Friday, October 18, 2013


One of the most interesting verses of the bible in my opinion is 1 Corinthians 10:13.

13There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

This verse teaches us that with every temptation that comes into our lives, there also comes a way to escape that temptation. If this is true I wonder why so many times we fall to temptation, and get ourselves into trouble. You would think that if there is a way to get away from the temptation and avoid sin, then surely the child of God would take the way of escape and avoid getting into sin.

The problem is that most of the time we give into temptation. We are too many times like Eve in the Garden of Eden. Satan tempted her with the forbidden fruit. I can only imagine, but that fruit was probably some of the best looking fruit in the garden. Then Satan tempts her by telling her that it will make her like God if she eats the fruit. He even made a false promise that she didn’t have to worry about the warning of God, she wouldn’t die.

Here is a woman in a perfect environment. She has never sinned; she had heard the voice of God, her husband even walked with God every day. She was in the perfect environment to avoid this temptation. We all know how the story ends. She doesn’t flee the temptation. Instead of fleeing she gives in to the temptation and plunges her family and all of humanity into sin.

The reason I think we have such a hard time staying out of trouble is that we are not fleeing from it. Dr Warren Weirsbe once said, “The believer who thinks he can stand may fall; but the believer who flees will be able to stand.” I think we get the idea that we are strong enough to deal with temptation. Because we think we are strong we don’t run away, we stick around and flirt with the sin. This leads to failure more times than not.

Too many Christians today are like the little boy with his hand in the cookie jar. He knows that he is not allowed to eat a cookie before supper. When his mother finds him with his hand the cookie jar she asks, “Son what are you doing?” “Fighting temptation” is the boys reply.

God doesn’t want us to fight temptation with our hand in the cookie jar. That is the wrong place to be fighting. But all too often we are doing just what the little boy did. We know someone is bad for our lives, but we continue to hang around them. We know that certain places lead us to temptation but yet we frequent them. It’s hard avoiding temptation with your hand in the cookie jar.

God has made a way of escape for that thing you are dealing with. More than likely the best way of escape is for you to run away from it. God always makes a way of escape and sometimes the way of escape is the king’s highway and a good pair of heels.

I'm on twitter @drojoshuasharp

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Potter

My family and I are spending a few days in Pigeon Forge. Today we walked around a local craft fair. At one of the shops they had a man working a potter's wheel. My family and I were mesmerized by this man skill and the artistry involved in his work.

He would take a piece of clay that was nothing more than a lump and in a matter of moments he would transform it into something beautiful. People couldn't simply walk by, they had to stop and observe.

While standing there my mind went to the prophet Jeremiah as he visited the potter's house. The story in Jeremiah is a wonderful picture of our lives in the hands of our heavenly Father. I'm sure most of you have read this story, but I want to share a couple things that jumped out at me while watching this process in action.

The transformation of this process is amazing to me. Something that starts as plain, and even ugly is transformed into something beautiful when allowed to be molded by the Potter. I don't know about you but when God found me I was like that lump of clay. In sin we are ugly and without form. However when the heavenly Potter is allowed to mold our lives He is able to transform us into something amazing.

This process may require some tugging, molding and even cutting some ugly pieces away. It is for this reason than many never allow the Potter to transform their lives. The molding process is so scary that they choose to just stay the way they are. I wonder what we sacrifice when we are reluctant to give our lives over to the hands of God.

I also noticed that, while the Potter made the same form over and over, each piece was unique and different. Some of us get the idea that we are just another singer, another preacher, or another church member. We look at someone else and wish we were more like them. "I wish I could sing like them."  "I wish I could preach like them."

The truth is that it is our unique differences that make us special. If God had wanted you to be different He would have made you different. It is your uniqueness that makes you special, beautiful, you.

Thinking about this I can't help but wonder what the Potter has planned for my life, and your life. Do we trust Him enough to place our lives in His hands? I bet if we do, something amazing will come from it

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Salvation: Faith or Works?

Galatians Chapter 3b

Beginning with this section we come to the climax of the epistle. In this section Paul will speak about the example of Abraham. Abraham is a wonderful illustration of how a person is saved by placing simple faith in God.

Abraham is the greatest bible example of a man being justified before God, because of their faith. It would be impossible for a person to argue that Abraham was saved by keeping the Law because the Law was not given until hundreds of years after Abraham died.

Some will try to argue that Abraham was justified because of his circumcision. Just as some argue that a person today is justified because of their baptism. Abraham’s circumcision was a badge of his faith in Christ. Outward expressions have no bearing on inward works.

The story of Abraham is one filled with trust, faith and reliance upon God. There are probably two high points in Abraham’s life however. The first was after his defeat of the kings of the East in Genesis 15. Having defeated these kings and rescued his nephew Lot’s family, along with the other families from Sodom and Gomorrah, he was offered a reward. The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah wanted to reward Abraham for his help, but he refused to take it.

His refusal to take the reward spoke volumes. Abraham was saying that he was relying on God and no one else. Previous to this experience God had promised Abraham that he would give him a seed as innumerable as the sands of the seashore. After this experience Abraham reminds God of that promise.

It was at this point that God made Abraham to look into the heavens and promised him a seed as great as the stars in the heavens. This was Abraham’s response.

“And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”  Genesis 15:6

Today God has made a promise to you and me. God’s promise to mankind today is this.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

Just as God promised Abraham a child, God has promised us a child. God promised that He would send His son to die for the sins of all mankind. Abraham believed the promise of God and it was counted for righteousness. Today we are asked to follow in the footsteps of Abraham and believe the promise of God. When we place our trust in God’s promise for salvation, it is counted to us for righteousness.

While Abraham believed God, he did ask God for a covenant or a contract. Let’s see what Abraham asked and what God’s response was.

Genesis 15:8-17

In these verses God made a covenant, but not a covenant with Abraham. Abraham was a man and he was prone to fail. Abraham could possibly do something that would make the contract null and void. Therefore Abraham was put to sleep and God made a contract with Himself. This contract was based on God’s faithfulness not Abrahams.

The same is true with you and me. Over 2,000 years ago Jesus went to a cross in order to pay the sin debt for you and me. Upon that cross God and His Son made a contract between themselves. Today God is not asking you to say your prayers, attend Sunday school, and give tithes to be saved. All God is asking you to do is believe what Jesus did on the cross. Have you put your faith in Christ?

If faith without works was good enough for Abraham then shouldn’t it be good enough for you and me? Paul tells us something pretty interesting in this chapter. He tells us that God preached the gospel to Abraham. This brings up the question, “When did God preach the gospel to Abraham?” Well I think this takes us to the second high point in Abraham’s life.

In Genesis 22 God asks Abraham to do something pretty intense. He asks him to offer his promised son as a sacrifice. Again Abraham is faced with the decision of whether to trust God. We all know the story, but I think that it is so important to mention again.

According to Hebrews 11:19 Abraham believed that, if he offered his son, then God would bring him back to life. I want to point out Abraham’s faith. At the bottom of that mountain Abraham spoke to his servants and told them to wait. Abraham told them that him and the lad would go up and worship and come back again. That was a tremendous statement of faith.

On top of the mountain Abraham did not spare his only son. He was fully prepared to offer Isaac just as the Lord asked. Of course God delivered Isaac, but in the mind of God he was as good as dead because Abraham had determined to kill him.

Through this experience God preached the gospel to Abraham. This was a picture of the way that God would willingly offer His only Son upon the cross. The difference is that while Isaac was delivered, Jesus was not. Jesus was offered and did suffer death.

Let me take this one step further. John Calvin was quoted as saying “Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone.” Notice what James says about the faith of Abraham in his epistle.

“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith Abraham believed God, and I was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.”  James 2:20-23

In the life of Abraham his faith led him to willingness to offer his son. He didn’t just believe God. That faith produces works.  The reason that so many people today are not busier is because they are lacking faith. “A living, dynamic faith will produce works.” These works however have no bearing on ones salvation.

The question that should be asked to those that proclaim you must live right to maintain or merit salvation is this, “Do you keep the law twenty four hours a day, seven days a week?” If you are in the flesh then you fail God often. The Law is not a religious cafeteria where you can pick and choose which laws to keep. When you fail God, even one time, then you are cursed by the Law you are supposedly upholding.

Let’s say for an example I live in the state of Tennessee for 34 years, as I have. If I live all those years and never break one of the laws of the state of Tennessee I’m not going to receive a medal for that.

Let’s take this one step further and say that I go to Wal-Mart this afternoon and am caught stealing something. Guess what is going to happen to me? I am going to be punished for my wrong. I can argue “I have lived all of these years and never done anything wrong.” The state is going to tell me that all those years of good deeds mean nothing and that I am going to be punished for my crime.

It’s the same way with the Law of God. The Law does not reward you for doing right. The Law punishes you for doing wrong.

Faith and Law are two opposite principals. For a person to try and combine them is ridiculous. You are either going to live by faith or you are going to live by the law. You cannot combine these two.

God made promises to Abraham and was faithful to fulfill them. Even so God has made promises to you and me through Jesus Christ. Abraham was saved by placing faith in what God would do. Today we are saved by placing our faith in what God has already done.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Calling

So this week I did something that took me way outside of my comfort zone. On Sunday I told my church that I believed God was moving in my life to preach. This was one of the scariest declarations I have ever made because there are many things that go along with it. That one decision will affect the rest of my life and the lives of my wife and two daughters. If you will give me a minute I would like to lead you through the steps that led me to that declaration.

Over the past several weeks and months God has been moving in my life to do more. For many years I have stood and taught God’s word both at my church and surrounding churches. I have wrote this blog and thousands of you have read my words. I work with the children in my church on a weekly basis. I have been rather busy, but still there was something more that needed to be done. I can’t explain this feeling other than a pressing burden to do more.

In an effort to discover what it was that God wanted from me, I contemplated many things. Was God wanting me to change jobs, change churches, change ministries. I would drive to work and visualize myself going from church to church sharing the scriptures with his people. I just knew that I wanted, and should do more but there was nothing more that I could do in my current position. I would even teach to the congregation at my church lessons like, “What is God calling me to do?”

Little did I know that God was about to drop a bomb on my settled life and shake it up. Saturday night I was laying in bed and thinking about all of these decisions and trying to decide what it was that God was wanting from me, and then it happened. (My wife says that she could see the moment it happened because the look on my face changed so dramatically.) God showed me that the thing He wanted me to do was the thing I was so sure He did not want me to do, preach. Wow is all I can say!

That night I called my pastor, prayed, fretted, prayed some more, fretted some more. I don’t think I slept much at all that night. The next morning I was even more scared than I was the night before. Could I really do this thing that God was impressing upon me? I had determined within myself to go to church that morning, listen to the message my pastor brought and just see what happened. Sounds like a good plan right?

Well my plan didn’t go so well. We opened up the service by singing “How great thou art.” By the end of the first verse I’m crying. By the end of the song I know what is coming, but I’m still holding on. Then it happened. One of our deacons got up, and not knowing a thing about my situation quoted Proverbs 3:6 which says “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Boom! I’m done. I’m on the altar and like they say, “The rest is history.”

You may ask, “What was the sermon you were supposed to sit through?” My pastor preached on the lad with five loaves and two fishes. He talked about giving what you have to the Lord and allowing Him to use it for His service and glory. He even talked about the reluctance the young boy may have had before he gave his all to the service of the Lord. (Yeah I never would have made it through that message.)

So here I am scared to death. Questions have come and gone over the past several days. The devil has tried to sap every last bit of joy from my life. But I have written three sermons already. I will be preaching my first message on July the 7th and believe God has given me a word for that night. I took a step of faith and that is what I will continue to do, take one step of faith at a time.

Well if you’re still reading and with me let me ask you a question. What does God want from your life? I understand that everyone can’t sing and everyone can’t preach, but everyone can do something. Maybe you are reluctant to take that first step of faith. Trust me I understand. I know how scary it is and I know the doubts the devil will plant in your mind, but that’s why it’s called faith. How about you take this step with me?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Let me ask you a question

Galatians Chapter 3

Paul ended the previous chapter by explaining that if we add anything to the finished work of Jesus Christ then we are frustrating the grace of God, and Christ has died in vain. In this chapter Paul does a beautiful job of explaining how an individual is saved. If you are saved this morning then you have been saved by faith in Christ alone.

Dr. Wiersbe was recorded as saying that the 60 verses that make up the third and fourth chapters of the book of Galatians are the strongest of all of Paul’s writings. This makes sense when we realize that he was in the middle of a war. These false teachers were using any means necessary to capture the churches in Galtia and therefore Paul cannot pull any punches. In these two chapters he proves the doctrine of salvation by faith and faith alone.

Paul begins chapter three by asking them several questions. I want us to look at the questions Paul starts the chapter with, and maybe ask ourselves the same questions. If you are thinking of leaving a church that is teaching and preaching the truth then you should definitely ask yourself these questions.

These people are being foolish and not using their mind. Verse one begins with our first questions. “Why aren’t you using your mind?” The root Greek word in this first statement is “nous” and it means your “mind.” Paul is saying you are not using your mind or your head.

He follows that question with another one. “What has gotten into you?” “Who has bewitched you?” Jesus Christ had been clearly presented to these people, they have trusted in Christ, and by so doing it has changed their lives. If what they believed changed their lives then what are they doing turning from that truth?

The same thing happens every day today. I once heard a false television minister make the statement that most of his followers were former Baptist church members. That is a terrible statement. This means that his followers are people who once heard, and knew the truth. These people have been “bewitched” into following someone else.

The same is true of the modern day movement. Most people you find in these movements were once found in a Baptist church. I believe there are several problems that contribute to this problem. I believe that many people have turned away from the truth because of a group of Pharisaical Baptist. This group has hurt an untold number of believers. These believers will no longer be a part of the Baptist church because of the way they were treated by these men.

The other problem is these people are leaving the truth they once held for something new and different. Everyone wants something new today. People are not satisfied with their homes, their cars, their cell phones and they certainly are not satisfied with their churches any more. It has become part of our culture to constantly want something different. It is my opinion that the church has to evolve over time, but should never change. We can’t be stuck in the days gone by, but at the same time should not be willing to change our standards to suit the times. Some sadly leave the truth in order to seek out something different.

In verses three Paul wants them to begin to think about what they are doing. If they were saved by faith in Christ, are they now going to be so foolish to turn away from what saved them? If they began in the Spirit then why not continue in the Spirit. When a human child is born they have all they need for life. The doctor does not say to that child, “You were born into this world but I’m going to need you to obey these rules to keep on living.” As ridiculous as that sounds it happens in churches every Sunday.

“I know that you were born of the Spirit, but I need you to follow these rules to stay saved.” This message has been proclaimed from many pulpits across America. The trouble is that my flesh has never done anything but let me down. If you are honest you will say the same thing. In fact if you differ you are a liar according to 1 John. This church was made up of sinners and they could not live up to the standards God had set forth. So are they now on some higher plane that they are going to be capable of doing what they could never do before? Of course not!

Next we see that this church had suffered for their salvation. In these days it cost you something to be saved. If they turn their back on what they believed now then all of that suffering would be for nothing. “Did you suffer in vain?”

Paul now asks in verse five, “What about the miracles that were done among you?” Paul had preached among them the gospel. Paul was an apostle, and as such had performed miracles among them. Did Paul do this by the power of the Holy Spirit or by the Law?

The truth is that the reason these men were able to perform miracles was because God was giving them signs to prove their message was true. You have to understand that the people that Paul preached to were in many cases Jews who keep the rituals of the Law. Now a missionary was telling them that what they had done for generations was null and void. This was hard to swallow therefore God would allow them to perform miracles to prove their message was coming from God.

This is not the case today. In fact it seems that most of these sign gifts began to fade with the fading of the apostles, and with the writing of the New Testament. This does not mean that we are not seeing miracles performed every day. God is still performing miracles within lives.

“Do you really believe the miracles in the bible?” a skeptic asked a new Christian who had been a terrible drinker. “Of course I do!” the believer replied. The skeptic laughed. “Do you mean that you really believe that Jesus could turn water into wine?” he asked. “I sure do! In my home He turned wine into food and clothing and furniture!”

These people knew all of these things. They had trusted Christ. They had believed the report of Paul. They had seen the miracles. In spite of all of this they were contemplating turning back to the Law. No wonder Paul asked “What has gotten into you?”

So, that is my question to you today. Those of you who are thinking of leaving the truth that changed your life. Are you willing to turn your back on the truth?

In the remainder of the chapter Paul will use the example of Abraham to show them once again that they are saved by faith and faith alone. In our next blog we will look at these verses.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The unsung hero of the church

Last night was the first night of vacation bible school at my home church. It is always fun to get together with a group of kids and teach them about Jesus. It’s also a lot of stress and work to get everything together for vacation bible school. You have to paint signs, decorate the church, prepare lessons, decide on stunts and skits, and fix snacks. With all these things on my mind I laid in bed last night thinking about the workers in our church and all they do.

Over the last twenty years I have been a part of a local church. My opinion of church works has been cultivated somewhat. Let me explain what I mean. When I was a younger Christian I was very enamored by those men and women in the church who seemed to be giants. These were men who preached great sermons, groups that sung great songs, and individuals that seemed to always be doing something that you could point to and say, “Wow!”. I would look up to these people, and many times rightfully so. They were my heroes.

In the last several years I have changed some of my opinion. In the last several years I have started to notice, and look up to those church members that silently work in the church without ever getting attention or glory. It has become my opinion that the backbone of the church is a group of silent Christians who love God and faithfully serve Him. These are men and women that do things that never get noticed by others, but without their work the church would fall apart.

I thought about my own ministry. God has allowed me to lead the youth program in my church. Each Wednesday night we take the children and teach them separate from the adults. This is a wonderful blessing, but it is a job that I do not do alone. Every Wednesday night three other adults go down stairs with me and the kids. These three individuals don’t ever seem to get the pat on the back, but they are invaluable. Without them the work could not be done.

It has become my opinion that we will be shocked when we stand before God on the Day of Judgment. I think we will be shocked because there will be men and women who the world has never heard of, but God has heard & saw their faithful labor. While they did not receive the pat on the back for their labor here, these men and women will receive rewards at the hand of Christ.

Jesus taught this principal in Matthew 6. He taught us to give, pray, and fast in secret. Those that work in the open receive their reward when everyone sees them, but those that work in secret will receive their reward from Christ. I can also think of a few Christians who think that they have to be in charge of everything that takes place, and makes sure everyone knows that they are the one that did it. According to Jesus in Matthew 6 that person receives their reward at their own hand.

So if you are the silent church member, who cleans the church, prays for the preacher, fixes a snack for a child, or paints a sign for VBS this blog is for you. You are more important than maybe you realize. God notices your labor of love, and one day will reward you for your labor.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Fight for Faith. A Journey through Galatians (Chapter 2 b)

Galatians Chapter 2

Paul’s experience in Antioch

The church in Antioch was different from the one in Jerusalem in that it was a mainly a Gentile church. I want to explain something before we move forward that I think is important. It was the tradition of many churches in this day to have a feast before they celebrated the Lord’s Supper. (You might remember that Paul had to fuss at the church in Corinth because of the way they were acting at this feast.)

In any case these people would get together and eat. It seems that there were two tables at the feast. One was the Gentile table and the other was the Jewish table. The difference being that the Gentile table had things on it like meat that had been offered to idols. It also had things like pork and other animals that Jews did not eat. The Jewish table would be kosher.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with the things that these Gentiles were eating. In Jesus Christ they had the liberty to eat what they pleased. The Jews however were not able to break away from the days when they were in bondage to the Law of Moses, and because of this weakness they could not enjoy their liberty. The reason I know that the Gentile table was okay was because that is where Paul ate.

Well one day Peter comes to visit the church in Antioch. At the feast Peter is presented with something that he has never really had before, Gentile food. I believe Peter was one of those who were still living in a certain amount of bondage.

In my mind I can picture Peter trying pork chops and bacon for the first time in his life. I bet he loved them. Who doesn’t love bacon? Everything is better with bacon. Peter is really enjoying himself eating with Paul and the Gentiles.

The problem is that one day some of the Jews came down to visit, and when they showed up Peter stopped eating with the Gentiles and returned to the Jewish table. He was ashamed of the liberty he had been enjoying thereby setting a double standard before these believers.

By returning to the Jewish table he was saying that living in the liberty of Christ was wrong. When this happened Paul says that he confronted him face to face.

Before I move on and we beat up on Peter too much let me ask you a question. How many of us are truly living examples of what we know as bible doctrines? Peter stood up for this type of living in Acts 15. After his experience in Acts 11 at the house of Cornelius he was called on the carpet before the Jews and he defended himself. The problem here is that Peter’s freedom was threatened by Peter’s fear.

Peter was a very impulsive man. One moment he is cutting off a soldier’s ear for trying to arrest Jesus and the next he is denying he even knows Jesus. Peter could walk on water one moment and be drowning the next.

For Peter to fear was one thing but for his fear to be brought out in the public was another. If Paul had not confronted him these false teachers could have used this as an example of proof for their false teaching.
It is funny how people teach and preach that a man or woman must keep the law or live without sin in order to maintain their salvation. The reason this is funny is because outside of Christ no one has ever been able to keep the law. These Jews were teaching a works salvation, but they were not able to keep the law themselves.

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law.”

This includes the Law of Moses as well as any other legal system. If a person says that you have to join a certain church, speak in tongues, be baptized or any other work in order to obtain salvation they are preaching a false doctrine.

In Hebrews we are given a record of Christ offering his own blood upon the mercy seat in heaven. Let me point out a verse to you.

“When he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;”  Hebrews 1:3

The fact that Jesus sat down after presenting his blood tells us that the work was finished. If there was more work to be done then Jesus would not have sat down, he would have kept working. When Jesus died for you He did everything necessary to purchase your salvation.

Paul even says that “we” had to leave the law in order to be justified by Christ. The “we” in this verse are the Jews. The Jews had to turn from their works to faith so that they could be saved.

The Paul finishes with a pretty clear statement.

“for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

The word “justified” means to declare a person right. Let me give you a definition of this word. “Justification is the act of God whereby He declares the believing sinner righteous in Jesus Christ.”

We are declared right by Jesus Christ. The wonderful thing about Christ is that when He saves us He not only removes our sin, but He also adds His righteousness to our account.

If God could have saved us by any other means then He would have done so. The fact is that the death of Christ was the only way for us to be justified.

In the garden Jesus prayed “if it be possible let this cup pass from me.” There was no other way therefore He willingly laid down his life so that you can live. That was enough for God and it should be enough for us.

In the next chapter we will be given a biblical example of a man who was saved apart from the works of the Law. This man simply placed his trust in God. By doing so God placed righteousness on his account.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Fight for Faith. A Journey through Galatians (Chapter 2 a)

Galatians 2

Paul in Jerusalem

In chapter two the main theme is the oneness of the gospel. Today there seems to be different teachings when it comes to the gospel. One church will preach one gospel with one way to Christ, and the church down the street will preach another gospel with another way to Christ. The trouble with this is that there can only be one gospel, and there is only one way to Christ. Someone must be right and someone must be wrong.

This controversy is something that Paul had to deal with in this early church. Was Paul’s gospel right or was these legalistic Jews gospel right? We will see in this chapter that the gospel Paul preached was right, and he was willing to confront those that opposed it.

Beginning in verse one Paul retells the story of Acts chapter 15. In Acts 15 we see a council taking place in Jerusalem. At this council the apostles meet together with one topic on their mind. They wanted to determine if all of them were preaching the same message, and if God was saving in other area by faith in Christ.

Paul tells us that when he attended this council he took Titus with him. The reason this is so important is because Titus was a Greek. At this council Titus was “exhibit A” and became an example of a person saved apart from keeping the Law.

From the way this chapter progresses it would seem that there were some false believers coming into the churches where Paul preached and spying on him. They had noticed that this young man Titus had professed Christ, but Paul at no time after his conversion compelled him to be circumcised. This was a topic these false believers brought up over and over trying to discredit Paul.

Circumcision was a rite of passage under the Mosaic system. Circumcision actually began with Abraham in Genesis 17. For a person to submit to circumcision meant that they were submitting to the entire Jewish law. What the Jews forgot was the circumcision was an outward expression of an inward experience. The same is true today with baptism.

Paul states that when he took Titus to the apostles in Jerusalem they did not compel Titus to be circumcised. They did not listen to these false believers. Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit these men rightly decided that they had no right to place someone under the bondage of the Law. In Jesus Christ there was liberty and they were not going to take that away from Titus.

If a person had to be circumcised to be saved then that meant Titus was lost. The fact is however that Titus had been saved by the grace of God, and by grace alone. There was no need to impose on him, or any other believer for that matter, something that Christ had delivered him from.

You may not see the importance of all of this. Let me bring it out in this light. These men were living in the very early days of the church. They did not have a complete copy of the New Testament. They were preaching things that were not only new to the congregation, but new to them as well. God was revealing new things to his men, and those men in turn were revealing these new things to the people. The reason that these men got together was to confirm that what they were being revealed to was the same as what everyone else had been revealed.

Today we don’t need a revelation from God. We have a bible that teaches us completely the will of God. If we want to know the mind, will, or plans of God we simply have to read His word. These men did not have this luxury.

No doubt it was a time of great rejoicing when they compared notes and saw that they were preaching the exact same thing and that God was blessing their works.

In the end of chapter three we see this principal put into action through an experience in Antioch. In our next blog we will look at an experience that took place between Peter and Paul. 

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Monday, May 13, 2013

The fight for faith. A journey through Galatians.

Galatians Chapter 1

You and I live in a world that is rapidly leaving the principals of the scriptures and turning to false doctrines. In the scriptures God has laid out a plan for salvation, but many are guilty of teaching and preaching that God’s plan isn’t enough. Throughout America men stand in pulpits and teach and preach to their congregations that the death of Jesus Christ just isn’t enough for salvation.

This was the problem in the Galatian church. This church was founded by the apostle Paul on his first missionary journey. They heard the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, placed their faith in this message, were saved, and as a result saw their lives changed. This was a wonderful time in their lives. The trouble is that sometime after Paul left a group of false teachers came into the church and began to distort what Paul had taught. These men did not deny the gospel they just taught that the gospel wasn’t enough. Their message was that in order to be saved, or to be right with God, a person had to not only accept Jesus by faith, they also had to keep the Law of Moses.

This message of the gospel plus something is one that is not new to us. Today men preach the gospel plus baptism, the gospel plus a work of grace, the gospel plus good works. Just like the people of America today these people in Galatia were very fickle and were contemplating following after these false teachers.

Let me give you an example of the way these people acted. In the book of Acts we read that when Paul came to Galatia the people wanted to make him a god. The bible also tells us that the day after they wanted to make him a god they stoned him. They easily went from one extreme to another.

Paul begins this epistle by stating his apostleship. The word “apostle” means “one who is sent on a commission.” Jesus had several disciples which literally means “learners” but he chose twelve apostles. After stating his authority as an apostle he gives a quick greeting then gets into the meat of the epistle.

Paul begins his argument by presenting the gospel message. It is this message that these Judaizers are trying to change. Paul shows us the person of the gospel which is Jesus Christ. Paul shows us the price paid for the gospel in Jesus giving his life. We even see the purpose for the message which is to deliver sinners from bondage.

Notice that Paul states plainly in that Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins. There is nothing that a person can do to add value to this sacrifice. When a person gives themselves, as Christ did, they have given everything they can. When you give yourself you are giving your time, talents, everything you have. This is what Jesus did for you and me. To try to add something to this is to tell Jesus that He was not enough.

Because of the sacrifice of Christ you and I can be delivered from this present, evil world. The finished work of Christ proves its worth when a person accepts Christ and they are delivered from evil. Through Christ people are delivered from drugs, alcohol, pornography and all manner of sins.

Also notice that Paul says that the gospel is God’s will. God willed His Son to come to this earth and die on the cross for you and me. Jesus willingly laid down his life for our sins. Now God is willing that you and I accept His Son, be delivered from this evil world, and walk according to the will of God.

This was a message that these people had heard, accepted and founded their church on. Now however they are contemplating turning away from these truths. Paul marvels that they have been removed from the truths of the gospel. The verb used in this verse indicates that they were in the process of deserting the gospel, but that they had not fully turned away yet. These people were in the process of leveling liberty and returning to legalism.

I think it is worth pointing out that the gospel is broken down into two categories. We have the truths of the gospel which are the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:”   1 Corinthians 15:3-4

These facts are hard to argue with, or at least they were in Paul’s day. There were over 500 witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. It would prove difficult to argue with 500 people.

The second part of the gospel is the interpretation of the gospel. It was the interpretation of the gospel that the church was struggling with. After Paul left the region a group of Jews came to this Galatain country and presented them with a false doctrine. These Jews would tell the people that Paul was right in teaching them about the facts of the gospel, but that Paul’s message didn’t go far enough. They taught that while it was true you should trust Christ you should also keep the Law of Moses.

Dr. Weirsbe said this. “You cannot mix grace and works, because the one excludes the other. Salvation is the gift of God’s grace, purchased for us by Jesus Christ on the cross. To turn from grace to law is to desert the God who saved us.”

This heresy is still with us today. Many teach and preach a message of grace plus something. Some preach grace plus good works. Some preach grace plus baptism. In each one of these examples people are trying to add to the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Notice what Paul said to the jailer in Philippi.

“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou salt be saved, and thy house.”   Acts 16:31

Peter said to the Sanhedrin:

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”   Acts 4:12

I want to say that the grace of God is sufficient for salvation!

Not only were these people guilty of departing from the truth of the gospel, but they were actually guilty of perverting the gospel message. The word pervert means to go from one extreme to another. In Acts, Luke used the word to speak of the sun being turned into darkness. James used this word to describe laughter being turned into mourning. To add something to the gospel means that you make the gospel the opposite of what it really is.

This is such a terrible thing that Paul issues a double warning. His warning was that if any man was to preach a message different than the one he had preached, then that person should be accursed. To make the warning even stronger he states that if an angel from heaven were to appear to you and preach something other than the gospel message then that person should pronounce the angel accursed.

Adding something to the grace of God is what is known as “legalism.” The reason that so many people love legalism is because the gospel places man on a very low level. The gospel says that a man is a low down dirty sinner and there is nothing they can do about it. The gospel says that we are incapable of helping ourselves and therefore we need a savior. Legalism on the other hand says that if a man works hard enough he can overcome his faults. Legalism tells us that there is a little good in each of us and we simply need to cultivate that good.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”   Romans 6:23

Paul knew what he was talking about because he tried to do this same thing. Before he was Paul the apostle, he was Saul the Pharisee. As Saul he tried to work to the best of his ability to please God. After his salvation he said this about that part of his life.

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the Excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.”   Philippians 3:7-8

Friend there is no way that you can work hard enough to satisfy God. Paul found this out in his own life. Paul went about from town to town preaching that the only way a person can be saved by the grace of God is by placing their faith, and faith alone, in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

 As we move on through the epistle Paul will offer great examples of justification by faith. We will see the example of Abraham, the friend of God, the father of faith. We will even see the example of how the gospel changed the lives of the people in this church. I pray that you read along with me as we move forward, that you open your heart to the scriptures, and that you accept Christ by faith if you have not already done so.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

An Amazing Love

I woke up this morning with two thoughts on my mind. One I was thinking about my wife and how I couldn’t wait to spend Valentine’s Day with her. Secondly I was thinking about the love that God has shown to me over the years. With this on my mind I told my wife Happy Valentine’s day and began to pray while getting ready for work.

There are a lot of things that I will never be able to understand, but God’s love is at the top of that list. I’m not saying that I can’t understand why God loves people, although that’s tough to grasp. What specifically astounds me is that God would love ME! You see, I know me and that is what makes this love so amazing.

I may not understand God’s love for me but I’m sure glad that He does. God loved me so much that He was willing to give up the most precious thing to Him, His Son, in order to have fellowship with me. God loved me so much that He came looking for me. I was a fourteen year old kid, minding my own business and God came looking for me. That is such an amazing love. What is even more amazing is that He continues to love me. Don’t forget that I know me. I know the stupid stuff I do, say and think. Yet God still continues to love me. That’s pretty amazing.

What did I do, or am I currently doing to deserve this love? Nothing! God just loves me. But because Jesus loves me it makes me want to love others. Because He loved me it makes me want to be the best Christian I can be. Just like the fact that my wife loves me makes me want to be the best husband I can be.

If you have never experienced the love of God then you are really missing out. God’s love is so wonderful and it is open to all who will accept it. God loves you just the way you are.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Their Trouble

Song of Solomon
Chapter 2

In the last several verses of chapter two we will talk a lot about the seasons of the year. These verses will mainly talk about winter and spring. I’m sure each of us has heard at least one comparison between the changing of seasons and the Christian life. Just like there are four seasons to the year, there are four seasons to the Christian life.

Let’s take a minute and see these seasons, or the changes this couple has gone through.


The summer is the hottest part of the year. This would be the time when she first moved into the palace. In the Christian life this is the time when we are first saved.

When she first gets to the palace they are talking about flowers, or harvest season. No matter what time of year you are saved, that is harvest time in your life. Your life is the harvest. Things are exciting. New life, new love and new living have come your way. So it was with this couple.


After the summer comes the fall. After she talked about the flowers, she began to talk about trees. The thing that make my part, east Tennessee, of the country so beautiful in the fall are the trees. People will travel from all around to see the leaves on the trees.

Fall is beautiful at first because things are bright and colorful. The reason that the leaves change however is because they are dying. After they turn orange and red, they turn brown and fall off.

This happens to all of us. There comes a time in our lives when cold wind blows, we grow cold on God and we begin to dry up spiritually. Maybe we become cold and critical of others. We dry up on the inside.

This happens in a marriage as well. We can lie and say that we have been on a honeymoon for 50 years, but that simply is not true. Each of us experience times when things are not as “warm” as they used to be. This begins to happen in our happy couple in the scriptures.


Of course winter follows fall. Have you ever been to the point in your life where everything just seems dead? You may not realize it but you are in the winter season of your life. “This Sunday school is just so dead lately.” “This church is just so dead.” Some of us even begin to wander if the sun will ever shine in our lives again. We long for the warmth of the relationship we once had.

I’m afraid that too many give up in those times. They abandon God, the church and their bible.

In our society one in two marriages ends in divorce. In the hard times of a marriage many are just simply giving up. They decide there is no use to go on.

I want to encourage you. If you are in the winter part of your life, just hold on, spring is coming. The flowers will bloom again in your life if you will just hold on.

Obviously this woman is in the winter part of her life. Their marriage is going through the winter. From these next verses it seems that she has gone back down to the vineyard. I don’t know why. Maybe she went to check on her family. Maybe she only meant to stay a few days. But hours have turned to days and days turn into months.

This woman stays at the vineyard so long that she begins to get used to being away from Solomon. She is sleeping in her old bed. In fact that is where we find her in verse eight. She has learned that she can get along without him, but we will see that he cannot get along with her.

When you read verse 8 this woman is lying in her bed when she hears something that she has not heard in some time. She hears the voice of her beloved. Notice what she says in this verse. “He cometh leaping upon the mountains.”

Mountains divide people. These mountains are a wonderful picture of the things that separate us. Maybe we are separated from God. Maybe we are separated from our spouse.

Whatever it is that is separating her and her beloved must be big in her eyes. She describes them as “mountains.” I want you to notice that the things separating them are mountains in her eyes, but they are not a problem for her beloved. He comes “leaping” on the mountains.

Each of us has been in this winter part of our life. We have grown cold on God. We have grown cold in our marriage. In those times we look and say, “There are just too many problems.” “There is just too much standing between us.” Please keep in mind that the things that look like mountains to you, God will come leaping on. Nothing is too big for God!

Do you remember the story of the disciples on the water? The wind and waves were over their head. They just knew they were going to be consumed by this storm. Just when they think they are going down Jesus comes walking on the water. The waves that were over their heads were under His feet.

In verse 9 Solomon has come to look for her. She has heard his voice, now she sees him. She can’t see him good at first because he is behind the wall, but he moves closer.

Then he presses his face up to the glass. He peeps at her from behind the lattice. Here she is, away from her love, in the winter of her life, but he does not forget about her. He comes looking for her. In fact he was willing to come all the way back down to the vineyard to find her.

Sometimes God has to go a long way to find us. In fact there have been times when he had to come all the way back to the place where he first saved us. But he is willing to do that in order to bring us back home.

In verses 10 through 13 Solomon speaks to her. He tells her to rise up. She has been in the vineyard for way to long. It was time to come back home.

Notice that he does not fuss at her. He had every right to point his finger and confront her. He could have said, “I have saved you. Taken you away from this place and moved you into my palace. I loved you and this is how you repay me.” Instead he says “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.”

I also want you to notice that while her feelings may have changed, his feelings have not changed. He is still using the same words he used in chapter one.

How about you today? Today may be the last day of winter in your life. Today could be the day that God allows the flowers to bloom in your life again. Maybe you are cold spiritually. Maybe your marriage has grown cold. God could come leaping on the mountains in your life today. Today could be the day he says:

Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;”

Solomon warns in verse 15 about the small foxes. Although their relationship is back together, they must set up safe guards so this does not happen again. The foxes are the things that come into our lives and spoil our relationships.

When a relationship is just becoming fruitful again we must be careful. At this turning point it is easy for something to come along and spoil all that has been accomplished. Notice that many times it is a small thing that has to be guarded against. A fox is a small animal, but it will ruin a vine.

In our relationship with God and in our marriage we have to put up guards. Maybe today you restore your relationship with God. Maybe you and your spouse restore your marriage. Be careful because a little thing will want to creep in and destroy that new fruit.

The chapter ends with a wonderful statement and a terrible mistake. She is now able to say something that she has not been able to say in some time. “My beloved is mine, and I am his:” That is a wonderful statement.

She also makes a terrible mistake. This mistake will take us into chapter three. In my next blog I will explain the mistake and the result of making the mistake.

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