total break away from a life of works righteousness. This results in living life from a completely different perspective. You don't have to live trying to earn God's favor, and yet most of us live our lives that way. When God looks at you, he sees the righteousness of Christ. The freedom found there, you're free to trust in Christ alone, to cast away the fear, the doubt, the anxiety that comes with trusting in yourself and thinking at any moment God is going to reach down and smush you. You are free to live in obedience to God's word. Many of us have lived all of our lives trying to perform for God. We're trying to be righteous on our own and I want to tell you if that's you this morning...STOP! It will get nowhere! You're no closer to attaining the righteousness that God demands than when you began. You're like a hamster running in the wheel and never going anywhere and yet you think your getting far. Your not living in grace. Your nullifying the grace of God and declaring his death to be needless, as Paul wrote. Understand this truth you on your own will never...EVER..perform to God's standard. It is a hopeless endeavor and is always completely and utterly impossible. Listen to how Paul closes this section:

I do not nullify the grace of God..

Live in the grace of God. Your a sinner and I'm a sinner. Our attempts at righteousness scripture says in Isaiah are but filthy rages.

You have been given the righteousness of Christ and are intimately united with him."
(this is my final quoting from the message by Shane)

This indicates that God is a personal God, desiring a personal relationship with me, so that he can deal with me personally about the personal issues of my life!

Now..... it's very late (I had caffeine and am paying for it but joyfully finishing up this post that has taken me more time that I had thought) but I just want to briefly say how this has effected me in regard to my bondage thinking regarding homeschooling. I just want to remind you reading that this is a telling of my journey alone and not a dictation on my assumptions on the hearts of homeschooling mom's. Remember, intimate God deals intimately with each heart. What is going on in mine has no reflection on another's. IF however, you too have been struggling with any such thinking, then I hope this is God's intimate thought for you.
I had to ask myself "do I consider homeschooling something that adds to my righteousness?" I had to honestly answer yes. That is where I, like Peter had lapsed into sin. The work in and of itself, was not sin, my heart was in sin. So, see I am not even talking about the issue of homeschooling in and of itself, I am talking about my journey out of works. I am talking about being awakened to the bondage that has been paid for! I am talking about letting go of trying harder. I am doing what Shane recommended, I'm STOPPING!
Someday (could be near, could be far) if God calls me back into homeschooling... I will do it with great joy! The reason I will do it with joy is because I know now that homeschooling is not a moral ladder to God! Here is the clencher people, I "knew" that before but my heart did not obey, it failed to have the purity of thought that comes from obedience to Christ alone. It became polluted with self-justification. What we know, and what we do, can be two different things. Perhaps it is even because of my intense viewing of it as such that God is demanding that I let go and fall in faith on Him. An arm is a pretty good thing but to say that we should cut it off it causes us to sin is pretty profound. He knows my heart and want's it back on track with living the justified life of faith. I thank him for it! The walk of faith is the only walk of joy!
Now, I don't think we have serious jewdisers in our churches (though some may) but I think we can begin to act like judiezers. Oh, and I convicted about this now too! To define anything not clearly written out in the Word of God as being "the one way" to do it, is living by the law! We DO tend to shrink back like Peter started to do when we fear the opinion of those who make these definitions. And it's so unseen ins't it? How much we humans speak without saying a word. We use our body language, our huddling prefereances (meaning who we decide to hang with in a Chrsitian setting), all to communicate. We withdraw and gather in the groups we are likeminded with on these legalistic issues. Well, I'll tell ya..... I'm convicted!
Okay, its' 12:30 at night. Time to quit no matter what further deep thoughts try to surface.


Christina said...

"The deeper our understanding of Justification, the deeper our understanding of the gospel, and the deeper our understanding of the gospel, the deeper our love for Christ, and the deeper our love for Christ, and the deeper our obedience, the deeper our joy."

This was the quote I was looking for! Thank you for posting it.

I'm glad that God is convicting you through the word preached of trying to add to your righteousness through any other means than the gospel. Wasn't today's sermon good too!

Anyway, for me the issue is obeying what God and my husband have asked me to do... homeschool my kids. I need to be reminded that obedience is on the road to joy.

Alicia said...

Yes! Today was right up there with this one, I could not decide which sermon I found better! I look forward to reflecting on that one too. Hopefully I'm not exhausting readers with all this reflecting!
You know, you ABSOLUTELY right! Our husbands are the doorkeepers of our homes and God's way to give us practical guidance on what we do. Rick is wanting me to stop living by works (and homeschooling is not in and of itself living for works, it has been for me) and God is calling US to walk this path of faith. This is what God is showing US in an intimate way, what to do for our family. The same issue is for all of us ....obeying God. You are so right, it is the road joy!
God WILL increase your joy in homeschooling because you are obeying him!