Archive for the ‘Homiletics’ Category

In today’s church we still struggle with the same things that we did as a church when Peter and Paul were still preaching and dealing with them. Especially us, who choose to be in leadership positions and who feel a calling on our lives to serve God with more than just our actions, because it isn’t as easy to match our hearts with our words as it is to match our words with our hearts. Just take a look at Peter, even he had trouble with staying true to the gospel that he preached. In Galatians 2:11-13 we see how easily he fell into hypocrisy, “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.”

Peter, being convinced by fear, then convinced others. It wasn’t until Paul confronted him to his face that Peter corrected himself. Peter focused on doing what was right by people and observing the Jewish laws rather than being as Christ wanted him to be. We need to focus on “Being” and not so much on “Doing”. We need to guard ourselves against religion, attempting to reach God by our actions and doing good deeds, and thinking that if we do A, B, and C then God will be pleased with us. Even worse is to think that if we do A, B, and C then God will not only be pleased with us, but will give us D. Such selfish ways of thinking only lead us astray and distract us from God’s will for our lives. Getting caught up in law and to do lists while attempting to get God to do our biding and make us happy is nothing more than being prideful. When your walk becomes more about what you do and what you want than what God has done, will do, and is doing, and what He wants, then you’ve fallen victim to your pride.

Paul made it clear that doing something for appearances sake or to reach for righteousness before God by your own merit means nothing and will require more from you than you can handle by your own power, “Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:2-4) Of course, Paul was talking about circumcision, but this can be applied to any action you take to seem righteous by your own works, Paul confronted Peter about not eating with Gentiles for appearances sake just as he is confronting the Galatians about circumcision in the same way that Christ confronted the Pharisees about their traditions. We cannot continue to live the same way we used to, Paul makes it clear, “If while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker.” (Galatians 2:17-18) However, we cannot go to the other extreme and become religious and seek to be justified by our own right either, as Paul continues “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:19-21)

So, what can we do? How can we live differently or continue to live according to God’s plan? Paul addresses this issue in Galatians 5:16-18, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” God has given us His Spirit freely to work within us and help us to live in our new righteousness and new grace. Aside from God there is no way that we can live for God, without the Spirit we cannot live by the Spirit. We must rely on God.

What does it mean to live by the Spirit? To live by the Spirit means to gratify the desires of the Spirit not the flesh. We all know what the flesh desires, I’m sure even when the church was just beginning they knew clearly, so why does Paul list them in Galatians 5:19-21? What was important about knowing what the desires of the flesh were? Wouldn’t it be more important to give instructions on how to live by the Spirit practically? Let’s take a look at exactly what he said. “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” We find our answer in the last sentence, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”, meaning that this isn’t simply a matter of what we do, but what we are. Only heirs inherit, and heirs of a kingdom are the sons and daughters of the king, so it makes sense that only those that live and act a certain way are sons and daughters of a certain king in a certain kingdom. Being raised to new life as sons and daughters of God will produce a change in our lives that is just as obvious as the desires of the flesh. This change in lifestyle is what marks us, it is by God’s Spirit in us that we have changed, though we don’t do everything perfect, our nature is changed. Living by the Spirit isn’t something that we strive for, it’s not something we need to do A, B, and C to get, it is simply living naturally the way God calls us to. Paul goes on to list some of the qualities of the heirs of God’s kingdom, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

The words Paul uses to describe the qualities and nature of the Spirit is interesting. “Fruit” means that it produces these naturally, not just one but all. You don’t have to tell an apple tree to make apples, or a lemon tree to make lemons, just by nature a good tree will do so. We must live according to our new nature and produce the fruit we were meant to produce through the Spirit. Fruit is meant for others to see and taste, it is the evidence of our faith produced for others to observe and enjoy. Fruit plants seeds; it also gives nutrition to the seeds so that they can grow. If we want to reach people effectively, then letting our “fruits” do their thing may be just what they need. How we display the fruit of the Spirit in our life is important to the spread of the kingdom. How can we apply this? As Christians, as leaders, and as pastors and teachers, we must take our citizenship to God’s Kingdom seriously.  We must constantly guard against conforming to the cultures of this world and crucify ourselves with Christ daily so that Christ lives through us. It starts with love. God makes it clear that His reason for sending is Son is that “He so loved the world”, that He Himself is love, and the first fruit of the Spirit is love. Even if we’re the best of teachers, speakers, and preachers, if we don’t have love we’re just noise. Paul said so himself, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1) Whatever we do, we mustn’t forget love.