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The Mission of Paul

Galatians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Seeing God's Glory in the Conversion of Christians

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We forget too easily.

In order to fight off our forgetfulness, we do things.
We set up memorials.
We set aside days for remembrance.
We have traditions.
The Old Man and the Gulls
There’s a story, it’s a true story, of an old man who would visit an old pier, on the coast of Florida.
He visited this same spot every Friday night, until his death in 1973.
Each Friday, he would slowly walk the pier, while carrying a bucket of shrimp.
Sea gulls would flock to this man, and he would feed them the shrimp he brought.
Many years before, in October of 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, was on a mission.
He was a celebrated war veteran from World War 1.
He found himself now as a pilot in World War II.
He was on a mission, flying a B-17 Flying Fortress.
He was going to New Guinea to deliver a message to General Douglas MacArthur.
Somewhere in the South Pacific, he became lost, and ran out of fuel.
The plane, along with his 7 companions, crashed in the ocean.
They were adrift at sea for nearly a month.
They struggled with water, weather, and the brutally scorching sun.
Sharks would ram their raft.
Their raft was 9 x 5.
One time a shark about 10 feet long even rammed their little raft.
The biggest danger was starvation.
It would take a miracle to keep them alive.
Captain Eddie describes the miracle that kept them alive.
He later recorded that one of the pilots named William Cherry, “read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise.”
It grew hot, and Eddie pulled his hat down over his eyes and he fell asleep, when something landed on his head.
He knew that it was a sea gull.
They all saw the sea gull, but no one said a word.
If this were a cartoon, the sea gull would have looked like a rotisserie chicken.
Captain Eddie said, “They were staring at that gull. The gull meant food … if I could catch it. And the rest, as they say is history.”
Captain Eddie caught the gull.
Its flesh was eaten.
It’s guts were used as bait to catch fish.
The 7 men on that raft lived, and their hopes were renewed because of that one sea gull, hundreds of miles from land.
Captain Eddie never forgot the sacrifice of that sea gull.
Every Friday, at sunset, he went to an old pier, along the coast of Florida.
He brought his bucket of shrimp and fed the gulls, remembering the one that died and saved their lives.
Captain Eddie remembered his experience.
Because it was life changing.
There was a time when the Galatians had loved Paul.
He’d visited them on a few of his missionary trips.
He was who they heard the Gospel from.
It was by his preaching that they were converted.
It was because of his influence that they accepted the truth, and joined the family of God.
And yet, they’d forgotten.
And so Paul writes the book of Galatians, a letter actually, to remind them of who he is.
He writes to remind them of how God was and is glorified in his life.
He not only makes these statements, but then he offers proof.
God was glorified in his life because he was called by Christ.
God was glorified in his life because he was taught by Christ.
And at the end of the day, all the glory belongs to Christ.
This is important to us, because if you are a believer, God has been glorified in your life as well.
I say that, and I bet there are a few people who hear “God has been glorified in your life” and their minds close off.
And you think to yourself, “There’s no way God is glorified in your life.”
You’re a normal Christian.
You’re not Paul.
You’re not Peter.
You’re the average Christian.
“God doesn’t work like that in your life.”
If that is you … then you have forgotten something huge.
Captain Eddie Rickenbacker would never forget that sea gull.
And we should never forget that the glory of God is displayed in our lives, in your life.
Let’s go ahead and read Paul’s reminder to the Galatians.
Read .
At the very end of that text, Paul says, “And they glorified God because of me.”
Paul is explaining his conversion story.
He explains how he was converted.
How Jesus prepared Him.
And what he became.
And God was glorified in that.
He had an exceptional conversion.
There are some things present in Paul’s story that are not in yours.
But the principles are the same, and in every conversion.
And by us going through this text, I want you to see God’s glory displayed in your conversion and life.

First, let’s see The Glory of Being Called By Christ.

Today we have animal shelters.
We used to have pounds, but the pound brings with it images of dirty, mangy mutts.
A shelter sounds so much nicer and better.
So, today animals are rescued taken to shelters.
The shelter is a refuge for all the good dogs out there that don’t have a home.
Suppose you want to get a dog for your family.
Maybe you’ve done this.
You go to the shelter, and look at all those dogs.
There’s something interesting about dogs, it is as if God made them to be with us.
They love people.
And as you walk down the aisle looking at the dogs, they are all so happy to see you.
Their tails wag.
Their ears do that cute bending thing.
They might be behind a plexi-glass sheet, and they jump onto the plexi-glass panel, trying to get to you, so they can smother you with kisses.
You’ve made up your mind, you’re getting a dog.
You have your families needs and safety in mind.
You want something that is not too small, but not too big.
You want something that will play well with kids.
And you might even consider the upkeep of the dog.
How much does it shed?
Will it need to go to the groomers?
Things like that.
At the end of the hallway, is a locked door.
It says, “Employees Only. Do Not Enter.”
You can hear that there are more dogs behind that wall.
You hear barking.
You hear growling.
You hear snarling.
You ask one of the people at the shelter what’s behind the wall.
They say they are dogs that aren’t available for adoption.
Judging by the sounds, you know why they aren’t available for adoption … they’re bad dogs.
They are aggressive.
They are not safe.
Would you bring one of those bad dogs home to your family?
Would you bring a 70 pound pitbull, from the shelter, who has a record biting people home to play wit your 2 year old child?
Home to your 2 year old child?
Of course not.
That’s how Paul describes himself prior to his conversion.
Think of who the church is.
The church is the family of God.
The church are the children of God.
The church is the bride of Christ.
The church are those that God loved so much that Jesus would die for them.
God loves the church.
We often talk about how we need to treasure the church.
God has provided elders to shepherd and care for the church.
Peter was told that if he loved Jesus, he needed to love and tend the church.
The church is to be protected and nurtured.
When it comes to who God is saving, who He is bringing home to be with His family, look who He is saving.
He’s not going down the friendly dog aisle.
He’s not adopting the pure breeds, with the bows in their hair.
He’s not even adopting the ones that you would think would play well with your kids.
Look how Paul describes himself in verses 13-14.
“For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.”
Before he was a Christian, he was a pretty prominent Pharisee.
He was climbing the Jewish hierarchy quickly.
Remember when Tiger Woods first entered the prime time as a golfer.
He was a child prodigy.
He was 20 years old when he turned pro.
Within that first year, he won 3 PGA Tour events.
He won the 1997 Masters by a record breaking 12 strokes.
By 1999, just 3 years into his professional career, he was the top-ranked golfer in the world.
He hit the golf world by storm, and quickly climbed the ranks.
It surprised the world.
He quickly climbed the ranks of the golfing world at a young age.
Paul, at the time known as Saul, hit the Jewish ranks and soared.
He was advancing in the religion at a surprising speed, much like Tiger Woods did in golf.
He took on more and more responsibility.
He was given a promotion and led the charge in persecuting the church.
And not just any church.
In a pluralistic world today, we see lots of churches, and lots of religious buildings.
Verse 13 says that he was attacking the “church of God”.
You can drive down Murrieta Hot Springs, and pass a:
Jewish synagogue.
See 1 church on a hill.
See 2 signs advertising nearby churches.
And not 1, but 2 Mormon churches on the same property.
So when we hear church, we think denominations and even different religions.
There are many people who are opposed to the church, and they are very vocal about it.
He was attacking Christ’s body.
There are many people who are opposed to the church, and they are very vocal about it.
Men like Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens were very loud in their animosity against the church.
Paul was not just vocal, he was violent against the church.
He was overwhelmingly violent.
In his own words here he said he tried to destroy the church.
Back in , describing Paul’s violence against the church, Luke says that Paul was ravaging the church.
Annihilating or laying waste to the church.
So you’re in the animal shelter, looking for a dog to bring home.
Which one do you pick?
The one that likes kids.
The one that is friendly.
Which one do you ignore?
The violent ones that:
Bark.
Bite.
Have rabies.
You’re building the church.
Who do you bring into the church?
The kind ones?
The ones that are likable?
The ones that are already nice to you?
But who does God bring home to His church?
Paul.
The viscious dog with rabies.
How is God glorified in this?
First, God knows exactly who he is picking.
It’s not as if this was one giant mix up in heaven.
Look at verse 15, “But when he -” That’s God - “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,”
When did God choose Paul?
Did Paul turn in an application and say, “I’m here to apply for the position of apostle to the Gentiles?”
He never approached God and said, “I could be useful because I have a Roman citizenship.”
No.
God chose Paul before he was born.
God was not reacting to Paul.
He
And this is nothing new.
This is one of the great themes of the Bible.
Isaac was the chosen son.
Jacob was the chosen son.
Jeremiah was the chosen speaker of God.
John was the chosen prophet of God.
God isn’t throwing the dice and hoping it turns out well with Paul.
He set him apart and called him by His grace.
It makes total sense to not pick Paul.
He’s the dog with rabies.
He’s violent.
He’s dangerous.
And yet, he is who God gave grace too.
That gives God glory, because there’s no way Paul would have come on his own.
And in the same way, God is glorified in calling you.
Let me phrase it another way, God is glorified in saving you.
See we tend to view ourselves like the poor little dog in the shelter, just looking to be brought home, while some Sarah McClachlan song plays in the distance.
You were not there, giving God your biggest puppy dog eyes, saying, “Please bring me home.”
Using that dog shelter language, we were behind the wall, kept with all the dangerous dogs.
That’s what your sin was.
It was violence against God.
It was hatred of God.
.
.
.
.
All describe our hatred and animosity against God.
None of us should have been welcomed into the family of God.
But for His own glory, He brought us in, because we never would have come on our own.
That’s why in , Jesus said “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
In our unconverted state we are bad dogs who don’t want to be with Christ.
We look to Paul, and we see him as the unlikely one to be brought in, we should have that same attitude.
And like Paul, God knew exactly who He was getting.
And he knew the cost.
You ever adopted the bad dog?
Brought him home, and found out … this ones not going to work.
God knew what he was getting.
No surprises here.
What’s surprising though is His grace, that He would choose us.
says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,”
He predestined you, before the foundation of the world … and He knew the cost.
God is glorified in every person who comes to Him, because there is no way they would come on their own.
Look at your past.
See how God called you.
Consider what you were.
How unlikely you were.
And the predestinating grace, that He would specifically call you.
The glory is not just that God chooses or calls, but God is able to use those He calls.
That’s where the huge miracle is.
You get a dog from the shelter, it’s going to have issues.
Some can be skittish.
Some can be snappy.
They might have been beaten.
Whatever, there are going to be issues.
There will be some things they cannot do.
God picks the unlikely, then He uses them to do the unlikely.
Look down at verse 16, Paul says that God “was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles,”
That statement goes against everything that Paul is.
Paul is an opponent of Christ.
Attempting to physically destroy the church.
And Jesus is going to use him to preach.
And what is Paul?
In Philippians, he says he is a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee of Pharisees.
Who didn’t the Jews like?
Gentiles.
They were called dogs.
They were unclean.
You don’t associate with the Gentiles.
When the Jews arrested Jesus and went to Pilate and told him to crucify Him, do you remember where they were?
They were at Pilate’s house.
They didn’t enter Pilate’s house.
Because he was a Gentile.
That would defile them.
So they shouted to him from his courtyard.
They didn’t like the Gentiles.
But who is Paul going to preach to?
The Gentiles.
Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
God is glorified in who He uses.
God is glorified in how He uses who he uses.
God is glorified when He uses you.
By all outward appearances, you are the unlikely.
And God has chosen you and gifted you to be used by Him, in ways we would say, “Bad idea”, but it works because it’s for His glory.

Then there is The Glory of Being Taught By Christ.

Paul is giving proof that what he says is true, and how he learned it is true.
God is glorified in Paul, because of how he learned what he knew.
For most of us, we learn something by sitting under someone.
You go to school.
You get trained.
You go to college.
You have an internship.
I went to college.
I continue to read.
I have place myself under people who are way smarter than me, so that I can continue learn.
Things were much the same in Paul’s day.
There were disciples.
Disciples literally, were learners.
In Judaism, you’d learn and study under a rabbi.
Paul’s message was something that he learned supernaturally.
Look how he sets it up.
Verse 11 He says, “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.”
Meaning, it didn’t come from any person.
It was not invented by a man.
It wasn’t someone else’s take on the Jesus story.
He continues and describes how he learned about the Gospel.
Verse 12, “For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The way that Paul learned the Gospel was different from you or I.
We have heard the Gospel from people teaching it to us.
At some point in your life, someone told you the Gospel.
Could have been a Sunday School teacher, a VBS, a pastor, an evangelist, but someone told you the Gospel.
Not so with Paul.
He heard the Gospel from Jesus.
Jesus appears to him, converts, sets him aside for ministry.
Paul doesn’t go to Jerusalem and hang out with the disciples.
He doesn’t sit under Peter as a pupil.
He doesn’t go to seminary and learn how to be a pastor.
What does he do?
Look at the end of verse 16, on into the beginning of verse 18, “… I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas ...”.
What did he do for those 3 years?
He learned from Jesus.
This second point is called, The Glory of Being Taught by Christ.
Paul is reminding the Galatians of his authority and the authenticity of his message.
There are some who have accused him of preaching another Gospel.
What he’s saying here, his big idea, is that he’s not preaching another Gospel, he’s preaching exactly what Jesus told him to preach.
Because he learned under Jesus.
And you are saying, “How do I know this is true? Prove it.”
Paul is converted.
He doesn’t go to seminary.
He spends 3 years in Arabia.
And after those 3 years, he then goes to Jerusalem, and hangs out with Cephas, that’s Peter, for 15 days.
I went to college for 4 years.
I sometimes question how much I actually learned in those 4 years.
For the past 3 years, I’ve been in a ministry training program, and I’ve learned a lot … but I know there is more to learn.
Paul says he spent 15 days with Peter.
How much could he learn in 15 days?
When it says that he spent 15 days with Peter, I don’t think that was 15 days of learning.
I think that was 15 days of testing.
15 days of, “You say this is who you are, we want to see if it’s true.”
15 days of, “Let’s see what you know.”
15 days of, “Let’s see what you are made of.”
And at the end of those 15 days, Peter was convinced that Paul was genuinely converted, and had been taught by Jesus Himself.
In Peter says of Paul.
This is Peter’s stamp of approval, verifying that Paul was the real deal.
“And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”
Key things to hear there are that Peter recognized the wisdom given to Paul.
Paul’s wisdom was given to him.
And second, Peter considered Paul’s writings Scripture, God-breathed.
That is the glory of being taught by Christ.
This is where we are a little different from Paul.
You are not going to receive knowledge like that.
You aren’t going to go on a little retreat with Jesus and come back with a new book to add to the Bible.
The Bible is done.
Jude says we have a faith that is once for all delivered to the saints.
I’d have to pull the heretic card on you if you come with some new message.
But … God is glorified in what you know.
Prior to your conversion, you rejected truth.
says that no one seeks for God.
In fact, prior to your conversion you could not understand the Gospel.
That’s why Jesus said, “No one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
You couldn’t accurately understand who Christ is.
says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
That means it is impossible for the unsaved person to salvifically understand the Gospel, without the Holy Spirit.
It means you didn’t believe it or trust in it.
When a person, believes, something supernatural has happened.
The power of God has worked in the individual’s life, so that he now supernaturally believes spiritual things.
says, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Let me put it another way, when you believe, God is glorified, because it means He has done something to change your way of thinking.
Can you see this in your life?
I hope you are starting to see, in a very personal way, how God is glorified in your life.
Do you see how you have gone from the unlikely to chosen?
Do you see how you have gone from rebellious enemy to child of God?
Do you see how you have gone from rejector of truth, to believer of truth?
If you say yes, then God has most definitely worked in your life, and His glory is being displayed in your life!

And lastly, The Glory Belongs to Christ.

Paul is writing to reaffirm his authority to the Galatians who have been blinded by lies.
He has reminded them of what he used to be, and how God chose him for a reason.
He has reminded them that he was individually taught by Jesus.
Then the last part is he shows that others give God praise because of what God has done in him.
The glory belongs to Christ.
He went off for 3 years.
He was taught by Jesus.
Returned and visited James and Peter for only 15 days.
He’s kept a pretty low profile this whole time.
Meanwhile, the churches in Judea, and around Jerusalem, don’t know a whole lot about Paul.
He’s been out of the news.
Kind of like that child actor, that was on a show when he was younger, and now you wonder what ever happened to him.
Where is he now?
They wonder what ever happened to Paul.
News didn’t travel very fast back then.
No cell phones.
No Twitter.
No Facebook.
No Newspaper.
He’s that forgotten childhood actor.
Then Paul starts preaching.
Look at verses 22-24.
“And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.”
The people were surprised.
They only knew that the guy who used to persecute the church … is now preaching the very thing he once tried to destroy.
Isn’t that the guy who was moving up in the Jewish ranks?
Isn’t that the guy who used to be the lead prosecutor and persecutor of the church?
Isn’t that the guy who used to avoid the Gentiles, and now he hangs out with them and loves them?
I wonder what happened to him?
Verse 24, explains they knew exactly what happened to Him.
God saved Him.
And they glorified God because of what happened to Paul.
They knew and could see the radical work of God in converting souls.
And they glorified God.
Paul’s told his story, what is your story?
Yours will be a little different.
You won’t have a personal study session with Jesus.
But you have the basic truths.
You were an unlikely choice, but set apart before you were born.
You were opposed, and He allowed you to understand.
You are used for His purposes.
And if you have had these things happen to you … God is glorified in you.
Do you know your story?
I began by telling you of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker and his story.
Every Friday night, on the coast of Florida he remembered.
Here’s another one, John Newton.
He was the writer of Amazing Grace, and later a proponent of ending slavery in England.
He wrote his own epitaph, the inscription on his tombstone.
Here is what it reads:
John Newton,
Clerk,
Once an Infidel and Libertine,
A Servant of Slaves in Africa,
He actually was captured, and made a slave for a while in Africa.
was,
By the rich Mercy of our Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ,
Preserved, Restored, Pardoned,
and Appointed to Preach the Faith
He had long laboured to destroy.
John Newton’s story is a powerful argument for the truth, power and glory of God.
What’s your story?
What were you before you were called?
How did you come to understand the truth?
How do people see you now in Christ?
Answer these questions, and you will find God’s glory in your life.
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