Tuesday, June 14, 2016, 5:15 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Forever with Us.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Galatians 5:1-15 (ESV). For Freedom (v. 1) For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. In context, Paul was addressing the problem of the church being influenced by those who were trying to bring them back under the law. In other words, they were trying to convince them that, in addition to God’s grace, and in order to be saved, they had to be circumcised, and they had to follow Jewish religious rites and customs, and observe Jewish holy days and celebrations. Yet, what they were requiring of the Christians was taken from the Old Covenant God had with his people, who were then the Jews, and they had added to that covenant many external ceremonial laws and traditions not of God. Nonetheless, those who were believers in Jesus Christ were under the New Covenant, which is a covenant of grace. I believe the subject of law and grace can be confusing, at least it has been for me somewhat, so I will attempt here to summarize what I believe are the basics of the issue. The law was given “because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made” (Gal. 3:19). Jesus Christ was the offspring, the seed of Abraham. Through his blood shed on the cross, he has set us free from the curse of the law which demanded sinless perfection or that we would face eternal damnation and punishment. Yet, not one of us could ever be saved by keeping the law, because none of us can keep the law perfectly. We have all sinned, and we have all come up short of attaining God’s divine approval in our own effort. We can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation, no matter how hard we try. We can never be good enough through our own works. So, Jesus Christ, God the Son, died on a cross for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that when he died our sins died, and they were buried with him. When he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death. It is only through faith in Jesus Christ that we can be set free from the curse of the law, can be set free from slavery to sin, and that we can have eternal life with Jesus Christ and walk in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. Amen! When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) of our lives, his righteousness is credited to our accounts. We are acceptable to God now because of the blood of Jesus Christ shed on a cross for our sins, not because we follow a set of rules, some of which are man-made and external only. Nonetheless, many people today have twisted this teaching to their own advantage and are teaching that God’s grace is a free license to continue in willful sin against God without guilt and without remorse. But, Jesus did not set us free from the curse of the law so that we could be free now to do whatever we want without punishment. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. He died in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (See: 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Ro. 8:1-14; Tit. 2:11-14). So, we need to stand firm on the Word of Truth, and we need to follow our Lord in obedience, and we need to walk in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh – all in the power of the Spirit living within us. Fallen from Grace (vv. 2-6) Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. If we think we can earn or deserve our own salvation via our own good works, then we are being fooled, for no one is righteous in his own effort. Our good will never outweigh our bad. We can’t be perfect in and of ourselves. For example, going to a church service on a Sunday morning, and going through particular religious rituals does not make us more righteous than anyone else. God does not look at externals. He looks at our hearts, and he sees who truly loves him and who does not. Many people think God is pleased with them if they perform a particular religious ritual, or if they serve in a specific area of ministry, or if they are involved with doing good to others in the community, all the while they ignore God and his Word, and they go their own way and live to themselves and not to God. God is not pleased! What he wants is us fully surrendered to him, walking in obedience to what he asks of us on a daily basis. Bottom line: What this comes down to is self-effort versus being Spirit-empowered. Walking in the flesh can include trying to earn our own salvation via self-effort. Spirit-empowered means that through faith in Jesus Christ we have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we have been resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). We are, thus, indwelt with the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live godly and holy lives, pleasing to God. We don’t please God in order to earn our salvation. We live to please God because we love him, because he demands it, and because we have been given new lives in Christ, and we love God, and thus we want to obey him because he is our Lord (owner-master). When our hearts are transformed of the Spirit of God in new birth, the old has gone and the new has come. Who Hindered You? (vv. 7-12) You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! In today’s world the BIG problem is not so much that people are trying to get us to add human works to our salvation, though it may be that in some cases. The BIG problem, as I see it, is that people are trying to convince us that God’s grace means we do nothing – no repentance, no surrender, no obedience, etc. They try to convince us that God’s grace means we can continue living sinful lifestyles and yet claim the promise of heaven just because we repeated some words after someone, and that afterwards they congratulated us and promised us we now have heaven assured. And, so there may be those who began well with God but have since slipped back into their old ways of sin because they have now been convinced that God no longer cares if they sin or not. And, these teachers are hindering God’s people, or those who may come to Christ, from obeying the truth. Not License to Sin (vv. 13-15) For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Not only were we set free from the curse of the law and the penalty of the law, but Jesus set us free from slavery (bondage) to sin, and he made it possible for us to now become slaves (servants) of righteousness. Thus, the freedom we are called to is both freedom from trying to earn our own salvation via good works, as well as it is freedom from the control of sin over our lives, which had held us in bondage. So, we should not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh to either return to trying to earn our own salvation, or to return to living for sin and self. Again, Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He did not die just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die. If we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk in darkness, we are liars and the truth is not in us. So, we need to test everything we hear to see if it is of God and if it agrees with his Word, and we should not easily be persuaded by those who have convincing stories to tell us which are not based in truth, but in lies and deceptions. Satan is our enemy, and he is raging against us in order to defeat us and to get us to disobey God and to go our own way. So, we need to not listen to him. We need to spend time daily in God’s Word, asking the Lord to speak to our hearts, and then we need to obey what his Word teaches us. Forever With Us / An Original Work Based off Psalm 46 / February 5, 2016 Be still and know God is over all things. Throughout the earth, He’ll be honored as King. The Lord Almighty, Forever with us. He is our refuge When we’re in distress. Therefore, we have Not a reason to fear. Trials will come, But our God is still near. He is our helper, So we do not fall. Mountains will quake, But on Jesus we call. Joy to the Church, Even if sorrow comes. Enemies rage, But our faith marches on. God’s Holy Spirit, Now living within, Gives peace and comfort, And grace without end.