Fellows, we are into our fourth week of Freedom in Christ. Lord's Day last Pastor John read from Paul's letter to the Galatians, chapter 3 verses 1 through 5 “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?”
The Apostle Paul could well ask each of us that same question: “does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?”
Pastor John gave us the example of Jim Carrey. This fellow is a comedy actor. He's worked in the profession for 30 years and became successful and famous and financially well-off. But it seems that his success has not destroyed his soul. He has said “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer.”
Similarly, in the musical “Evita” the actress Madonna's Eva Peron sings “as for fortune and as for fame, I never invited them in, though they seem to the world to be all that I desire. They are illusions; they are not what they promised to be, the answer was here all along...”
Fellows, the world tempts us in more way than we can count, yet the real answer is and has been in our hands all along: unadulterated faith in Jesus as our savior from the imperfection called sin that otherwise separates us all from the Father.
Pastor John reminded us that we should put aside our consumerist mind-set. Jesus is not a product for trial. He is our salvation. Similarly, firefighters say “get on the ladder!” to people they are rescuing from burning office towers and condo high-rises. They do not say “try the ladder to see how you like it.”
I must pose this question to each of you: if you know sin, have repented, and have been baptized, did you receive the spirit through works of the law? Adhering to some rule book? Or have you received the spirit through simple, unadulterated belief in Jesus as Son of God?
If once having received the spirit, would you then be led astray by someone to go back to first base and try to attain salvation through our own effort? Having begun by the spirit would you lose sight of that and go back to trying to earn it “through the flesh” - through good works?
Pastor John then reinforced the point by quoting from the letter to the Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Nothing about earning it through good works!
You fellows all know, as Pastor John affirmed, that to work a computer must be...plugged in. Same for followers of the Christ: unless we are plugged into the source (the word of God) it is no good. Without belief, all of the reading, singing, worship services just become pointless labor. The effort becomes a burden so we get burned out running spiritually empty. It is a matter not of what we do, but how and why we do it! From Paul's letter to the Philippians 4:13 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength”
The key as Pastor John taught us is not “I can do”, but “through Him”. In his three-year earthly ministry Jesus always talked about faith not about technique. He never had a “how-to” manual to issue to his disciples. Pastor John gave us a number of passages to decisively illustrate the point:
Matthew 6:30 “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”
Matthew 8:26 “He replied, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”
Matthew 14:31 “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. 'You of little faith,' he said, 'why did you doubt?'”
Matthew 16:8 “Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, 'You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread?'”
Matthew 17:20 “He replied, 'Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.'”
Salvation is all about FAITH derived from historical facts recorded beyond dispute in the Bible. Fortified by such faith we can step out of the comfort zones we each have, to obey even in difficult circumstances. An example is to forgive. Pastor John learned something about this long ago. A friend of his accidentally destroyed a substantial body of files Pastor John had for his favorite “Legend of Zelda” game. Pastor John decided then and there that he would learn from the Book of Ecclesiastes that his being so enmeshed in the game was pointless, a useless vanity. And Pastor John forgave his friend.
We read 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” When we live out our lives in faith it is all meaningful. God does not need our works to channel his power through us. “My power is made perfect in weakness.” So, the spirit of God is hindered by our works. Our greatest work is not based on talent or knowledge or skills
...but on humble prayer of submission. Then, our deeds truly reflect the fruit of the spirit in us.