Jude: “Introduction”

Welcome to Jude!

Below is helpful information I found in Fee and Stuarts Book, “How to Read the Bible Book by Book:“

Orienting Data for Jude

Content: a pastoral letter of exhortation, full of strong warning against some false teachers who have “secretly slipped in” among them

Author: Jude, who modestly describes himself as “the brother of James” (thus of Jesus), but does not consider himself an apostle (v. 17)

Date: unknown; probably later in the first Christian century (aftera.d. 70), since the apostolic “faith” seems to be well in place (vv. 3, 17)

Recipients: unknown; probably a single congregation of predominantly Jewish Christians somewhere in Palestine who were well acquainted with both the Old Testament and Jewish apocalyptic literature

Occasion: the threat posed by some itinerants who have turned grace into license and who have “wormed their way in” (NEB) to the church

Emphases: the certain judgment on those who live carelessly and teach others to do so; the importance of holy living; God’s love for and preservation of his faithful ones


Overview of Jude

Jude begins and ends on the note of God’s call and preservation of his people (vv. 1–2; 24–25). The body of the letter is in two parts: Verses 3–19 warn against the false teachers; verses 20–23offer exhortations to perseverance and advice on how to help those who have been influenced by the false teachers.

The warning against the false teachers is sandwiched between descriptions of their ungodly behavior (vv. 3–4, 17–19). The meat of the sandwich (vv. 5–16) is a midrash (a kind of Jewish commentary) on some Old Testament and Jewish apocalyptic passages similar to 2 Peter 2, which offer precedents both as to the lifestyle of and God’s sure judgment on the false teachers.


Specific Advice for Reading Jude

You can hardly miss the fact that the false teachers are the crucial matter. Fortunately, enough is said about them that we can piece together a picture of sorts. They have been accepted within the community as Christians (v. 4) and participate in their love feasts (v. 12). Very likely they are itinerant “prophets” (well known to us from other early Christian sources like the Didache), described as dreamers (v. 8) who in fact “follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit” (v. 19).

Their teaching appears to be some form of libertinism: They have perverted “the grace of our God into a license for immorality” (v. 4) and follow their own evil desires (vv. 16, 18) like “unreasoning animals” (v. 10). That they “pollute their own bodies” in the “very same way” as Sodom and Gomorrah (“sexual immorality and perversion,” vv. 8, 7) probably points to at least one dimension of their license. They also “reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings” (v. 8, the latter is an indication of a Jewish Christian milieu with its reverence for angels), being “grumblers and faultfinders” (v. 16) who would divide the community (v. 19).

The fact that such people are destined by biblical decree to come under God’s judgment and Jude’s obvious concern for those who have been influenced by them (v. 23) indicate the seriousness of the problem.

Mark 2: “Roof Crashers”

As we begin today I want you to be aware that this reflection is inspired by the writing of John Ortberg in his book, “Everyone’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them.” John Ortberg is one of my favorite authors and I recommend any of his writing, especially my favorite book, “Love Beyond Reason.”

Alameda County Study:

A group of Harvard Social scientist conducted the most extensive research study on community a few years back. They tracked the lives of 7,000 people over nine years.

Researches found that the people who were in isolation were 3 times more likely to die then people who had strong relationships. People who had bad health habits such as: Smoking, poor eating habits, obesity, and alcohol, but had strong social ties, lived significantly longer than people who had great health habits but were isolated. If you think about it, it’s better to eat Twinkies with good friends then to eat broccoli alone. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take that scenario any day of the week.

Robert Putnam the Harvard researcher says that if you are not a member of a group but decide to become a member, you will cut your risk of dying in half.

An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported the results when 276 volunteers were infected with a virus that produces the effects of a common cold. The study showed that people who had strong emotional connections did 4 times better fighting off illness then those who were more isolated. These people were less susceptible to colds, had less virus, and produced significantly less mucous than isolated people. This means it’s true what they say, unfriendly people really are snottier.

Roof Crashers

There was a guy in the bible that had one of the best group of friends of all time. His relationships with four guys would be the envy of any close-knit groups. In fact, these four friends were the only thing this man had. We find his story in Mark 2

Mark 2:1-4 (NLT) When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home.Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. 

Picture this with me… Jesus is in the room teaching as many people as could fit in the room when suddenly mud, thatch, and straw starts dropping on their heads. Suddenly light starts to stream in from the ceiling and people begin to realize that there is a hole being ripped open through the roof. Then as people were sitting there looking up they notice a silhouette of something being lowered down. They must have wondered what it was, when they realized, it’s a person! Scripture indicates that Jesus was looking up at the hole in the ceiling as well.

Mark 2:5 (NLT) Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

If a bunch of guys ripping through a roof in order to lower a paralyzed man to Jesus isn’t amazing enough, if you’re not careful you’ll miss another amazing fact! This is the only story in the entire bible where it was the faith of others that healed someone else of their sin!

The four men knew the best place for their friend was at the feet of Jesus. They were willing to do whatever it took, even breaking open a roof, to get him there.

The Challenge Today

Our reflection of Mark 2 raises two important questions:
Who are you carrying? Who is carrying you?

Who are you carrying?
Are you the type of friend that would be willing to do anything to get your spiritually paralyzed friend to the feet of Jesus? Here’s the other challenge, when you get there and Jesus looks at you, will your faith be strong enough to heal your friend?

Who is carrying you?
The other portion of this story is recognizing that we all have a mat? Our mat’s all look different and come in all shapes and sizes, but at the end of the day, we not only need to carry another’s mat, but we need people who will be willing to care our own. Think about this question today, do you have have people in your life who are mat carriers for you when you need it; and more importantly, if Jesus saw their faith, would their faith heal you?

James 2: “The Fruit of Faith”

A few weeks ago while preaching I shared a story about a farmer in Northern Florida who planted an apple and orange next to each other on his farm. The moral of the story was that the apple tree enjoyed being an apple tree, while the orange tree didn’t want to be anything but an apple. The result? The orange tree became bitter and stop producing beautiful oranges. Instead because of the oranges bitterness and anger, the only thing the orange tree produced was bitterness and anger.

Reality check: We produce who/what we are!

This is exactly the point James is making here in the second half Chapter 2. James 2:14 (NLT) 14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 

Going further I love how James explains that what good is faith if it can’t clothe the naked or feed the hungry? It’s true! Faith is a wonderful and necessary thing, but faith should be the fuel for action.

Faith Like Fuel

Think of it like a machine. The machine is built to accomplish what it’s built for; faith is the fuel that makes the machine spring to life and start producing its product. Faith is not only necessary for salvation, but it should be like jet-fuel in dormant Christian body.

Picture a lawnmower with a gas can sitting next to it. Separately, the lawnmower is in perfectly working condition and the gas in the can won’t get any more gas. Now, the lawnmower won’t be effective at mowing a lawn until it’s filled with gas. But we can’t stop here with the analogy. In fact, the most important point James makes is what’s coming next.

So now we have the lawnmower filled with gas. This is great, but what good is a lawnmower filled with gas that just sits in the garage? (v. 17: So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.) Here’s the reality: A lawnmower filled with gas won’t cut a single blade of grass until it’s pulled out of the garage, started, and placed over the grass! The same is true in our Christian walk!

By My Good Deeds

A person by themselves has the opportunity to do what it was made for; but it’s not until their life is filled with the fuel of faith that they become a Christian. Going further, as James, Paul, and Jesus has said, you need to now put that faith in action! Get out of the garage, get over the grass, and start cutting… you know what I mean.

James 2:18 (NLT) Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

Basically, I will show you that I am filled with the fuel of faith by doing the things that God designed for me to do! James agrees when he give the example of Abraham’s faith in verse 22: You see, his (Abraham’s) faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.

For Today

Fruit in the Greek can be translated, well, “fruit,” but metaphorically it can be translated “results.” I’m advocating that our faith should produce the results (fruit) of good deeds. I’m also advocating where we started: We produce who/what we are!

Matthew 12:33 (NLT) “A tree is identified by its fruit (results). If a tree is good, its fruit (results) will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit (results) will be bad.

 

Hebrews 12: “Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of Faith”

Hebrews 12 for me contains one of my all-time favorite passages of scripture. I don’t know if it’s the creativity of connecting “running with weights on” to sin, or if it’s the image of “fixing our eyes on Jesus” who is the author and perfecter of faith, but this passage has always meant a ton to me. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of today’s reflection, there’s a principle I want to teach when you’re reading scripture.

The “Therefore” Principle 

Whenever you see the word “therefore,” you have to stop and ask, “what’s it there for?” In scripture you’ll see this word “therefore” used in multiple times in multiple settings, but the most important aspect of this word is the connection it make between passages and main points.

The author starts Hebrews 12 with the word “therefore” in order to connect Chapter 11 and 12 together. It’s important to connect our biblical heroes of faith (Chapter 11) to the author and perfecter of faith (Chapter 12). As we’ll read in Chapter 12, Chapter 11 is a who’s who of “such a great cloud of witnesses.”

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

When doing research for this reflection today I wanted to get a sense for the dynamic of writing a story. I looked up some different ideas and techniques in story writing that you could use to turn a blank page or screen into a literary masterpiece. Okay, so maybe not a literary masterpiece, but what I did learn is there is a parallel between the techniques writers use, and the similarities to allowing God to shape our story.

Techniques For Writing a Story

Pay Attention: Writers often find inspiration from looking at the environment around them. There is nothing in a writers environment that doesn’t have potential to be a story.

To You I Say: Pay attention to the work and calling God has for you in your life. Stop long enough to look around and take in the unfolding story of God in your life.

Listen: When you listen to people and really pay attention to what their saying, you can often hear a story coming to life.

To You I Say: Stop long enough to listen for God in your story and the story of others. Not only listen for his voice, but listen and obey. We see in John 17 (NIV) when Jesus was baptized that God said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”  

Think: Thinking is a valuable key to story writing. When you allow yourself to truly stretch the limits of your mind, you are able to take in more information than you thought even imaginable.

To You I Say: Scripture tells us something very profound about some of the things we are supposed to think about. Philippians 4:8 (NIV) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Paul indicates for us that “thinking” is as important as “doing” in the Christian Life. Paul tells us in Romans 12 that transformation is possible when our mind is renewed. Some of us need to get rid of our “stinkin’ thinkin’!”

Read a BookYou may not realize it, but one of the best inspirations to shaping your own story is to read someone else’s!

To You I Say: One book you all know you should be reading as a guide to your story is the Bible, God’s script he wrote for us. It’s not just a story, its history, or His-story. Its not just His story but our story. And it’s a story that has a beginning, middle, and end. There is no book on earth that has more power to shape, change, transform, guide, stimulate and encourage your story. Get into the habit of reading something everyday!

As we close, let these words from Paul resonate to us today.

Romans 15:4 (NIV) “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

 

 

Hebrew 11: “Faith Like a Radio Antenna”

Faith is central to all of life. For example, you go to a doctor whose name you cannot pronounce, and whose degrees you have never verified; he gives you a prescription you can’t read, and you take it to a pharmacist you’ve never met before; they give you a chemical compound you don’t understand; then you go home and take the pill according to the instructions on the bottle. Now that’s faith!

Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) 1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Now I know that many of us have heard and probably even have this verse memorized. You probably use this verse as a verse to defend a faith the many people don’t really understand; but I think if we’re being honest, we would say at some point in our faith journey we’ve heard, read, or even quoted this verse and said…Huh? What in the world did I just hear? Or, what in the world did I just say?

Where Does Faith Come From?
A logical question worth asking at this point is, where does faith come from? Now faith, when referenced in the bible is a totally different animal then we’re used to. The first big game changer when we’re talking about faith from the biblical perspective is that faith doesn’t come from us! We tend to think, look at how big MY faith is. The truth is, when we read scripture, we are reminded that faith doesn’t come from us; it comes from God. Romans 10:17 gets even more specific about where we can find a steady supply of faith.

Romans 10:17 (NLT) 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Faith comes from God

How does he communicate this faith to us?

By hearing the message

And where is his message heard?

Through the word of Christ?

 I know many people who walk around and say, “I wish I had more faith?” or even pray like the apostles in Luke, “Lord, increase my faith!” But there’s one problem, they don’t go to the source of God’s faith…his word!

This is like wanting to hear your favorite song, but you refuse to turn on the radio to hear it.

Faith Like a Radio Antenna

Speaking of radios, when I think of Hebrews 11:1 I immediately think of a radio antenna; don’t judge me.

Think about how radio antenna’s work: They transmit radio waves typically from a tall tower, across a considerable distance. Take for instance the radio tower at our sister school Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL. Standing as the tallest point on Olivet’s campus, the radio antenna transmits radio waves that reach as far north as Chicago, and as far West as Valparaiso, IN there frequency is 89.7 and it gets pumped out at 57,000 watts. Radio antennas are constantly putting out a message. Whether we are in our car, at home, or have satellite radio, but whatever we are using to hear the song has to be dialed in to the right frequency to hear the message.

If you’re driving in the car and you want to listen to Shine 89.7, but you tune your radio into 87.9, are you going to hear Shine 89.7? No! You may have the best intentions to listen to Shine, but if you aren’t dialed into the right frequency, guess what, you’re not going to hear the message.

The Point for Today

This is like putting your bible in a place to remind you to read it. You can put your bible on your night stand, your coffee table, kitchen table, passenger side of your car, in your book-bag… but if you don’t open it, you’re not going to hear the message!

God desires for you to tap into his unlimited well of faith, but in order to do that you need to “tune in” to the message and set your spiritual dial to the “frequency” of his word.

 

 

Colossians 2: “Rooted and Built Up”

It’s All About the Roots

I never cease to be amazed by the power and frailty of a garden weed. Just the other day I was weeding around the house and remembering how blown away my children were to see the shallowness of a weeds roots. They could see I was wearing a glove due to the razor sharp barbs on the leaves and stem, but couldn’t believe how quickly and effortlessly I was able to pull the weed from the ground. The look in their eyes said, surely something that nasty and large would dig in a little deeper to hold its ground!

Not one to try and miss a teachable moment, I turned their attention to a set of trees on the parkway in front of the house. I shared with them the amazing truth that the root system of a tree is twice as wide as the width of the branches we see above ground. I also shared in some cases the roots are as deep as the tree is tall! Their little 7 and 10 years old minds were swirling with visions of what they could possibly look like. I concluded our little lesson with helping them understand the difference between a weed and a tree, and how they handle adversity. Simply put, it’s all about the roots.

Colossians 2:6-7 (NLT) And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

Paul uses a couple of different metaphors in these verses that I want to break down, but if we stand back and look, we can find a progression that I believe is vitally important to our relationship with Jesus.

Accept  →  Follow (Walk with Him)  →  Root in Him  →  Build on Him  =  Strong in the Faith

Rooted

The first thing Paul calls for after accepting and following is to Let your roots grow down into him. Just as plants draw nourishment from the soil through their roots, Paul is urging believers to do the same in Christ. Have you ever seen a tree growing on a toxic waste dump? No! Because toxic waste doesn’t provide sustainable nutrients for the life of the tree. In that situation the Tree dies every time!  Paul’s word choice here is important because he’s indicating a present state based on a past action. A more accurate translation would be, “having been rooted.”

Built

Paul continues with his metaphor and indicates that the Colossians should have lives that are firmly built on the foundation of Christ alone. Like Paul’s word choice for “rooted,” “build on” describes a continuous action. It’s like if a person were a house, you would want to ensure the right material was used for the new addition. This is similar to the point Jesus makes in Matthew 7:24-25 (NLT) 24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 

Strong in the Faith

The third metaphor is actually borrowed from the legal term “established,” meaning to describe a binding contract. Paul not only desired the people would be built up, but that they would be established in order to stand up against the false teaching in that area. Just like many of the other city’s, the Colossians were dealing with an even scarier teaching, “Gnosticism.” Literally translated “having knowledge,” Gnostics believed that they can make/earn heaven based on their own power and understanding. This is a very rudimentary definition, but Paul will tackle the Gnostics many times through his letter. Example: Colossians 2:18-19 (NLT) 18 Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, 19 and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body.

So let’s check the strength of our roots today, after that, check your foundation; one last thing, test to see if you’re strong in the faith.

Romans 4: “Don’t Lose Hope”

Don’t Lose Hope

On an early morning during a torrential downpour in Tuscaloosa, AL Patrice Carter found herself driving in a raging river that had quickly covered the road ahead of her. Trying to reverse and drive the other direction, her small car was quickly picked up and pinned against the large center median of the road. The water rushed so quickly and violently all Patrice could do is climb to the top of her car and scream for help.

Luckily, off duty police officer and veteran search and rescue member Mike Stanton happen to look down from an overpass to find Patrice standing on her car screaming for help. Mike immediately rushed into action as he noticed the water level getting higher and higher. He can remember thinking to himself, “If I don’t get to her soon, the water’s going to sweep her off that roof and away!”

In the process of making his way to the river bank, Officer Stanton called for the local fire department to his location and notified them of Patrice’s situation. Patrice was frantically yelling for Officer Stanton to help her, but Mike knew the best thing at this point was to try and keep Patrice calm and tell her help is on the way.

As the firefighters and paramedics showed up, the water level was dangerously high now and about to swallow the car. Because of the noise of the rushing water, Officer Santon had to keep yelling for Patrice to hear his instructions. Just as they were making their first attempt to get a line across the street, Patrice slipped and was now lying on top of the roof of her car holding on for dear life. Officer Stanton kept yelling for Patrice to get up at least to her knees because he knew she wouldn’t be able to hold herself for long against the waves.

Reverting back to his training, Mike Stanton knew he had to give Patrice the one thing that could save her life, hope. Mike began to yell to Patrice, “Don’t lose hope!” “Don’t lose hope! He could see from Patrice’s reaction that the motivation of not loosing hope was helping Patrice, so he kept yelling it, “Don’t lose hope!” At one point, Patrice was able to get back up on her knees to give her arms a much needed break from holding on. It didn’t last long as Patrice then was quickly knocked back down by the violent waters.

The line was secured and the rescue workers, including Officer Mike Stanton, were in position, now all they needed was for Patrice to let go of the car and float into the rescue line that was meant to catch her. After much convincing, Officer Stanton convinced Patrice to let go of the only thing keeping her alive and float into the rescue line. The last thing Officer Santon said to Patrice as she let go of the car was simply, “Don’t lose hope, they got you.”

Patrice let go and was caught by the rescue line and led back to safety by a rescue swimmer. The first thing she wanted to do was thank the man who helped keep her alive. Officer Stanton rushed over to see that Patrice was okay and the two of them hugged in exhaustion. While Patrice was being checked over by the Paramedics on the scene she talked with Mike.

“You kept yelling to me, ‘Don’t lose hope!'”

To which Mike responded, “Well, hope is a powerful thing.”

Just at that point, after her mom didn’t come home from her night shift job, Patrice’s daughter ran over and gave her mom a huge hug thanking her and God that she was alright. Patrice said to her daughter, “I want you to meet someone who helped keep me alive today.”

“Officer Stanton I want you to meet my daughter, Hope.”

Hope is a Powerful Thing

Because Paul was still fighting the battle between the Way of Faith verses the Way of the Law, it was important for Paul to give an example of a Jewish believer who was saved by faith. The summary statement of Chapter 4 is found in verse 3 (NLT) For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

Then Paul goes into detail regarding the faith that Abraham showed even in the midst of desperation. There’s a line in verse 18 that I want us to conclude with today. Romans 4:18 (NLT) 18 Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping. I put a note in my bible when I read this before that puts it this way.

Even when there was no reason for hope, (insert name here) kept hoping.

I want you to finish today by reading verses 20-22 but I want you to replace Abraham’s name with yours. You can make him/her interchangeable as well.

 

Galatians 5: “Mutilate? No! Worse!”

 

Galatians 5:12 (NLT) 12 I just wish that those troublemakers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves.

(Insert record scratch sound effect)

Wait, did Paul just say what I think he said? Did he really just wish the people who’ve been preaching circumcision would mutilate themselves? Have I been so focused on the Fruits of the Spirit in verses 22-23 that I completely missed Paul’s comment here? Looks like it!

Mutilate? No! Worse! 

Let’s start off first by clearing up exactly what Paul said. So for some context, you have to know that Paul has spent a significant amount of time arguing that circumcision is powerless to save anyone. He also tries to convey that the people who are teaching this heresy don’t understand the first thing about grace and faith.

If you want to get more clarity about what Paul actually said, you have dig a little deeper into Paul’s phrasing here. The word the NLT translates “mutilate” is actually the Greek word “apokoptō” (ἀποκόπτω), which means “to cut off.” As strange as this sounds, Paul is not advocating circumcision here, he’s actually advocating castration! Just when you thought it couldn’t get any weirder. If you’re fearful there’s no point to this reflection, just skip down to verses 22-23 and read about the Fruits of the Sprit. But if you’re like me and you could stand to learn more about this passage and it’s author, keep reading.

Introducing Cybele: The Mother Goddess of the Earth

Remember, Paul is arguing with a group of false teachers. These teachers were all about sensationalism. They loved the spotlight and buzz, so imagine if every male in the Galatian Church decided to be circumcised! So Paul, knowing the M.O of these false teachers decides to call them out and compare them to a group of radical priests common to that area. Being the master of sarcasm, Paul says, shoot, if they really want a sensational ceremony, why don’t they take it a step further and completely castrate themselves like the Galli! 

(Again, insert record scratch sound effect here…)

Scholars agree that Paul is probably referencing the actual brutal ritual that would commonly be found in the pagan temples around Galatia. Let me introduce you to Cybele, the mother goddess of the earth and her priests (Galli). I won’t go into detail, but lets just say Cybele’s priests would make a mean castrati quartet. These false teachers were trying to sensationalize the idea that Galatian Christians needed to participate in a sacred act, like circumcision, in order to be drawn into closer fellowship with God. But remember what Paul already said in verse 6, For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. Paul again is clear, no ritual has the power to invoke faith expressing itself in love.

If we cheat and look ahead to tomorrows reading we will see Paul calling out the true motives of the false teachers. Galatians 6:12-13 (NLT) 12 Those who are trying to force you to be circumcised want to look good to others. They don’t want to be persecuted for teaching that the cross of Christ alone can save. 13 And even those who advocate circumcision don’t keep the whole law themselves. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast about it and claim you as their disciples.

The comparison Paul makes between the false teacher and the Galli priest would have resonated not only with the Galatian Christians, but also the false teachers! They would have been mortified by Paul’s boldness!

Who/What are Your False Teachers?

You may not be confronted today with the proposition of circumcision, but you need to ask yourself, what are you confronted with today? Who/What are the false teachers in your life that are trying to convince you to compromise your standard? Paul understood that the only thing the false teachers were looking for were trophies; question is, who’s trophy are you?

Galatians 4: “God Took Our Head Out”

Galatians 4:4-7 (NLT) But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.

I included more of the passage for context, but the point for today can be made directly from verse 5. As we discussed Saturday, we serve a mighty and powerful God who although can’t have anything to do with sin, loved us enough to send his one and only son to die on our behalf. This particular passage, especially verse 5 is a great example and representation of being justified, regenerated, and adopted by faith. Being a Nazarene pastor it brought to mind Article 9 from our denominations Manual.


 IX. Justification, Regeneration, and Adoption (From the Manual 2013-2017)

9 We believe that justification is the gracious and judicial act of God by which He grants full pardon of all guilt and complete release from the penalty of sins committed, and acceptance as righteous, to all who believe on Jesus Christ and receive Him as Lord and Savior.

9.1 We believe that regeneration, or the new birth, is that gracious work of God whereby the moral nature of the repentant believer is spiritually quickened and given a distinctively spiritual life, capable of faith, love, and obedience.

9.2 We believe that adoption is that gracious act of God by which the justified and regenerated believer is constituted a son of God.

9.3 We believe that justification, regeneration, and adoption are simultaneous in the experience of seekers after God and are obtained upon the condition of faith, preceded by repentance; and that to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness.


Paul often uses the imagery of slavery to describe our life before Christ. He also uses it to explain our life after salvation, but that’s for another time. Here in verse 5, Paul indicates that before Christ we were slaves to the law, but we could experience freedom because Jesus would buy our freedom.

God Took Our Head Out

Eugene Nida, former American Bible Society Executive Secretary for Translations, told this story in his 1952 book “God’s Word in Man’s Language”.

“How do you say ‘God redeemed us’ so that your Bambara people can understand?” the missionary asked.

“We say ‘God took our heads out,’” replied the missionary’s Mali, West African translation helper.

He then explained about the long lines of men and women wearily walking to the coast, each with a heavy iron collar around his neck and with a chain leading from one slave to another.

Sometimes as a line of condemned slaves went through a village, a local chief or king might see a friend being led away and would want to keep him from slavery. The chief or king would have to pay the Arab slave traders enough gold, silver, brass, or ivory to redeem the friend, and then the chief or king would literally “take his head out of the iron collar.”

Nida then said, “And so today Bambara evangelists explain to the huddled bands around the evening village fire that God saw us in slavery to sin and self, being driven under the lash of Satan, and so He sent His Son to die that men might live. He redeemed us. Literally, ‘He took our heads out.’

“‘And furthermore,’ the evangelists explain, ‘just as in ancient times a redeemed slave felt an obligation to serve for a lifetime the one who had redeemed him, so we may be the voluntary slaves of Jesus Christ.’”

 

1 Thess. 1: “Ringing Out from You”

Introduction

Welcome to 1 Thessalonians! The year is A.D. 51. Writing from Corinth, Paul sits down with both Silas and Timothy to write a note of encouragement and explanation to the people of Thessalonica. The encouragement part was to spur on the church and the Thessalonian Christians to keep being the Godly example their reputation suggested. The explanation portion of the letter is to address the many questions brought up by the young believers in the church.

So you have some context, it was in Thessalonica that Paul and Silas found refuge after their experience in Philippi… you know, the place where they were beaten and thrown in prison? Again, to help with context, the first eleven verses of Acts 17 take place while they were in Thessalonica.

Because Paul didn’t spend a ton of time with the Thessalonians he was fearful they didn’t understand how to teach the next generation. Paul was partially correct, but also pleasantly surprised when Timothy came back reporting all the church had accomplished since his departure.

Faith, Hope, and Love

You can learn a lot about a church from the opening of Paul’s letters. He typically brings greeting, thanking God for the believers, and a word of encouragement. In 1 Thessalonians 1 we find out what Paul thinks about the church while he prays for them: Continue reading 1 Thess. 1: “Ringing Out from You”