Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Eviction Notice Part 5

This week, we wrapped up the “Eviction Notice” series. In Galatians 4:30-31, Paul reminds the reader that the scripture says that Abraham had to “evict” the bondwoman and her son from his household.  As we delve into why that eviction was necessary and what it means for us, we need to understand a little about the “seed of Abraham.” This may sound odd to you, but the reality is that there are four different seeds of Abraham. When we read scripture about the seed of Abraham and promises attached to that seed, it is important to know which seed is relevant to that scripture

Here are the four seeds…

1.       Natural Seed –This includes all the physical children and descendants of Abraham. This includes Isaac, but it also includes Ishmael. It includes Jacob, but it also includes Esau. Even though Ishmael was cast out with his mother and Galatians tells us he did not inherit the promise of Abraham, he still did get A PROMISE. In fact, his promise is almost identical to Abraham’s, with one distinct difference we will see in a minute. The same is true of the blessing and promise given to Esau versus that given to Jacob. 

2.       Special Natural Seed – This excludes Ishmael and Esau. It is the branch of the family tree that starts with Isaac and then Jacob and establishes the nation of Israel as God’s chosen people. It is important to know that there is not a special spiritual blessing here. The Jews do not have a higher spiritual standing than the Gentiles. They were and continue to be a chosen nation. They are not spiritually favored, but they were favored in that they first had the law given to them that revealed the need for a messiah, and also had the messiah first revealed to them. Now, the spiritual promise was given FIRST to the Jew and then the Gentile, but the promise itself is the same. 

3.       Spiritual Seed – This includes all who believe. You are not required to be in the physical bloodline of Abraham to be a child of Abraham.  We join this bloodline because of righteousness – a righteousness obtained the same way Abraham received his, by simply believing. 

4.       Unique Seed – This is Christ Jesus. He is “the seed” that proceeded from Abraham and became a blessing to all the nations of the earth. It is this seed that enables us to become the spiritual seed of Abraham and heirs according to the promise.

There is also something we need to keep in mind regarding the promise. There is a physical aspect of each thing promised as well as a spiritual aspect. Let’s look at the things promised in Genesis 12:2-3 and define these…

 1.       Seed/Child – Physical: Isaac, Spiritual: Jesus

2.       Nation – Physical: Israel, Spiritual: the church

3.       Land – Physical: Palestine, Spiritual: Sabbath rest and Holy Spirit


In Hebrews 6:13-15, we are told that after Abraham waited patiently, he received the promise. Then in Hebrews 11:11-13 and 39-40 we read that Abraham (along with the rest of the great patriarchs of faith) did not obtain the promise.  So, is this a contradiction? Of course not! When you read carefully in Hebrews 6, you find that the context points to the physical aspect of the promise, or the child Isaac. Abraham unquestionably received that promise. The passage in Hebrews 11 is talking about the spiritual aspect of the promise, or the Sabbath rest by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

I taught in the last series that what Abraham believed that made him righteous was that he simply believed God, but as I was studying for this message the Lord further clarified that. There was a specific thing that he believed about God. That thing was that one part of the promise I mentioned earlier that was not given to the natural seed Ishmael or Esau. That was the last part of the promise in Genesis 12:3 – that all the nations would be blessed through his seed. In an indirect way, Abraham believed in Jesus. Abraham believed the promise God made that a redeemer would come through this miracle child birth – not by Isaac, but by one of his descendants. Even Abraham had to believe in the Messiah!  Both the beginning of the bloodline of Christ and His actually birth happened by miraculous conception that were not related to man’s works!

Even though Abraham believed in a coming Messiah and used his faith to put that plan in motion, Jesus had not yet come, and the Holy Spirit had not yet come.  That is the part of the promise that was to be available to the spiritual seed. You cannot get it by being only natural seed of Abraham. Natural seed CAN receive it now if it chooses to believe and become spiritual seed just like a Gentile does, though.

So, how does this relate to the “eviction notice?” When we receive Christ, we become spiritual seed in OUR spirit. Now, we are Abraham’s seed. We are adopted into the family. Now, as part of the family, we make a decision as to which branch of the family tree we are going to be connected to in our body and soul. Will we align ourselves with the Isaac branch of the family, which represents grace and righteousness apart from works, or will we align with the Ishmael branch of the family, which represents law and condemnation?

The choice we make does not change our eternity. Both are children of Abraham, but the life of Christ and power of the Holy Spirit are only working in the Isaac branch. When we choose to live by grace, we need to cut off our ties to law. You must evict the other branch from your household. Based on what Paul said in Galatians 4:29, the Ishmael branch is always going to persecute you and ridicule you for choosing to live by grace, but we’ll love and bless them anyway!



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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easter 2014

On Easter Sunday, I shared about one of the things that the blood of Jesus provided for us – right standing before God. The work that He did for us at the cross and His victory over death are the greatest gifts given to mankind.  One of the most important things we need to take away from Easter is that what Jesus did is a GIFT to us. It is something we do not earn. We cannot earn it – never could and never will. It is, however, a gift that must be received. One must receive the gift that has been given. The gift must be acknowledged, and it needs to be appreciated.  There are many believers who have acknowledged Christ and have had their eternity changed but who have not truly appreciated all the gift entails. If we continue trying to be worthy of our standing before God by our works, we have not truly received that gift.

We earnestly seek to do good works and to not be ruled by sin, but we do so because we first know He loves us. When we begin to understand His love for us, we can’t help but reflect that love back to Him through our obedience.  We cannot allow ourselves to ever think that His love or blessing of us is conditional upon our obedience. Man’s love is generally conditional, but His is not!

He loved you so much he was willing to humble Himself and step down to earth in the form of a man to do what you could not – fully obey. Then, He went to the cross and suffered an excruciating death that we deserved. Finally, He rose again to utterly defeat death. There is nothing you can add to that equation. You cannot add to the work of Christ. You must humbly receive the gift and stop trying to earn it. Only then will you be empowered to defeat sin, sickness, disease, poverty and death – not because of YOUR works and righteousness, but because of HIS!

We must also know that, because of what Jesus did for us and not our own good works, we can boldly approach God’s throne. We are considered friends of God. You cannot boldly approach that throne if you think there is still a debt owed. Have you ever been in the room with a friend or relative that you knew you owed money to? It isn’t possible to feel comfortable in that situation. If you still feel you owe God for your sin and weakness, you will never “boldly” approach Him.

But pastor, who are we to boldly go before God? We are lowly sinners. EXACTLY! Guilty as charged. God knows that none of us is worthy, no matter how hard we try to not sin and be a good person. That situation was unacceptable to Him. He provided a way for us. It was HIS prerogative to do so. When we believe that we are not worthy, we are actually setting ourselves up as a higher authority that Him. We’re saying that He may think He made us worthy, but He didn’t and I will only be worthy by my own works. You may not have thought of it that way, but that’s the reality.  Let us take hold of the gift that has been given to us. Let us fully realize the power of that gift and appreciate that gift. God values His relationship with you so much and doesn’t want you to let your self-righteousness to get in the way.


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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Eviction Notice Part 4

This week, we continued in the “Eviction Notice” series. We spent time in Galatians 4, where the “eviction” of law is discussed. In Galatians 4:21 Paul asks the question of those who desire to be under the law, “do you know what the law says?” Of course they do, right? True, they know all of the rules and laws, but they don’t know the stories behind them and the symbolism of those stories. They don’t know all of it – only what they have seen through their law glasses.

Each of us can choose through which glasses we choose to view God’s Word– law glasses or grace glasses. The glasses you choose determine the view you have of God and His Word. Those experts in the law saw God’s Word through law glasses, and Paul’s point is that those law glasses cause them to miss the bigger picture. Many believers today have been conditioned to view the Bible through law glasses and seem to zero in and see everything as a thou shalt or thou shalt not. They are drawn to scriptures that appear to define how someone could be disqualified from a relationship with God.  In contrast, if we live in the New Covenant, the covenant of grace, we need to trade in our old law glasses and get fitted for some grace glasses. Paul gives them a lesson on grace as he proceeded in Galatians 4.

Throughout this series we have been making mention of the “Judaizers” who would come in after Paul and convinced the new believers that they needed to obey the law. To get more insight into who they were, we went back to Acts 13 and 14, which is Paul’s first trip through the Galatian region. What we find is that these Judaizers were not just people who simply disagreed with Paul. They actually tried to kill him for what he was teaching.

We live in a day and age where persecution against Christianity is increasing worldwide and even in our own nation, yet the overwhelming majority of persecution in the early church was not coming from “the world” or Rome, but from the law. It was the Jewish believers who thought Paul’s message of grace was heresy who actually attempted to stone him to death for preaching it – which is what the law required, by the way.   We read in Acts 14 that they thought they had stoned him to death. Some believe that he actually was dead and that the disciples raised him from the dead. They thought he was dead, and then he came walking back into town!

 The importance of knowing how these events played out is explained further in Galatians 4. In verses 21-29, Paul tells them what they “did not know” the law said. He lays out the difference between Abraham’s child born of the slave woman (Hagar) and the one born of the free woman (Sarah). He says that Hagar represents Mount Sinai – where the law was given – and Sarah represents the New Jerusalem.  An important observation he makes is that the one born in the “normal” way, or by law, will always persecute the one born the supernatural way. Trying to be justified by our own works is the natural or normal way. Justification by the blood of Jesus and righteousness apart from our works is the supernatural way.  Also, Ishmael will always persecute Isaac.

I don’t know if you have shared the revelation of grace you have been receiving with other believers, but I would not be surprised to find out that some other believers may not be so excited about your new insight. You may be told that you need to get away from that dangerous teaching that is telling you that sin is OK. Of course, you know that nothing of the sort is being taught in our church. In fact, I’ve never heard any of the prominent teachers in the “grace movement” teach that, but that doesn’t stop those who wear law glasses from asserting they are.

An important thing to remember is that people are not the enemy. THE enemy, Satan, is your enemy. People may persecute you when you choose to use grace to overcome your sin instead of law. Don’t get angry. Don’t argue. Pray. One of the things I find striking about Paul’s story is that when we know how much the Judaizers persecuted and sought to harm him, he showed tremendous restraint in attacking them back.  

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Eviction Notice Part 3

This week, we continued in our Eviction Notice series.  We studied Galatians 3:1 and following.  The background is that the new church mostly Jews and some Gentiles converted.  After the church was established by Paul, the Judaizers would come in and tell them they needed to obey the law, including circumcision (yikes!).  He calls the Gentiles foolish for going back to the law after receiving grace.  Foolishness means you know the truth but don’t do it. 


We also took a look at Luke 24:13, the story of the people on the road to Emmaus after Jesus has risen.  Again, Jesus calls them foolish for not understanding who Jesus was  and what He was supposed to do.  Cleopas was the name of the only person of the two whose name was mentioned.  His name meant “of a renowned father,” which means he himself was a person of influence from a renowned family.


Back in Galatians 3:5, we see that we receive salvation by faith and grace.  For some reason, it’s very easy once we become born again to be led to believe that everything from then on is based on our works.  God is pleased with us because you are His child and have acknowledged it.  He may not be pleased with everything we do, but He is always pleased with us (just as most parents are with their children).  True, you can’t live in sin and be effectively used by God, but we receive the miracles and the Holy Spirit, which allow us to be effectively used by God, because of what Jesus did and not because of what we do or do not do.  We don’t need to be perfect to be used by God.  Then, when we understand that, we become more perfected as God’s grace teaches us and works within us.


In verse 6, it emphasizes that instead of the law written out to guide us, where then man has to interpret it, we have the Spirit in our hearts to guide us.  Man couldn’t do it all and was under a curse because of it.  Even now, if we rely on the law, we are under a curse.  Jesus did what we could not.  He fulfilled it, completed it, did the work we could not do, and extended to us what He inherited by doing so.


We then went to John 14:15 to explore the promise of the Spirit.  The contingency was what Jesus commanded (love God, love others, love yourself), not obeying the law fully (that is important).  He then promises the Spirit of truth.  We can then hear what God has to say to us directly.  The verses following flesh out the promise of the Spirit.


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Friday, April 4, 2014

Eviction Notice Part 2

This week, we continued in the “Eviction Notice” series. We dug into Galatians 3. At the beginning of the chapter Paul calls the Galatian believers “foolish” because they had received the Gospel but then were convinced to still rely on law for righteousness.  Why call them foolish? Paul was not insulting their intellect or mental capacity. Foolishness is when you do something when you know better. In our parenting, classes we teach about the need for us to discern the differences between childishness and foolishness in our children’s behavior. Childishness is when they do the wrong things because they just don’t know any better. Foolishness is when they know what is right, but choose to do something different.


Paul was telling them that they HAD the truth of righteousness by grace, but allowed themselves to be talked into foolishly believing that observing the law was still required to be right before God.  When I looked up the word, “foolishness” I found that Jesus had used the same Greek word in Luke 24. It was right after the resurrection, and Jesus had appeared to two strangers walking to Emmaus. They do not recognize Him, and He uses the opportunity to ask some questions. He asks why they are so downcast. They tell Him of what had happened with the one they thought was going to be the Messiah. Their response shows that they had missed the big picture. They thought everything was over because Jesus hadn’t overthrown Rome and freed Israel.


He goes on to call them “foolish” for not seeing how the words of the prophets were fulfilled in the life of Jesus (to whom they did not know they were speaking). Then He proceeds to outline for them how Jesus (He) had fulfilled every prophecy. What an amazing message that should have been. Before the cross and His completed work, there were many things Jesus could not yet share, but now He could reveal everything. What an amazing message that would have been!


We looked at the story where Peter tells Jesus He is the Christ.  Jesus changes Peter’s name from Simon to Peter.  Simon means reed (tossed about and always bending.  Peter was known for having a bit of a temper (volatile like the Sea of Galilee), but Peter meant rock.  When we follow the law, we are like a reed, but when we understand grace, we become a rock, not moved by the storms of life. Then just after that, Jesus rebukes Peter for telling Him He shouldn’t follow His purpose.  Just like us, Simon doesn’t become what he’s meant to be all at once. 

Back in Galatians 3, Paul reminds us that we are of the lineage of Abraham and heirs of His blessing if we receive righteousness by faith apart from our works. Finally, he tells us that the reason for all of this is that the “promise of the Spirit” would be available to us. What is that promise? John 14:15-21 tells us all about it. The promise of the Spirit is peace, counsel, wisdom and much more. We cannot access that promise by relying on law, but only by grace. Observing the law is good, but relying on it for righteousness leads to death and will keep us from obtaining the promise.



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