Remember Who You Are

Sermon Summary: Remember Who You Are
Galatians 4:21-31

What we believe about who we are (identity) drives how we see the world (worldview) and how we live (lifestyle/morality). Paul is address this identity-issue in today’s passage: he’s reminding the Galatians church that as believers in Jesus Christ they are “Children of Promise.”

He compares the children of Hagar with the children of Sarah, making it clear that those who put themselves “Under the Law” are children of Hagar the slave. Instead, we who believe in Christ are born of the Spirit and are children of Sarah, we are children of promise.

It’s worth considering why anyone would desire to put himself under the law. There are three main reasons to consider.

  1. Putting yourself under the Law makes life clear-cut and simple. Under the Law, life is black-and-white and you only need to learn what God wants you to do and teach others to learn God’s Law too. The problem with this is that God’s Law never changes hearts, it shows the hearth’s guilt before a holy God, so life turns out to not be so simple and clear-cut afterall because we aren’t able to do what we know we should do.
  2. Putting yourself under the Law promotes Holiness. Holiness is a good thing, and we’re all called to pursue it. The Law is good and reflects God’s standard. Again, the problem with the Law is that it can’t bring about what it demands. Where the Law tells us to fly, the Gospel gives us wings.
  3. Putting ourselves under the Law is natural. We all want bad to be punished and good to be rewarded. Grace and mercy are, in many ways, unnatural. Since God is a good Judge, He upholds the Law; since God is loving He took the punishment we deserve.

As Children of Promise, we look forward to the coming of the New Jerusalem. We are people of faith, who live with God’s promises in mind. Although Jerusalem represents the holiest place on this earth, Paul is emphasizing that in comparison to the New Jerusalem (read Revelation 21) it looks like a landfill. In light of the great promise that lays ahead, the Old Jerusalem becomes like Hagar… a substitute that relies on the effort of man instead of the miraculous work of God.

This couldn’t be more practical. We all know people who keep making a mess of their lives; really, who isn’t guilty of doing that to some degree or another! Bad decision after bad decision. Beer after beer. Needle after needle. Partner after partner. Website after website. Lie after lie. We command ourselves to stop, to be less addicted or proud or selfish or judgmental. We keep saying it’s going to be our last time… but it’s not.

Surely counselors and doctors and medicine are wonderful blessings that God has provided, so I’m not saying to avoid those, but we must recognize that they cannot change our hearts… only God can do that, and He does that through faith.

Christian: Remember who you are… a child of promise… a person who walks by faith. Embrace grace – the grace the God has given you, and the grace He is calling you to give to others.

If you are not a Christian, please do this: Look deep within your heart and confess to yourself what you see, then ask yourself what you will do with your sin. How will you stand before a Holy God? How “good” is good enough?

The Great News of the Gospel is this: God loves sinners! He loves sinners so much He died for them, for you and for me, so that we could be forgiven, redeemed, and made innocent so we can stand before a Holy God.

In Defense of Teaching the Law in Youth Ministry

It’s increasingly common today to hear people writing about the need to emphasize the Gospel rather than the Law… the promises of God rather than the commands of god.  If you’re reading this post, it’s very easy for you to hear someone saying that, because I say that on a regular basis!  However, there are some out there who write about the need to be Gospel-Centered so much that it sounds like they’re suspicious of anyone who would dare to teach the Law.  I doubt that these people would actually agree with that accusation, but what they write could easily lead you to that conclusion.

While I’m a huge proponent of the Gospel-Centered movement, I think some people take the Gospel in an anti-law, Antinomian way that is simply unbiblical and contrary to the Gospel.  The Gospel is so incredibly valuable because the Law is so important!  If the Law wasn’t important, then sin isn’t that bad, and if sin isn’t that bad then the Gospel isn’t nearly as glorious and extraordinary as we say it is.

In my youth ministry we try to emphasize 8 Vital Signs (taken mostly from Andy Stanley and Stuart Hall’s book, “The Seven Checkpoints for Youth Leaders“): Authentic Faith, Spiritual Disciplines, Moral Boundaries, Healthy Friendships, Wise Choices, Ultimate Authority, Others First, Heart for the Lost.  Some of these are more naturally Gospel-driven than others (Authentic Faith, Spiritual Disciplines, Heart for the Lost) while others are more grounded in the Law (Moral Boundaries, Healthy Friendships, Wise Choices, Ultimate Authority, Others First).  Here’s a brief look at how I teach these Vital Signs:

  1. Authentic Faith – This is the Gospel – You are lost in your sin and will either endure the judgment you’ve earned for yourself, or you can cast yourself on the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ who took your punishment upon himself on the cross. We are not simply saved by the Gospel, we are changed daily by the Gospel.  We don’t only need Authentic Faith in Jesus to “ask Jesus into our hearts,” we need to walk by faith in Christ every day.  Without this Vital Sign, the rest don’t mean a thing.
  2. Spiritual Disciplines – People don’t get married and then stop spending time together, at least they shouldn’t!  We don’t become Christians and consider ourselves “done” with getting to know God.  He gives us a growing desire to know Him better through the spiritual disciplines, especially through regular time in the Bible and prayer.
  3. Moral Boundaries – In our hyper-sexualized world, it’s way more difficult fall into sexual sin than it is to stay pure.  This Vital Sign is more about having a pure heart than it is about sex, but sexual sin is definitely one of the biggest issues that we address here.  Purity matters to God, just read Leviticus if you don’t believe me (no, really, you should… it’s not the most enthralling read, but it really hammers home the importance of purity before the Lord!).  If we try to be pure on our own, we’re destined to fail.  If we recognize that we are impure and want to become pure, we also need to recognize that we can’t do that ourselves… we need God to cleanse us of our sin!  God makes us pure through the Gospel and He calls those He has purified to walk accordingly.
  4. Healthy Friendships – Who hasn’t done something they never would’ve done if their friends weren’t doing it too?  While Stanley & Hall make some claims in their book that I disagree with in this section, I think any youth worker could rattle off a list of former students who strayed from their faith in Christ because they started hanging out with friends who were bad influences.  Faith in the Gospel radically effects how who choose our friends and how much influence we give them in our decision-making.  Do you seek your identity in your friends, or through Christ?  Are your friends pulling you down, or are you surrounding yourself with friends who are drawing you closer to Christ (or are you the one pulling your Christian friends down!)?
  5. Wise Choices – How do you decide what you want movie to watch, what sport to play, what to wear, etc.?  We make thousands of choices every day, how do we make those choices?  Our faith in Christ must be the foundation of the choices we make… otherwise, how will we reflect Christ to those around us?
  6. Ultimate Authority – Do I even need to say that we live in an anti-authority culture?!  God has placed human authority in each of our lives in order to teach us how to submit to His own authority.  If we constantly rebel against human authority, we will have a very difficult time submitting to God’s authority when Scripture teaches something contrary to our desires.
  7. Others First – Jesus Christ came to serve, not to be served.  By default, we put ourselves first.  Instead, we’re called to put ourselves THIRD!  God first, others second, I’m third!  Maybe this Vital Sign should be “Others Second,” but that just doesn’t sound right.  Since we don’t need to live in a way to earn acceptance before God, we can use our lives to serve others in order to adorn the Gospel with God’s love through us.
  8. Heart for the Lost – If we really believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we need to have a passion to see others fall in love with Jesus Christ too.  If we don’t want others to embrace the Gospel, then I’m not sure we really believe it.

We need to teach Law and Gospel to students… because that’s what the Bible teaches!

Sermon Summary: “Law & Gospel: God’s Commandments & Promises”

Law & Gospel: God’s Commandments & Promises
Galatians 3:10-14

Paul writes that, “all who rely on works of the law are under a curse” but that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.”  How amazing is God’s grace!  God did for us what we are completely unable to do for ourselves!  God doesn’t require us to be good in order to redeem us; to be redeemed you need to acknowledge that you’re a sinner.  We all fit that bill.

The Old Testament contains 613 commandments, or Laws.  Historically, the Church has taught that there are three “uses” of the Law: as a Curb, as a Mirror, and as a Guide.  God’s Law functions as a Curb in order to restrain society from falling into anarchy by giving basic functions for how people should relate to one another (don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t murder, submit to authority, etc.).  God’s Law is a Mirror that shows us that we are sinful and we need a Savior because we aren’t able to keep God’s Law perfectly and are therefore under a curse.  God’s Law is a Guide to Christians so they know how to live in such a way that honors their Savior and brings joy along the way.  Ultimately, the Law was given to show us our need for a Savior.

Don’t be like the person who couldn’t get the lid off a jar and then claims, “I loosened it.”  No… you didn’t.    The truth is, none of us can take any credit for saving ourselves.  Salvation is not a 50/50 proposition or a deal with God whereby we do the best we can and God “fills the gap.”  Don’t try to take credit for what God has done… you did not “loosen the jar” for God.

We must rely completely on the promise of God, not at all on our ability to keep God’s Law.  Are you trying to take partial credit?  Count on Christ’s righteousness, not your own.

  • Are you counting completely in Christ’s righteousness and not your own?
  • Are you trying to be “good enough” to earn God’s favor?  If you’re living by the Law, you are under a curse.  Sometimes church-goers are really “good” people who keep God’s commandments, but they’re trusting in their own goodness rather than in Christ.  Don’t fall into the trap of Law-keeping, trust fully in the promises of God! (Romans 3:24; 8:1, 38-39; Galatians 3:26; Philippians 4:17)
  • Christian, have you veered off course and started to think about the Gospel as something for “other people” but not as something you need to cling to daily?  The Gospel is everything… don’t forget that.
  • Does your life contradict the grace you have received?  You cannot “be the Gospel” (Jesus is the Gospel, not you!), but your life should reflect the grace and love that you’ve been given.