LED BY THE SPIRIT

The Judaizers in Paul’s day brought false charges against him much like the Judaizers of this century. Because he taught that people are saved by grace, not through observing the law, the Judaizers accused him of teaching lawlessness. Paul wrote the epistle of Galatians to deal with the deceptive effects of the Judaizers bewitching the Galatians with their distorted gospel.

Salvation is only through faith in Christ, not religious works. Paul points to Abraham as an example. Romans 4:3 quotes Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness.” In Galatians 3:17, Paul writes, “the law, which was 430 years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ.” Clearly Abraham was not saved by keeping the law or by circumcision. Passover, the feasts, and the sacrifices did not come until after the 400 years of slavery in Egypt.

The Life Application Study Bible lists three distortions of Christianity: Judaized Christianity, Legalistic Christianity, and Lawless Christianity. Judaized Christianity’s definition of a Christian is: “Christians are Jews who have recognized Jesus as the promised Savior. Therefore, any Gentile desiring to become a Christian must first become a Jew.” This is what the Hebrew Roots movement wants to do today. They say that Christians must observe the same rituals and festivals that Jesus and the apostles did. The New Testament never teaches that Gentiles must become Jews first, in fact, it teaches quite the opposite.

Legalistic Christianity defines Christianity this way: “Christians are those who live by a long list of don’ts.” Good behavior earns God’s favor. Lawless Christianity says, “Christians live above the law. They need no guideline. God’s word is not as important as our personal sense of God’s guidance.” True Christianity teaches, “Christians are those who believe inwardly and outwardly that Jesus’s death has allowed God to offer them forgiveness and eternal life as a gift. They have accepted that gift through faith and are seeking to live a life of obedient gratitude for what God has done for them” (Page 2149).

The Judaizers’ claim that true Christianity leads to lawlessness shows that they did not understand the basis of salvation. Paul summed it up well: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). You received the Holy Spirit when you accepted Christ. The Holy Spirit will not guide you into lawless activities. In Galatians 5:18 Paul wrote, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Later he enumerated the fruit of the spirit in verses 22 and 23. The Holy Spirit will not guide you into the works of the flesh mentioned in verses 19-21.

Accepting Christ means that we have a new master. We are no longer slaves to sin. We no longer live lives of lawlessness. Accepting Christ means that we have repented from our old way of life and have been raised with Christ to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).

2 Timothy 2:19 says, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” True Christians must turn away from sin and let the Spirit produce fruit in our lives. So what law do Christians follow? In the Old Testament we find three categories of laws: Ceremonial law, Civil law, and Moral law. As Christians we are certainly to keep moral law. Being free from the law does not mean that we are free to murder, steal, or commit adultery. Laws against those things still apply to Christians today, but the Jewish Ceremonial law no longer applies to Christians. Its purpose was to point toward Christ. These laws are no longer necessary after Christ’s death and resurrection. Although not binding upon us, they teach us a great deal about a holy God. We can learn from their principles, but we do not have to become Jews first.

The Judaizers in Galatia had convinced the Christians to return to the “weak and beggarly elements to which [they] desire again to be in bondage. [They] observe days and months and season and years” (see Galatians 4:9-11) like the Jews had. Paul felt as though he labored in vain since they were returning with the Judaizers to the Jewish ceremonial law which Christ had fulfilled.

Walking with the Spirit is more difficult than being able to check off a list of religious activities. Walking with Spirit requires a relationship, not merely external behaviors.

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THE SINNER’S PRAYER

The concept of the sinner’s prayer has come under much scrutiny recently. A co-worker one day asked me, “where do you find ‘the sinner’s prayer’ in the Bible?” He genuinely wanted to know. The sinner’s prayer is often found at the end of gospel presentations in tracts or books. While it may appear in various forms, it goes something like this: “Dear God, I know that I am a sinner. I believe that you love me, and that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I now repent of my sins and ask Jesus to come into my heart to forgive my sins. Thank you for saving me. In Jesus’s name, Amen.”

After that prayer, the text of the tract, or the person presenting it will say, “Congratulations. You have just been born again. Welcome to the God’s family. Now that you have prayed that prayer, never let anyone or anything cause you to doubt your salvation.”

Is that person truly saved? Many evangelicals would say yes. After you have “prayed the prayer,” you are saved no matter what. “Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved,” (Romans 10:13). Only time can answer that question. In reality, many who have “prayed the prayer” often return to life as usual. Young people, once they move away from home, may go off the deep end morally. Yet when someone asks them if they are saved, they often reply, “Yes, I ‘prayed the prayer.’”

That view makes “the prayer” little more than a magical charm, an amulet that is supposed to protect you from evil spirits. Once you pray the prayer, you can live like the devil thanks to the “assurance” you received about never doubting your salvation. This has led some denominations to separate over the “once saved, always saved” doctrine. Some churches call it “perseverance of the saints.” Several denominations believe that you can lose your salvation if you don’t “toe the party line.” In other words, you backslide into the world. You may have a habit that a particular denomination does not accept. I have heard of certain groups that do not allow you to play dominoes because they are the “devil’s bones.” If you continue to play dominoes after “praying the prayer,” you are in danger of falling from grace.

Where does the Bible contain the “sinner’s prayer”? It does actually exist, however in a different form from the one above.

In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus told the story of two men who went to the Temple to pray: one a Pharisee who religiously kept the law. In fact, he reminded God of that during his prayer. In essence he said, “I keep the law. I do not extort money. I don’t commit adultery. I fast in accordance with the law, and I tithe. I am not like that tax collector over there.”

In the other corner of the Temple, the unrighteous tax collector could not even lift his eyes toward heaven. He made no pretense of being able to keep the law. He knew how far short he fell. All he could do was beat his breast in contrition and say, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus said that man went home justified rather than the one who tried to keep the law. The law-keeper impressed no one, least of all God.

Notice the simplicity of the tax collector’s prayer? No flowery prose, no King James English unless you are reading the KJV. No theological explanation. He just knew that he needed God’s mercy.

God’s salvation does not come to those who pridefully think they are made right with him by keeping his law. Only Jesus could do that. The law was never designed to save, only to show us our need for mercy and drive us to Christ. One man exalted himself and went away unjustified although in his own mind he kept the law. The other humbled himself, threw himself on God’s mercy and went home justified.

The problem with “praying the prayer” is that you may deceive yourself into believing you are saved, when you are not. You have never repented of your sin, and you are trying to justify yourself in God’s sight by your good deeds. Ephesians 2:8-10 says that we are saved by grace through faith that is a gift, not of works so that boasting is excluded. We are not saved by works, but for works. Have you “prayed the prayer” or did you get saved?

Back To School

“What purpose then does the law serve?…before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore, the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”

It seems we barely get used to school being out, and before long, you notice “Back to School Sale” signs in stores. All the supplies are mounted up for easy access. Lists are posted so parents know what to buy. You can even hear the kids groan about having to go back to school. Parents rejoice.

Even in the first century, kids did not like discipline and instruction; therefore, they were placed under the care of guardians. The Greek word used in Galatians 3:24 was “pedagogue.” The KJV translates this as “schoolmaster.” The NKJV translates it as “tutor.” The Greek word means “to lead children,” particularly boys. This schoolmaster, tutor, or guardian was the servant in charge of leading the master’s son to his training. When the child grew up, the guardian was no longer necessary.

According to The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times by Ralph Gower, “Greek children went to school at the age of seven if his parents could afford to pay the fees. He studied basic skills (reading, writing, counting), music (poetry, dance, musical instrument), and physical skills (wrestling, boxing, running, throwing the javelin and discus… At 16, he went to the gymnasium to study literature, philosophy, and politics” (p. 82). (In Russian, high school is still called gymnasium.) The household servant made sure that the child was led to school.

Paul asks a question in Galatians 3:19, “What purpose then does the law serve?…before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore, the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” We are no longer under the law. The tutor has served its purpose. We have come to Christ.

No one can keep the law. The Law justifies no one. Even under the New Testament, we cannot hold the standards of the Sermon on the Mount. Though the Jews outwardly kept the commandment regarding adultery, Jesus said even a lustful look was equivalent to adultery. All the law can do is show us how far short we fall. It leads us to Christ where we must cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Paul said that if righteousness came by keeping the law, Christ died for nothing (see Galatians 2:21).

When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, Jesus affirmed him as a great teacher in Israel. However, Jesus did not say, “Nick, you just need you to try a little harder to keep the law.” He told Nicodemus that he had to be born again (see John 3:3–5). Although Nicodemus was “the teacher of Israel,” keeping the law was not enough. All the law can do is bring us to Christ.

About the law Paul wrote: “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:14-16 NKJV). Notice that we were not reconciled to God through keeping the Law (Torah), but through the cross.

The law can never make us acceptable to God. It can only point out our depravity. It points to our need for a Savior. Christ fulfilled that role. It is not a matter of whether or not you eat bacon, attend church on Saturday, or wear purple tassels on your robe (See Numbers 15:38 NKJV), it is a question of being born again.

Jesus told Nicodemus that if he was not born again from above, he could not enter, he could not even see the kingdom of God. Have you been born again, or are you trying to make yourself acceptable by your own efforts of keeping the Law? Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

Get a copy of these devotionals in my Collections below.

Embracing Faith, Vol. 1

Embracing Faith, Vol. 2

FREEDOM IN CHRIST

Not long ago the sound of fireworks started splitting the air. At all hours of the day and night you can hear fire crackers and rockets. It reminds us that Independence Day is coming soon. We will celebrate two-hundred and forty-two years of Independence. Many of our ancestors came to this country because they wanted to experience freedom to worship God the way they felt led. They wanted to break away from the forced religious practices of Europe only to establish colonies that were just as religiously oppressive and legalistic as in Europe. Although free from European religion, their colonies were not free. You were free to worship if it fit within the religious framework of that colony.

Christ brought freedom from the religious legalism of the Pharisees of His day. His was the sacrifice that did away with the sacrificial system of the Torah. Galatians is the Apostle Paul’s treatise against the Judaizers who followed him and wanted the Gentile Christians to follow all the Mosaic law before becoming Christians. Paul preached freedom in Christ. Speaking to the Galatians who had been “bewitched” (3:1) by the Judaizers, he wrote, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). That yoke of bondage referred to the covenant of Mount Sinai in Galatians 4:21-31.

Today there is a movement of Judaizing among Christians. A website I have seen recently is New2Torah.com. They teach that real Christians are discovering and returning to the Torah and becoming better Christians. Referring to the rite of circumcision that the Judaizers wanted to impose upon Gentiles, Paul wrote, “For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law” (5:3). If anyone wants to keep a part of the Law, Paul says he or she is obligated to keep all the law. “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). The Jews couldn’t keep the Torah. Neither can Christians.

No one can keep all the Torah. You cannot pick and choose what parts you want to keep such as Sabbath worship or dietary laws. To keep the Torah, you must keep the required sacrifices of the Torah. Take this passage referring to making a sacrifice to God in Leviticus 3:1-2 from the Torah: “And if his oblation be a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offer it of the herd; whether it be a male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord (Yahweh). And he shall lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about.” Aaron is no longer alive, and if you tried to perform this today you would be arrested for cruelty to animals. What’s more, there is no place to offer such a sacrifice as the Roman Army destroyed the Temple in AD 70. Further, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). There is no forgiveness in the sacrificial system, only a reminder of sin (Hebrews 10:3).

Hebrews 10:1, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason, it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” The substance is of Christ (Colossians 2:17).

The problem with Judaizers like those of New2Torah is that they accuse of lawlessness anyone who does not fall back into their system. That is a false dichotomy. Being free from the law does not mean freedom to sin as Judaizers misinterpret it. Paul dealt with this charge as well. He recognized that Christians are no longer under the law, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:15). Peter echoed in 1 Peter 1:16, “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.”

Galatians 3:10-12a, “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 to do them.’ But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.  And the law is not of faith’” If you go back to the Law, you are cursed. The purpose of the law was to point to the need of a Savior. No one can keep the Torah. The law is like a mirror that a person looks into and sees himself or herself. (James 1:22-25) The perfect law of the Spirit gives freedom, but the letter of the law kills. (He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6) Paul also wrote, “If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”(Galatians 2:21).

For more about the Hebrew Roots movement, see: https://www.watchman.org/staff/jwalker/ProfileHebrewRoots.pdf

 

ONLY TWO RELIGIONS—Part 2

Having gone back and reviewed my article from several years ago, I realized that I had focused on only one part of the three distinctions between the two religions. To refresh your memory, I wrote all religions fall into one of two categories. All religions except biblical Christianity hold these three teachings: 1) Jesus Christ is not God in the flesh, 2) adherents must do some type of works to be saved, 3) the Bible alone is insufficient for salvation. In that article I focused more on religions that had added books and other writings, from the Quran, to the Book of Mormon, and the Watchtower. You can review that post on mikemcg58.wordpress.com/2009/08/. Or you can purchase my books and find it there.

Today I want to focus on the second part. What types of works must we do to be saved? Acts 16 tells the story of Paul and Silas in Philippi. They found themselves in jail after having been beaten for casting a demon out of a slave girl. While they were singing praises to God at midnight, an earthquake came and released them from their chains. The prison doors swung open. They were free to go. The Gentile jailer knew if they all left, he would be put to death. Paul called out for him not to hurt himself. The jailer brought in a light and fell trembling at their feet asking, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Notice their answer. They did NOT say, “First of all, you have to be circumcised. Then you have to go to church on Saturdays. You have to keep all the Jewish laws, special feasts, and dietary restrictions. You have to wear purple tassels on your clothing. In fact, you have to become Jewish first.” They actually said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). It is quite simple really.

Adding all those rules is a human-made religion. This controversy caused the first Church Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15. The question of how Gentiles were to be saved caused a division in the church after the conversion of Cornelius, an Italian Centurion. Peter explained what had happened in Acts 10. Then he said, “Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they” (Acts 15:10-11).

This was called Judaizing. Dictionary.com defines Judaizing as “to bring into conformity with Judaism.” Such people followed the Apostle Paul around causing all kinds of problems for him. They demanded that the Gentiles first be circumcised before being accepted. Here is what Paul wrote in Galatians 3:10-12, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” In Philippians 3:2, he called circumcision “the mutilation” (NKJV).

Notice what Paul wrote. Those who try to keep the law are under a curse. You are cursed if you do not keep all the law. I know of no one who still wears purple tassels on their clothing. (See Numbers 15:37-38. This was a commandment to be throughout their generations.) I know of no group who keeps the Sabbath by working six days a week. No, they all take a two-day weekend. Only Orthodox Jews wear Phylacteries on their forearms and foreheads in conformity with Exodus 13:9, 16 (See Matthew 23:5).

Galatians 2:21 says, “for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” He later wrote in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Christians are to live a life of freedom, not under the burdens of Judaism, but Paul further warned in Galatians 5:13, “But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh.”

Read more about this in my books inked below

Embracing Faith Vol. 1

Embracing Faith Vol. 2