Summary: Jesus came to rescue us from this evil world – to do for us what we could never do ourselves. God’s grace alone can transform our lives.
GREAT GRACE AND FREEDOM #3: CAN A LEOPARD CHANGE HIS SPOTS?
INTRO TO TOPIC:
Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, God says: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Neither can you start doing good, for you always do evil.” (Jeremiah 13:23).
• Can a leopard change his spots? The answer of course is no (young person on Facebook).
• In the same way, God says it is impossible for a bad, sinful person to start doing good.
• An addicted person can never find freedom, a liar can never become honest, a cheater can never become faithful, a drunkard can never become sober.
• Peter wrote: “They make these proverbs come true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and "A washed pig returns to the mud.” (2 Peter 2:22, NLT).
• Have you ever tried to break a bad habit? If so, you know how impossible that can be!
• That’s bad news! Is there any hope then? Well, that brings us to the book of Galatians…
“1 This letter is from Paul, an apostle. I was not appointed by any group or by human authority. My call is from Jesus Christ himself and from God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead. 2 All the brothers and sisters here join me in sending greetings to the churches of Galatia. 3 May grace and peace be yours from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 He died for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. 5 That is why all glory belongs to God through all the ages of eternity. Amen.” (Galatians 1:1-5, NLT).
• In the Book of Galatians, Paul shares the good news of the Gospel: Jesus died for our sins so that we could be forgiven by God. Our salvation is based on God’s grace ALONE.
THE BIG IDEA: Jesus came to rescue us from this evil world – to do for us what we could never do ourselves. God’s grace alone can transform our lives.
1. SAUL THE PERSECUTOR:
“11 Dear brothers and sisters, I solemnly assure you that the Good News of salvation which I preach is not based on mere human reasoning or logic. 12 For my message came by a direct revelation from Jesus Christ himself. No one else taught me. 13 You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion -- how I violently persecuted the Christians. I did my best to get rid of them. 14 I was one of the most religious Jews of my own age, and I tried as hard as possible to follow all the old traditions of my religion.” (Galatians 1:11-14, NLT).
• Saul was a Jewish Rabbi who was zealous in his religion and killed Christians for fun.
• None of the Christians would have ever believed that Saul would come to Christ.
• Do you know anyone like that? Never give up on anyone – there’s always hope!
• How did Saul the Persecutor ever become Paul the Believer?
2. SAUL THE BELIEVER:
“But then something happened! For it pleased God in his kindness to choose me and call me, even before I was born! What undeserved mercy!” (Galatians 1:15, NLT).
• In the same way that God chose Saul, He chose us: “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” (Eph. 1:4a, NKJV).
“Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" 5 And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads." 6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" Then the Lord said to him, "Arise and go…” (Acts 9:1-6).
• This was a sudden transformation: “No matter how you look at it, the conversion of Saul was a spiritual miracle. It was humanly impossible for Rabbi Saul to become the Apostle Paul, apart from the miracle of God’s grace.” (Be Free, Warren Wiersbe).
• Saul’s #1 passion in life now became to know Jesus more (see Phil. 3:10, Amplified).
3. PAUL THE PREACHER:
“16 Then he revealed his Son to me so that I could proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. When all this happened to me, I did not rush out to consult with anyone else; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were apostles before I was. No, I went away into Arabia and later returned to the city of Damascus. 18 It was not until three years later that I finally went to Jerusalem for a visit with Peter and stayed there with him for fifteen days. 19 And the only other apostle I met at that time was James, our Lord's brother. 20 You must believe what I am saying, for I declare before God that I am not lying. 21 Then after this visit, I went north into the provinces of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And still the Christians in the churches in Judea didn't know me personally. 23 All they knew was that people were saying, "The one who used to persecute us now preaches the very faith he tried to destroy!" 24 And they gave glory to God because of me.” (Galatians 1:16-24, NLT).