Galatians Day 13: What’s the point of all these rules?

mean_teacher_rulerWhen I was in college I was an RA (resident assistant) and had to enforce the rules of the college on my peers.  Why would I want this job?  Because it helped pay for my room and board, and couldn’t hurt my resume in the future.
There were a couple of times as an RA that I was called out for breaking the rules that I was supposed to be enforcing.  Hopefully, the dean of men at the college won’t read this.  (I don’t think he knows <—sarcasm).  One day I got caught by my friend JT King doing something I had written him up for the week before.  “All I want, Ben, is a little consistency”, he said with sarcasm, and he was exactly right.  I had lost some reputation and authority in his mind.
Aren’t you glad to know that you’re not made right with God by having to keep a bunch of rules?  I sure am.  If that’s how we get in, then I don’t have a shot.
As we have studied Galatians we have learned that we aren’t made right with God by keeping His rules, but by believing in Jesus.  This has always been how God has worked.  We are justified by faith.  And I’m glad for that.
If we aren’t made right with God by rules, then why do we still have rules?
Fair question, right?
Paul asks and answers this question in today’s text- Galatians 3:19-25:
19Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
  • If we are saved by believing in the promise of God and not by keeping the law, what’s the big deal about the law?  Why do we even have it?
  • Paul’s answer:
    • It was added because of sin until Jesus would come to us to fulfill the promise that He made.
    • In talking about angels, they had a role to play in God’s giving of the law.
 20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
  • Most of the time a mediator mediates between two parties.  God did not need someone else in mediating between us.
21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
  • Should we just do away with the law?  Does it go against the promise that God made?  No way!  It just can’t do what faith in the promise of God can do, which is bring righteousness.
22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
  • When we read the Bible honestly, especially the law, we realize that we are sinners.  We can not keep the law.
  • Once we acknowledge that we are sinners, we can then acknowledge our need for the promise of God- righteousness by faith to those who believe.
23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.  24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
  • Before Christ came, people had to believe God and express their faith through obedience to the moral and ceremonial law that would point to what God was going to do.  Their faith was still what saved them, they just couldn’t see all that Christ was going to do.
  • In that way, the law was there to teach them- a “schoolmaster”- that pointed to Jesus.  It pointed to our need for a Savior.
The law is a good tutor.  It teaches us of our need for God.  Don’t forget about your need for Him today!

Galatians Day 12- God Keeps His Promises

medium_2232897539Have you ever made a promise that you had a hard time keeping?  I heard a story about a dad who was training his son to give him the business he started.  “Son, 2 things have made this business successful- reliability and wisdom.  If you say you’re going to do it by next Tuesday then no matter how many hours, how much pain, and how difficult it is, you have to have it done by Tuesday.”  The son replied, “Well, that’s reliability.  What about wisdom?”  The dad replied, “Wisdom is not making that kind of promise in the first place.”

It is difficult for us to keep our promises at times, but we expect that when promises are made to us they will be kept!

In today’s reading, Galatians 3:15-18,  Paul talks about the promises that God made to Abraham.

15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.

  • If people make a promise, especially a legally binding contract, we expect it, and enforce it to be kept.

16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.  17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. 18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

  • Even the covenant promise that God made to Abraham was the gracious response to Abraham’s faith.  Abraham didn’t earn it by works.
  • God will keep His promise to Abraham!

Action Step:

  • God can be trusted.  If He says He will do something, it will be done.
  • Do you keep your promises?  Is your word your bond?  If we are to reflect the character of God we keep our word!  Maybe today you need to go make good on a promise you made.

Galatians Day 11- The problem with rules….

medium_205467442Have you ever noticed how impossible it is to keep all the rules?  I sure have.  If the only rules that existed had to do with just how we use our words then I would be in TROUBLE!  If we only had one rule we would break it.  Just ask Adam and Eve.  
With that being said, so many people are trying to get right with God by keeping rules.  They think if I keep enough rules and don’t break too many others then maybe God will accept me.
Paul had something to say about this way of thinking in our reading in Galatians 3:10-14-

10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

  • If you don’t keep every law all the time then you have broken God’s law and are under the curse.

11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. 12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

  • Paul quotes the Old Testament to prove that God has always taught that those who are made right with Him are made right because of their faith, and that if you try to be right with God by the law then you’ll be judged by the law.

13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: 14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Say it in a sentence: Jesus kept the law on our behalf and took the curse of breaking the law for us so that we can live under God’s grace through faith.  
Action Points:
  • Which plan are you on- faith or works?  Faith in Jesus Christ is the only way any of us will be accepted by God.  Have you asked Him to save you in faith?  If not, do it now!
  •  Do you ever think that God will accept you or reject you because of your performance?  Stop this thinking!  God accepts us because of Jesus alone.  Do right because you are accepted by faith, not to be accepted!
  • Take some time to thank God today for His 

Want your group to grow? Try Open Groups!

open_door-t2Church Growth Researcher Thom Ranier posted on his blog his findings after over 25 years of research the most common pattern among churches in decline.
“Stated simply, the most common factor in declining churches is an inward focus.”
The same thing that causes whole churches to decline also causes Sunday School classes to decline as well. That is why I believe that every church that does Sunday School should have a goal of having an open group philosophy when it comes to every Sunday School class.
You may be asking, “What is an open group?”
Open Groups….

…Expect new people every time they meet.
If you were having guests over to your house for dinner, how would you prepare?  Would your house be clean? Would you make sure they knew how to get there?  Would you be warm and welcoming?  Would you talk over your guests head or speak to them where they are?  Open groups expect that guests are coming and are completely prepared to meet them, make them feel welcome, and to help them be a part of the group.

…Take the Great Commission as a group and individual mandate.
When Jesus gave the great commission to go and make disciples to his disciples He gave it to them as a group.  They understood that although it was a personal commission it was best done together.  It’s easier to reach people when you do it with others, and open groups leverage this to reach people.

…View their enrollment as a ministry and prayer list.
So many Sunday School classes view their enrollment as a list of people who could possibly come.  Often, if a person doesn’t come for a while they are taking off a list.  Also, they don’t add people to their list until they come a few times.  This is not a good idea if you want to grow.  Think about it–>They make it difficult to be a part of the group, and easy for them to stop being a part of the group.  Open groups view their enrollment as a list of people to which they minister.  They plan what ministry needs to be done on a weekly basis based on this list.  Leaders of open groups pray for their people and lead their groups to pray for each other as well.  Open groups cultivate prospect lists that they pray for as a group.

…Look for ways to invite new people.
If a group is open they will be disappointed and think that something is wrong if there was no one new attending when they met.  They are always looking for people to invite.  They are constantly looking to create a culture of invitation in their group.  Activities and fellowships are not just for people who already belong, but are also opportunities to invite new people to connect to the group.

…Allow people to belong before they believe.
People may not agree with everything we believe, but they should feel loved, accepted, and cared for the moment they come to the class, if not before.  They come back because they are loved and ministered to, and this gives the opportunity for the person who doesn’t believe to be under the practical teaching of God’s Word.  Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

…Realize that it takes effort to stay open.
The natural tendency of every group is to become closed.  It takes effort, vision, focus- leadership-  to stay open.

What are some other ways that your Sunday School group could be more open?