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Boasting Only In the Cross

January 28, 2018 Speaker: Reid Strahan Series: Freedom in Christ - The Book of Galatians

Topic: The Gospel Passage: Galatians 6:11–6:18

This passage is the grand finale to the message of grace that Paul proclaimed to the Galatians.  It is the exclamation mark on the whole book.  It is a passionate plea by Paul for these people, AND for you here today, to refuse ANY message that compromises the gospel of grace.  The complete package of salvation, comes to us through the cross of Christ.  And it cannot be achieved, but can only be received, as a pure gift.

The true gospel message is that Christ died for your sins!  And his death is ALL that is needed to save you and free you from your sins and make you right with God.  His death was more than enough to cover ALL of your sins, your big sins and little sins, your sins that other people know about and the ones nobody knows about but you, the sins you are keenly aware of and the ones you are not aware of.  He became a curse for you so that you would not be cursed for ANY of your sins!  

Simply by placing your faith in Christ, you are justified.  God declares you innocent, not guilty, and positively righteous.  His death for you on the cross is sufficient to give you immediate access to God and complete acceptance with God.  God’s arms are open wide to you because of what Christ did for you.  Christ completely canceled the debt of your sins, SO that you can be welcomed as the friend of God!  

What Christ has done for you is so complete and so perfect that there is not one thing you could add to it, to make it any more perfect!  The gospel comes fully loaded.  You don’t need to BUY any other options to enhance it or complete it.  The work of Christ is sufficient, perfect, and completely satisfies the demands of a holy God.  

The gospel is not only that we receive a complete and total pardon for our sins but that we receive the gift of God’s Spirit.  The cross SO COMPLETELY broke the barrier of sin, between you and God, that God himself, can come to live in you by his Spirit!  Galatians 3:14 Christ redeemed us SO THAT we might receive the promise of the Spirit!  And 4:6 “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts! The Holy Spirit IN you, is part of the gospel!

The true gospel is that we receive all of this as a pure gift, through faith alone.  This salvation is NOT gained by your works of keeping the Law of Moses or any laws or religious works!  Galatians 3:11 “It is obvious that no one is justified in the sight of God by the Law because the righteous will live by faith”.  We receive the riches of God NOT by working for them but receiving them as a gift!  Paul asked the Galatians, “Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law, or by believing the message about Jesus?”  It was by believing!  We live by believing and receiving!

BUT...There is a constant threat to this gospel!  That threat is ANY OTHER GOSPEL…that adds other works to the work of Christ, as a means of winning your salvation and acceptance with God.  So Paul starts off the book of Galatians with this ominous warning!   “Even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we have proclaimed to you, let that person be condemned!” (or cursed)   Here is a really serious warning from the book of Galatians for you: “Don’t let ANYBODY pull you away from the pure, gospel of Christ that Paul taught!”.

But there always have been and there are those today who distort the gospel and add to the gospel.  They will say you need Christ but you ALSO need to add something that will enhance your Christian experience, or to make you a complete Christian.  And just like in Paul’s day, the things they add are often something from the Law of Moses, or some other external rule of life.  And many well meaning and sincere Christians get deceived.  

That was happening with these believers in the churches of Galatia.  Paul said, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the GRACE of Christ, and instead are following a different gospel…. But Paul understood WHY this was happening and said, “Obviously, certain people are troubling you and trying to distort the gospel of Christ.”  At the time this letter was written, the issue was the Old Covenant rite of circumcision, which God gave to Abraham.  Teachers came to the Christians in these churches and said, you guys need to be circumcised too, and keep other things from the Law of Moses.

Paul saw that as a threat to the gospel!  Because it undermined the complete sufficiency of the work of Christ!  It communicated that something needs to be added to Christ, to enhance or complete your salvation.  

This was a subtle and clever temptation to place a PART of your trust in circumcision or in other things from the Law of Moses, INSTEAD of COMPLETE TRUST IN CHRIST ALONE.  That particular temptation may not pull at you at all.  But the devil WILL dangle something in front of you to divert you from complete, total and happy, trust in Christ alone.   He seeks to make you dissatisfied with the new and living way that Christ opened up for you to God.

Now let’s go to our passage at the end of Galatians.  Verse 11 of chapter 6, “Look at how large these letters are…. I am writing them with my own hand!” Paul usually dictated his letters to someone to write for him, but not here!   For emphasis, he is writing this himself, and he is writing in big letters.  He wants to make a lasting, powerful impression on these believers to NOT get pulled away from a simple and pure devotion to Christ.  He is pouring our his heart and soul to them.  He is pleading with them because he loves them and doesn’t want them to be deceived.  

What is his final argument to keep them from falling for this very subtle but dangerous error?  First, he exposes the real motives of these teachers.  Verse 12 “These people who want to impress others by their external appearance are trying to force (compel) you to be circumcised, simply to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ”.

These teachers pushing Jewish law for Christians have two motives.  First, “They want to impress others.”  The ESV says, “It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh”.  When teachers want you to add something to the pure gospel message, the motive is usually to boost your own spiritual impressiveness, to give you something additional to feel good about, to give you a badge of achievement, so to speak.   And if they can get you follow their spiritual recipe, so to speak, they can boast about the number of their followers.  Pride is always somewhere in the mix among false teachers.  

Paul says their second motivation is to avoid persecution.  At this time most of the persecution of believers came from the Jews, living under the Law of Moses.  They were enraged that anyone could think that they could be right with God, without keeping the whole Jewish Law.

They saw the message of salvation through Christ as a threat to their entire way of life.  That is why they tried to kill Paul.  That is why they persecuted Christians.  The other place that persecution came from was from believing Jews who staunchly believed that Gentiles must keep the Law of Moses.

So these teachers said, if you will keep at least some of the law, if you will go get circumcised and keep the Jewish Sabbaths and festivals and new moons, and observe certain days and months and years and seasons,  THEN we will avoid being persecuted!   If we can make Christianity, Christ plus circumcision, Christ plus the Law of Moses, then it won’t be so offensive to our persecutors.  And our lives will be in less danger.  So it was motivated by a love of safety more than a love of the pure good news of Christ.

Secondly he exposes the fallacy of their teaching.  Paul says in the next verse, “Why, not even those who ARE circumcised obey the law!” “I testify, that anyone who allows himself to be circumcised is obligated to obey the entire Law!”

Paul said if you insist on keeping one part of the Law, you are obligated to keep it all.  But nobody has ever done that except Jesus Christ!  So Paul said, Don’t be fooled, not even those who are circumcised are law keepers.  Being circumcised, or following a handful of Jewish observances, is NOT keeping the law of God.  You have to keep it ALL!  You have to keep EVERY last single command and custom and observance.  If you fail on keeping one thing you have totally failed!  “No one can be justified by the works of the law”.  

Verse 13 Paul comes back their motive, “They simply want you to be circumcised so that they can boast about your external appearance”.  People fall for a different gospel because there is something in it that makes them feel that they have something special, or that they are accomplishing something special, they feel that it enhances their spirituality and elevates them above others, gives them something to boast about in themselves.  They are keeping or practicing or doing certain things that other Christians are not and allowing that to fuel their spiritual pride.

But Paul cuts the legs out from under this kind of thinking and says, “But may I never boast about ANYTHING except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ….”  True Christianity and true spirituality, is placing your entire confidence, 100% in the cross of Christ and ONLY in the cross of Christ.  

Every blessing God has for you comes because of the cross, and what God did for you there.  Christ did ALL that was needed on the cross to save you completely and to make you right with God absolutely.  “But now (God) has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death, to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation...”. EVERYTHING you need all flows out of what he did for you on the cross.  

You are freed from your sins by the cross.  You receive the Spirit, because Christ redeemed you for that purpose, at the cross.  Satan was defeated at the cross.  All the problems of the entire universe, were dealt with at the cross.  Colossians 1 says, “Through Christ, God has reconciled all things to himself, whether things on earth or in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”.  

No wonder Paul says, “May I never boast about ANYTHING except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

What you boast about or glory in, is what you get excited about, what you emphasize, and talk about.  It is always true, that when people find some new teaching that ADDS something to the cross of Christ, then whatever is ADDED is what they talk about!!  But Paul says if we see all that happened for us in the atoning sacrifice of Christ, we will rejoice in that alone.

Here is a great life principle that will make all the difference in the world to you.  If you boast in Christ and all he did for you on the cross, and all he freed you from at the cross, it will make you a happy person!  If you look at your sin, and failure, and weakness, it will keep you discouraged or depressed.  BUT if you exult in your justification, your freedom from the dominion of sin, in the love of Christ shown for you at the cross, and all the other riches that belong to you, you will feel that you are a greatly blessed and happy person.

Then Paul adds “by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”.  If you have placed your faith and confidence in Jesus Christ, then you have (died to the world and been raised up) out of the world system, and into a different realm of living.  You are born INTO the kingdom of God, by the power of the Spirit.  You are still IN the world but you are not OF the world.  You are spiritually dead to this world’s system, and philosophy, and ways of doing things.  Death separates you from life.  So this verse means you have been separated from the world and the world separated from you.  You are done with the world and it is done with you.  You despise the world and the world despises you.

This is the way Luther saw it.  He said this means that I detest the doctrine, the self righteousness and the works of the world.  The world in turn detests my doctrine and condemns me as a revolutionary heretic”.  

Paul considered theses teachers who wanted to enforce the old Jewish law, as PART OF THE WORLD SYSTEM that opposed the true gospel.  The world seeks righteousness in externals!

Now that Christ has opened up a new a living way to God, and satisfied the demands of the law for us, to go back and live under a system of working for our salvation, is actually to be in bondage to the world system.  In Galatians 4:3 Paul said when we were children under the law “we were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world”.  But God sent Christ to redeem us from under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons”.     

Verse 15 “For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matters.  Rather, what matters is being a new creation”.  The emphasis on being circumcised or not, is a deadly diversion from what really matters!  There are so many issues, or practices, that really don’t matter to God, whether you do, or you don’t.  Because all that really matters is living as a new person in Christ.  To be born of God is what matters.  To live in the Spirit is what matters.  To be a new creation is what matters.

The amazing thing is that, as people born of God, walking in the Spirit we become people who please God and do things that fulfill the law!  What the law could not do for us, God did. Christ died and send his Spirit into our hearts so that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in those who walk according to the Spirit.  We don’t become lawless, people, but the Spirit expressing his fruit in our lives makes us people who please God.  

The ONE message that we want you to hear over and over is the message of the new life in Jesus Christ and for you to know him and his power and grace and love and to be satisfied with him.  You being a new creation and walking as a new creation is what matters!  Everything else you need to do, will flow out of that.

Verse 16 “And for all who live by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God”.  Paul is pronouncing a blessing of peace and mercy upon all who genuinely believe in Christ, Jew or Gentile.  Peace and mercy be upon, NOT those who live by external rules, but on those who live by the RULE of faith in the cross of Christ and by the rule of the new life planted within them by the Spirit of God.  

If you are a new creation, God’s peace and mercy is always upon you, everywhere you go, for the rest of your life.

Verse 17 “From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus”.  Paul had permanent scars on his body that came from preaching Christ in such a way that he was physically beaten by his persecutors.  The false teachers did not have scars on their bodies, because they removed the offense of the message by adding the Jewish Law, to the message of the cross.  But Paul says my scars vindicate my message.  Just as Jesus’ body was marred and scared, so is my body.  I’ve been treated like Jesus, because I am preaching the true message of Jesus.

Then Verse 18 is the  “The GRACE of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers.  Amen.”  This letter began with Paul’s concern that “you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel”.  At the end of the book Paul’s focus is still on the grace of Christ.

Paul does not say, the law or laws be with you.  The law cannot love you, the law did not die for you.  You need a person to be with you.  You need the grace of Jesus Christ deep down in your spirit.   

Grace is the very heart of Christ.  It is unmerited favor, but it is more than that.  It is that never ending fountain of riches that Christ has for you.  It is the generosity of Christ, who gave himself for you and continues to give himself to you by his presence, in the Holy Spirit.

The ending to this letter is a prayer, a desire, that you would experience the grace of Jesus Christ in your spirit, that you would know the magnificent, abounding generosity of Christ, that you would experience the lavish gift of his presence in you.

Do you know him in your spirit?  Do you know this grace of Christ in your spirit?  In your innermost being, are you blessed and nourished by the grace of Christ?   Today, right here, this morning may you receive the grace of Christ in your spirit.  

If your spirit is troubled by still trying to climb up a ladder to God, if your spirit is not free, and happy in the Lord, then you need to be refreshed by his grace this morning.  Hebrews 13:9 “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.  It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so”.  IE don’t turn to something other than grace to build up your heart.  Let your heart be fed and fueled by the unfathomable grace of Jesus Christ.  

What an incredible blessing this is for your spirit!  Jesus Christ is to be to you a never ending fountain of grace.  Will you not partake of this?  If you know Christ this way in your spirit, this will safeguard you from turning to the Law, or laws, or steps or external works to build up your spirituality.  People turn to legalism when something is lacking in their experience of Christ.  Be happy and satisfied in Christ!

“Brothers and sisters, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.  Amen.”

More in Freedom in Christ - The Book of Galatians

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January 14, 2018

Bear One Another's Burdens

November 27, 2017

Walk By the Spirit Part 2

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