I received this fitting text from Bruce Wells, one of our faithful members, on Monday:
Run John, run the law commands;
But gives you neither feet nor hands.
Far better news the gospel brings.
It bids you fly and gives you wings” -John Bunyan
What a fitting way to describe Sunday’s sermon. I love it when our people send those kinds of texts my way. It’s a unique privilege for me to preach God’s word to our church, each week. CLF, you are a joy to serve!
From the cutting room floor:
When we first started CLF, back in 2003, the first place we taught from as Galatians. The text I preached from this past week, took me 3 sermons. My goal this past Sunday was to bite off a bigger chunk and preach this in 1 sermon. That means, there was quite a bit of stuff I had to cut. So here are a few of those items:
- I really didn’t have time to cover how the Spirit works in us and perfects us. One of the pieces that Paul mentions in Galatians 3:3 is that the Spirit began the work of salvation in us and the Spirit will finish the work of salvation in us. Paul’s main point is that salvation comes to us from God and is completed by God. The Spirit is given to us by God and the Spirit goes to work in us to complete the work of salvation. And there are many ways He does this…conviction of sin; empowering us to obey; helping us say ‘no’ to temptation; producing in us the fruit of the Spirit, which we’ll study in Galatians 5. And in a strange twist, the Spirit works in us to produce good works. These good works don’t save us, but they are part of the Spirit’s work in us. Martin Luther put it this way, “God doesn’t need your good works…but your neighbor does.” Paul put it this way in Philippians 2, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God at work in your both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Notice…work out our salvation…not work for our salvation. And notice, that good work reveals that God is at work in us.
- Another cutting room floor item was the imagery Paul used to describe how vivid the cross of Jesus was to the Galatians. He wrote in Galatians 3:1 “It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” When I read this, I wondered…”the Galatians weren’t there when Jesus died, so how can Paul say this?” Well, the reason Paul can say this is because when he preached the gospel to them, it was a vivid way that Jesus was publicly portrayed before their eyes. John Calvin wrote this about this section that was really helpful: “Let those who want to discharge the ministry of the Gospel aright learn not only to speak and declaim but also to penetrate into consciences, so that men may see Christ crucified and that His blood may flow. When the Church has such painters as these she no longer needs wood and stone, that is, dead images, she no longer requires any pictures.” What an amazing thought…preachers are to be painters who are giving people a vivid portrait of Christ. Friends, when we gather to hear God’s word or when we speak God’s word to our friends, neighbors, or others, we are praying for it to be a vivid portrayal of Jesus’ death for us and for them. Only preaching the gospel can do that.
- One piece I left out was where false gospels come from. I’m sure you’re like me in that you grieve when you read about people being led astray to a variety of erroneous teachings. It actually is one of the major causes for much of my concern for the church. But this statement by Philip Ryken really put this on the forefront: “Doctrinal error has two primary sources: human ignorance and demonic malevolence. The church in Galatia faced both problems. The Galatians themselves were so foolish as to abandon the gospel, but as we shall see, they were doing so because they were under spiritual attack. Christian doctrine is the battlefield where the most intense spiritual warfare takes place.” This is one of the reasons why we have put theological/equipping of our people as one of our main ministries. Since false gospels come from “human ignorance and demonic malevolence”, then one way we fight both is through theological/doctrinal teaching and equipping. When I hear people say, “theology doesn’t matter”, it’s obvious to me that they have a theological position…it’s just not an accurate one. All of us have some sort of theology…the real question is…is a biblical one…one that points you to God, encourages you to have a relationship with God, and one that causes you to worship the One, true, God.
- Finally, this week is dawned on me once again how Paul is banging the same drum over and over again. But one thing I asked the Lord was ‘why’? Why is Paul doing this? Well, it’s so we don’t forget it. But I think another reason is because the entire world’s way of doing things is all based on merit and performance. This point that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone strikes a death blow to merit based religion. And it pounds our pride into oblivion. What do we have to boast about in the gospel of grace, but God alone? So, this got me asking myself: “how much to I remind myself of God’s grace?” “How many times do I brag about my accomplishments and push His to the circumference?” “Is much of my anxiety and worry in life because I’m still trying to impress God and others?” Very convicting thought.
Things I can’t believe I said:
- In trying to say that obedience comes after faith and that God works in us to obey, I actually said, “we believe and then circumcision comes later”…WHAT?? Oh my! We’re not hosting a circumcision party at CLF!
- And then to top it off, when talking about Paul whipping the Judaizers with Scripture, I actually said “Who’s your daddy??” To say that I got that look from my wife that I dread is an understatement…I could feel the gasp, just as soon as it came out of my mouth.
- Gotta love live preaching…
Quotes I loved that I didn’t use:
- “So long as sin, death, and the curse remain in us, sin damns us, death kills us, and the curse curses us; but when these things are transferred to Christ, what is ours becomes His and what is His becomes ours. Let us learn, therefore, in every temptation to transfer sin, death, the curse, and all the evils that oppress us from ourselves to Christ, and, on the other hand, to transfer righteousness, life, and blessing from Him to us.” Martin Luther
- “They did not deny that you must believe in Jesus for salvation, but they stressed that you must be circumcised and keep the law as well. In other words, you must let Moses finish what Christ has begun. Or rather, you yourself must finish, by your obedience to the law, what Christ has begun. You must add your works to the work of Christ. You must finish Christ’s unfinished work.” John Stott
- “Having been justified, we are now becoming sanctified. But we cannot use our obedience—as imperfect as it is—to establish our righteousness before God. To put this another way, we cannot base our justification on our sanctification.” Philip Ryken
- “Membership in Abraham’s family is not hereditary. Father Abraham’s true sons and daughters are not the people who keep the law, but the people who live by faith. Their family resemblance is spiritual rather than physical.” Philip Ryken
From the cheap seats:
- I am a football fan, but I thought the Super Bowl was boring. Not really sure why I thought that besides I wish there was more scoring. However, that doesn’t take away from the amazing defensive game plan by the Patriots.
- Also, I am constantly impressed by Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. My point last week about not rooting for them was mainly because I would like to see someone new rise to the forefront. But 9 Super Bowl trips and 6 championships is pretty remarkable. Hat tip!
- High school pitchers and catchers report next Monday! Can’t wait to get started with our guys.
- If you’re interested in leadership books or books on collective character, let me recommend the book Legacy: What the All Blacks can teach us about the Business of Life (Legacy on Amazon). Just be aware, reader discretion is advised due to language. And if you’re interested in an intriguing series about the All Blacks, watch the Amazon Prime original series called “All or Nothing: New Zealand All Blacks”. I enjoy this type of documentary and these types of lessons from areas of life that I’m unfamiliar. And rugby is one of those areas.
To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here.