Bible Study Freedom

Freedom: To Be a Little Fruity

One of my husbands favorite songs is “The Fruits of the Spirit.” The fruits of the spirit are important to every saved believer and we are free to be fruity. But we can not forget the section of verses above and below it.

Paul explains in the last parts of chapter 5 that the freedom that we have in Christ does not mean that we just do whatever we want. It is that we desire, especially if we desire to sin. This freedom calls us higher. It’s a freedom that empowers us to do what God called us to do, and it frees us from being ruled by our sinful desires. We should use our freedom in Christ not to indulge in our desires, but to serve and love and be the women that God has called us to be. God’s freedom is from the desires of our flesh so we can be free to do God’s will.

Galatians 5: 13-26

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself. 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 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.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

If we want true freedom, we must walk by the Spirit. When you give your life to Christ you receive God’s Holy Spirit. And it is His Spirit in you that convicts us and lead us to be more empowered and shows you God’s will. Walking in the Spirit means giving your spirit what it needs to survive, which is the complete opposite of what your flesh wants. Either you will feed your Spirit or you will feed your flesh, and the one you feed more will win. Feeding your spirit will lead to freedom. Feeding your flesh will lead to sin and slavery.

You’ve heard the phrase: “You are what you eat.” If you put in lust, unfaithfulness and lies what do you expect to come out? If you put in looking at others, jealousy will arise. If we put in fear, hate will come. If we put in gossip, we will produce confusion. However, if we put in hope and truth, there will be peace. If we put in prayer, there will be power. If we put in fasting, there will be freedom from sin. If we put in Bible reading and studying, there will be clarity and direction.

I’m not telling you how or when to do all of this, but not doing it will starve your flesh and the slavery to sin it brings. Pray to the Lord about which ways to best feed your spirit and do it for freedom’s sake. as you read above, Galatians 5:19-23 says:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

First, I want to point out the difference between the acts of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. The works of the flesh represent a lack of trust in God and what we think we can do apart from Him. Works represent what we do and not trusting what God can do. All mistrust of God leads to sin. But the fruit of the Spirit represents a reliance and dependence on God, like roots to a vine, that produces a God-glorifying life. We cannot control the production of fruit, but when we are connected to God and walking in the Spirit, fruit will grow.

When we walk in the Spirit we will experience all the fruits of the Spirit that Paul lists in Galatians, about which he also says, “against such things there is no law.” That means when the Spirit is leading and producing these fruits in your life, you don’t have to worry about if you’re doing enough for God. When we are worried about what we do, if we’re doing too much or not enough, we’re concerned about the flesh and what we can do. It’s all about works. But when we are lead by the Spirit, we know God is leading us in the right direction. No law or rules can trump that.

God is not holding back His will, waiting to see if we can guess it correctly. He speaks to us through His Holy Spirit to let us know which way to go. So we can live in freedom—free from doubt, insecurity, and fear. We can go in full assurance that His Spirit will never lead us where we are not to go. So we don’t need to stress out about figuring out what’s the right thing to do. We just walk by the Spirit, and He will lead us to be very fruity,

Bible Study Freedom

Freedom: From False Teaching

In the world today we have to be diligent when studying the Bible. There are many “Preachers” and teachers out there teaching for there own agenda. More and more do we see people turning away from the Gospel of Christ which tells us that we are sinners and Christ is the only way to everlasting life. There are false teachers that are simply motivational speakers. One of the major reasons Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians because they had encountered false teachers who have told them their faith and God’s grace is not enough for salvation. So I want to take some time and help you to be able to recognize false teaching.

Galatians‬ 4:17‬ (NIV‬‬)

“Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them.”

The number one thing false teachers do is lead you to become more dependent on the teacher and less dependent on Christ. They want you to only listen to their teaching. I have seen this in people who hero worship some “Preachers” (and I use that term loosely). They take everything the speaker says as gospel and does not check for themselves or study the bible to make sure the teaching is sound. It’s very controlling and not freeing like the gospel of Jesus Christ is.

A false teacher will be zealous for you. They will build you up, not to grow your relationship with the Lord, but to grow your loyalty to them. It’s all about them and their ego and what they can get from you to build themselves up, not the Kingdom of God. So they will tell you what you want to hear, even if it does not align with God’s truth. It will seem like they want to help and care about you because they are telling you all these good things. But true love does not tell you what you want to hear. True love tells you the truth. False teachers will lure you with flattery, and they will speak to the desire of your flesh more so than the things of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ that gives all honor to Him and not our works.

False teaching will look really religious. As we see with the Galatians, they were told to do all these religious things in order to be saved. But the true teaching of Jesus Christ focuses on the finished work of Christ and not what we can do for Him. Always Check for yourselves. Study they word and let God show you His gospel.

If you find yourself being drawn in by one of these false teachers, remove yourself from that situation. God is not going to lead you to a church that is not teaching his word. If you have the opportunity and feel safe, let them know why you’re leaving and why you believe their teaching is false. If they’re unwilling to change, you’re going to have to dust your hands off and find a good Bible-teaching church that stays true to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Do your homework and study the Bible. Be grounded in your faith in God and not faith in a teacher or a church building. If you know what you believe you are like a old tree with deep roots in the word, unwavering. If you aren’t rooted in the word, any gust of wind could uproot you and blow you away.

When Jesus died on the cross, He opened the door for everyone to know Him personally. When you accept Him as your Lord and Savior, you receive the Holy Spirit to help guide you in your walk with Him. Use those things to dig into the Bible and start growing roots.

I strongly believe in joining a local church, but I also believe in seeking the Lord for yourself and not always relying on someone else to pray for you, understand God’s Word, and hear from God. God wants a personal relationship with you, not some secondhand relationship through someone else.

So, as a quick review, false teachers:

Want you to be dependent on them, not dependent on Christ.

Are not focused on Jesus’ finished work on the cross, but on our works.

Use flattery to build loyalty only for the purpose of building themselves up.

Tell people what they want to hear, even if it means not telling the truth.

There are many Bible believing preachers and teachers out there, do not get me wrong. But as long as Satan in prowling around looking for those he can devour, unfortunately some people are going to fall in his trap.

Fear Uncategorized

Daniel in the Lion’s Den

I was writing this lesson for the youth class at our Vacation Bible School and something told me it needed to be shared.

The story of Daniel in the lion’s den is one of the best-known and best-loved stories in all the Bible. It has encouraged the people of God for thousands of years. And why shouldn’t it? The story is filled with unexpected twists and turns and the good guy wins big and the bad guys … well, the bad guys are torn to pieces. Along the way, we learn the secret of Daniel’s success. Somehow he managed to survive and thrive in a spiritually hostile environment.
That point is a good place to begin because Christians live in a world of spiritual hostility where the temptation to compromise our faith is with us every day. The world doesn’t want to have a conscience and doesn’t reward those who dare to stand up for what they believe. In some parts of the world, standing up for Christ means suffering and death. In America (and in most countries in the West) it means being treated as a weirdo, a freak, or crazy, being left out and perhaps being passed over.
The book of Daniel tells us how to live for God in a hostile environment. His example shows us that it can be done but not without discomfort. If you don’t compromise, you are sure to come into trouble sooner or later. The story of Daniel and the lion’s den reminds us that there is a spiritual battle raging all around us. The devil himself is like a roaring lion who would devour us if he could (1 Peter 5:8). Therefore, it should not surprise us if the devil has an army of supporters whose major call in life is to harass us, trick us, and trip us up if they can.
You can tell a lot about a person by the quality of his enemies. Daniel must have been a good man because he had the right kind of enemies. The people who hated him were no friends of God. They came after his faith because they could find no fault in him, and they had no answer for what he believed.
Before we jump in, remember these two facts: 1) Daniel is now a very old man. He came to Babylon as a teenager. All his adult life has been spent serving in the courts of various pagan rulers. Now he is over 80 years old. 2) He is now serving under a new king named Darius who rules over a new kingdom, the Medo-Persian empire. The names have changed but the spiritual challenge is the same. Will he remain faithful when the pressure is on?

Daniel is once again about to be promoted to high office. Evidently, Darius recognized him as a man of integrity and wanted to make him second in command over the entire kingdom. That’s when the intrigue begins.
At this, the administrators tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally, these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God” (Daniel 6:4-5).

This is what his enemies discovered when they examined his life:
He was faithful in his duties.

He was faultless in his character.

He was fervent in his prayers.

These are three marks of godliness even unbelievers could see. The people who watch you can tell if you work hard at your job. They know what kind of character you have. And if they watch long enough, they will learn whether or not you are a person of prayer. Whatever is in your heart will come out sooner or later, and people who don’t know the Lord will know the truth about you. In Daniel’s case, even his enemies had to admit he had no glaring weaknesses.
No finer thing could be said that for your enemies to admit that they can find nothing wrong with you. Daniel was hated because he was successful and he was godly. Let’s suppose that your enemies decided to check you out the way they came after Daniel. Suppose someone hired private investigators to look into every aspect of your life, public and private, past and present. What would they uncover? Suppose they checked out your …
School records, phone calls, shopping habits, internet usage, favorite TV programs, what you do on vacation, every relationship you’ve ever had, every corner of your bedroom, your vocabulary at home, jokes you tell, and places you visit

Could any of us survive that kind of scrutiny? Daniel did. The investigation revealed that he had no obvious moral weaknesses. Try as they might, his enemies found nothing wrong in his life. He lived so consciously in God’s presence that he was a man “above reproach.”
Daniel’s One “Flaw”
But Daniel did have one “flaw.” He was utterly predictable in his daily prayers. He prayed every day at the same time in the same way so that his enemies realized this was where they could catch him. I’m sure you’ve heard this question: “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” When they arrested Daniel for being a man of prayer, the evidence against him was overwhelming.
So his enemies asked Darius to pass a 30-day law forbidding anyone to pray except to Darius himself. In effect, they said, “O king, how would you like to be God for a month?” Sure, why not? That appealed to his pride. Why not be God for a month? It might be fun. So Darius signed the law, knowing that it could not be repealed, not even by himself. He had no idea that Daniel was the intended target.
They knew Daniel would break the law. That is, they knew Daniel would keep on praying just as he had always done. He was predictably faithful to God. If he had been a flaky believer, this evil plot would never have worked. His troubles came not from his weakness, but from his strength.

So what do you do when you discover that your enemies have passed a law aimed at one person, and you are that person? It’s like walking around with a bull’s eye on your shirt. How you respond at that point tells a great deal about your character. Daniel 6:10 reveals the secret of his greatness:
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

Note the last phrase—”just as he had done before.” For perhaps 85 years Daniel had prayed three times a day. Perhaps it was 7:00 AM, 12 noon, and 5:00 PM. I did the math and asked myself, “How many times would Daniel have prayed if he prayed three times a day for 85 years?” The answer comes out to over 93,000 prayers. No wonder he simply went back to his room and started praying. An 85-year habit is hard to break. For him, prayer was like breathing. He wasn’t about to stop praying just because some snot-nosed men threatened his life. After all, he was 85, he wasn’t going to live forever anyway, and he wasn’t afraid to die. So when they tricked Darius into signing the 30-day law, Daniel just went ahead with his daily routine. No big deal. He went home, knelt down, faced toward Jerusalem, and offered his prayers to God. He did it knowing that his adversaries would catch him.

Remember who Daniel is. He’s one of the top three men in the empire. No doubt he had a plate full of heavy responsibilities. Yet he still had time to pray three times a day. And I’m sure the reason he prayed that way was that he knew if he didn’t live by a scheduled prayer would soon be squeezed out. Prayer was so important to him that he was willing to die rather than give up his right to pray to God.
If you stop praying, the world will stop bothering you. The Lions won’t come near you. Your family will finally think you are normal again. Your boss will think you are one of the boys. The Lions win when we are silent. The great mark of true faith is that we keep praying.
It’s easy to think of reasons why he might have disobeyed. He could have simply closed the windows and no one would have seen him pray. Or he could have said, “I’ll pray in my heart. No one will know.” After all, he was being forced to do this against his will. And it was only for 30 days. He might have reasoned that by going along with the law, he could use his influence to help others. Certainly, he must have known that if he didn’t go along with the law, the lions would eat him alive. But none of those excuses were needed because long ago Daniel had made up his mind to serve God no matter what. In a sense, his prior obedience made it easy for him. He had no decision to make. He just kept on doing what he had been doing all along.

So what do you do when they call for the lions? You don’t change a thing. Keep on serving the Lord, keep on doing right, keep on living for Christ, and then let the chips fall where they may.
Darius now realizes he has been tricked. He likes Daniel and immediately begins seeking loopholes to prevent him from being thrown to the lions. But even the king could not repeal his own law because that would make him look weak and ineffective. No, the law must stand and Daniel must go to the lion’s den. But Darius is rooting for the old man. In verse 16 he wishes Daniel well with these words, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” (Daniel 6:16). What a testimony this is to the reality of Daniel’s faith. Even unbelievers recognize true faith in God, and they respect it.
So Daniel is thrown into the lion’s den, which was a pit dug into the ground with an entrance from the side for the lions and with a huge boulder placed over the top so there could be no escape. It was a crude and very effective form of capital punishment. No one ever got out alive. And certainly not an old man over 80. Daniel was as good as dead the moment they threw him in. Or so they thought.

Notice Daniel’s Three “Did Nots:”

He did not try to escape the consequences of his decision to obey God.

He did not know what would happen.

He did not make a deal with God to save himself.

Evidently, Daniel was not afraid to die. He may have suspected that God would rescue him. He could hear the sound of the lions breathing a few feet away. But there were no roars, no menacing movements, no teeth tearing into his flesh. As the seconds ticked away, he began to relax. Minutes passed and then hours and the lions did not touch him. Daniel later said that an angel came to rescue him. Did he have a conversation with the angel? We do not know for sure, but I think he probably did. Who knows? Maybe the lions became like cuddly kittens and Daniel played with them all night long.

That night the king didn’t sleep well, but Daniel slept like a baby. The king tossed and turned, paced the floor, refused all offers of entertainment, and even refused to eat. Early in the morning he rushed to the lion’s den, hoping against hope that Daniel had somehow survived. When all is said and done, it is better to be a child of faith in a lion’s den than to be a king without God in a palace. I don’t doubt that Daniel slept well, using one lion for a soft pillow and the long flowing mane of another lion for a blanket.

It’s true that God didn’t prevent him from being thrown in the den. But the Lord went in with him. That’s why, when morning came, he was still alive, unharmed in any way. When they pulled him out, he had no wounds. No one had to apply any first aid, they didn’t call 911, and Daniel didn’t have to go to the hospital for observation. Though he was an old man, he came out at least as healthy as when he went in. Thus does God take care of his own.

God shut the mouths of the lions so they could not harm his servant. Consider the matter from the lions’ point of view. How frustrating to see a large meal and be unable to eat it. If they don’t get Daniel out of there, the lions will die of hunger. You’ve heard it said that Daniel was in the lion’s den. It turns out the lions were in Daniel’s Den.
Back to Darius for a moment. When he came rushing to check on things early in the morning, he cried out, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” (Daniel 6:26). The pagan ruler is cheering for Daniel’s God to come through. He recognized the genuineness of Daniel’s faith and though he did not believe himself, he hoped that Daniel’s God would deliver him.
Verse 23 tells us why the miracle happened. “He trusted in his God.” Nothing fancy there. For over 80 years Daniel’s faith had rested in the God of Israel. That wasn’t about to change at this late date. Daniel simply kept on trusting in God, and as a result, the Lions couldn’t touch him. Faith believes God, even when belief is unbelievable.
The end of the story comes quickly. First, the enemies who plotted against Daniel are thrown to the lions, along with their wives and children (verse 24). Then Darius offers public praise to “the God of Daniel” (verses 26-27) who is the living God who endures forever. He rescues and he saves, and he is the One who delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. What amazing words coming from the lips of a pagan king. Or perhaps he is a pagan no more. Perhaps like Nebuchadnezzar, he became a believer in the one true God. We won’t know for sure until we get to heaven, but I would not be surprised to see Darius there.
Lessons for Modern-Day Daniels
Let’s wrap up this study by considering five lessons for modern-day Daniels who find themselves facing the lions every day.

It is possible to live a pure life in the midst of a thoroughly pagan world.

Daniel’s story demonstrates that if you make up your mind (or “purpose in your heart”) to serve God, you can do it even in the very center of pagan government. There is always a way to compromise for those who want to compromise. And there is always a way to obey God for those who want to obey God.

Christians who live for God should expect opposition.

Daniel had his share of opposition and he lived a blameless life. If you set out to live for the Lord, sooner or later (probably sooner) trouble will come your way. This is part of what Jesus meant when he spoke about “taking up your cross daily” and following him. Jealous men are never far away.

God can use us to touch unlikely people when we are faithful to him.

Daniel 6 emphasizes the powerful effect that Daniel’s personal integrity had on Darius. While it is true that many of his colleagues envied Daniel and plotted to kill him, it’s also true that he made a huge impact for good on the mightiest man in the world.
We never know who is watching us or what they are looking for, but this story teaches us that not every unbeliever hates Christians. For every satrap out there planning our downfall, there is a Darius keeping an eye on us, hoping that our faith may prove to be genuine. Such people have little or no faith and deep inside, they want what we have. Even though they may never say so, they are cheering for us because they hope that what we believe will turn out to be true.

God is able to deliver his people from any danger they face.

If God can deliver Daniel from the lion’s den, he can surely deliver you. Generations of Christians have taken strength from this story because, in the end, the hero isn’t Daniel, it’s Daniel’s God. That same God is sovereign over those who plot against you. And he is sovereign over the lions who surround you. Take heart and trust in God. He can deliver you from whatever is troubling you this very moment.

God always delivers in his own time and in his own way.

This is the necessary balance. Does God always deliver his people? Yes, indeed, but not always in the way we expect. Not all our prayers are answered in the way we pray them. And in the end, we must confess that it is good that God has veto power over our fervent petitions. Sometimes God overrules because he sees the bigger picture and knows that he can glorify himself in some way other than by delivering us from a difficult situation. This story ought to be a great encouragement to us because from it we learn that God can and sometimes does deliver in amazing and miraculous ways. Therefore, let us pray with confidence to a God who can stop the mouths of any lions we may face. And if God should choose to answer in some other way, we may rest secure that God makes no mistakes and (as King Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way) “everything he does is right” (Daniel 4:37).

Bible Study Freedom

Freedom: To be Children of God

This past weekend, our family was in a regional passion play. There was 45 people in the cast and 18 different churches represented. There was all types of denominations represented; however, we all worked together to tell one story. The story of Jesus. In today’s study of Galatians, we learn how the gospel of Jesus Christ frees us from these dividing lines. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, unity, reconciliation, and healing is possible. How much of that we actually experience is dependent upon if we believe that, and our willingness to surrender to God’s desire for diversity, especially in His church.

Galatians 3:26-28 New International Version (NIV)

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Paul is writing these words to the church of Galatia which received this false gospel that says this: in order to really be saved, in order to really be accepted by God, you need to conform and assimilate to Jewish culture and tradition. Jesus was Jewish and the first people to get saved were Jewish, so this is the standard, right? Absolutely not. Saved by Grace no matter what race or denomination.

For a second. put yourself in the shoes of these Galatians. Imagine someone is having a party and everyone there has on a pink shirt, and you are the only one that has on a blue shirt. You received an invitation to the party, your meal is paid for, but when you go to sit down at the table someone says, “Wait, you don’t belong at this table. You must have on a pink shirt to sit here.”

And you’re like, “But I have my ticket, I was invited, my meal is paid for.” And they are like, “Nope, it’s not enough. You need a pink shirt.” So now the attention is off of what it really takes to sit at this table, and on what makes you different from them. The truth is, you are different. You have on a blue shirt. But the lie is that this blue shirt somehow disqualifies you from sitting at this table. So then the host of the party comes up, corrects the hater, and is like, “No, I invited her. Have a seat.”

This is what the gospel does. It invites everyone to the table. Paul’s words—”There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus“—are revolutionary. Gentiles, slaves, and women can sit at the table too? Yes. Because Jesus invited you and paid for your meal. Have a seat.

This message is so important today, because there is so much comparisons of people and churches. We have to remember, being saved by grace through faith makes you a child of God. It doesn’t matter what church you go to or whether that church has fifty members or 50 thousand. In the Body of Christ, we all have a right to be here.

It’s so serious, in fact, that Jesus gave His life so we all can sit at this table. His last prayer before being crucified was for unity in His Church. Who are we to tell someone they don’t belong? Even more, who are we to cower back and not have our seat because we’re afraid it might make someone feel uncomfortable?

Some Jewish Christians were uncomfortable with Gentiles like the Galatians, we’ve been studying. Even one of Jesus’ disciples Peter was uncomfortable with them at one point. But the gospel frees us from having to please people, and it grants us the power to live for God. In Christ, we all have a seat at the table. Jesus gave His life so that we could. Paul reminds us, we are all one in Christ.

Does that mean we forget our unique differences and cultures? Absolutely not. But it does mean those differences have no power to separate us from God or each other if we live in the freedom of this truth. The gospel does not say, “Your differences don’t matter.” If they didn’t matter, God would have made us all the same. The gospel says, “Despite our differences, we can still sit together.” We are all one in Christ, so if we think that we are more special because of the color of our skin, the money in our bank account, our education, or anything other than simply being a loved and accepted child of God, then we don’t believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If this is the case, we do not understand why He came and the work that He accomplished. We live as slaves to our egos when we really could and should be living as free daughters of the King.

Bible Study Freedom

Freedom: Don’t Try to Fix What’s not Broken

I heard this saying so many times growing up. Don’t try to fix what’s not broken. As Christians we fall in this pit on occasion. We start categorizing Christians. For example, they are such great Christians look what they’re doing or Oh they need to get right with Jesus because look at them. If you were saved by grace and faith you are going to heaven. When we start putting our own limitations on God’s grace, we are changing the gospel to something completely wrong. It is your faith in God’s grace that leads to righteousness, not works, or striving, or running. We are saved by faith, so we live by faith.

Galatians 3:2-3 New International Version (NIV)

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?

Paul had preached that salvation was only because God’s grace through faith. But the Galatians were tempted to think that this same grace and faith was not enough to maintain their walk with God.

Faith = righteousness
Works = death, because your work can neither save you nor keep you.

When we don’t understand this, we start to think “OK, Jesus saved me, but now I feel like I need to work to deserve that salvation.” Changing your christian walk to points system will never work. We will never be good enough without grace. You can’t work off a debt that has already been paid. Thinking that our service is to pay Jesus back and not to bring glory to the God who deserves it, Cheapens our service and God glory.

Galatians 3:7-11 New International Version (NIV)

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[b 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith

Those who rely on faith are blessed and those who rely on law are cursed. Paul assures the gentiles that through faith they will be blessed along with Abraham.

When we believe in Jesus Christ, He takes on our sin and grants us His righteousness. Faith is what the righteous have to live on.

Galatians 3:12-14 New International Version (NIV)

12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”[b 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Jesus took on the curse of our sin, and give us His righteousness. Paul reminds us that salvation is about God not about who we are or where we are from or what church we attend.

Abraham, who was a Jew, was not saved for being Jewish. He was saved because of His faith. Paul explains that although the Galatians are not Jews, they still can receive the salvation of God that comes through faith and believing in God. And so can we.

Think back on the questions Paul asked in the beginning. “After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?”

Ponder on that question. This is where we can stumble and bring others down with us. SALVATION IS A GIFT! SALVATION IS GRACE! SALVATION IS THROUGH FAITH!

Practical ways to avoid sin are good. Set your boundaries, make your lists, by all means get some accountability partners. But do not place your faith in those means. Put your faith in the grace of God, because the grace that saved you is the same grace that will keep you until the end. Humble yourself and know there is no amount of works that we can do to empower us to live the righteous life that God desires.

Our Christian lives should not be centered around rules, it should be centered around God. How pathetic would our lives be without grace. Serving God is what he asks us to do, but don’t link that to salvation. God created salvation. It works. Don’t try and fix it.

Bible Study Freedom

Freedom: To Experience Grace

I once did a Bible study for a group of women from 25 to 90 years old and I started out with, “What is Grace?” No one could give me a definitive answer. Scriptures were referenced but a definition of what grace was not in them. You have to fully understand grace to appreciate salvation. Most people combine grace and mercy or confuse the two. Mercy is not getting a punishment you deserve. For example, if my son was to break a rule, I could have mercy on him and not ground him. Mercy is what you plead to get out of a punishment. Grace is getting something good you never deserved.  No matter how hard I work and how much I give I will never deserve to go to heaven.

It today’s society, people have this idea that we all deserve something for nothing. People show up to work on time, and they expect a raise. It’s your job to be there on time. Try doing your job or going the extra mile before asking for a raise. It is in every part of our lives. People believing that God should bless them just because they were born. We are all sinful wretched fleshy beasts that literally deserve nothing.

Paul tells us not to set aside the grace of God.

Galatians 2:21 New International Version (NIV)

21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

The Galatians were tempted to think that in order to receive salvation from God, they must partake in Jewish traditions. Paul against these false teachings. He was leaning on the gospel of Christ and grace instead of traditions and works.

And in doing so he reminds the Galatians that the law, the rules given to the Israelites by God through Moses, only shows us our sin, but it cannot save us from our sin. We are only saved by the grace of God. So I love that Paul says, “I do not set aside the grace of God,” because this is what the Galatians are doing. This is what we do every time we think we can earn our salvation, We cheapen grace.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  

Think about it. Because God gave us something we never deserved, we have been saved. It is not about anything we have done it is a gift from God who loves us. It is not because of anything we have done so don’t act like it is. How often have you thanked God for His grace in your life? Do you ever even take the time to think about how many times he has shown you grace.

2 Timothy 1:9 says, “He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” It is by grace we have anything of value in our lives.

Before God created the earth, He knew we would need to be rescued from sin. Throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelations, God’s grace is apparent. Look at Noah, Genesis 6:8, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the lord.” At this point, the entire world was full of wicked men. Noah was not perfect, yet God gave him and his family salvation. Even though Abraham and Sarah did not fully believe God that she would have a child, God gave them a son. He showed them grace. Moses doubted that God could make him the man God told him he was. God walked with Moses and even called him a friend, knowing that Moses had once killed a man with his bare hands. That is grace. This is only a couple of examples in Genesis and Exodus. Image if we just read the bible and wrote done all the times God showed grace. That book would be as big as a large print version unabridged version of war and peace. It is so evident in the Bible. Why do we forget about it in our lives?

Maybe you’ve set aside the grace of God because you feel you need to work for His love and approval. Maybe you’ve set aside the grace of God because you feel like your sin is just too much. You are in the pits of sin, and you think that not even God’s grace can pull you out of this one. Maybe you know that God is powerful, and a healer, and deliverer, and can do anything, but you’ve set aside the grace of God because you don’t trust that He will do it for you. Despite our feelings, our fears, and how great our sin may be, the Word of God tells us to not set aside the grace of God.

Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” We are all born into sin, even as little babies. Grace in this verse and in our lives is the comma. The wages of sin is death. Period. Full Stop. This is what we deserve. However,; God being the forgiving loving God he is added a comma. That comma was His Grace.  The story doesn’t end at death. Instead of receiving what we deserve, we are given the choice of a gift. The best gift you will ever receive, it is eternal life with Jesus.

Grace says, “I know you don’t deserve this, but I’m going to give it to you anyway.”

Let’s think this through. If there were another way for us to be saved, if we could somehow work for it, if we could somehow be good enough for it, do you honestly believe God would have sent His only Son to die in our place?

If there were another way for us to have our sins forgiven that we may be in right relationship and right standing before God, do you think that God would have allowed His Son to suffer even one minute? Would He have allowed His Son to carry such a lonely, bloody, gruesome burden if there were another way?

I cannot believe that if there were another way for God to bring salvation into this world He would still have allowed His Son to be crucified—His only Son, with whom He was well pleased—to take on such a punishment if it were not necessary.

So the next time you are tempted to think you are not good enough for God, that your sin is too much to forgive, that your past is bigger than His love for you, I urge you to resist putting aside the grace of God, because Christ did not die for nothing. He died for you.

Bible Study Freedom

Freedom: To Speak with Love

In Sunday School last week, the question came up of how to correct or confront someone in the wrong. I was reminded of this verse later on in Galatians.

Galatians 6:1 New International Version (NIV)

6 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

this could be a friend, a church member, a child, or a family member. Everyone has sinned. There is one way we can help other people to get right. The Bible instructs us to speak in love.

Christians will often think we are right and what we have to say is truthful, we are more than ready to give others a piece of our mind. I mean, how can they stand against the truth? But you’ve probably also learned that just speaking your mind does not encourage others to change, especially if it is spoken in a tone of defensiveness, harshness, and just downright meanness.

How do you successfully correct another by speaking in love? Paul set a great example in Galatians 2:11-21. Paul tells of a time hen he confronted the apostle Peter. Who was one of the most prominent and respected leaders in the Jerusalem Church, Paul confronting him is shows his allegiance to the gospel of Jesus Christ over trying to make people happy.

While Peter was in a city called Antioch he freely ate and fellow-shipped with non-Jewish Christians. However, once some Jewish Christians joined Peter in Antioch, Peter started to distance himself from the non-Jewish Christians, the Gentiles. He was afraid of what his Jewish-Christian counterparts would think of him associating with others outside of his culture. Why was this wrong? Because Peter was falling away from the truth of the gospel that grants fellowship to all those who place their faith in Christ. Peter was wrong, and Paul was not afraid to confront him on the matter. But it’s how Paul confronts Peter that we can learn a great deal from.

Paul shows Peter the errors in his actions by reminding Peter that both Jew and Gentile are saved by grace through faith. This point was the core fact that Paul wanted to get across to Peter. By falling into the thought that one needed to follow Jewish custom and culture to be saved, Peter was forfeiting the grace of Christ.

Paul was not saying, “na na na na na, I’m right and your wrong.” Which is what we want to do so m any times. He was trying to get Peter back in line with the truth of the gospel. The truth Paul was saying is the gospel of Jesus Christ, that we don’t need to earn our salvation. The love is allowing that truth to be your motive. We need to want to see our sisters not give up sin in their lives and remember the grace of God.

Paul tells us some of what he said to Peter. It reads:

Galatians 2:19-21 New International Version (NIV)

19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Paul reminds Peter of Christ and his Gospel. This should be on our hearts whenever we are in a situation where we are correcting someone about sin. Remember, they have sin and you have sin. Don’t forget the grace of God and don’t forget to love one other.

So whenever we see a sister doing this, like Paul saw Peter, we correct them, not by pointing out their weakness, but by exalting the power of Christ. It’s not just reminding them of the wrong they are now doing, but reminding them of who they are in Christ and all their potential in Him.

So instead of saying, “You are so lazy and complacent, and you will not amount to anything because you just keep making the same mistakes over and over again without learning from them,” we say, “God has given you some awesome gifts, I would love to help you serve God with them. You are free to choose better use of your time. Call me if you need help.”

Instead of saying, “You keep complaining about everything in the church, yet you keep doing the same things over and over, it will never change,” we say, “God loves you so much, He has blessed you with a mind for awesome ideas, You do not need to compromise your ideas, share them with others. God can work miracles if you are willing to trust him.”

Now I know sometimes we just want to have a “Come to Jesus” meeting, but pointing out someone’s weakness is never going to change them. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. It’s not about them agreeing with us; it’s about them agreeing with God. And I’m not saying you just throw a whole bunch of Bible verses at them. Your heart needs to be pure in the matter because people can tell if you just want to be right or if you really want to help them.

Bible Study Freedom

Freedom: Comparison Leads to Discontent

We are still in Galatians and have started chapter two. Being free from comparison and jealousy is not only a wonderful benefit for a christian, but it is also key in living free. Comparisons are some of the nastiest arrows Satan can throw at us. When we start comparing ourselves to others, our church to other churches or our ministry to other ministries, it only creates seeds of discontentment.

Ponder your specific call on your life. This is unique to you. Others may be similar, but none is exactly like yours. When you start looking at everyone else and comparing yourself to them, you see the differences as faults. God gave you a job if you are watching everyone else, who is focusing on your job.

In Galatians chapter two, Paul continues to defend the gospel to the Galatians. Paul also defends his call to preach that gospel. Paul is reassuring the Galatians that the gospel he shared with them is true, and that this new gospel they have been presented by others is false.

Galatians 2:6-9 which says:

Galatians 2:6-9 New International Version (NIV)

As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas[c and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.

Paul stats that the gospel he is preaching is the same gospel preached by those who were apostles before him. He’s letting them know he didn’t just make this up. The only difference between Paul and the apostles in Jerusalem is who they are sharing the gospel with. Peter was called to share the gospel to his fellow Jewish people while Paul was called to share the gospel with Gentiles, those who were not Jews. What I love about this is that they were OK with that. Neither Paul nor Peter tried to tell the other how to answer God’s call to preach. Paul could have easily thought, “Well, I’m Jewish so I should preach to the Jews like Peter is,” but he didn’t because he understood that although their calls were similar, there were still differences in how they were to accomplish their purposes.

Our struggle with comparison doesn’t only lie in what we are called to do, but also how we are called to do it. The temptation arises to look at someone doing what we want to do and think we are supposed to get there the same way they did. But what this thinking does is prevent us from freely walking in our calling the specific way God has called us.

It is okay to look at what others have done for ideas or suggestions. But what God has called you to do is for you. You have your own path. Don’t think that their yellow brick road is the route for you just because it worked for them. There is a certain peace and satisfaction that comes from doing what God specifically called you to do, and you can’t do that if you’re doing what someone else has been called to do.

So how can we practically stop comparing ourselves to others? Here are three ways:

  1. Seek God. He is the One who has prepared the purpose for your life. To complete your purpose in life you need to seek Him.
  2. Resist Comparison. Fight the temptation to constantly look at others and what they are doing, especially the thought that if they are doing it different then you are doing it wrong. No ma’am.
  3. Keep going. Once you are clear on what you are to do, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and keep doing it over and over again.
Bible Study Freedom

Freedom: From your Past

Welcome to our Bible study series on the book of Galatians to discover how the gospel of Jesus grants us freedom. Today we will see how we can experience freedom from our past. Freedom from past hurts, mistakes, and guilt. Recently, I wrote a Bible study that is all about just that called “Battle Scars to Beauty Marks.”

I want to ask you a quick question. Have you ever sinned? Well of course you have. We all have sinned. It says so right there in the Bible.

Romans 3:23 New International Version (NIV)

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Satan’s favorite way to attack Christians is to remind them that they have a past. A wretched, sin-filled, fleshy part of themselves. Don’t give in to the lies that Satan tells you, that righteous looking looking lady at church that seems to have it all together, she has a past too.

You have one argument and its over. That is who I was, but God has forgiven me. Who I was does not make me who I am. God defines me. (drop the mic)

Paul’s past was pretty sinful. He did some pretty awful things to Christians before he met Jesus. When he is attacked by things from his past, he meets them head on and shows us how we can do the same. His response shows us how we can live free from our pasts, no matter how dark they may be, and freely move forward towards everything God has for us.

Galatians 1:13-24 New International Version (NIV)

13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.

Paul who was one of the most amazing missionaries and had a pretty nasty reputation to overcome. Before he accepted Christ into his life, he was a Jewish leader didn’t believe in Jesus Christ and didn’t hesitate to hunt down and punish Christians. On the road to hunt down and kill Christians everything changed. Jesus appeared before him and showing Himself to Paul. That was it Saul was change to Paul, and a new life in Christ began. Paul turned his life around just like we did when we where saved. And just like us there were people being used by Satan to bring up the past and discredit us.

Think about it. This way could God really use someone like Paul? Can God really use someone with a past like mine or yours?

Paul talks about his past but he doesn’t dwell on it. Look at Verse 15 “But when God.” That is it. Period. Full Stop. “But When God.” His past was dark, sinful, and awful, but it didn’t end there. Verse 15 is the point when God stepped in his life and turned his past completely around. Your past does not have the chance to destroy your life when you have a verse 15 that says, “But when God.” Because if Paul was not disqualified because of his past, then neither were the Galatians, and so neither are we. But in verse 15 we see the gospel. We see that because of the saving work of Jesus Christ, our past cannot hold us slaves to the past.

Do you remember your But When God Moment?

Paul addresses his past to the Galatians. He does not try to sugar coat what happened or act like it didn’t happen at all, and we can’t either. We can’t get to verse 15 if we don’t realize the need for it in verses 13 and 14.

If you pretend your past did not happen, if you walk around acting like you’ve always been saved, if you deny what’s been done to you or by you, you are cheapening God’s grace. You are watering down God stepping in and turning that thing around or turning you around. But God will allow your past to become the testimony that propels you to a better future.

Some of us need to honestly face our pasts. We need to cry about it. We need to allow ourselves to process the pain and hurt, to open ourselves up to God’s freedom and healing. If we don’t come to terms with our pasts, we can never really come to terms with our future. If we want the truth to set us free, we have to be honest with ourselves about the good and the bad.

Paul knew his past was dark, but he also knew that God was greater than his past. We usually get this wrong on either two extremes. On one side, we act like we’re perfect, and we just ignore our past like it doesn’t affect us at all. On the other side, we admit that we have this dark past, but forget God has and can redeem us from it; we then become overwhelmed with condemnation and shame. But we need to come to terms with both our past and God’s mercy and grace that is greater. We will never be free from a past that we do not believe God can redeem. 

Many were saved because Paul was freed from his past. Do you understand that Christ wants you free so He can use you to free others? As women of God, we must face our past, face our fear, face our insecurities so they do not enslave us, and even more so we are empowered to set others free. But we will never find freedom from our past if we act like it never happened. Hear me when I say this, sister: God wants you free more than you do. So maybe tonight you need to go to your prayer corner, or closet, or car, and tell God how you really feel. Ask Him the hard questions and say the hard things. He can take it. And then allow God to cover you in His truth, because the truth will set you free. And the truth is that you are not your past; you are God’s daughter.

Bible Study Freedom

Freedom: You are not Who Others say You are.

I will tell you up front, that I am strange, weird, geeky and nerdy. I am perfectly fine with that now. I say now because for many years my self-worth and esteem was tied to the fact that I didn’t fit in. Other peoples opinions of me were big parts of my decision-making process. Today we are going to discuss finding freedom from the opinions of others. We want to say it doesn’t matter, but be honest. We do care. That’s okay we are human. God wants us to connect with other people, so we do care what others think of us. However, the problem occurs when the opinion of others becomes more valuable to us than the opinion of God. It’s then that we give up the freedom of knowing we are secure in God. We become slaves to the opinions of others.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul addresses this same concern. In the last study, Freedom: This is my Life?, we learned that false leaders came to the Christians in Galatia and started sharing lies. Instead of preaching salvation by grace through faith, they were convincing the Galatians that this was not enough to be saved, and that the Galatians would also need to take on their Jewish customs.

Why would the Galatians believe these teachings? For one, these false leaders not only attacked the gospel Paul preached, they also attacked Paul himself. By discrediting Paul and his authority to preach the gospel. They successfully convinced the Galatians to turn from the true gospel.

They brought up Paul’s sinful past. Don’t you hate when people do that? So in the first part of Galatians chapter one, Paul defends the gospel. He reiterates the true gospel that he left them with that says they are saved by grace through faith. But in verses 11-24 Paul starts to defend himself.

You may think Paul is boasting here. Look closely, Paul is boasting of Christ not himself. In Galatians 1:10-13 he says:

Galatians 1:10-13 New International Version (NIV)

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.

Look at what he says again: “If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” We are either servants of Christ or slaves to the opinions of others. The gospel message he received was not from man, but from Jesus Christ Himself. Paul did not hear a sermon, nor did he receive a gospel track. He got this message straight from God, not man. And because Paul is more concerned with the opinion of God than the opinion of man, he is not fazed by the false teaches trying to ruin his reputation.

Who are you trying to please?

If you’re at work and you’re bitter that your boss doesn’t give you enough credit or pat you on the back enough, who are you trying to please? If you feel you need to constantly defend yourself to other people, who are you trying to please? If you get discouraged because you don’t have as many social media likes, or comments or hearts as someone else, who are you trying to please? There is a difference between serving others because that’s what God called you to do, and working for their approval. Which one are you doing? Your answer to that question is the difference between living free in Christ and living as a slave to the opinions of others.

The opinion of these false teachers did not get Paul off focus. We cannot forget that our purpose and value come from God, not what others think of us. Paul did not need to answer these false teachers when he was called by God. In the same way, we do not need to worry about the opinion of others when it concerns doing what God has called us to do.

This is not saying do what you want and forget about everyone else. Do what God tells you and the people that are trying to tear you down, don’t have an leg to stand on. You are doing, what God has told you to do. I do believe God places those things in our lives to help guide us in our purpose. But when we start listening to others and valuing their option over God’s, that is when we become slaves to the opinions of others.We desperately need this lesson in our lives now more than ever. We live in such a time of comparison and people pleasing, so much so that we have made the thoughts of others an idol. The purpose God has called you to might be challenged like Paul’s, but when you know Who calls you, you have the freedom to boldly and unapologetically be the woman that God is calling you to be.