WHO CUT IN ON YOU!
GALATIONS 5: 1 ~ 13
1. Introduction: Mindset
God has given His salvation freely to every one who believes in the atoning sacrifice and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the enemy, whom the Amplified Bible aptly describes as the evil genius of this world does his uttermost to persuade you and me to come away from our position of grace to having to work for our salvation. I guess with the mindset of this world that you get nothing without having to work for it, is so easy to persuade us to walk in the flesh after being given God’s gift of salvation. But we could never by our own efforts deserve salvation, that’s why the only way we can have it is by God giving it to us freely. The enemy just loves to confuse us; he will try to play games with your mind, even mis-using scriptures (remember he tried to get Jesus to jump off the highest point of the temple by misquoting scripture to Him!), or using incorrect teaching to push you off course. Don’t let him!
Perhaps a Royal example will help keep you on track. The Queen’s children have never ceased to be her children, even when they have messed up badly in public and in private. They are her’s. Her children have been brought up in a privileged background and although at times they have not lived up to expectations they have not ceased to have royal blood running through their veins. Of course they have had a choice, to live up to all the honour and privileges they have or waste their inheritance. We too are a royal priesthood ~ lets not waste the inheritance Jesus paid such a costly price for us to have.
2. Who Cut In On You?
We should be very grateful that the “Circumcision Group” is not with us today! We think we have problems! Pity those poor Galatians being compelled to be circumcised in order to obtain salvation. According to the Circumcision Group both Jewish and Gentile male believers had to be circumcised. Good reason to be very nervous wouldn’t you say!
According to the Apostle Paul these Galatians believers had started off well but who had cut in on them? Well a powerful group of influential people with their own deathly definition of salvation had got to them. But salvation comes by no other name than Jesus. (See Acts 4:12). It’s not a case of Jesus plus; i.e. Jesus plus circumcision or Jesus plus any other condition you care to think of. It’s always Jesus full stop. God has no other plan of salvation but through the costly sacrifice of His dear Son.
3. Their Joy had gone
Not surprisingly these new conditions for salvation had led to a total loss of joy. “What has happened to all your joy?” Paul asks them. Do you ever feel like that? You have started off well but before you know it something, or often someone, has got in your way and spoiled your walk of peace and joy in Jesus. It can be that certain someone in your life who has a tendency to flatten you, to put you down, or off what you know in your heart God wants you to do.
Sometimes it can be a simple misunderstanding that leads to a devastating loss of joy. A dear friend with a Jehovah Witness background before becoming a Christian got very tied up in knots with seemingly contradictions in Scripture. (Maybe it was the way he had previously been taught to study by the JWs who as you may know are very good at tying you up in knots with Scripture. In fact our dialogues with them in the past have been like a game of tennis ~ volleys back and forth!). Anyhow, one day our friend was struggling with understanding why the Bible said Jesus would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Now bear with me as I explain to his despair he could only account for Friday day and night, Saturday day and night and Sunday ~ day only; to his calculation a night was missing.
Well being ever the helpful one when someone was losing their peace and joy I did a long careful study in the four gospels, analysing each account (by the way I was coming up with new contradictions of different numbers of angels, names of women) to the point where I was now desperate. How could I reassure him? Get him back to where he was before all this had cut in on his walk? Eventually I felt a verse put on my heart: “ I know Whom I have believed” (2 Tim: 1:12). Oh what a revelation. It wasn’t a case of What I believed it was Whom. It was enough ~ well for me! So I joyfully passed on the “Revelation” rather than some very smart theological answers.
God is good! So often when we have a problem like this we need to trust Him and leave the Lord to show us in His own way and time the answer. Not too long after a Jewish scholar gave an explanation for the missing time, who said we Christians didn’t understand there was extra day over the Passover every so many years. Can’t say his explanation helped much but I knew God’s revelation did!
4. Watch Your doctrine!
Mind you not for nothing did Paul warn believers to “Watch your life and doctrine closely” (1 Tim 4:16). Because what you believe affects how you act. If you believe salvation is yours now, you won’t be on a treadmill desperately trying to earn your salvation by works or from your own righteousness. I have a little test, rather naughtily perhaps on that particular score. If you believe the spiritual armour in Ephesians 6 contains the breastplate of your righteousness I urge you to swap it in for God’s: much stronger and better protection than anything we can dream up! After all how could our righteousness ever get us anywhere?
You can know the peace and joy of having eternal life now. Yes of course we are to continue in our faith; daily following Jesus Who gave His precious life for us. But what a difference from trying to please God in your own strength through whatever religious rites you have taught yourself or indeed have been handed down to you! You are free to serve, to be loved, to know His goodness and favour now!
As J.C. Ryle said “The salvation of a believer is a present thing. How many seem to think that forgiveness and acceptance with God are things which we cannot attain in this life, that they are things which are to be earned by a long course of repentance and faith and holiness. It is a complete mistake to think so. The very moment a sinner believes on Christ he is justified and accepted. There is no condemnation for him. He has peace with God and that immediately and without delay. His name is in the book of life. Happy are they that know this truth! It is an essential part of the good news of the gospel.”
Or listen to the words of Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers talking about 1 John 2:25 “And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life”. Spurgeon says “I wonder if John isn’t here remembering the words he wrote down in John 10:28 “I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” You have been taken into the family of God, and made His child; and will your Father now disown you, or remove your name out of the family register? “Who shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?”
5. Who can be saved if you have the last say!
I am going to share a very sad story of my wife Julie’s very unhappy experience of having her joy cut in on! An avid reader she happened to start reading a book that will remain totally nameless. Basically what she thought might be a good read in fact turned out to be a warning that Christians could go to Hell. As my wife became tied up in knots, I urged her to stop reading it, but she wouldn’t give in! It’s almost like watching a thriller or horror movie once you start you got to see how it ends. Unhelpfully the book said after the first couple of chapters that if you believed in the preservation of the saints then it might not be helpful for you to read the book as it could affect your faith! It was a bit late for that!
Julie struggled desperately, reading it and trying to answer the condemning arguments in it with the Scriptures she knew. I just wished she stopped reading it! Bedtime i.e. sleep time was becoming a nightly theological debate! Relaxing it wasn’t. Eventually the Lord gave Julie a word that set her, and me, free from all this spiritual wrangling and debate ~ (all in her head of course as thankfully the author wasn’t around!). The scripture “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26) was the revelation needed.
Let me explain that a dear friend of ours was definitely not living up to the exacting standards of discipleship as described in this book so the logical outcome then was that our dear friend was going to go to Hell! But as Julie meditated on the scripture she realised that her friend’s life stilled showed a sincere faith with accompanying “works”, i.e. she still witnessed, sent her children to a church school, watched Christian T.V., read Christian books and openly proclaimed she would not have her husband, family and home without the Lord. Her inherited spiritual background was mixed up with the occult and spiritism, which she struggled to get free from but it often affected her understanding spiritual truths and growing in her Christian walk. Yet in our Lord’s eyes her faith was not dead, there were works. And without all that negative spiritual background maybe she would have shown the exacting standards of discipleship and commitment as demanded in the book, had she been able. But God is good. He has compassion especially on these dear weak ones of His. And no one is going to pluck them out of His strong and mighty hands.
6. Hands off their His!
Let me say, salvation starts with God. And He alone is powerful enough to finish and complete our walk here before we are safely home with Him. And He Who is faithful will do it. Otherwise it’s by definition a life of works, misery and no real assurance of salvation in this life. I am not saying that there is no need for us to work with Him; yes of course there is a need for discipleship, commitment and motivation. Surely its better to use our Christian lives here to be walking closely with God, being fruitful for Jesus. But lets not condemn those God had called and claimed for His very own. Hands off their His!
We have to be aware of the damage such controversial views and personal opinions can have on people’s lives. After all not once did this author look at the opposing arguments, or answer any scriptures that would have proposed the opposite of what he was teaching. As stated earlier we may not have the dreaded circumscion brigade to face but we do have those who want us to walk in the flesh, by works attempting to achieve a righteous ness of our own. And unfortunately seeking to attain our own righteousness with God by observing rituals and man made rules tends to breed a self-righteous, and critical spirit. The following nightmare scenarios are in danger of happening.
· We will be continually shepherded very closely, constantly having to prove the righteousness of our daily walk. Those responsible for you, believing you could fall away will be closely monitoring your daily walk, believe you me!
· Interference in every area of your life to the point where you will not be allowed any freedom to make decisions yourself, even if you are convinced God is calling you to do so. Changes of jobs, moving house, who you marry etc. will be closely scrutinised and have to be authorised.
· You will find a lack of joy as your Christian walk becomes analysed to whatever religious standards are being held up for you to follow in order to gain your salvation. Even to the point where I once heard someone say they “couldn’t be sure of a Christian’s salvation who had committed suicide as he was “back slidden” from the Lord at the time”. Surely someone who was so desperately unhappy and troubled to take their life is someone who needs mercy and compassion. Thank God He has both in abundance.
· Salvation becomes walking according to someone else rules; you will be into works and out of grace before you can blink! With little cliques and elite groups developing who are willing to follow the new “rules”. As believers become grouped in this way there is little compassion, assurance or certainty of salvation. A very sad situation once arose where those who could say they were following an elevated standard of holiness were invited to join a new spiritual “elite” group within a Church. But what about the rest? Didn’t they count in God’s kingdom? I think I would have wanted to be with the “Rejects”. I am sure Jesus would! He always went to those marginalized by the religious rules of His day!
Please don’t get me wrong! I am all for Bible based teaching, good healthy fellowship with people who love, support and suffer with us. But I emphasise healthy. Our God has room for individuals in His body, who love and follow Him with all their heart. He calls for unity not clones. In fact He wants each Christian to be walking so closely with Him that He says they will not be needing anyone to teach them ~ He will teach them Himself. “As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you”. (1 John 2:27) and “ No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” (Jeremiah 31:34). Not much room for elitism and overbearing attitudes there. It was for freedom that Christ has set us free!
7. No condemnation
If I believe that once saved that transaction stands for eternity can I give any answers to those with opposing views? Well unfortunately the Bible is not a text book with each topic set out in nice and tidy sections; you have to seek and search, mining out the truths with the light of the Holy Spirit guiding you. And if you are teachable you will always be learning! But I can propose a few answers.
· 1 Cor 11:32 says, “When we are judged by the Lord we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world”. Some Corinthian Christians had actually become weak, sick and fallen asleep because they had taken part in the Lord’s Table in an unworthy manner. I guess some people would have delighted in totally condemning them. But examining the scripture shows a clear distinction between condemnation and the Lord’s discipline. After all Hebrews says that “the Lord disciplines those He loves” (Heb: 12:6) for God disciplines His children for their own good that they may share in His holiness.
· 1 Cor 3:15 says “he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved but only as one escaping from the flames”. Now who are these? I believe they are those whose works have been found to be lots of wood, hay or straw if we closely read the passage. There wasn’t any room in heaven for these types of people in the Author’s book! So the contrast and distinction here is loss of reward, not loss of salvation!
· Its often not made clear that there is a different judgement for believers. 2 Cor 5:10 “We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad”. Now the passage is talking about believers, but the word for the judgement seat of Christ in the Greek is a different one than the Great White throne in Revelation Chapter 20 where the rest of mankind will have to appear. This judgement has nothing to do with justification, which has been credited to believers fully, and forever through our faith in Christ but is an account of our Christian walk here, with the idea of rewards.
Once you are saved God will always be working in your life, you count on it! You won’t be let off, but He won’t let you go either! Here is the idea of Parenthood and the Father’s love for His precious children: not condemnation. After all, Romans 8:1 states there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Hallelujah!
8. The Gospel
Can I ask are you in the race? It’s the most important question anyone can ever ask you. If you are not sure about anything please just make sure of the main thing. And the main thing is Jesus. He calls you now to follow Him. Not tomorrow, next month or next year ~ now is the time for you to make a choice to follow Him. “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation” 2 Cor: 6:2.
I think knowing God has made you “accepted in the Beloved” as the King James Version puts it so well in Ephesians 1:6 will enable you to walk a life of freedom in the Holy Spirit now. But watch out for the modern day version of the Circumcision Brigade! Just waiting to cut in on you so you lose your joy and peace. Remember it was for freedom Christ has set you free!