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Posts Tagged ‘Christians’

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You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. ~Exodus 20:7

The third command God gave to Israel has to do with how we represent Him as His people.

Taking God’s name in vain starts in the heart.  It is not just about saying curse words alongside Our Father’s Name.  It is that, but it is not merely that.  Taking God’s name in vain also includes religious hypocrisy, breaking vows or promises to God, and flippancy in regards to His Holy Name.

Firsty, hypocrisy.  When we wear the name of God as our identity, titling ourselves, “Christian,” we have a great responsibility to live up to that name.  This, because it is His name we bear, not our own.  We bear it only because of His grace.  By hypocrisy, we grossly misrepresent him, thus taking his good name in vain.

Think of a team.  If I wear the jersey and am given the great privilege and benefit that goes with being a professional athlete, but I choose to skip the games because I am busy doing something unrelated, how long will I have the title?  What if I help the other team while on the field?  Or say I’ll make the next play but do my own play instead and miss the shot entirely because of my own selfishness?

That is what Christians do when we claim the title and hope for the privileges and benefits (blessings and salvation) yet fail to obey the things we claim to believe and preach to others.  It is vain worship; vain religion, as Matthew Henry calls it saying, “Those that name the name of Christ, but do not depart from iniquity, as that name binds them to do, name it in vain; their worship is vain, their oblations are vain, their religion is vain.”

Secondly, taking God’s name in vain has to do with breaking vows and promises we have made to him.  Think about it.  If I tell you, “I promise,” to do thus and so without any intention to follow through or concern when I fail to deliver, it is not only personally injurious to you, but also careless and disrespectful.  This is an area where many fall into a works-based mentality and works religion.

Instead of keeping promises in obediences to God and obeying His Holy Word, instead of admitting and confessing their sin and trusting in Him to pardon, humans will try to “make up” for their failure and fault by doing something else.  Good works is how we term those things.  The problem is that good works are only truly “good” if they are done out of a right motive.  Making up for disobedience is not a right motive.  That is called manipulation and God will not be manipulated by men.  These works are vain and they take God’s name in vain.

This is what the term “penance” refers to.  Paying penance can be paying actual money in an effort to be absolved or forgiven for a sin or it can be a myriad of other good works down IN PLACE OF true repentance, asking forgiveness, and honest reconciliation after a fault.

Matthew Henry notes, “By covenant-breaking – if we make promises to God, binding our souls with those bonds to that which is good, and yet perform not to the Lord our vows, we take his name in vain, it is folly, and God has no pleasure in fools, nor will he be mocked.”

Thirdly, taking God’s name in vain is that which we all commonly know it to be.  Using God’s name as a cuss work, or swearing by it, or in any way that dishonors him.  This is something many who label themselves by His name consider acceptable.  Even a simple man can see that by doing so we not only dishonor Him, but also ourselves.  How foolish.

Lastly, we can take God’s name in vain by using it flippantly and without regard for His honor.  Terms like, “Oh my God,” “Sweet baby Jesus” “OMG” or any use of God’s name that lacks the authority and honor due Him is a sin as forbidden in this third commandment.

The second part of the verse is just as noteworthy as the first.  Not only are we forbidden to take God’s name in vain, we are warned of punishment if we disobey in this area.

While we are busy justifying and excusing this sin because it is so prevalent in our world today and we are so dull to the scripture’s command and warning, God is promising a severe penalty for it.  He says this, “…the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” 

God cannot lie.  He said he will not hold us guiltless for this act of disrespect.  God will avenge those who take his name in vain.  He is not a passive father who does not mean the things he says.  If a warning is present in the scripture and it is directed at His people and not the world – His people would do well to pay attention and reconsider what we accept and excuse on a daily basis.

Amen.

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unity

As a mom of three girls, it is a rare day when no sibling unrest occurs.  Despite the conflicts, usually they play without needing my assistance for some time.  They often figure out how to reconcile their differences alone.  Yesterday, however, was not one of those days.

Somewhere between dragging them to the phlebotomist with me and grabbing school supplies, two girls were fighting.  One was being selfish, the other self-righteous.  One was crying, one pouting.  It occurred to me after much repeated correction (this went on for some time)  that once the issue was over and the cosmic balance of our home had been restored, I had not made it a point to sit down with either of them and just talk about what had happened.  Between the busyness of the day and the struggle to call an effective cease-fire, by the time it was over I think we all just wanted to forget about it.

I feel like I forgot to be a parent.  Comfort and convenience have a way of producing selective memory.  Maybe we will revisit World War 3 today…

Anyway, Paul does not seem to have this problem with churches.  Paul never forgets to parent God’s church.  First, he instructs and corrects.  Correction is almost always followed up by exhortation.

In the closing of Colossians, Paul’s final address stresses the importance of inclusion and unity.  He mentions ten specific people, including himself, as well as an entire church body.  He urges the people in the Colossian church to “welcome” and accept them.  Consider his words.

“Tychius...is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.  I have sent him

Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner…

Mark, the cousin of Barnabus…welcome him…

Jesus who is called Justus.  These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God and they have been a comfort to me…

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Jesus Christ…for I bear him witness...

Luke the beloved physician greets you as does Demas…

Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house

…I, Paul…remember my chains.”

Why does Paul name these people?  What is the point?

Doubtless, this is a father managing his children.  He is saying, “Hey guys, I’m not there but here comes your brothers and sisters.  Here’s how they’ve served me, you, and the Lord faithfully.  These people are part of God’s kingdom.  Welcome them.  Accept them.  Treat them as your own.  Consider their sacrifices for the gospel and include them as your own when they come to you.  It couldn’t be more clear what Paul is saying here.

Why would Paul close his letter this way?  What reason would he have to tell them these things and name these individuals?

Paul spent his efforts on this letter making sure the Colossians knew who not to listen to.  Perhaps he does not want them to get conveniently confused.

Tychius was a fellow minister.  Onesimus had been a poor slave who’d been converted from a particularly wicked lifestyle.  Mark had been at odds with Paul previously.  Epaphrus prayed fervently for these people.  Jesus, now called Justus had changed his very name out of respect for the Redeemer.  Luke was a doctor.  Nympha was a woman who held church in her home.  Archippus was of the of the ministers in Colosse with them.  Paul himself was a prisoner for the gospel and an overseer of the churches.

Surely the temptation was to exclude certain types of people from the church.  Little wonder why Paul does this end of letter name dropping.  These mentioned are very different types of people.  There is no doubt Paul mentions them by name so that the Colossians make no mistake.

These are your people, church.  These – the pastors as well as the paupers.  Those from the wrong side of the tracks just the same as the doctors.  The women as well as the men.  The ones who have had differences with me and you as well as the chum buddies who’ve been serving alongside you.

Welcome them.  They are all beloved.  They are all your brothers.  They are all faithful.  They are all of you.  Greet them.  Hear them.  Include them.  Welcome them.

Remember me.

~Love, Dad

“The meanest circumstance of life, and the greatest wickedness of former life, make no difference in the spiritual relation among sincere Christians: they partake of the same privileges, and are entitled to the same regards.”  ~Matthew Henry

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gay

What’s all the hullabaloo over stubborn wedding cake bakers these days?  More Christians being rude, intolerant, and ridiculous?  Willing to lose their life’s work over their pride?  Really?  I can’t say for sure guys, but I’m bettin’ this ballgame is laced with lousy umpires.  Just who is calling the shots and why should we listen to a bunch of bullified big mouths?

We shouldn’t.  Before I share exactly why that is, take some time, sit down, take a deep breath, put your thinking cap on, and prepare to evaluate the truth about what is really happening here.  You ready?  Here goes…

Discrimination is not always a bad word, ladies and gentlemen.  Gasp.  I know.  It comes as a shock after so much falseness and indoctrination from the left in our generation.  But it just so happens that aside from it’s poor reputation regarding racism, prejudices, and partiality, discrimination can also be rightly described as “the ability or power to see or make fine distinctions; discernment.”

Discernment.  “The act or process of exhibiting keen insight and good judgement.”  Good judgement.  Now, before the first wave of freedom filchers jumps me, steals my journal, and cries “You can’t judge me!” let me just be crystal clear.

Every single one of us – regardless of race or religion – exercises judgement every single day.  If we are living life, we are making judgments.  Is this food healthful?  How late is too late?  To speed or not to speed?  Should I speak or stay silent?  Is my coworker an alcoholic?  Does my teacher understand the information she is sharing with me?   On and on it goes.

We all make judgments, mostly for our own well being.  That does not make us intolerant, hateful, or narrow-minded.  It makes us human beings.  We all make judgments all the time because we must in order to survive in this world.  Therefore, when a man, woman, group, or government begins to cry “Discrimination!” we must assess the context before we are qualified to make a judgment about whether the act of discrimination was an act of dirty dereliction and prejudice or one of discernment and decency.

Why?  Because being indiscriminate – not selective, lacking in judgment, and careless about distinctions – presupposes a certain standard of behavior.  It must.  Yes, those standards are different for each of us depending our our values and beliefs, however, all of us have standards of behavior which we accept and reject.  Our standards allow us to filter our actions, reactions, or lack thereof.  Let me explain…

If a man goes into a store, steals something, and gets caught, the owner of that store is likely going to give that man different treatment after he knows that man is a thief.  Perhaps he won’t be allowed to shop in the store anymore.  Maybe he will have to check his bags before coming in.  Whatever the after is, it is discriminatory.  Where the owner can be indiscriminate with his lifelong friends, he obviously cannot afford to do so with the general public.  Discrimination based upon good judgment, discernment, and insight about just who it is that business owner is dealing with is, get this, wise.

What about a man who goes to buy a gun?  Let’s say he tells the owner of the armory that he intends to use this shiny new weapon to kill his wife and children later on today.  Should that owner “discriminate” against this particular consumer?  Of course!  He must discriminate against this man based upon the man’s willful, blatant admission of future eminent wrongdoing that violates both personal convictions of right and wrong and our country’s civil laws.

From a Christian standpoint, homosexuality is wrong.  I know, it’s shocking.  I’m not making up this stuff, people, God did.  You got a problem, talk to him.  Homosexuality is what Our God calls a sin.  Specifically, the sin of perversion.  Therefore, to serve a man or woman who discloses his intent to use our services to celebrate and consummate that act violates both our conscience as well as Our God’s moral laws.  To serve that individual, for us, is to become an accomplice to the act and actually participate in the sin by our apparent approval.  Doing so grieves our conscience just the same as our own sinful behavior does.  Let me just add that I would have the same conviction if I were a ticket seller at the movie theater.  Enabling people to entertain sin as amusement or recreation is to participate.  We need discernment, church.

I began to think deeply on these things after seeing the following comic:

comic

At first glance this may seem witty and correct, but after a closer look and honest consideration, one must recognize the inaccuracy and arrogance of it.  It is said that the only difference between a believer and an unbeliever is that the former loves God and hates his sin and the latter loves his sin and hates God.

The whole of the Christian life is about balance.  Every single one of us, regardless of our religious affiliation or lack thereof, sin every single day.  Clearly, there is a stark contrast between an individual who is striving against his own wrong desires and actions toward the end of a more righteous life and an individual who is blatantly living in a lifestyle characterized by his wrongness and immorality with no intention to change – even celebrating it and expecting that everyone around him do the same lest he throw a fit and insist they all agree or else be name called, blacklisted, and put completely out of business.

That said, logically, if a person goes into a place of business and chooses to eat something unhealthy, that is not necessarily the mark of a gluttonous person.  The mark of a gluttonous person is one who overindulges consistently and fails to avoid anything which he enjoys.  As a clerk, that determination cannot be made based upon a singular interaction unless the individual sits and indulges until he or she becomes ill or perhaps passes out from drunkenness.  In bars, bartenders are not to serve those in such a condition.  Hence, the basic principle at hand: discrimination based upon behavior.  People may be overweight for a myriad of reasons.  To assume it is gluttony is quite arrogant in my opinion.

Furthermore, if I own a business and I am a Christian and someone comes in cursing at me or others in my establishment, if he seems angry and unstable, I would not entertain his business.  In fact, my husband has dealt with this situation at his business and asked men to leave.

If a man or woman comes in sexually harassing me or someone else in my business or is dressed inappropriately, as a business owner with concern for my other customers, the protection of my family, and my own well-being, I absolutely would deal with that individual accordingly and likely ask them to leave.

If he says he is going to use my services, my help, or my business to accomplish ungodly actions, I have a duty to decline.  It has less to do with the consumer than it does my own soul.  I am accountable to a holy God.  I am responsible to do no harm.

And how does a clerk determine whether a person they just met is greedy or divorced or lying anyway?  He cannot.  If he were any of those things or had any other issue, because Christians see people as souls and not merely income providers, if I had any opportunity at all, I would try to begin to know him, understand where he was spiritually, and make a determination as to whether he was seeking help with his problems or simply justifying every wrong action in his life.  The difference here, and the reason why this comic is not a fair comparison is because most people do not go parading their sin around – and rightly so!  We should be ashamed, not proud!  But certain ones do.  God help us!

If another person makes his personal choices blatantly known and those choices grieve my conscience, if they are patronizing me I have an obligation to correct them, and, if they do not listen, shake the dust from my feet and send them on.  I expect them to do the same for me.  I mean, I wouldn’t go to a place where women are required to wear burkas in my bikini and expect not to be exposed for my ignorance and indecency.  My family and my beliefs are more important than a few dollars out of the hands of those who do not value decency or have respect for us or for Our God.

Do not be duped by those who use intimidation and the word discrimination to bully and grossly discriminate against Christians.  We have not only the freedom, but also the duty to decline being an accomplice to dirty deeds.  Those who are truly intolerant prove themselves with force tactics, fear mongering, and intimidating manipulation.  Use your God-given discernment and refuse them.

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milk

Paul has just exhorted the Philippian church to put away their differences.  He urged unity, joy in every circumstance, and anxiety in none.  He instructed them to look at the good and imitate his example.  Now, he goes on to conclude his letter with a call to contentment and thanksgiving.

Notice how Paul begins his instruction on contentment:

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. ~Philippians 4:10

Here is a man who has been faithfully preaching and teaching the gospel for the sake of others’ souls and Christ’s call.  Each place to which he is called proves his worldly enemies increasingly more hostile.  As he sits in prison again, falsely accused and wrongfully punished, he gives thanks to a church who had, for a time, all but forgotten him.  Still, he takes no offense, or, most likely, completely overlooks their negligence and offense and instead praises them with his gratitude for what they had now given to him.  He even seems to make an excuse for their neglect recognizing that they had had “no opportunity.”

Really?  A whole church full of people to whom he had brought the gospel simply had “no opportunity” to care for him as he sit in prison?  Perhaps.  More likely, as Mr. Henry and I agree, Paul is excusing their neglect towards himself because of his own godliness.  He is refusing to take offense, though plenty enough reason for it has been given by those who should have previously loved him well.

Nevertheless, Paul rejoices.  He holds no grudge.  He dismisses every reason he has for bitterness and discontentment because he has only one goal in mind: the gospel.  Paul is not interested in fighting for rightful respect or well-deserved apologies for himself from those who have already “come around.”  The reason?  He loves them deeply.  Love covers a multitude of sin.

Let me just say that again so I don’t miss remembering it when taking offense when willful neglect in the church lands on my doorstep.

Love covers a multitude of sin.

I must choose love.  To do so, I must overlook offense.  I must assume the best, even when actions seem to speak the worst.  This is the beginning of contentment.  Dwelling on ill-treatment from brothers and sisters will steal our joy and divide our church faster than worldly persecutors ever could.  Paul knows it.  Therefore, he disregards their hurtful neglect, chalks it up to a “lack of opportunity” and rejoices that they’ve shown up at all.  Better late than never, right?

If anyone had need in the church at this point, it was Paul.  He likely needed financial support, food, material things, etc.  It’s probable that he was indigent because of his confinement.  Most of all, though, I believe he must have needed encouragement.  Still, Paul is content.  He says he has learned the secret of contentment.

 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. ~Philippians 4:13

Christ is the secret.  Christ is the source.  Christ is all and that makes him all we need.

So then, the question becomes, “Do we need?” or are we already full?

Paul needed.  But he did not beg.  He did not complain.  He did not take offense at the offensive.  He encouraged giving solely for the sake of the givers’ growth – not self indulgence or personal gains.

He ends his letter with grace.  Paul treats his imperfect church with remarkable grace.

The moral of this amazing prison-written letter to us?  Lead by example.  The only way we can ever hope to be joyful in affliction, stop complaining and taking offense, start dwelling on the good and rejoicing even when Christians disappoint and be genuinely content is to, at all costs, find the Source; draw from the Source.

 Christ alone is our Source.  Be thankful and rejoice because you know him.  Some do not have such a privilege.

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friend

Confession is the place where honesty and repentance meet.  The Bible tells Christians that we ought to confess our sins not only to God, but to one another.  It’s one thing to be knowledgeable about theology and teach it.  It’s quite another to share personal failure in light of that theology while teaching it.  I would venture to say that most people, if they are anything like me, learn much more from the latter teacher than from the former.  That said, honesty and genuine public confession is not only hard to do, but also hard to find inside the church.  I do not believe it is because we do not recognize our sin.  I believe it is because of the reactions we endure when we are most honest about ourselves in the assembly.

There is an ever swinging pendulum moving through the church erring on the side of naivety, then suspicion; believing the best then thinking the worst;  superficiality then fear – all of which are understandable when seeking to be real with those who are likely to misread, mistake, misunderstand, and even misrepresent our true stories of trial and transgression.  In other words, when it comes to sin we either don’t want to know or we think we already do; we think either more highly or not highly enough of ourselves and our brothers and sisters; we either hide our real selves or we quake in our boots and bail before the words we need to share ever even come out.  And that’s just fine with everyone else because they probably really didn’t want to deal with it anyway -or so we think.

But we all have those stories.  The Bible commands us to confess that we might be healed.  The implication in James 5:16 is that if we do not confess and pray with one another specifically about our own sin, we will not be healed.  Still, the utter frustration and crippling fear that comes alongside nitty-gritty authenticity is limitless.

Therefore, at the risk of being painfully repetitive, I have a few more words to say.  I don’t want to be redundant.  Really, I don’t.  Beating a dead horse is no fun for the reader nor the writer.  But after writing on Ephesians 5 three times over the past year and considering it’s message on countless occasions of solitude, I cannot leave this text without one final hurrah.

The problem lies not in what I said.  the problem lies in what I did not say.  I wrote about the context.  I wrote about the warnings.  I wrote about the commands and I wrote about the consequences.  Theologically, I think I covered the bases relatively well – for a girl, that is, without a seminary degree or even so much as a religious sounding surname to speak of.

Honestly, though, I’m having a problem.  I cannot move on to the next passage with peace.  Every time I try, I stop.  I consider my error and I drag my full of faults and failures feet.  I end up back at the beginning of Ephesians chapter 5 and I flail around trying to figure out what fancy linguistic form will fit this fetish.

“Be imitators of God.”

That’s just the beginning of a 21 verse, 25 command discourse given by the apostle Paul.

The problem is that when I consider myself, despite the fact that I do desperately desire to imitate God, I don’t know if I veritably ever really do.  Because Paul tells me exactly what imitating God actually looks like.  He says, “walk in love.”  I walk in love – sometimes.  Really.  I want to.  But I also walk in anger sometimes.  I walk in frustration.  I walk in impatience, fear, doubt, and disillusionment, just to name a few.  I pray repetitively every day for God to help me stop being angry, frustrated, impatient, afraid, unbelieving, and disillusioned.  But the next day is often the same.  But that’s just one command.  Twenty four to go, right?

I go on in the text.  Be moral; be pure; do not covet…

Fail.  Fail.  Double fail.  I can’t even walk into Walmart without wanting something I don’t need.

…be clean; no foolish talk; no crude joking…

I’d love to believe that I’m sophisticated, classy, educated, wise, and reasonable all the time.  Well, even most of the time would work for me.  But the truth is that I’ve often been anything but.  Ignorance may indeed be my middle name.  I can’t help but recall the foolish, thoughtless words which have left my lips in days past.  And don’t even make me finish the verse where he mentions being thankful.  Doubtless I have been one of the most ungrateful, spoiled children God has ever fathered.

Don’t sweat the small stuff, right?  Problem is, no matter what people say, this stuff is not small!  Paul goes on to tell me that God’s wrath is coming because of these very things!  His wrath! You know, that force that strikes people dead without warning when they complain about the redundance of his bread showers?

Ok, now here’s the kicker: “Do not be partners with them.”

*Swallows hard*  Them?!  He’s talking about me.

And that’s where I stop.  That’s the part where I begin to wonder about all the things I thought I knew – chiefly, has he really saved me?  I’ve been all but convinced otherwise by some who say they know.  And if he hasn’t saved me, has he saved anyone at all?  I love the Bible.  I long for the truth.  Theology is the solitary subject I chose to study.  Nothing else has ever captivated me over the past two decades.  I puzzle over the height from which I fell.  I grieve over the great sin I have committed.  I console myself with the stories of David, Noah, Moses, and Peter.  Their worst failings play over in my mind like a broken record.  I wonder why God ever chose them.  I wonder why he chose me.  I realize that I am altogether terrified of the evil capabilities of my own heart.  I pray.  I confess.  I fast.  I mourn.  I seek peace and pursue it.  I repeat it all over again.  For just a moment, I find the truth.  I am that bad – and so are you.   I am far worse than any person has or ever will accuse me of being.  We are sinners.  That is why we need a Savior.  That is why we need Paul’s commands.  It is why the Ephesians needed a letter, a church, and a leader so invested in their progress that he was willing to lay down his likes, his liberty, and even his own life for the likes of them.

I do not live a life of sin, but there are times I have.  There are precious few kinds of sin I have left uncommitted – if any.  If any human is honest with himself he will conclude as much.

And that is why we must confess…in the church – to God and to each other.  We must confess.  We must stop reacting to one another’s sin as if we cannot believe it.  We must offer one another the same amount of grace that we, too, desperately need.  We must be honest about ourselves as well as with others.  And when we are, and they are, we must, must, must resolve to treat one another the way we want to be treated when we have lost a painful battle in the war against the enemy.   It’s one thing to be well versed in church culture and biblical truth.  It’s quite another to share personal failure in the midst of that background.  I would venture to say that most people, if they are anything like me, learn much more from the latter than from the former – teacher or otherwise.

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Image

Just after he lists the works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit, Paul gives an exhortation regarding how Christians ought to deal with one another when we fail or see someone else failing.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.5 For each will have to bear his own load. ~Galatians 6:1-5

An exhortation like this gives great insight into our two biggest temptations: carnality and self-righteousness.  It assumes that 1. we will be tempted and commit sin, at the very least, transiently, 2. we will need to correct and be corrected about sin transiently, and 3. our natural inclination is to think ourselves better than we are – whether we are the one in sin or the one correcting the sin of another.

Paul’s instructions are simple.  They come on the heels of the harsh, wrongful “correction” and exclusion administered by self-righteous men within the church.  Paul is sifting through the collateral damage done by puffed up leaders.  He is firmly reinstating proper restoration methods in the face of the rancid, loveless correction and competition that has been going on in Galatia.

“…you who are spiritual…”

His advice?  First, you must qualify.  Before you ever even think about correcting another sinner, examine yourself.  Are you spiritual?  If not, cease and desist.  Give it up.  You are in no place to correct anyone if you are not in tune with the Holy Spirit.  If you are, however, walking in line with the Spirit, then, and only then, proceed with great caution.  Then, if you see your brother sinning, be gentle with him.  Restore him.

Restore: to bring back to an original condition; to put someone back in a former position.

Restore.  Not reprimand.  Not reject.  Not ridicule.  Not label reprobate.  Restore.

Restoration is not retaliation.  It is not meant to wound, embarrass, injure, or shame.  Restoration is built on brotherly love.  It assumes that the transgressor is acting out of character.  It implies that the sinner was formerly in right standing with God.  The teachers in Galatia instead, assumed just the opposite.  They considered men unlike themselves (preferentially speaking) to be men of a different kind altogether – a worse, despicable, derelict kind who had no place at all within their great kingdom.  Little wonder why Paul emphasizes the importance of addressing sin properly here.  He knows that there are only sinners in the church who will be correcting sinners in the church.

His next warning?  Be careful.  When you go to one who is in sin, you will likely be tempted to sin right along with them.  Know why?  Because you are just like him.  You are a sinner, too.  Got it?  Remember it well or you will fall by either sinning with him or sinning by self-righteously thinking you are better than he.

You wanna obey the law?  Jesus’ law?  Bear your brother’s burdens.  Befriend him.  Talk to him.  Sit with him.  Know him.  Pray with him.  Love him.  Lead him.  You cannot bear what you do not know.  You cannot know a man in his darkest place lest you are, at the very least, willing to know him in his better state.  He simply will not let you.  Should he?  Clearly not.  We do not trust those whom we do not know.

Paul repeats himself pointing to the “correctors” back to his own need for great humility.  He reminds these guys that they are no better than the men they are seeking to correct.  He says, “Remember guys, you are nothing.  I am nothing.  Jesus is the only one who is something.  He is everything.  The second you think you are something great and quite possibly are God’s gift to the poor, erring, sinful people of the world, you lie.  You lie to yourself.  You are deceived, brother, and now in need of correction yourself.  Instead of thinking you’re doing God a favor by pointing out everyone else’s sin for them, test your own work.  Bear your own load.  Then you will be able to bear another’s.”

“This represents as the duty of every man; instead of being forward to judge and censure others, it would much more become us to search and try our own ways; our business lies more at home than abroad, with ourselves than with other men, for what business have we to judge another man’s servant?” ~Matthew Henry

Lord, give us grace.  Let us not reject, ridicule, reprimand or retaliate against even the reprobate.  Help us learn how to restore one another rightly.

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In making his case for faith, Paul offers what he calls a “human example.”  He wants this idea to be plain enough for every person in the Galatian church to understand.  His premise is to explain the very nature of a covenant and show the Galatians how Christ alone is the author and perfecter of our faith – not ourselves or our own works.  

To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. ~Galatians 3:15-18

Paul reasons: A covenant is a promise between two parties.  No one can add conditions after the deal has been sealed.  The terms cannot be changed once they are agreed upon.  With that in mind, consider the promise God made Abraham.  It came 430 years prior to the law.  Therefore, the law has no bearing on the promise whatsoever.  It does not change the conditions in the least – for it cannot!  The question then becomes not about who keeps the law, but about to whom the promise was actually made.  

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. ~Galatians 3:16

The promise was made to Abraham and his offspring, singular, as Paul emphasizes.  This is the true, unique seed of Abraham who is Christ.  Therefore, the promise was made not only to the physical children of Abraham (aka the nation of Israel) but to the unique spiritual children of Abraham (the spiritual seed.)  Christ was the promise and faith in him is the condition of the reward: eternal salvation.  Therefore, Paul reasons, the promise is not for all bloodline or orthodox Jews, but for all Christians, which certainly includes bloodline Jews but is not at all limited to them (Galatians 3:29.) 

****(Consider what Jesus says in John 8:31-59.  The unbelieving Jews contended that they were indeed the children of Abraham.  Jesus told them he knew they were Abraham’s offspring (John 8;37), but that they were not his children.  (John 8:39)  He called them the children of the devil, rather, because of their evil works and refusal to believe in him.  Those who were the true physical seed of Abraham were disowned by Christ himself because of their unbelief!  But, here, in Galatians, the Gentiles who believed God were accepted as rightful heirs!  This is mind blowing.

The idea of Abraham’s four seeds in helpful in clarifying this conundrum.  

Seed #1: The physical children who may or may not be spiritual heirs but who were all physically descended from Abraham.

Seed #2: The special physical children who came after Issac, also known as the children of the promise, who may or may not be spiritual heirs.

Seed #3:  Christ – the true seed who fulfilled both the physical genealogical aspect being descended from Abraham’s line as well as the ultimate spiritual anti-type.

Seed #4: The spiritual children who are all in Christ but who may or may not be physical descendants of Abraham.)****

The law came after this promise.  It does not change the condition which is faith alone in Christ alone.  Why, then, did it come?

Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. ~Galatians 3:19

The law cannot save.  Paul calls it a “guardian” or a “schoolmaster.” It only serves to show us our sin.  It’s function is to make men aware of the severity of their sin and recognize their desperate need of Christ.  Unfortunately, men placed faith in their flawed attempts to keep the law and made it an end in itself.  In so doing, they not only missed out on the promise, they missed the very promise himself.  They condemned the promise in condemning Christ.  We continue to do so today when we rely on the law in place of the Savior.  Paul says we are under a curse if we do so.  (Galatians 3:10)

However, the law and promise are not at odds.  The law is our guardian until we come to Christ – a guardian which we, as lovers of the Lawmaker, no longer need in order to motivate obedience.  It is utter foolishness to marry a police officer when you hate the law.  No one does that.  Neither can one be part of Christ’s bride and simultaneously hate his perfect law.   No.  We obey because we love, not because we fear the punishment of an unappreciated guardian.  We are not slaves of the law!  Neither are we any longer slaves to sin!  We are sons of God who long to obey him!  (Galatians 4:7)

Our motive for obedience is often the differentiating factor regarding
true or false faith.  The false brothers in Galatia loved the law.  The Christians in Galatia loved the Lawmaker.

Do you love the Lawmaker or do you love the law?  That may indeed be the only difference between freedom and slavery.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzSwqkifnWc

 

 

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