Thursday 6 June 2019

Galatians 2 Verses 15/21

Anyone who reads a newspaper carefully, or listens to radio/television broadcasts, will be in no doubt that we live in an evil world. Countless stories of violence, murder, and immorality, with even a combination of all three, and where as once a murder would attract headlines for days, now with one a week it is just another item of news.

Something has gone badly wrong with society and it is more than coincidental that as religion has decreased in people’s lives, evil has risen. We have become separated more than ever from God, and when God gives us up we are in big trouble. There is a big chasm between us and God but God has provided a bridge for us to cross. The answer is the One who died on a wooden Cross at Calvary.

Paul in this Letter to the Galatian Church tells how we can be restored to a proper relationship with God, it is called being justified with faith.

We have to accept, with sadness, that this is no longer a truly Christian country; indeed the government has been at pains to tell and show us. It is true the majority of people like to think of themselves as Christians, but this is in name only without any biblical significance.

The Christian belief and teaching is that when we die our spirit moves on to either eternal life with Jesus, or to eternal destruction. This is not popular theology, but it is thoroughly biblical.

There are two lines of thought as to how we can get to heaven. One, which is so popular with a lot of people, and with many in the Church both lay and ordained, is through our own endeavours and deeds. It is a common belief that if one is honest, kind and helpful to others, there is no need to suffer the inconvenience of going to Church or getting religious. So what should we base our hope on?

Paul had founded the Church in Galatia and then moved on. Later some Jewish Christians from Jerusalem arrived and said it was necessary for all the Christians to keep the Jewish Law and men should be circumcised in addition to accepting the teaching about Jesus. Paul was furious that anyone should say it was necessary to add anything at all to the teaching of Jesus, and as he had been made an Apostle by God through Jesus Christ, he had the authority to speak on behalf of God.

Paul taught that Jesus came into the world to live and die for us. In His death He suffered for our disobedience, and as the penalty for sin was death, instead of us being made to pay that penalty, Jesus stood in our place. All that was required of us was to repent of our sin and put our whole faith and trust in Jesus to save us, then God accepts us as a son or daughter into His family; we are justified through our faith. Such a simple yet profound act, but one beyond the ability of many to accept. They have such faith in themselves and one day will find how wrong they were.

God will not accept human terms for He wanted it understood that it was only through Jesus that salvation could be obtained. The Bible states there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved. Our Lord declared Himself, ‘no one comes to the Father except through me’.

When we are prepared to accept this, God acquits us of all our past wrongdoing. Imagine how you would feel if all your deeds and thoughts and actions from the past were displayed on a computer. There are things in all our lives of which we regret and are even ashamed of, things we bitterly wish we had not done or said and would like to think they had not happened. If they were so displayed it would make us feel rather depressed. But imagine next that someone touched the delete button on the computer, they would all be wiped out. This is what God does when we turn to Jesus Christ as Saviour.

This is all through the grace of God. The Bible states, ‘by grace are you saved through faith and this is not of your own doing.’ Sadly the Church too often neglects to talk about salvation as it implies an element of judgement and no one wants to appear judgemental. Try to think how often, and when was the last time you heard a sermon on this subject.

Faith is belief for which there is no visible proof. There has to be strong conviction. There was a famous acrobat who once walked across Niagra Falls on a tight rope, 1100 feet long and 160 feet above the waters below. One day he carried a man on his back and after doing so asked a spectator if he thought it could be done again. The man said he did so believe, but when asked if he would jump on the acrobat’s back and go across, you can guess the answer. The man had seen the act performed but he did not have faith or trust. People have seen others rejoicing in the love of Jesus but are not prepared to go with them.

However commendable and necessary it is to attend Church, sing hymns, say the Creed, it needs more. John Wesley had been ordained for more than 10 years and on a journey to America was asked by a missionary leader if he knew Jesus as his Saviour. Wesley replied that he knew Jesus was the Saviour of the world. It was pointed out to him that was not what was asked, but was Jesus his own Saviour, and Wesley said Jesus was. Later Wesley wrote in his journal, ‘I fear they were vain words’.

Belief has to be personal and just as the Lord promised good to John Newton in that beautiful hymn ‘Amazing Grace’, and His Word and hope secured, so God will be with all who seek Him and He will be your shield and portion as long as life endures.

May amazing grace be yours today and always.

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