Checking Emotions

You see and hear it all the time. Police shows and court shows are very popular for us because we like to see what will happen. Whenever we watch these shows, or read about the news stories, we cannot take turn our eyes and ears away because we have to know how it ends. I remember the OJ trial in the 1990s. That was a huge news story that captivated America. People still talk about it today.

As we watch or read about these stories, the question inevitably comes up, “How do you answer to these charges against you? How do you plead?” Now, we pay attention to what the person says. Our system is set up to where the defendant will either say “guilty” or “not guilty.” Eventually the final verdict and sentencing will be given.

Take some time to read through today’s scripture passage. Click here to read Acts 7:1 – 8:1 CEB.

I love how Stephen does not give a direct answer. Instead, he goes on to show, using the Old Testament, Jesus Christ is the long awaited Messiah (Savior) and how it was the religious leaders who were the “stubborn” or “stiff-necked” people.

How would you respond if someone talked to you that way, how would you respond? We would be tempted to experience the same emotions. You and I would most likely get angry because another person sad bad things in front of a group of people. But, think about why you get angry.

One of the reasons we tend to get angry is because we know deep down, the person is pointing out one or more of our flaws that we try to hide because we want to appear as perfect. It is not fun to have people think of us as less than perfect. But isn’t this the exact place we fully begin to experience the transforming power of God’s grace? It is in the recognition and acceptance of the truth we are not perfect and need grace we actually experience grace.

If we are not careful, we will allow the emotions caused by our insecurities and our own pride to fester and we will end up going down a path we do not need to go down.

The leaders had Stephen stoned. This may seem like the end; but Christianity spread like a wildfire after this incident.

Click here to listen to the sermon that talks about the stoning of Stephen.

Filled With The Spirit

Click here to read the passage for today: Acts 6:8-15 CEB.

Whenever you are out in public doing great things, doing great work, opposition will come. How we handle this opposition is important.

First of all, I would need to ask if we are bold enough to speak and do good works even when there is a chance for people to oppose or to speak ill? If we were honest, we would most likely not want that to happen because we would want to protect our reputation. So, then we need to ask, “what is more important? Our reputation or doing what God calls us to do?” Either way, we always have people watching whether or not we will stand our ground, or simply give up when the situation becomes challenging.

Now, this is not a license to say whatever we want or do whatever we want and claim God called us to do it. Instead, we learn that when God calls us to a specific task or vocation, it is always to build up the Kingdom of Heaven and will not do anything to cause division in this incredible Kingdom.

Stephen, from our scripture, was doing great works and signs in public and speaking grace. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and this caused an uproar with the religious leaders who were seeking to keep the status quo and their position. But God’s work in us will always come out in powerful and transforming ways which people will take notice of.

Look at what’s going on around you in your community. Where do you see God working? What do you notice? I hope the people of God will be revealed in such a way grace will be shown. Stephen was filled with the Spirit and was shown to be full of grace which caused his face to exude peace.

As you go out into the world, your daily life, pay attention to where God is working and join him in the task. Allow his Spirit to fill you so much that you will show how to handle opposition. The way to handle any opposition is to be filled with the Spirit of peace that comes from God. This is a peace that is beyond understanding; but comes out naturally when the Holy Spirit fill us.

Seek the face and peace of God in all you do and see what incredible works God will perform in and through you.

Faith vs Works

One of the things I appreciate about Galatians is that Paul seems to repeat himself in a few places. It is almost as if he knew his readers would need to hear the content more than once. I believe the same is true for us today. We go along and think we have everything figured out, but then we get of track and need to be reminded. This is what I see Paul doing over and over throughout this letter.

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Galatians 5:2-12 Look, I, Paul, am telling you that if you have yourselves circumcised, having Christ won’t help you. Again I swear to every man who has himself circumcised that he is required to do the whole Law. You people who are trying to be made righteous by the Law have been estranged from Christ. You have fallen away from grace! We eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness through the Spirit by faith. Being circumcised or not being circumcised doesn’t matter in Christ Jesus, but faith working through love does matter. You were running well—who stopped you from obeying the truth? This line of reasoning doesn’t come from the one who calls you. A little yeast works through the whole lump of dough. 10 I’m convinced about you in the Lord that you won’t think any other way. But the one who is confusing you will pay the penalty, whoever that may be. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I’m still preaching circumcision, why am I still being harassed? In that case, the offense of the cross would be canceled. 12 I wish that the ones who are upsetting you would castrate themselves! 

So Paul is telling the people who have themselves circumcised (outward works) for the purpose of being accepted, they are missing the point. It is very easy to begin our life in faith strong, but then we encounter people who, we think, we need to be approved by, so we’ll try to copy them in our lives instead of living the life God is calling us to live…in faith.

Paul continually reminds the people in his letters that God’s grace is given to us; but we do not earn it, we just live in it. But then we encounter periods of life where we feel like we want to go deeper in our faith, and so we find people who seem like they have the answers. If we’re not careful, we will pay more attention to the crowds or the flashiness in their appearance or delivery, and we won’t take time to listen to what they’re saying.

We will be drawn to a God who will give us everything materially, if we have faith, or even do everything for us IF we do certain tasks. But this is not the truth of the Gospel. The truth of the Gospel reminds us that God is with us and walks with us in every aspect of our lives. We also have the Holy Spirit residing in us and we do not have to earn it, just accept it.

There is a line in here that can be troubling: “You have fallen away from grace!” I do not believe that we can lose out salvation. I believe God holds on tightly to us and will not let us go. But I do believe we can stop living in grace and knowing that God is with us. The challenge here is to find our way back to being in constant communion with God. God will never stop pursuing us, but we should continually pursue God. God never changes and will never leave us, but we can live our lives as if God does not exist.

Paul desires the people of Galatia to keep living in the grace and truth of God and desires the people who are perverting the Gospel to go away. The punishment he says he wants for them seems harsh; but if you or I spent hard work teaching them and desired for them to live wholeheartedly in Christ, we most likely would have the same anger that Paul has.

It is not by “proving ourselves” that God accepts us. It is because God accepts us that we are accepted. Jesus Christ already did everything for us. We just need to live into the grace that God has given.

Our challenge is to continually live in the freedom the Christ gives.

#LiveFreeInChrist

Unified Message

Galatians 2:2-5 I went there because of a revelation, and I laid out the gospel that I preach to the Gentiles for them. But I did it privately with the influential leaders to make sure that I wouldn’t be working or that I hadn’t worked for nothing. However, not even Titus, who was with me and who was a Greek, was required to be circumcised. But false brothers and sisters, who were brought in secretly, slipped in to spy on our freedom, which we have in Christ Jesus, and to make us slaves. We didn’t give in and submit to them for a single moment, so that the truth of the gospel would continue to be with you.

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After Paul had spent his time re-learning the Scriptures and preaching across the land, he went back to Peter, James and the other apostles to meet with them to make sure the same message was being preached.

One of the things I enjoy about Bible Study is knowing each time we come to a particular passage we see something new. Likewise, when we discuss these passages with other people we can learn their viewpoint as well. There is value in studying on our own and learning from other people as well.

Since Paul was a representative of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles (non-Jewish people), he made sure the same gospel was being preached by the original apostles to the Jews. I can imagine that Paul was affirmed when he found out he was preaching the same message as Peter, James, John and the others.

This should still be true for us today. We can study on our own, and we can learn all of these wonderful theological concepts about the scriptures. We can even preach and teach these to other people. But, we should not just rely on what we have learned on our own for the simple reason that we need to be able to back up what we teach when someone comes along and attempts to distort the message into something you and I did not intend.

This is why it is important to have a group of people (whom we agree with and those we do not agree with) to discuss what we have learned. Doing this will help us think things through, and give even more strength to the message when we can say that God is working through these people who are giving the same message.

There will be times when people will come along and try to make you and I change our minds and get us to believe something completely different. It is easy to conform to what the culture around us says and try to place these same viewpoints and opinions in the mind and heart of God. But God asks us to trust in His Son, Jesus Christ, and the true message of good news for all people: grace is available to all, we just need to accept this grace to allow it to transform us.

Many people to do not want to hear they are wrong, but we should be careful not to dilute the incredible, awesome power and truth of Jesus Christ. It is in Christ that we are free, not by following rules other people want to place on us to “prove” how much of a Christian and follower of Christ we are. Christ breaks us free and allows us to not be slaves to sin, but rather loving children who do what God asks.

Paul knew the people who were with Jesus while he was still on this earth. My guess is he had great respect for them because they had that opportunity. We all need people in our lives who will hold us accountable and to keep us on the right track. We all need “spiritual parents” who will walk with us as we do the work that God calls us to do. The work Jesus Christ is with us in. The work the Holy Spirit gives us strength, wisdom and all we need to do the work.

#LiveFreeInChrist