fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

The Gospel of Grace

Galations 1:6-24

How well do you know your faith? Can you defend your conviction when false teachers distort Scripture?

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As we start a new study in Galatians, the theme for this week’s lesson harmonizes with events happening this month of June. The Cult Awareness classes, taught by Carl Mickens, begin this week at First Baptist for six weeks. Brenda Lee, author of Out of the Cocoon, will be featured this month on WE TV, where she will be profiled with three other cult survivors. What’s extraordinary about these events is that both Carl and Brenda give their testimony to being ex-Jehovah’s Witness. I have taken Carl’s classes last year and he emphasized the importance of being firmly rooted in your faith. Brenda stresses the same. Unfortunately, many people get caught in the teachings of false doctrine because they were not knowledgeable of Scripture. I must admit, this was my demise 20 years ago when I had become a Jehovah’s Witness (I left the Watchtower organization in 2003). I had little knowledge in Scripture and fell prey to false teachings.

 

This was the problem in the churches in the Galatians region and Paul wrote them a letter to correct their way of thinking. In fact, this letter to the Galatians was probably Paul’s most severe letter because the problem dealt with the gospel that was being preached. Some Christians in those churches were teaching that salvation is attained by works. Jews who converted to Christianity taught that believers must still uphold the law of circumcision to attain salvation. The message of grace was being distorted by this “new” gospel they were preaching.

6I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;   7which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  9As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!  10For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

 

During Paul’s first journey to the Galatians churches (Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe), he preached that salvation was by grace through faith in Christ alone. However, converts that Paul led to Christ were falling away to false teaching. Paul accused them of turning from the God of grace to another gospel, and their message was perverting the gospel of grace. He denounced them by holding them accountable for their false teachings, which would bring them eternal damnation and separation from God. These were strong words that Paul used; he needed to make the point across that they were in spiritual danger.  Paul then reasoned with them that the gospel he preached did not come from man, but rather a revelation from Jesus Christ. He emphasized the fact that he didn’t consult with people to know the message to preach, but rather the Holy Spirit directed his ministry and the message of the gospel.

11For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.   12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.  13For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it;  14and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.  15But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased  16to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood,  17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.  18Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days.  19But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.  20(Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.)  21Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.  22I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ;  23but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.”  24And they were glorifying God because of me.

 

Wow! There is so much application for us today. I guess this study really hit home to me because it took me back to a time when I was not very knowledgeable of Scripture. I honestly thought the only way I can ever learn the truth about God is by having someone sit down to teach me; bible book by bible book, verse by verse. But that’s not what Paul was emphasizing to the Galatians. I know better to allow the Holy Spirit to guide me as I read God’s word. I spent 20 years in ignorance and now that I’m no longer subject to false teachings, I make every effort to reinforce my knowledge of the gospel’s divine origin. It’s so easy to get entangled in something we don’t know because it sounds convincing at the moment. This was the issue in the Galatians churches.

 

It’s so important to understand the gospel of grace. So many people know of God’s grace but refuse to accept it as gospel because it’s easier to accept the idea that one should earn their salvation by works. We live in a society where we’re taught that nothing comes free – everything has a price and should be earned. This is why it’s so difficult for some to accept that Salvation can never be earned through any works…it’s a gift…God’s grace. Isn’t it terrible that some people cannot accept a gift from someone without wanting to give them something back in return? Others feel a self-reproach or suspicion when someone does something nice for them for no reason at all. We’re created in His image and He gives to us freely. With that being so, shouldn’t we accept freely and without guilt? This is what the gospel of grace is all about! Accept God’s gift of Grace and reject any teachings or false notions that we must work to earn it. 

 

Thank you, Joyce, for walking us through this lesson.  WWP also thank for your leading us in class these past few weeks and look forwad to your visit again soon! God Bless.

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June 9, 2009 Posted by | Expressions | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Spiritual Compromise

MICAH 7:1-20

I speak for the Women with Purpose class at FBO (Orlando) when I say that the lesson this week on spiritual compromise was well needed, to say the least. Micah was distressed over the condition of his people.

 42-156502951Woe is me! For I am like the
        Fruit pickers, like the grape gatherers
         There is not a cluster of grapes to eat,
         Or a first-ripe fig which I crave.
    2The godly person has perished from the land,
         And there is no upright person among men
         All of them lie in wait for bloodshed;
         Each of them hunts the other with a net.
    3Concerning evil, both hands do it well
         The prince asks, also the judge, for a bribe,
         And a great man speaks the desire of his soul;
         So they weave it together.
 

 

We can relate to Micah’s description of a corrupt society because it mirrors that of today. We had the opportunity to read from three articles from Saturday’s newspaper; news of arrests due to drug possession, child pornography and illegal traffic violations were a few among many. Referring to his generation, Micah declared that no one upright can be found among the people (Micah 7:2); wickedness had spread throughout the society he knew and prophesied about.

     5Do not trust in a neighbor;
         Do not have confidence in a friend.
         From her who lies in your bosom
         Guard your lips.
    6For son treats father contemptuously,
         Daughter rises up against her mother,
         Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
         A man’s enemies are the men of his own household.

 Verses 5-6 reveal how this corruption affects the family unity. I quote Linda’s expression: “Loyalty is a characteristic of love. When loves fails, the loyalty disappears”. Lack of love for one another is what happened to the family structure in Micah’s day. People stopped caring and in time, it became routine to be a part of a sinful and immoral society. As Christians, we must not become complacent about living in a society similar to that in Micah’s day. Micah was a man of constant prayer. Despite the circumstances that surrounded him, he trusted God to hear him and respond with help. Micah was a lover of God; he trusted in His promises and knew that He would keep them. Micah was determined to wait on “the God of HIS salvation”. He knew the promise God made to Abraham and rested in the assurance that God would restore His people again. Micah did not conform to the conditions around him; rather, he maintained busy doing God’s work and waiting on Him.

    7But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD;
         I will wait for the God of my salvation
         My God will hear me.

 We may feel as if one person can’t make a difference when compared to the numerous others who choose sin over God; or perhaps we choose to work out our own salvation by not conforming to this world’s corruption (and letting God take care of the rest). But our voice can make a difference and we can become active in proclaiming God’ message to those hungering for truth! We can start right in our own household and declare what Joshua declared, “As for me and my family, we will worship the LORD” (Josh 24:15) Like Micah, we know that’s there only one source of salvation; God will remove rebellion and wickedness once and for all. Those of us who grieve over this world’s conditions find comfort in God’s grace and faithfulness.

 Families are encouraged to spend time together. Walls of separation are being built one brick at a time. Our youth is being bombarded by depraved messages in movies and music; the craze of cell phone texting and internet messaging; the pressure from their peers to engage in wrong-doing – brick by brick, the enemy builds. The stress of the economy has many family heads anxious over the loss of jobs; depression affects millions of people worldwide. Society promotes a fantasy world of immorality – causing the bonds of marriage to snap under pressure. Our families don’t have to succumb to these conditions. We declare again, “As for me and my family, we will worship the LORD” (Josh 24:15)”. We may live in a culture that is in opposition to our faith, but it doesn’t mean we have to conform to their belief systems. We have confidence in God!

     18Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity
         And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession?
         He does not retain His anger forever,
         Because He delights in unchanging love.
    19He will again have compassion on us;
         He will tread our iniquities under foot
         Yes, You will cast all their sins
         Into the depths of the sea.
    20You will give truth to Jacob
         And unchanging love to Abraham,
         Which You swore to our forefathers
         From the days of old.

 The sisters in WWP are grateful to Linda P. for teaching class these next few weeks and for bringing out such thought-provoking messages in Scripture. We look forward to next week’s lesson. God Bless.

June 2, 2009 Posted by | Expressions | , , , , | 2 Comments

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