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A Community in Grace

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Introduction:

In his book “Earning Freedom” Michael Santos wrote that he started making a series of bad decisions at age 20. Michael said that after watching the movie Scarface he began trafficking cocaine from Miami Florida to Seattle Washington. Foolishly he convinced himself that he could avoid any problems with the law if he never handled the cocaine himself personally. Michael set up a network of other people to transport the drugs cross country. Little did Michael know that he had exposed himself to much deeper problems with the criminal justice system. On August 11,1987 he was arrested at age 20 on federal drug charges, he was sentenced to 45 years in federal prison for being the leader of that illegal drug operation. As part of his plan for survival in the federal prison system he developed a plan to educated himself, and network with a support group. Michael decided that wanted to contribute to the overall good of society so he prepared himself to re-enter the world again. He earned two degrees, he built a website, he wrote several articles and books, and he helped other inmates develop positive skills for coping with life in prison. Michael was able to walk out of prison after 25 years of his 45 year sentence after earning 20 years of good time credits for good behavior, thus earning his release and his freedom saving himself the burden of an additional 20 years.
In Contrast:
In his book “Earning Freedom” Michael Santos wrote that he started making a series of bad decisions at age 20. Michael said that after watching the movie Scarface he began trafficking cocaine from Miami Florida to Seattle Washington. Foolishly he convinced himself that he could avoid any problems with the law if he never handled the cocaine himself personally. Michael set up a network of other people to transport the drugs cross country. Little did Michael know that he had exposed himself to much deeper problems with the criminal justice system. On August 11,1987 he was arrested at age 20 on federal drug charges, he was sentenced to 45 years in federal prison for being the leader of that illegal drug operation. As part of his plan for survival in the federal prison system he developed a plan to educated himself, and network with a support group. Michael decided that wanted to contribute to the overall good of society so he prepared himself to re-enter the world again. He earned two degrees, he built a website, he wrote several articles and books, and he helped other inmates develop positive skills for coping with life in prison. Michael was able to walk out of prison after 25 years of his 45 year sentence after earning 20 years of good time credits for good behavior, thus earning his release and his freedom saving himself the burden of an additional 20 years.
Santo’s story in it’s own way is admirable, but it is a story of self salvation. He should be commended for overcoming such adversity, for persevering for 25 years in prison and maintaining an attitude of hope in a future.
The Bible completely redefines the role of human effort in salvation. To put it simply Grace cannot be earned. The Church in Galatia struggled with the idea that you could not earn salvation by being good, or doing good works. After the Church in Galatia received the Gospel of grace, some taught that they had to rely on works of the law for salvation. Paul pleaded with them to center their lives on the Grace of God through the blood of Jesus Christ. We will be looking at today but first a little background.

Background:

In it talks about a Military Officer In what was called the Italian Regiment by the name of Cornelius. Cornelius was stationed in Caesarea which was the headquarters of the Roman Governor of Judea. These Italian Regiments were made up of the most loyal Roman soldiers.
It says that Cornelius was a devote man who feared God and always prayed to Him, and gave alms generously. Cornelius chose to worship God over the Gods of the Roman Empire.The amazing thing is that Cornelius was a gentile. Cornelius was praying one day in the ninth hour 3:00 Pm the traditional hour of prayer for the Jewish People and an angel of the Lord appeared and he was afraid. The statement he was afraid shows that Cornelius had a healthy fear of the heavenly and holy a relationship with God. The angel told Cornelius to send for Peter in Joppa and he will come and explain what you need to do. Cornelius obeyed and sent two of his devout a servant and a soldier to find Peter in Joppa.
Meanwhile in Joppa about the 6th hour, three hours before the Angel appeared to Cornelius, Peter is on a rooftop praying when he falls into a trance and see’s a vision of a sheet bound at the four corners lowering towards the earth with all kinds of four footed animals birds and creeping things, then Peter heard a voice call to him rise and eat. Peter refuses saying he has never eaten anything unclean. The voice speaks a second time “What God has cleansed you must not call unclean”.
Peter obediently ends up in Caesarea with Cornelius where Peters vision becomes clear that Cornelius gentile household is not considered unclean so Peter preaches to them and they are filled with the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues.
So Peter with the knowledge that the Gentile nations are not considered unclean by God are now his brothers. Armed with this knowledge Peter goes to Jerusalem, where he is confronted about praying and eating with gentiles, the unclean, by what is described as those of the circumcision. Jewish Christians of the law of Moses. When these Jewish Christians heard this truth they recognized that God had also granted the Gentiles repentance, and salvation, eternal life.
Paul and Barnabas where
So this brings us to today’s scriptures.

Scripture: Galatians 2:11-21

Galatians 2:11–21 NKJV
11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. 17 “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
Hypocrisy Challenges Grace:
We read that Peter has come to Antioch. Antioch is the home church of the Apostle Paul, Barnabas was also an ambassador to the Gentiles there.Paul and Barnabas had been the ones that proposed the idea that Gentiles didn’t need to be of the Jewish law of Moses when they were in Jerusalem. Peter was there also. As we have just talked Peter himself had welcomed Gentiles into Christianity without the preconditions of the Jewish Law such as circumcision.
When Peter arrived in Antioch though he had changed he wouldn’t associate with the Gentiles because Christians of a Jewish background were in Antioch and he was afraid of what they would think if he associated with Gentiles. These Jewish Christians were described as being from James. James was the brother of Jesus and the head of the church in Jerusalem. These men didn’t believe that the Gentiles were really Christians at all. So in order to please them and to avoid conflict, Peter treated these Gentile Christians like they weren’t Christians at all.
As an interesting side note Antioch was the first place that the name Christian was used to describe believers.
The Law Challenges Grace:
It’s interesting that Antioch is the first place that followers of Jesus are called Christians.
So Paul confronts Peter with his hypocrisy. God himself had explained to Peter that the Gentiles were not unclean, he had filled Cornelius household with the Holy Spirit. Peter took that information with him to Jerusalem and told them the that God had shown him that Gentiles were not unclean and that God recognized them as Christians. Yet now Peter had turned his back on them.
Paul confronts Peter with this in front of everyone. Peter was showing disapproval in the open so he was openly confronted. But this problem goes even deeper, it says that because of how Peter was acting ,Barnabas, as well as the rest of the Jews had also followed suit and treated the Gentiles as non christian instead of as brothers.
The pressure of what others might think can be a heavy weight to carry, Peter faltered under the weight, like it is even now in the church if one falters others usually follow,.
Here we have Peter the man who had defended the inclusion of Gentiles into Christianity at the Jewish Council in Jerusalem caught in hypocrisy. The law had replaced Gods grace. Another way of saying it is religion had replaced faith. One of the things Christians get accused of all the time is hypocrisy. Accused of acting righteous at church and like the world the rest of the time. Peter had gone back to being justified by the fact he was born Jewish and had fulfilled the law. After all what could be wrong with that he still believed in God, right.
How does this apply:
Have you ever said or done something outside of what you believe because of what some one else might think?
I wasn’t raised in the Assembly of God and like Peter every once and a while my religion steps into my thoughts and a form of self righteousness seems to appear. Paul
Self Righteousness Challenges Grace:
Galatians 2:15–16 NKJV
15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
Paul refused to boast in his ethnicity. Though Jewish with a rich history of salvation as one of Gods chosen people, he understood the his righteousness before God was in grace through Jesus Christ, not by works or nationality. The early church struggled to understand this. God made a covenant with the Jewish people, He had given them the law and adopted them as His own. There were some that still taught, salvation could only come through rigid adherence to the Jewish law, this included all 613 old testament Civil, Ceremonial, and Priestly laws like the 10 commandments. Paul understood that the law couldn’t make you right before God, nor was it intended to.
I thought about what Paul was saying here pretty deeply this week. I have gone through the biggest part of my life having a title. It started with the title Deputy Sheriff, then Corporal, Sergeant, Commander, and now Pastor.
With all the titles there were expectations. As a Sheriff’s Deputy I was expected to uphold the law and not violate it. Not sure of the expectations for a Pastor I guess sin free. So with all these titles iv’e held and i’m trying to say this humbly, it would be easy to taut knowledge and become above what I really am, just a man with many titles.
Charles Spurgeon illustrated the dangers of self-righteousness with a story about a gardener. He grew an enormous carrot and presented it to his king. The king discerned that his heart was pure and granted him a plot of land as a gift. A nobleman in the king's court saw this and thought "My! If that is what you get for a carrot, what if you gave the king something better?" So he presented the king with a beautiful stallion. The king discerned his heart and dismissed him, explaining: "That gardener was giving me the carrot, but you were giving yourself the horse."
I know at times we do good works to make ourselves feel worthy, to bend God's arm to bless us, or earn His favor. Our hearts love to boast in something besides the finished work of Jesus. But self-righteousness is an enemy of the gospel we must uproot.
To do good works in earning our salvation shackles us to the law. In trying to be righteous by merely keeping the law we violate the law and cheapen grace the gift of unmerited favor freely given by God.
So how do you look at your own righteousness as a reason God should love and bless you?
Have you earned it so God
God should love and bless you?
What is you motivation to do good?
What can you do to better hold onto the truth of the Gospel in order to fight against this?
See:
The Law Challenges Grace:
Galatians 2:17–21 NKJV
17 “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
Now Paul addresses any objection that these certain men might raise. It’s important to remember that Paul is making these statements publicly towards Peter in front of theses Jewish Christians.
Now Paul addresses any objection that these certain men might raise. It’s important to remember that Paul is making these statements publicly towards Peter in front of theses Jewish Christians.
The Law Challenges Grace:
Paul’s argument in verses 17-21 is that even though Christians cannot be justified by the law they are free to obey it. In terms of justification we are dead to the law and are now alive to to live for God in all things. Paul further demonstrates his point when he says I was crucified with Christ so now Christ lives in me, so he now lives by faith in the Son of God who loved him and gave Himself for him. Jesus Christ carried the cross and became Gods sacrifice His Grace and our righteousness as he gave himself for us. Paul goes on to explain that if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.
Once grace takes hold in your life it gives you the freedom to obey. See religion operates on the principle: if I obey God He will love me. It’s like all I have to do is follow the rules and God has to love me. That’s not what the Gospel say’s. God operates on the exact opposite principle: God loves me and accepts me in Christ therefore I obey. If we attempt to earn grace we have completely misunderstood it. Jesus Christ died to free us from the curse of the law and to empower us to obey. Jesus death didn’t give us the right to disobey the law it gave us the freedom and desire to obey. Grace is opposed to earning salvation, but we still have to make every effort to obey God:
2 Peter 1:5–10 NKJV
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;
2 pet 1:
How Does This Apply:
Are you abusing grace in any area of your life?
How important to you is it to obey God?
Are you making every effort to obey God?
Has the Gospel set you free to gratefully be in obedience?
elf Righteousness Challenges Grace:
Galatians 2:15–16 NKJV
15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
Ending:
When Reverend Billy Graham was driving through a small southern town, he was stopped by a policeman and charged with speeding. Graham admitted his guilt, but was told by the officer that he would have to appear in court. The judge asked, "Guilty, or not guilty?" When Graham pleaded guilty, the judge replied, "That'll be ten dollars -- a dollar for every mile you went over the limit."Suddenly the judge recognized the famous minister. "You have violated the law," he said. "The fine must be paid--but I am going to pay it for you." He took a ten dollar bill from his own wallet, attached it to the ticket, and then took Graham out and bought him a steak dinner! "That," said Billy Graham, "is how God treats repentant sinners!" That is how grace works.
Ending:
We have all violated the law, Jesus paid the price, and then blesses us even further.
I wrote some lyrics for a song a few years ago, the last part of the song goes like this:
I know i’m not the man I should be
I wrote some lyrics for a song a few years ago, the last part of the song goes like this:
I know i’m not the man that I should be
it’s only by your grace i’m free
because there's no repaying your death at Calvary.
Paul was willing to do something that had to have been extremely uncomfortable. Paul stayed true to his beliefs, to his convictions, and proclaimed the truth of the Gospel.
at calvary
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