Summary: The message addresses the oldest question in the world, "Did God really say that?"
If I were to ask one of our teenagers this morning what the most important question of their life is, in all probability I would get something like, “What will I become?” “Where will I go to college?” If I were to ask the same question to someone who was already out of college, they would likely say, “Who will I marry,” assuming of course they are not already married. If I were to ask the same question to our older folks, they might answer with something like, “when will I retire,” or “what will I do after I retire.”
But I would suggest to you this morning that the most important question of our lives is really the same for all of us. The question is, “Who will you believe?” Or, perhaps it could be stated, “What do you believe?” It is the most important question because the answer to that question will do more to shape your life, determine who or what you become, and ultimately to determine your happiness and satisfaction with your relationships with others, your job, and even your marriage; than any other answer to any other question.
At issue as Paul addressed the church in Galatia was the burning question, who will you believe. Paul was in a struggle with Judaisers. The Judaizers taught that salvation for Gentiles required following the Jewish laws and traditions, particularly circumcision. The big problem with that teaching is that it required something in addition to faith. It was a concoction of man, for the pleasure of man; a particular group of men—the Judaisers.
But Paul had just indicated in verse 10 that he was not trying to win the approval of men; and that if he were trying to win the approval of men that would negate his servanthood to Christ.
Then, in v. 11, Paul states, “I want you to know brothers that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.” The gospel is not something that man made up. As I read that verse it occurs to me that the reason there is so much controversy and conflict in the Christian church today; the reason there is such a divergence of opinions on what is or is not acceptable; is because many people, including many in the church believe that the gospel is something that man has made up. The reason a large percentage of adults and even greater percentage of young people do not believe in moral absolutes is because they believe that the teachings of the Bible are the teachings of man. The reason folks in our day and age can take such a cavalier attitude toward marriage is because they believe the commands of scripture are commands of man. The oldest deception in the world, “Did God really say that,” is also a common deception today.
If people really believed the Bible was God’s instruction manual for life, and that one day he would judge the “quick and the dead” according to the standards taught in scripture there could be no way we could do many of the things we do.
So the issue is one of authority and truth. It was a battle in Paul’s day. It is battle in ours. The heart of a Pastor’s job is convincing his parishioners that the Bible contains God’s authoritative truth for all mankind. And the job becomes exceedingly difficult when many within the church distort or disregard that truth in favor of what itching ears want to hear.
But Paul doesn’t merely put his argument up against the Judaizers and let it stand alone. He offers evidence. Paul said, “You know, I was an intense persecutor of the church in an attempt to destroy it.” “Furthermore,” Paul said, “ I was so good at persecution that I was advancing through the ranks of Judaism much more quickly than others my age.”
But that was to change. Paul went on to state that God set him apart from birth, called him by grace and revealed his Son to him so that he might preach to others. Paul’s evidence for the authority and truth of the Gospel was a changed life.
There is one true test for whether we’ve ever really encountered the Gospel. Are we a different person afterward? Has our encounter with the Gospel and God’s efforts to call us changed the person we are? Nothing brings satisfaction and contentment except coming to grips with our position in God’s sight.
Some of you may be saying I know some folks who are out partying every night. (kids) Some of you adults may be saying I know some folks who have dedicated their entire lives to the pursuit of pleasure. And they seem pretty happy. The operative word is seem. Studies show that sugar pills, may alleviate the symptoms of a sick person if they believe they are getting treatment. In fact, those studies show that as many as 1/3 of the people find those placebos helpful, even after they’re told they only had a placebo. A belief can be temporarily effective, even if it’s not true.