Tutor

Galatians 3:24
“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

The law Paul refers to is what is commonly known as the Ten Commandments. This law is distinct from all other laws in its source and in its purpose. We are surrounded by laws written by men and designed to be kept. The Law of God was written by the hand of God; its purpose, to reveal that we are incapable of living up to His standard of righteousness. When confronted with the Gospel, many will claim they are good people, trying to honor God by keeping the commandments. Anyone who makes that statement, completely misunderstands the commands of God. Let’s take a look at a few of them and see how we measure up.

Exodus 20:3
“You shall have no other gods before Me.”

God demands first place in our lives. If anything ranks higher in your life than God, and seeking to please Him, you are guilty of breaking the first commandment. Jesus elaborated on this commandment saying, we must love God with ALL of our heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:37). That is a tall order, isn’t it? It requires that we ask ourselves, “Is there is anyone or anything more important to us than living to please God?” If we are involved in an ungodly relationship, or ungodly practices within a relationship, we are guilty of breaking the very first commandment. That should be enough to prove to any honest person, they are not keeping the commandments of God. However, for the sake of argument, let’s look at one more.

Exodus 20:15
You shall not steal.”

Stealing is defined as taking something that does not belong to you without the permission of the owner. Stealing is not determined by the value of the item taken, but rather to whom the item belongs. The first recorded act of stealing is found in Genesis chapter three, when Eve took a bite of a piece of fruit that did not belong to her. God took that action very seriously. He did not wink at it, suggesting it was only a little sin that did not matter much. Her act of taking what did not belong to her, and her husband following suit, resulted in their banishment from the garden and sin entering the world.

Clearly, none of us are living up to the commandments of God. If that is true, why then, did God write them? Most laws are written to be observed. When I was a school teacher, I had a list of standards written on the wall of my classroom. Every student could look and understand clearly what was expected of them while in my room. God gave His list of standards to show us we are not capable of meeting them, and each of us is in need of a savior. Like a tutor who sits beside a student to help them understand a concept, the law speaks to each of us, explaining that we cannot save ourselves. No work we have ever done can erase the sins we have committed. We must cry out to the One who saves.  Paul wrote, “the Law was a tutor to bring us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” It is when we recognize, we are sinners and Christ is the Savior, that we will cry out to Him to rescue us. Paul went on to say,

Galatians 3:26
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

When we put our trust in the Savior, all of our sins are forgiven and we become the children of God. Instead of pretending we are good enough, it is time to honestly evaluate ourselves in light of the standard of God. Then we must cry out for Him to forgive us of our sins and and make us His children.

Pastor Jim

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When Nothing Happens

Ecclesiastes 8:11
“Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”

Something sinister happens to us when we sin and do not receive an immediate consequence. We begin to think God is OK with our behavior, even though the Bible clearly teaches it is wrong. When we are not struck by lightning or swallowed by a whale, we think we have gotten away with our sin, and can keep on with it, without consequences. If that is the case, we have forgotten the very nature of how sin works. Paul wrote,

Galatians 6:7-8
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

Paul uses the illustration of farming to teach us to make proper investments in our lives. The farmer teaches us at least three things about sowing.

First, we will reap what we sow. If a farmer plants corn seed, he expects to harvest corn. If he plants wheat, then wheat; rice, then rice. The concept is simple, whatever is planted will be harvested. The same is true of our lives. If we make investments into our relationship with the Lord, we will harvest eternal life. Eternal life is not something that begins after we die, but at the moment we receive Christ. Jesus expanded on this idea when He promised His followers would have abundant life. Each time we choose to make spiritual investments, we will ultimately reap spiritual rewards. On the other hand, if we sow to sin, we will reap corruption. Corruption is a process of decay that makes things worse. When metal is corrupted it becomes weak and brittle. The same is true of our lives.

Second, we will reap after we sow. We expect immediate return on our investments. We microwave our food, have our friends on speed dial, and pay for the highest speed Internet connections available. However, sowing and reaping are not always like that. Just as the farmer expects a time gap between sowing his seed and reaping his harvest, so we should expect a delay. Although it may not seem like there are consequences to our sin, they will, in fact, come. Just because we have not been chastened by the Lord, does not mean he approves of our sin.

Finally, we will reap more than we sow. A handful of seed will produce a truck full of fruit, come harvest time. This is very encouraging when we consider the investments we make in the kingdom of God. What might seem like a small investment to us, may in truth, yield great fruit for the kingdom. On the other hand, this should be very frightening when it comes to sin. What we might think of as just a little sin, may in fact, create a massive storm, and devastate our family.

If you are misbehaving and think everything is OK because you have not been caught, take Solomon’s words to heart. Sit before the Lord, confess your sin and ask for His strength to turn from it. On the other hand, if you are discouraged because you have been doing right and do not see the benefits, keep in mind, the harvest will come and it will be great.

Pastor Jim

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Break Down

Galatians 2:18
“For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.”

Many different metaphors are used in the Bible to describe what happens when a person receives Jesus Christ. We are born again, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, made alive, and much more. Each of these is designed to reveal different aspects of salvation. Being born again speaks of our new lease on life, being forgiven asserts that nothing from our past will ever be held against us, and being made alive points out the fact that salvation is a super natural work of God which cannot take place without the Holy Spirit.

There is another very important aspect of Salvation that Paul alludes in this verse. When we believe in Christ, we are set free from the sin that once held us captive. Like Israel under the Egyptian yoke, we were held captive by sin until Christ set us free. What our resolve could never accomplish, Christ did through the cross. The moment we believed there was a freeing from many of the sins that gripped us and held us captive. Paul now warns of the danger of becoming bound again to the very sins we escaped.

Galatians 2:18
“For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.”

One of the great mistakes many Christians make, is to think they can outgrow the temptation of sin. We only need to scan the pages of Scripture to find that great, godly and mature men fell into sin when they built again that which had been destroyed. Let’s be careful not to open doors in our lives that should be closed up tight, or to walk down paths that will cause us to fall.

Pastor Jim

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You Can’t Take It With You

Ecclesiastes 5:15
“As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, To go as he came; And he shall take nothing from his labor Which he may carry away in his hand.”

Back in the eighties, it was common to see bumper stickers on expensive cars that read, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” The sentiment was simple, life is about acquiring more, and happiness is found in the abundance of wealth. That might be a catchy saying, but the reality is, the only thing we win by accumulating more, is more. The Bible declares there is much more to life than the things we acquire. Solomon declared,

“As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return”

Years ago, a nearby museum was displaying the remains of King Tut. People everywhere, traveled to see the great wealth buried with this dead ruler. He was buried along with much wealth in order that he would have plenty when he stepped from time into eternity. The folly of such thinking should have been settled forever by the fact that his tomb was still filled with all that loot. The simple fact is, no matter how much wealth we attain in this life, we cannot take it with us. It would be utter folly to see a hearse pulling a trailer full of goods. While we cannot take earthly riches with us, we certainly can send spiritual treasures on ahead. Jesus encourages us to “store up treasures in heaven.”

Instead of living only to provide for needs while on earth, we should be living to prepare for our time in eternity. First step, receive Christ as Savior. Next step, seek to live for the things that matter most to Him.

Pastor Jim

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The World

Galatians 1:4 “Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father”

We spend a lot of time, effort and energy seeking to determine the will of God for our lives. Right now, many of us are facing circumstances where we are not sure exactly what God wants us to do. Should I go ahead with Plan A or is it time to implement Plan B? Should I take the new job, or wait this one out a little longer? Should we let the kids do this, or is it best to wait till they are a little older? Needless to say, we are plagued with questions that we need the will of God to answer. While this text does not address those questions specifically, it does give us some keen insight into the will of God for our lives. Paul associates the will of God to giving His Son and delivering us from evil.

The Bible has much to say regarding God’s relationship to the world. We are told, because of sin, the inhabitants of the world live separated from God and will die separated from Him. We also read, the love of God moved Him to send His Son to redeem us from the curse of sin, making it possible for us to have eternal life. As we walk through the Gospel stories, we find that Jesus was the friend of sinners. It is common to find Him talking, walking and eating with sinners in order to draw them out of sin and into relationship with God. We can conclude, whatever the will of God is for our lives right now, it is wrapped up in a desire to use us to declare the Gospel message to the lost. Your current circumstances are divinely ordained to reach others for the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Bible also has much to say about our relationship with the world. This verse reminds us, it is the will of God that we be delivered from this present evil age. The word delivered means to be rescued. Jesus died to set us free from sin. It is always sad when we see a brother or sister in Christ, tangled up in sin. Paul had a friend named Demas who once served Christ along-side him but later left, because he fell in love with the world again. Sadly, Demas is not an isolated case. Many who begin to follow Christ, stumble along the way, getting tangled up in sin. Paul reminds us that it is the will of God for us to be set free from sin. Sometimes, we are drawn away from the Lord because of perspective. We look at sin as something harmless and enjoyable, while God declares that it is evil. Rather than looking at sin the way it is portrayed on the TV screen, we should look at it as it is described in the Word of God.

As you seek to determine what God wants you to do today, remember that He loves the world and hates sin. He desires to keep you from sin and use you to lead others to Christ.

Pastor Jim

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Like Animals

Ecclesiastes 3:18
“I said in my heart, ‘Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.’”

Webster’s dictionary defines science as “the accumulation of knowledge”; particularly the knowledge gathered through the scientific method, which involves observation and experimentation. In that regard, Solomon was a scientist of the highest quality. He spent much of his life in the pursuit of knowledge through both observation and experimentation. He was a student of many fields of science, but perhaps more than anything else, he studied human behavior. Watching the way fallen men and women behaved, caused him to come to the conclusion that humans are nothing more than highly evolved animals. Solomon’s conclusions were impacted by the lab he used for his experiments. Over and over he used the phrase, “under the sun” which meant he was looking at things through the eyes of the natural, without any regard to the person, work or Word of God.

When we remove God and His ways from the equation, it is probable we will consider man to be little different from other mammals. Men who give no regard to the ways of God, are driven by their appetites; when hungry they eat, tired they sleep, thirsty they drink, angry they fight, and on and on the list goes to include any emotional drive that wells up within us. Jesus declared, when a person believes in Him, he becomes born again and is given an entirely new nature. Instead of being driven by his natural impulses, he can be controlled by the Spirit of God.

The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, suggested true freedom is found when an individual chooses not to be controlled by his natural impulses, but voluntarily places himself under a system of ethics outside of himself. Without saying it, he was echoing the words of Paul the Apostle, who said, “if we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” Galatian 5:16

The Bible declares, God created man in His image, but through sin we have taken a downward fall resulting in our become more and more animalistic in our behaviors. Fortunately, God provides a cure for the fall. When any person trusts Christ for salvation, the Bible declares he is born again with a brand new nature that reveals itself by a desire to do that which is pleasing to God.

Pastor Jim

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Exams

2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?”

This verse carries two vital commands. First, we are told to examine ourselves, then we are told to test ourselves. Both carry the idea of looking at our lives in the light of the Word of God to determine whether or not we are truly saved. Not all exams are of equal importance, but this is a test we must not avoid, or fail. What is at stake here is not a low-grade in class, or the possibility of summer school, but where we will spend eternity.

“Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?”

The first question on the test is whether or not you have received Christ. John wrote, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, . . .” (John 1 :12) He went on to explain that we receive Him when we believe. It is vital to ask yourself: have you recognized you are a sinner, that your sins have eternally separated you from God, and there is no effort that can be made on your part to remove those sins? Then we must realize, Jesus Christ went to the cross in order to provide a way for sin to be forgiven and removed. If you will look to the cross, confess your sin, and believe Jesus died for you, then Christ is in you.

“You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” James 2:19

Paul wrote to people who believed they were saved. Perhaps many of them went forward, responding to an altar call, or prayed with a prayer team member after one of his messages. Some of those who prayed may have gone out the doors and right back into the sin-filled lifestyles they had been living. They may have placed their confidence for eternity in a raised hand or a walk forward. James reminds us there is a faith that saves and a faith that does not save. Paul put it like this,

“ . . .that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

Believing with the heart is more than making a one time confession; it involves the surrender of a life to Jesus. Heart believing is ‘trust in and reliance upon’. The person who has truly believed on Jesus, is the person who is walking after Him and being changed by Him. “By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” 1John 2:5b-6

Another important part of this exam is to look at your life before and after you made a decision to follow Jesus. How has it changed? John spoke of two very important changes that will take place in a person who is truly saved. First, he spoke of us “walking in the light.” Darkness and light are often used in the Bible to speak of sin and holiness. We are told to cast off the works of darkness or to have no fellowship with the fruits of darkness, while at the same time, being told to walk in the light. Since receiving Christ, what sins have you cast off? Are you still looking at the same things, going to the same places, drinking the same stuff; or have you begun to exam your life in light of the cross? The best way to cast off the works of darkness is to look at the life of Christ and to live for the things that are pleasing to Him.

“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” 1 John 2:3

John mentions another vital question on our exam. He writes, the way to discern we know Him, is that we are doing what His Word says. As you read your Bible (which you should do daily) it is important, not only that you mark it, but that it marks you. You should allow the Bible to write on your life. How has your private life, family life, public life, and church life been changed by the daily reading of the Bible? Are you loving your spouse, raising your children in the things of the Lord, seeking to influence your neighbors, co-workers and friends to follow Christ? Are you attending and serving at your local church? Simply put, are you letting God’s Word redirect your living? These are not things to take lightly. This is not an exam that you can afford to fail. It is critical that you honestly evaluate your life, not in light of what you think, but in light of what the Bible says, and ask yourself “Am I ready to face eternity?”

Pastor Jim

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