< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: September 2007

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Galatians 4:8-11

Galatians 4:8-11Howbeit at that time, not knowing God, we were in bondage to them that by nature are no gods: but now that we have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how turn we back again to the weak and beggarly rudiments, whereunto we desire to be in bondage over again? We observe days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain.”

In this passage Paul is still basing his thought on the conception that the law is an elementary stage in religion. It was ok before we knew better. It had its purpose. But, now we have come to know God and the grace of God. Then Paul corrects himself, man cannot by his own efforts know God. God reveals Himself to man. We can never seek God unless He has already found us.

He mentions days, months, seasons and years. One of the features of Jewish law was its observance of special days and seasons. In this section, days are the Sabbath of each week, months are the new moons, which are special occasions. The seasons are the great annual feasts like the Passovers or the Feast of the Tabernacles. And the years are the Sabbatic years – every 7th year.

Paul says the failure of this is it divided the days into days that are sacred or not, that belong to God or not. Kind of like people who think if they go to church on Sunday they’re covered for the whole week. (That’s God’s day – the rest are mine!)

Jesus said, “I came so that you might have life.” He didn’t say, “I came so that you might have religion.” When religion is a thing of days and times and seasons – it’s an external thing. It’s legalism. For the real Christian, every day is God’s day. We shouldn’t pull God out on just certain days.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, September 28, 2007

Galatians 4:1-7

Galatians 4:1-7 “But I say that so long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a bondservant though he is lord of all; but is under guardians and stewards until the day appointed of the father. So we also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the rudiments of the world: but when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because we are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. So that thou art no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God”

In verse 2 where it says, “but he is under guardians and stewards until the date appointed by his father.” Until the exact, right time when Christ came, we couldn’t get at our inheritance, but when He made His sacrifice for us and we believed, we became joint heirs with Christ.

In verse 6, “And because we are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying Abba, Father.” Abba is the Aramaic word for Daddy. Paul believed that this instinctive cry of the heart of man was the work of the Holy Spirit.

And if our hearts cry out this way we know we are sons and all the inheritance of grace is ours. For Paul, the man who governed his life by slavery to the law was still a child. The man who had learned the way of grace had become a mature full-grown man in the Christian faith.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Jonathan Martin in Concert

Today John and I visited The First Church of God in Hickory because Jonathan Martin was doing the service. He was wonderful. His songs were beautiful and meaningful and what he talked about in between spoke right to me.

One of the things he said was about how we all have good and bad in our lives. Mountain top experiences and times down in the valley. And he said that we won’t stay in either of those places. And that for every valley there are two mountains. But, when you look at the really tall mountain tops that are snow capped you see that nothing can grow up there. It’s down in the valley where the rivers run and vegetation grows.

I thought that was beautiful.

He ended by saying, “God has you right where you are suppose to be. Praise Him in the good and bad. Praise Him all the time.”


Saturday, September 22, 2007

How to add RSS feed

For those of you who bookmark blogs and sites, but then never think to go back and read them. Let me explain how you can use the RSS feed. Click on the orange RSS icon in the upper right of my blog. This will open up a choice of places you can have the feed show up for you to read. Select one and you will get the new posts there. It's an efficient way to keep up with your online reading.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Galatians 3:23-29

Galatians 3:23-29 “Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was put in charge of us until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Held in custody under the law”. In the Greek world there was a household servant. He was usually an old and trusted slave who had long been in the family and whose character was high. His sole job was to lead the child of the house to school and back home. To keep him from temptation and harm until he grew up. He didn’t teach him in school, he just got him there and set a good moral example while doing it.

This, Paul says, is the function of the law. It would lead a man to Christ. It would give him a good, moral example to follow until Christ came.

Paul goes on to say, “As many of you who have been baptized into Christ – have put on Christ.” Baptism was a Jewish rite. If a man wished to accept the Jewish faith he had to do three things. He had to be circumcised, he had to offer a sacrifice and he had to be baptized.

Ceremonial washing was very important in the Jewish faith to cleanse a person from defilement. The book of Leviticus tells us that a man who was about to be baptized cut his hair and nails and took a baptismal bath. Every part of his body had to be touched with water. He confessed his faith before 3 men who were called the fathers of baptism.

While still in the water, parts of the law were read to him, words of encouragement were addressed to him and benedictions were pronounced upon him. When he got out of the water he was a member of the Jewish faith.

By Christian baptism, Paul says: a man enters into Christ not Christianity. The early Christians looked at Baptism as something that really and truly produced a real union with Christ. Back then most baptisms were for adults. The church was brand new and spreading. Once a person was baptized and “put on Christ” Paul says there is no longer any distinction between people. No Jew, no gentile, no slave, no free, no male or female.

A Jewish male used to pray every morning a thanksgiving to God that God hadn’t made him gentile or slave or woman! Paul probably prayed that every day his entire life, until he met Christ. But, he learned that there is no room for prejudice in a Christian’s heart. We are all sons of God and one in Jesus Christ.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, September 17, 2007

Galatians 3:19-22

Galatians 3:19-22 “What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.”

A commentator said there are 300 different interpretations written about these 4 verses! And that was 50 years ago, so there are probably more now! Paul is still trying to show the superiority of grace and faith over law. He makes 3 points about the law:

1. Why introduce the law at all?

Paul says it was introduced for the sake of transgressions. It was a favorite thought of Paul’s that where there is no law there is no sin. You can’t break a law that doesn’t exist. Therefore the function of the law was to define sin. The law can and does define sin, but it can’t cure it. It’s like a doctor who makes a diagnosis –of an incurable disease.

2. Paul says the law was not given directly by God.

In Exodus 20 the law was given to Moses, but in Paul’s day the Rabbi’s believed that angels passed the law from God to Moses because they felt that God was too holy to deal with man directly. Stephen referred to this belief in Acts 7:38 and 53. So here he is saying, the law went from God, to angels, to Moses, to the people – while the promise came to Abraham directly from God.

3. Paul uses a weird phrase here: “there can be no such thing as a mediator of one and God is one.”

This is the hard part. He says it takes 2 people to make this law thing happen. One to give the laws and one to accept them. If someone breaks the law, the whole thing is undone. But, the promise depends only on one person. The promise is given and nothing anyone else can do can break or alter that promise. Grace is God’s promise. We can refuse it for ourselves, but that’s not going to change the fact that God’s grace is out there for everyone.

Then Paul asks, “Is the law against the promises of God?” And he answers, “No.”
He states in verse 22 that scripture consigned all things to sin. He’s thinking of Deuteronomy 27:26, where it said that everyone who does not conform to the words of the law is cursed. So that means that everyone is cursed because no one has kept the law.

So what is the consequence of the law? To drive everyone to grace because they realize their helplessness. Paul is, I think, redundant in this letter. He says the same thing over and over in slightly different ways. But, I think he’s doing everything in his power to have everyone understand it because it is so very important.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Galatians 3:15-18

Galations 3:15-18 “Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man's covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ. What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.”

Here we learn the way of grace is actually older then the law by 430 years.
Rabbis back then loved to take one word out of a text and write a whole theology on just that single word. Here we are reminded that Paul is a trained Rabbi and he took a single word from the Abraham story and made an argument upon it.

In Genesis 17:7-8 God told Abraham, “I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee.” God says of Abraham’s inheritance, “I will give unto thee and to thy seed after thee.” To make it clear, let’s change seed to descendent, which some Bible translations already did. Seed or descendent is singular.

God’s promise points to one individual, Paul argues. And that is Jesus Christ. Therefore, the way for a right relationship with God comes through Jesus.

One commentator wrote, “We can never be good enough, but if we simply abandon this hopeless struggle and bring ourselves and our sin to God, then the grace of God opens its arms to us and we are at peace with a God who is no longer a judge, but a father.”

Jesus Gifts for more “Jesus, More than Enough” Christian apparel and gifts.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, September 14, 2007

Galatians 3:1-9

Galatians 3:1-9“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 observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The 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. So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”

The Galatians were in danger of turning to the newest and latest teacher. One of the hardest things of Christian living is keeping it up day after day. In the beginning it’s new and exciting. After awhile sometimes it may get tedious. One of the greatest acts the Holy Spirit does for us is teaching us to persist.

Paul reminds the Galatians that when they received the Holy Spirit they received it by believing the gospel, not obeying the law. Most of the Galatians were not Jews and wouldn’t have even known the law. Paul points them to a man who embodied faith. Abraham.

This was the man God promised that in him all families of the earth would be blessed. Abraham pleased God. And it wasn’t because he obeyed the laws. Remember this was over 400 years before the laws! It was by taking God at His Word, trusting Him completely and abandoning all earthly things.

The Jews relied on the promise of this blessing. They were physical descendents of Abraham. But, Paul changes all that. He says the real descendent of Abraham is any person who makes the same declaration of faith as Abraham did. Therefore Christians are spiritual descendents of Abraham.

Visit Fruit of the Spirit Gifts and click on our Fruits of the Spirit section to see more Faithfulness items.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Galatians 2: 18-21

Galatians 2: 18-21“If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20I 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. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

We were infected by sin because of Adam and Eve. This made us unable to keep God’s laws. There is no way we are good enough. Paul tried the law. He told us all about it in the book of Philippians. And he did a better job then most following the law. But, even Paul, strong, spiritual Paul, realized his own helplessness. He could never do for himself what Christ did for all of us.

Martin Luther was the same. He wrote, “If anyone could be saved by monkery, it is I.” He was known for being extremely hard on himself: discipline, penance, self-denial and even self-torture. Until one day he heard a voice from heaven say to him, “The just shall live by faith.”

What Paul and Martin Luther found was, I think, why the book of Galatians is called the Christian’s declaration of freedom. They could dump this incredibly heavy burden and just accept God’s mercy. They were finally free!

It changed Paul so much that the only way he could describe it, was to say he had been crucified with Christ. The man he used to be was dead and now the living power within him was nothing less than Christ Himself.

Paul took God at His Word.

We need to do that. We need to quit thinking, “yea, but”.

“Yea, but God couldn’t possibly love me as much as other people, I’m so much worse!”

“Yea, but once those other people found Christ they just moved forward with lightening speed and sometimes I only take a step or two a day – and worse – half the time those steps are backwards!”

“Yea, but, I don’t think I feel like I’m suppose to.”

You know, CS Lewis wrote, “You don’t really have to feel anything. You just have to believe it.”

Paul’s last sentence, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.” – is very important. Any time we say you have to do this or that, we are trying to add to what Christ did – and that diminishes it!

If you think you can earn God’s favor, you aren’t trusting in Christ’s work. He died for the forgiveness of our sins so that we may have eternal life with God. Period!

Amazing Grace gifts for Grace, It's Amazing and Amazing Grace Christian Clothing and Gifts

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

An Encounter with Christ

Galatians 1:11-17 For I make known to you, brethren, as touching the gospel which was preached by me, that it is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ. For ye have heard of my manner of life in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and made havoc of it: and I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me, even from my mother's womb, and called me through his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles; straightway I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them that were apostles before me: but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned unto Damascus.

Paul has given his credentials before. Especially in Philippians 3: 4-9. I think what is important in this section of Galatians, and I felt a flavor of it in the earlier part of the chapter, is that all the training in religion doesn’t mean as much as a personal encounter with Christ. And the best thing a person can do to show someone the Gospel is a changed life. Paul knew he was chosen for a task and that was to serve.

Labels: , ,

Monday, September 03, 2007

Son Shine Christian Clothing, Cards and Gifts

I added a new section to my store today. “Son Shine” I used the same half sun on each design, but with a different Bible verse that ties light and Jesus the Son of God all together. I really like the way they turned out.

Son Shine Gifts

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Our Vocation as people of God

Our vocation as the people of God is to proclaim the good news of Christ. To show mercy like He does and to demonstrate forgiveness in love no matter how much someone has hurt us. It’s when we show mercy and forgiveness we demonstrate our obedience to God and submission to Jesus Christ.

Labels: , , ,