REAPING & SOWING

HARVESTPastor Barry Bruce       The Gathering  Galatians/ Study 9: Living in Liberty       Series Conclusion

 Flesh & Spirit Galatians 5:16-26, Romans 3:10-20

In regards to this blessed FREEDOM that we have been studying for the past eight lessons Paul tells us to “walk in the Spirit” so that we will “not gratify the desires of the flesh”.  The flesh (our desires) is contrary (opposite in nature) to what the Spirit of God desires for our lives.  We are not to do whatever we want, but we are to do what God wants…That is of course if we want His blessings in our life.  There is a simple but humiliating fact at work here.  Whenever a human does what he or she wants we are acting in the opposite of God’s nature.  We are such sinful beings that we can’t do anything right without the direction of God’s Spirit.  Paul’s letter to the Romans lays out the bitter facts for us.  None is righteous not one!  God’s law declares that because no man can keep it; therefore, anyone who tries to live under God’s law will ultimately be eternally damned under it.  That is why Jesus paid for our sin and the Father sends the Holy Spirit in His name (John 14:26-27) to guide us and teach us in all things.  Without Jesus we will die under the law.  Without the Holy Spirit we cannot walk in a way that pleases God.  Flesh is flesh and Spirit is Spirit…we must be born again (John 3:6-7) said Jesus.

IF YOU WANT GOD’S BLESSINGS IN YOUR LIFE THEN YOU MUST DO WHAT HE WANTS.

Just to make sure that it is clear to the Galatians (and us) that the things our flesh desires are wrong, Paul lays them out.  Do you see any of your desires in this list in Galatians 5:19-21?  Sexual immorality (fornication: Sex outside of marriage) also includes any forbidden sexual act in scripture: Impurity (sin) and debauchery (Lasciviousness: lust); idolatry (idol worship: anything that separates you from the worship of God) and witchcraft: The literal Greek word which is used here ( φαρμακεία pharmakeia) is where our word “pharmacy” comes from. This is the use of drugs for thrill or enchantment, a common practice in witchcraft. Hatred, discord, ( stirring up arguments or fights) jealousy (covetousness: intensely desiring what another person has or is), fits of rage (outburst of extreme anger), selfish ambition (putting self over others),  dissensions (disagreement that leads to hostility),   factions (forming of a group to stir up trouble), and envy (discontentment because of someone else’s good fortune) drunkenness, orgies (unbridled indulgence of passions: excessive drinking and sex) and the like (other such actions and attitudes).  Paul makes it clear that those who choose to live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Do you want God’s blessings?  If you do then you must not seek to live according to the flesh.

When we come to Christ by faith he forgives us of our fleshly desires and sin and frees us from the bondage to these things.  To remain free we simply follow the Spirit’s leading that God put within us when we came to know Christ. As we follow Him in our life we develop the “fruit of the Spirit” or the characteristics of God.  We begin to change as we “hang out” with God. Paul gives us the list of these things too.  Do you need any of them?  Love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Those who belong to Christ “crucify”, so to say, their flesh every time they walk in step with God’s Spirit.  Paul encourages us to “keep in step with the Spirit” and to avoid drifting in to our old ways of the flesh. Jesus said we would be known by the fruit of our lives (Matthew 7:16), which should give evidence of the faith within us.

 Prone to Sin Galatians 6:1-6, Romans 12:2-3

We must never forget that we were made from dirt and are dirty by nature.  Without God we have no breath of life in us (Genesis 2:7).  Another way to say this is that we were born in sin and without God we are dead!  Paul reminds the Galatians to rescue their brothers and sisters caught in sin but to watch themselves or they too may fall.  If we ever think we are no longer dirty by nature then we are in trouble. We must stay sober in our thinking if we are to remain free. We must continue in the process of being transformed by the renewing of our mind by Christ.  When we think we are better than others we are not far from a fall.  Receive your instruction from the word of God…be transformed continually and share all the good things you learn with your instructor (teacher) because this helps him/her to stay in that process as well.

IF YOU WANT GOD’S BLESSINGS (FREEDOM) IN YOUR LIFE THEN YOU MUST STAY SOBER.

Do Not Be Deceived Galatians 6:7-10, Proverbs 3:5-6

Paul’s warning to the Galatians and to us is straight up!  We will all reap what we sow!  In other words, we will get out of our life what is planted into it.  Our blessing in this life has everything to do with our relationship to God.  If we live to please our sin nature (flesh) then we will be destroyed.  If we live to please God (do what He wants) then we will have His blessing and reap eternal life.  Don’t give up keeping in step with the Spirit Christian.  Don’t ever lean on your own understanding.  Trust in Him with all your heart, especially in those most difficult times.  Keeping the faith is the best good that you can do to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.  Your faith draws people to Christ, brings light to a dark world and inspires the next generation of believers.

Boast in the Cross Galatians 6:11-18

Paul wrote this letter to the Galatians with his own hand rather than through a scribe which he often used.  The letters were likely large because of his poor eye sight. In the   conclusion of his letter he reiterates that the issue is not whether a person is circumcised (outwardly) but whether he is a “new creation” (inwardly) in Christ Jesus  (Galatians 6:15 ).

 Lastly, in verse 17 the apostle employs irony, poking fun at his enemies’ point that bodily marks (circumcision) show true commitment to God. Paul says that his bodily marks are the scars of persecution that he suffered for the gospel of Christ. May we never boast of anything except for what Christ has done as we remain free and keep in step with             His Spirit.

IF YOU WANT GOD’S BLESSINGS IN YOUR LIFE THEN BOAST ONLY IN HIM.

Freedom’s Responsibility

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A study of Paul’s letter to the GALATIANS  (Lesson 8)                 Pastor Barry Bruce                      The Gathering

Freedom In Christ  Galatians 5:1-12, John 3:3, 16-18, Romans 10:9-13

Paul begins chapter five with a two line zinger of a quote!  Let us not zip over it and neglect its depth!  Take it in Christian, and if you are an American citizen then take it in double!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”.The Apostle, Paul (Galatians 5:1)

In line one Paul states that human kind was “set free” by Jesus Christ from our slavery to the Devil and to the sin by which he chained us.  If you have come to receive Christ  according to the precepts of God’s word then you are free to live in the liberty that He granted to you by His blood.  His blood purchases the sinner from sin, death, the Devil and eternal damnation. It is not by works that one purchases spiritual freedom.  It is Jesus alone who sets the captive free. If you reject Him then you remain bound to “your father, the Devil”(John 8:43-45) and you are bound to sin and eternal damnation. You alone will pay the price for your own sin, but none but Christ can be credited for spiritual freedom. It is a gift from Jesus Christ if you will own it.

In the second line Paul tells the Galatian Christians to “stand firm” in that freedom.  If Jesus has gone through all the blood, sweat and tears to free us from the Devil’s ownership then why would we go back and become his slave once again?  We must “stand firm” in the freedom that is ours by following the instruction of the one who set us free!  We must not “yoke”(connect) ourselves to anything apart from Christ for that is like chaining ourselves to a slave who is bound to the Devil.

The problem with the Galatians is that they were weak kneed— not “standing firm” in what Jesus taught. They were not holding to the teachings of the one who sacrificed His life for their freedom.  They were connecting (yoking) themselves to the false teaching of the Judaizers. They were circumcising themselves into a ritual of bondage.  They were loosing the freedom that Christ had purchased for them just to fit into the mainstream. Paul warned them of their peril.  They were taking bold steps into darkness and alienating themselves from Christ.  They were loosing the race (Galatians 5:7—1 Corinthians 9:24-25), the sin of the Judaizers , like yeast, was working through the whole of them (whole batch    of dough).  

Paul acknowledged the fact that he was being persecuted because he was coming against the act of circumcision (popular opinion) and preaching only the cross of Christ (faith in Jesus).  Paul concludes his statements harshly by wishing that those who were stirring up such trouble among the weak kneed believers (agitators) would not only be circumcised but completely be cut off (emasculated/ castrated).  In other words, he wished that they would never have the opportunity to have children.

America in Chains 2 Chronicles 7:14, Proverbs 14:34

Earlier I said, “take it in Christian (Paul’s quote), and if you are an American citizen then take it in double”.  I said this because Americans have a double illustration of freedom by blood.  An elementary history lesson should remind any American that our government was formed by founding fathers, leaders and patriots who paid dearly for the freedoms we now live in.  Most of those who squawk and clamor against the Christian morality on which this nation was founded worship only themselves. Those who protest our government by burning our flag never ran with it in battle or fought for freedom on foreign shores. Those who seek to rewrite our Constitution as a “living document” would have never earned a seat among those real patriots who penned it and who risked everything to insure a solid government for their posterity. If you live in freedom as an American citizen, according to the precepts of its Constitution, then that liberty has been granted to you by the blood of patriots.  It is by their works that your freedom has been purchased.  Americans must “stand firm” in the freedom that is ours by following the instruction of the ones who set us free!  The problem with America is that there are too many weak kneed people — making noise but not “standing firm.” Americans, like the Galatians, move towards slavery as they move from God: 

“Man will ultimately be governed by God or by tyrants”.  Benjamin Franklin

It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here. Patrick Henry

If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin. Samuel Adams

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. Abraham Lincoln

Responsibility Galatians 5:13-26, Luke 12:47-48

Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded”   Freedom is certainly “much!” Paul encourages Christians to both “Stand Firm” and to set an example with our freedom through our conduct.  The world is watching America just as the neighborhood is watching the “Christian.”  As William J. Thoms (British Writer) said, “Be careful how you live. You may be the only Bible some person ever reads.” What do people see on the pages of your life–the love and freedom of Christ or the bite and chains of strife?

 If we will walk by the Spirit (Holy Spirit: standing firm in Christ) we will not gratify the desires of our flesh (selfishness).  As we live in the Spirit we will bear the fruits (Characteristics) of God.  Let us keep in step with Christ, standing firm, for our Freedom and hope is in Him.

Abraham’s Two Sons (Flesh & Promise)

EgyptianEyes

A study of Paul’s letter to the GALATIANS  (Lesson 7) 

Pastor Barry Bruce                    The Gathering

Abraham’s Two Sons Galatians 4:21-23, Genesis 16, 21:1-21

Those of you who have been with us throughout this series will recall the teaching on Abraham, “The Father of our Faith” and “Friend of God” (Lesson 5, Heirs of the Promise).      In the passages that we will look at in this lesson, the Apostle, Paul, takes us back to Abraham once again to remind his listeners that God illustrated freedom for His people through the birth of his promised son, Isaac.  

Paul begins his lesson by reminding his listeners that Abraham (Abram) had two sons.  One by the “slave woman” (Hagar) and the other by the “free woman” (Sarah: Abraham’s wife).  Paul makes it clear that Ishmael (Hagar’s son) was born of the “flesh” (born through the carnal scheming of Abraham and Sarah), while Isaac was the miracle result of a “divine promise” made by God.

Much “fake news” has been made of the story of Hagar and Ishmael. Some have made Hagar out to be a sort of patron saint of refugees and Ishmael her little innocent child waif.  Abraham, Sarah and God have become the bad guys in the story while Ishmael, not Isaac, is even named the “fruitful man”!  A simple study of the scriptures will separate the “fake news” from the real deal.  Here are some things we can learn:

1.) Abraham (Abram) and Sarah (Sarai) were sinners. Just like every other person in the Bible and in history except Jesus.  They doubted God’s promise of a son through Sarah and decided to hurry things up and do it their way.  Their way was by using a slave girl named Hagar.  This was all kinds of wrong, but God had nothing to do with their actions.  When we act outside of God’s direction we are wrong too and can make terrible mistakes that hurt us and others.

2.) Hagar (the slave girl) conceived a child in sin (of the “flesh”).  This was not the child’s fault or Hagar’s fault, but none the less, the child was conceived through an act of disobedience by Abraham. (he proved to be dumb…just like Adam was before him! (Genesis 3:6)

 3.) Hagar “despised” (detested, hated, loathed) Sarah, likely for making her lie with her husband and carry his child, but the strong word indicates more than resentment. It is likely that Hagar expressed hate outwardly to Sarah perhaps by mocking her inability to bear her own child.  Being barren with no children to give your husband was the ultimate disgrace.

4.) Sarah and Abraham refused to take responsibility for their own sin.  Abraham tried to ignore it while Sarah lashed out in anger.  What do you do when you’re caught up in the consequences of your sin?  Notice how neither of them owned it and ask for God’s (or   Hagar’s) forgiveness.

5.) Regardless of Abraham and Sarah’s sin, God confronts Hagar for being a runaway slave and tells her to return to her master and submit.  We do not know why or how Hagar      became a slave, only that she was one.  We also do not know what actions of Hagar’s could have been wrong in God’s sight.  What we do know is that God had a plan and Hagar needed to obey God to accomplish that plan. Ultimately we do not serve men but God.  Not listening to Him is how this whole mess started in the first place.  God’s word to slaves: 1 Peter 2:18-23, Ephesians 6:5-7. 

6.) The prophecy of Ishmael is not a good one although his descendants will be many.  He will not be a fruitful man but “a wild donkey of a man” who is a fighter and hostile to all.  God speaks the future here but He did not make it so.  The fact is that Abraham and Sarah’s unrepentant sin will always fight against the will of God.  Our unrepentant sin will too.

7.) Ishmael and his mother were taken care of by Abraham for 16-19 years.  They were finally banished after Ishmael mocked at Isaac’s weaning ceremony.  It is likely that Hagar “despised” and Ishmael “mocked” regularly until Sarah had enough one day!  Ishmael was born to Abraham when he was eighty-six (Genesis 16:16) and he was a hundred years old at the birth of Isaac (Genesis 21:5). Ishmael was 14 years old when Isaac was born.  According to Jewish rabbinical traditions, weaning could take place anywhere between 18 months and 5 years of age. So that would make Ishmael 16 to 19 years old on the day that he was “mocking” (ridicule, deride, scorn, make fun of) little Isaac on his celebration day.

8.) God rescued Hagar and Ishmael from their certain death and God fulfilled His promises to the Jews and ultimately in Christ through the line of Isaac. Through Ishmael (“the flesh”) did come the great nation and religion of Islam. Through Isaac (the “divine promise”) came the Christ who is the only way to God (John 14:6, Philippians 2:10).  God didn’t change His “divine promise” because man made a mess of things.  God fulfilled His promise and made a way to freedom through Christ for all who call on His name!  John1:11-12,3:16-18

 Children of the Free Woman Galatians 4:24-31, 2 Corinthians 3:17

Paul says that “figuratively” (metaphorically: derived from life) the two women (Hagar and Sarah) represent two covenants or laws.  Hagar represents slavery to the law (which was given on Mount Sinai: The Ten Commandments/ the “letter of the law”) and Sarah represents forgiveness and freedom from that law through Christ.

Paul says we who are Christians (“brothers and sisters”), like Isaac, are children of the promise!  Flesh and Spirit (the promise) will always war as will the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac, but we belong to the free woman’s son.  We are not to live in the veil of Hagar.  We are not to live in the veil of the law. Uncover your face and smile. Let the Son shine in.  The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!

Fake Faith

FakeA Study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians: Lesson 6/ Living in Liberty Series               Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering

 

 Forces of Slavery Galatians 4:8-11

Once Paul had made it clear to the Galatians that they were saved by faith in Jesus Christ and not by keeping the Jewish(Levitical) Law, he challenged them to keep their faith real and to not to turn back again to the phony things that they were once enslaved by.  Paul reminded them that “formerly”, before they knew the true God, they were “slaves” to “those” who “by nature” were not gods at all.  “By nature” these so called gods” that they once worshiped were creatures of imagination, or, if any of them ever existed, they were dead men, evil spirits, or the luminaries (stars, sun, moon) of the heavens, or other creatures of God (animals, sea creatures, reptiles or insects), redefined by human  foolishness and utterly incapable of bestowing any blessing whatever on their worshipers.

 The Galatians were pagan (polytheistic[ worshiping multiple gods] Greek, Roman,Egyptian) until they received Christ, and now that they had received Him as savior, the Judiazers were telling them that they had to follow other rules of enslavement to keep that salvation.  “How is it that you are turning back to those weak  and miserable forces?” Paul asked. “Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” .  The Galatians were on their way to being spiritually enslaved again but this time to the Jewish laws. .  They were already  beginning to observe the special days, months, seasons and years of that law (Special days—Jewish Sabbaths; and months — new moons; and times — as that of the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles; and years — Annual ceremonies and rites).  Paul was concerned that he had wasted his efforts in teaching to the Galatians about gospel.

The Judaizers   In the early church, those who taught a combination of God’s grace and human effort were called “Judaizers.” The word Judaizer comes from a Greek verb meaning “to live according to Jewish customs.” The doctrine of the Judaizers was a mixture of grace (through Christ) and works (through the keeping of the Law). This false doctrine was dealt with in Acts 15 and strongly   condemned throughout  the book of Galatians.

 As Christians we can make the similar mistake of the Galatians by compromising our freedom in the faith for more legalistic versions of Christianity. Such examples are Catholicism which adds a hierarchy, a priestly and saintly mediation, and a system of works; Seventh Day  Adventism which adds an observance of days, a special diet and a simple dress code. Many Christians marry into these faiths and adopt them, and teach them to their children over the freedom that is truly given through the gospel of Christ.  Of course, some Christians derail their faith completely by drifting into “Christian”

cults(perverted teachings) like Mormonism (Latter Day Saints) or The Jehovah Witness Organization.  We should never compromise the freedom that we have in Christ to belong to a church, organization, family or spouse for that matter (2 Corinthians 6:14).  We must remember that although one calls himself/ herself a “believer” in Christ, they may indeed hold to false beliefs about Him that undermine what He actually accomplished on the cross.  If Jesus’ work on the cross was not enough to cover man’s sins then what human work is? 

The “forces of Slavery” that Paul was talking about come hidden in many different forms: the worship or prayer of another (idolatry), the following of rules or laws, etc.  Anything that adds or takes away from the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross to save man from sin is a “force of Slavery”.  When we act under those things we become spiritually enslaved.  

Slaves of Righteousness Romans 6:15-23                        

The Christian is warned against being spiritually enslaved by anyone or anything.  Rather that enslavement is to the false idea of carrying out works to bring salvation, as it was for the Galatians, or it is to material things, pleasure, lust or pride for the carrying out of ones own fleshly desires. “for people are slaves to whatever has mastered them” 2 Peter2:19b

 We are encouraged to have only one master (Lord) and that is Jesus Christ who saves the believer through His work on the cross.  We are encouraged to be slaves to none but Him and to nothing except His righteousness.  Anything else is idolatry.    

“Though Christianity forbids idolatry, many ‘Christians’ practice spiritual idolatry in their hearts. For what a man loves most, and cares most for, that is his god: some have their riches for their god, some their pleasures, and some their lusts. And many ignorantly     worship a god of their own making; a god made all of mercy and no justice. For they persuade themselves that there is mercy for them with God, but they never repent for their sins”.  Matthew Henry (Seventeenth Century author, minister and theologian)

Fakes Galatians 4:12-20, Hebrews 10:23, 11:1,6, Luke 18:8b                                                        Paul pleads (makes an emotional appeal) with the Galatians to become like him, for he  became like them.  Paul initially stopped in Galatia because he became ill during his travels. We are not sure what his illness was but it likely involved his eyes (vs.15 ). The important thing here is that Paul reminds the people that they once treated him with love and respect as he shared the gospel truth with them. Paul put his Jewish culture and his plans aside to minister to the Galatians at their request. Paul “became like them” to teach them the truth.  Now they treated him like an enemy because he held unswerving to that same teaching .

Paul was solid in his faith.  The Galatians had turned from theirs largely because they wanted to fit in with the up and coming crowd. The Judaizers who were winning the Galatians over with their false teachings were zealous and charismatic (false teachers usually are) but zeal never makes falsehood correct.  A genuine Christian is one who lives by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7, Romans 10:11). How one feels on a given day or what one hears in a certain way should not determine how one lives.  Faith in Christ should determine that. The Lord’s word and His promises are clear.  Real faith is birthed in the decision of the will to follow Jesus, takes hold, grows and demonstrates itself in a life. Adversity strengthens its    resolve.  Fake faith is birthed in emotion and falters under pressure. Keep it real friends!

Heirs of the Promise

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A Study of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians: Lesson 5  Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering                       Living In Liberty Series

Released from Custody Galatians 3:19-25

In light of the fact that we are no longer under the law but under the grace of Jesus Christ, Paul rhetorically asks:  “Why, then, was the law even given at all?” Paul then explains that the law that was given through angels, entrusted to Moses and carried out by priests (mediators: the go-betweens in a conflict), was made to be a prison of sorts to hold back man’s eternal death sentence (because of his sin) until Christ would come with the key to the believers freedom.  Now that faith in Christ has come, we are no longer under a “guardian.”  We no longer need a prison guard…we are no longer locked up under the law.  Jesus, “the seed” of  Abraham’s promise came to bring freedom to the captives:  

But scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Galatians 3:22

Before Jesus came to earth, paid the price for sin and resurrected, believers in God’s promise were temporarily forgiven through faith in the coming Christ and held until the day of their redemption when Christ paid their debts in full.  Now that Jesus has come, believers in Christ are forgiven by faith in the risen Savior.   We are free and released from the custody of the law. There is no need to return to that prison.  Freedom has come and we are friends of Christ!

Abraham’s Seed/ Children of God—”One”

Galatians 3:26-28, John 17:20-23   If we belong to Christ then we too are part of Abraham’s seed.  We are children of Abraham and Children of God.  We are One!  Jesus’ plan laid out in His garden prayer clearly illustrates the fullness of his mission.  From the   beginning…we were created to be God’s friend never His slave.  

Heirs of His Promise Galatians  3:29-4:7, Romans 8:14-18,  2 Corinthians 1:20-22,    Revelation 4:10-11

Paul calls all believers in Christ Heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29).

  heir  /er/ noun  a person legally entitled to the property or rank of another on that person’s death. “his eldest son and heir”  synonyms: successor, next in line, inheritor, beneficiary, legatee.

Paul explains the Roman cultural law in regards to an heir who is underage.  He explains that although he legally owns the whole estate, the underage heir must answer to a guardian until the time set by his father.  That guardian would likely have been a slave.  Since the heir was placed in safe guard under a slave the heir seemed no different (except for the promise). Paul illustrates God’s promise to Abraham (and his “seed”—those who would     believe in Christ) as the underage heir, held under the slave guardianship of the Old Testament law until Jesus was revealed and believers were adopted as sons through his work on the cross.  

Upon believing in Christ on faith we become God’s sons (children) and he immediately puts the Spirit of His Son, Jesus into our hearts that we might also cry out “Abba(lit. Greek: Daddy) Father”. At that moment, we are no longer a slave, but God’s child, and therefore also an heir to all that belongs to Him! (Romans 8:14-17)  We become children of the promise (every promise that God has made is now ours) and “No matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ! (2 Corinthians 1:20-22)  In other words, these promises belong to us who are believers in Jesus, and God put His Spirit in our heart as our guarantee of those promises.

Are you exhilarated to be a child of God?  What an amazing gift to inherit all that belongs to God almighty simply because of our faith in Christ!  One day, according to the scriptures, crowns may actually be rewarded to us who serve Jesus on this earth. (James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 3:11)  How can that be when it is He who has actually done all the work?  It is because He is a most gracious God and He delights in honoring his children.  Oh, to receive that crown of glory that tells me “well done, my son”, and oh, what joy to cast it down in worship before His throne upon that glassy sea to cry: “Holy, Holy, Holy”, I am here solely because of you!