The Folly of Finishing in the Flesh

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Paul’s letter to the GALATIANS (Lesson 3) Pastor Barry Bruce  The Gathering Church

Bewitched   Galatians 3:1,      Romans 12:2-3                       Paul called the Galatians foolish in regards to how gullible they were to the false teachings that distorted the truth of the gospel of Christ: fool·ish  (of a person or action) lacking good sense or judgment;  unwise.  synonyms: stupid, silly, idiotic, witless, brainless, vacuous, mindless, unintelligent, thoughtless, half-baked, harebrained…

Paul is not out to win a popularity contest with the Galatians… he slaps them with a    rebuke in order to wake them up from the spell that the Judaizers have cast upon them.  Paul asks: “Who has bewitched you?”  (The word “bewitched” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of “to mislead by hypnotizing or fascinating.”)

The Galatians were so misled by the false teachings of the Judaizers that they were doubting everything that Paul had once clearly taught them about Christ.

 Have you ever needed a good slap? Most of us can recall a time as a child when we got a spanking or a slap for being disobedient or disrespectful.  The Bible actually reminds    parents that to forego discipline in a child’s life is to spoil (ruin) that child (Proverbs 13:24). The same is true for the adult child of God.

There is no doubt about it, we all need a “slap” to our senses once in a while, especially when we are wandering off into danger.  Truth can be brutal especially if we are wrapped tightly in a lie, but only the truth liberates the soul and brings life. It is the truth that sets us free (John 8:32).  Man has a propensity to sin, to think that he is more than he is.  We must think of ourselves with sound judgment (Romans 12:3).  Sound judgment comes from sound doctrine (teaching).  Sound doctrine comes from God’s word.  We are to be transformed by that word and not bewitched by worldly teachings that are contrary to it (Romans 12:2).

Many times the truth of God’s word “slaps” us with something that we don’t want to hear or don’t want to do. Most times it disagrees with the popular notions of society and can offend others and even ourselves, but we are not God.  We are God’s children.  His word is truth and not our feelings. We need to conform to His word, and if you think for one minute that His word leaves room for multiple interpretations then you need to stop speed reading the Bible.  His direction is clear: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 4:12-13, James 1:22

Spirit and Flesh Galatians 3:2-5, Ephesians 1:13-14                                                                      Paul asked the Galatians a rhetorical question to make them think about their salvation experience. Consider yours too. When did you receive the Holy Spirit?  When did you experience the freedom from your sin and shame?  Was it after you did some work or     followed some spiritual mantra or tradition, or after you believed and received Christ on faith?  Works of the flesh never bring the liberty experienced through the Holy Spirit.   God fills us with His Holy Spirit the moment we believe and confess Christ as savior.  The Spirit is God’s pledge (guarantee) that we are His forever. The proof of the Spirit’s presence in a believer are His operations on the heart which produce repentance, the fruit (attitudes) of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), a passion for God’s Word, conformity to His will, prayer, praise, and love for God’ s people. These things are the evidences that the Holy Spirit has renewed the heart and that the Christian is sealed for the day of redemption.F

Paul asked the Galatians “why after beginning with the freedom of God’s Spirit  do you end it in bondage with works of  the flesh. For the Galatians to continue to practice the traditions and laws of Judaism after being set free in Christ was foolish and would confuse their children.  It also demonstrated that Christ was not enough for salvation.  One should practice truth and truth alone.  Is it in vain that you believe in Christ?  Is it in vain what Christ has done to set you free?  Why go back to the thing He set you free from?  Was it religion?  Was it materialism?  Was it addiction?  Why go back into bondage once He has set you free? Did God do a miracle in your life (and in the lives of others) because of your works or because you believed in Christ?

Cut It Off Mark 9:42-47                                                                                                                     There is a passage which Jesus spoke that speaks plainly to this issue.  Some misinterpret it to be a legalistic, work oriented warning about shaping up or going to hell.  It should actually be seen as more of a passage about freedom and the encouraged passion to keep it at all costs. Firstly you will notice the stern warning from Jesus to anyone who would dare cause one of His “little ones” (those who believe in Christ) to stumble. This would be a warning to false religious teachers like the Judaizers but can also be applied to anyone who tempts a    Christian to move away from Christ (no matter how sincere they may be). Secondly comes the “cut it off” verses followed by the “thrown into hell” line. It looks legalistic but wait… consider a scampering and free little field mouse who finds himself suddenly bound in a mouse trap set by a farmer. His bondage will surely lead to certain death.  Better to chew off the part that keeps you bound than to be in bondage until you’re thrown into the furnace. “Give me liberty or give me death!” said American founding father Patrick Henry. “To live is Christ and to die is gain” said the Apostle Paul. “You can take my life but you can’t take my freedom” said Sir William Wallace.  “Cut it off” said Jesus Christ… Freedom is everything!

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