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The Life that Commends a Man and a Ministry - And the Voice of Truth that Confirms It

This message is the first in a series on the book of Galatians entitled "The Long Arm of the Law and How to Escape it's Threat to Your Life". As we consider Paul's opening words to the church in Galatia, we need to ask ourselves, "What - if anything - will commend us to the world around us? Are our lives infused with grace and truth? Will it be apparent that we've been with Jesus?"

Todd WagnerApr 22, 2007
Galatians 1:1-9

Messages In This Series (8)
One Last Shot at Communicating the One Great Truth
Todd WagnerJun 24, 2007
Why be a Servant When You Can be a Son?
Todd WagnerJun 17, 2007
Why Promise is Better than Performance. And Why Moses Doesn't Trump Abraham.
Todd WagnerJun 10, 2007
Five Piercing Questions, a Prominent Example, and Perfect Truth
Todd WagnerJun 3, 2007
A Right Response to a Wrong Way of Thinking
Todd WagnerMay 20, 2007
Why Men Love Religious Systems and Why God Does Not
Todd WagnerMay 6, 2007
Are You Crazy Enough to Fight for, Talk About and Live for the Gospel?
Todd WagnerApr 29, 2007
The Life that Commends a Man and a Ministry - And the Voice of Truth that Confirms It
Todd WagnerApr 22, 2007

We just got a good dose of what it means to live a life that is full and that is a blessing to us and to others who are around us. We're going to now take the next nine weeks to do something different. We're going to take a little look at a book called Galatians. We're not just going to study Galatians; we're going to take a look at the idea that was in this book in the New Testament. We're going to call this series Long Arm of the Law. We're going to go verse by verse through this little book in your New Testament that shows up.

When you think about the long arm of the law, it talks about how typically if you're an individual who isn't living the way you ought to live, you will be found out, and the long arm of the law is going to get you. We're taking that little familiar expression (there's a little twist to it), and I'm going to talk about how this world has consistently gone back to a bondage that God wants to set us free from; the long arm of the law and how to escape the threat it is to your life.

I'm going to show you how dead religion, legalism, a sense of dread and fear that you're not being good enough long enough to please God, and that you have to live your life in such a way that others are pleased by you so you can find some life with them, is a trap. I'm going to spend all kinds of time walking you through a book that, really, is singularly responsible for freeing up much of the known world from dead religion.

A guy named Martin Luther, who many people, rightly, say is primarily responsible for the reformation of the church, for getting the church back to where it should be, took on what was the largest institution of his day. He just said, "You are being brought back into bondage when Christ died to set you free. Men have elevated certain practices, certain behaviors, certain obligations on you so that they can continually support their industry, which is religion."

God says, "Religion is your effort to get closer to me through your own works. If you didn't learn anything about me when I came, it was that I was so far above you, my ways are so unlike your ways, that you can work for your entire finite life and you aren't ever going to get where you're supposed to be. Unless I work towards you in grace, you're going to live in fear, you're going to live in bondage, and you're going to live in absolute dread.

So I want to tell you some good news. The word is gospel, about how I'm going to set you free from the bondage of performance, from the bondage of finding your own way, and of doing, doing, doing to find life and freedom. I will set you free. There is truth, and that truth will set you free." We're going to take a look at how to escape from the long arm of legalism, of performance, and of a way that seems right to man but in the end is the way of death.

Galatians. Dive in there with me. Look at it. It's in your New Testament. I hope you bring your Bible. I hope you mark up your Bible. I hope you write in your Bible. Whatever you write in your Bible won't be as good as what's already there, but if it helps you understand what's already there, go ahead. God wants you to interact with God's Word. He doesn't want you just to read through your Bible; he wants your Bible to get through you. He wants you to read it through, pray it in, live it out, and pass it on.

We gather together, not because we have to or God's going to jack with us this week. We gather together to corporately remind ourself why we want to live in worship and surrender to God all week long in a way that others will go, "Who is it that you people know that you're so free from the things that we are in bondage to?" We can say, "His name is Jesus, and he paid it all. If you knew who he was you would respond to him the way I'm trying to."

I'm not going to spend a lot of time teaching you stuff that you can find at the front of any study Bible or any Bible dictionary. I'm not going to walk you through a lot of deep, impressive information about first-century Galatia. I will tell you this. I will tell you that the region of Galatia is what is modern-day Turkey. Go to Jerusalem, go dead north, take a left around the Mediterranean Sea, and you're in Turkey, the region known as Galatia.

Its people, if you know your world history, were called Celts or Gauls or Turks. They were a marauding group. They were mostly a mercenary people who worked for the local king, and when there was no mercenary work to be found, they fought each other. They were bound by finding life through a way that seemed right to them.

Paul, who had found a relationship with God by grace, though he was a terrorist… That's what Paul was. The dude was a terrorist. He went around murdering people who said they had found a life through a relationship with a man named Jesus who claimed to be God. He thought the most loving thing he could do was to kill this Jesus who said, "If you trust in me, God will forgive you."

Paul said, "No, no, no, man. There's a system of legalism and religiosity and performance," that God, by the way, had first given to us in order to teach us how holy he was and how, and how if there weren't some means of forgiveness made available to us, we could never live our lives in such a way that he would accept.

Then Jesus came, not to abolish the law but to fulfill it and to show us that he met the standard that God demanded because he was fully God and fully man, he was finite man and eternal God, so when he lived as a perfect man, as an eternal creature, he could satisfy the eternal debt before an infinite God to set you free as the perfect sacrifice acceptable to God.

Now, I want to show you why Paul was so passionate about this because it had freed him up from a life in bondage to performance. This Jesus, whose tomb was empty, appeared to Paul one day and said, "Paul…" He actually called him Saul, which was his name at the time. "Why do you persecute me? When you're killing the people who love me and follow after me, you're messing with me."

The Scripture says Paul was zealous for God (though in ignorance), and he reached out to him. He showed him the resurrection of Jesus Christ and how that one event sets Jesus apart from every other individual who ever lived. Do you want to get in a rabbinical school? Get in the rabbinical school where the professorial staff is made up of guys who conquered death. Follow them.

Paul is going to say, "I'm following Jesus. I'm through with Gamaliel, the rabbinical school I learned from. Why? I don't like to argue with guys who walk on water and are raised from the dead." Look at Galatians 1:1. "Paul, an apostle…" I'm going to tell you what that means in a second. "…(not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead)…"

Paul is going to come right out and say, "Why should you listen to me? Why should you hear what I have to say more than anybody else? It's not because I'm coming to you with letters of commendation." You get a book these days by a first-time author… Let's just say I put together a book.

The publisher is going to say, "Let's get somebody familiar to write the forward. It'll say "[whatever the book title is] by Todd Wagner," in probably 12-point font, and then underneath it'll say "Forward by Chuck Swindoll" (or Max Lucado or whoever it is that they want to push that book out to) in about 27-point font. They're going to go, "Wow. I have no idea who Wagner is, but if Max Lucado…if Rick Warren…if Billy Graham…says his book is worth reading, that's a letter of commendation to me.

It was a common practice when itinerant preachers or prophets would go through a region that they would present some letter that would commend them to the people. Paul, himself, did this in Romans 16. He wrote a letter to those folks at Rome. He wanted them to know that he was sending a gal named Phoebe to them.

This is what he says, "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well." Basically, Paul is saying, "I commend Phoebe to you. Help her and learn from her as she has served with me other places."

What's Paul is doing when he comes is he's not trumpeting his degrees, and he's not trumpeting his works. He is saying, "Let me tell you who I am so you can decide right now if you want to listen to me. I'm not just some impressive teacher. I've been sent by God. I am an apostle." I want to talk about this for a second. I'm going to show you how incredibly relevant this book is. God saved this book for us for a reason. He wants to set us free from the things that so easily entangle us, and he wants us to learn, even from little verses like this.

Paul was saying, "I am an apostle." If you go back to Matthew 10:1-2… Write that down as a reference. It talks there how Jesus summoned the 12 disciples, the 12 men who had been learning from him. The word disciple literally means learners. It says, "Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority…" These are guys who are learning, and then all of a sudden, Jesus says, "I'm giving you my authority," which doesn't mean very much unless the one giving that authority walks on water, has been raised from the dead, or is headed that direction.

So he says, "Now you'll go in my name," which means when you do things, you do it because you are representing me. He gave them authority over unclean spirits to cast them out, to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness because he is the divine physician. He is the Creator of men. He is the one who has allowed sin to come into the world through the free will that he gave men who rebelled against him, so he would show the world what happens.

"When you leave me, you leave life and you bring destruction and death and insecurity and sickness and all that you wish wasn't there. Because I have authority over this world, I'm going to use you as instruments which will declare to the world the solution to the sin that you have created is me, Jesus, so go in my authority. You're no longer disciples. Now you are apostles, which means sent forth. You're no longer a learner. You've learned of me and who I am. Now go and represent me."

So it says, "Now the names of the twelve apostles [those dudes who were sent forth] …" and it lists out those names. Here's the application for us. When you start thinking about your life and why folks should listen to you, why your life has any meaning to those who are around you, what is the basis that you say you have a word for them?

As we get started I want to ask you…How will others know that you have been sent, if you are an apostle, a sent-forth one from Jesus Christ)? There are really two commands in Scripture. In Matthew 11, Jesus looks at those who are weary and heavy-burdened by the long arm of the law and religion, and he says, "Come, and I will give you rest." Then once you've come, and by the grace of God he has shown you the provision of Jesus Christ, he then says, "Go and make disciples. Teach them to observe everything I have commanded you.

You'll go in my name, and you baptize in my name. You tell people to identify themselves, not with you as a great teacher, not with you as a church, you tell them to identify with me, Jesus Christ, and the father and the Spirit of God. You baptize them in our name. You remember that when you go do it, you do it by the power of God that is with you until the end. Because though I am resurrected in bodily form, I've ascended to heaven where I sit at the right hand of God until such a time as I return to establish on earth the kingdom that is in heaven.

But know this. I won't leave you as orphans while I'm gone. The Spirit of God which worked in me and through me, which I gave to you and preserved through my Word, which dwells in you in the love that you have for me, I will use that Spirit and the authority of my Word to allow you to be to others what I've been to you."

Do you want to know what God had to say? Listen to Jesus. Do you want to know today what God is like? You're supposed to look to his temple. Do you not know that your body is the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you? You, as people who have met the risen Lord, are to be the holy of holies. That doesn't mean you're a group of people set apart from everybody else horizontally. It means you walk on this earth with them but on a higher plane of love and goodness and faithfulness and self-control because you see not as they see.

Here's the question: What's your authority? When you go to people do you give them your impressive degrees, your learnings, your success as a businessman or a businesswoman, your number of children, your history as an athlete, or your good looks and self-discipline? What is the authority that gives you the ability to speak to others' lives?

Here's how you know if you've been sent by God. If you ask yourself what gives you the confidence to speak into other peoples' lives and it's anything other than the word of Jesus, you are not one sent from him, and you're spreading a message that he says is not going to be the ultimate source of life.

Watch this. You guys know that we are asked at different times to come and speak at different conferences, speaks to different church leadership, speak to folks who are considering who this Jesus is, sometimes even in exotic locations. Whenever we go and speak someplace, we start this way. In 1 Corinthians 2, this same Paul, as he was talking to a group of people who were Corinth, this is the way he began.

He says, "And when I came to you…" This what I read as I start and I'm standing there before a group of people and they've introduced me in whatever way they've introduced me. I say, "Forget all that. I don't come to you as a learned man. I don't come to you as a leader of a large organization the world would say has had some level of success. I don't come to you as a representative of a country that, by all measures, is a country that has prospered like no country before. Discount all of that.

I'm coming to you, and I want you to know I've already given you everything you need to figure out what's going on in your war-torn, unjust, chaotic land and world. It's God's Word, and I will speak to you not with superiority of speech or of my own wisdom, but I'm going to proclaim to you the testimony of God. I am determined, as I interact with you these next days, to know nothing among you except who Jesus is and why he was crucified." That's the way I lead.

I go on from there. I say, "All of us are here with different insecurities. We're here with weakness and fear and much trembling that you might reject what we have to say if we're saying it ourselves. Frankly, it's not us you're rejecting if you reject what we're about to share with you that God has left.

Our message and our preaching will not be in persuasive words of wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of the power that God has given you so that your faith should not rest in American colonizers, American missionaries, and American-educated individuals or on the wisdom of men but on the power of God.

I want you to test it. I'm going to show you why living God's way is the solution to the conflict you have in your country and in your homes, in your churches, in your neighborhoods, and in your region. I'm going to speak a wisdom among those who are mature. A wisdom, however, not of this age. It goes against the spirit of this age, which is fight unto the strongest and then get while the getting is good and exploit those who are around you.

But I'm going to speak God's wisdom to you. It's a mystery. It's wrapped up and revealed through his Son, Jesus Christ. It's the hidden wisdom which God long ago predestined before the ages to our glory, the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age have understood, because rulers of this age understand the way to find life is in power, it's in pleasure, it's in position, and it's in possessions. That's what everybody is killing each other over.

There's no life there, for if they had understood that it's not in those things, they wouldn't have crucified the Lord of glory who came to tell them, 'Don't use your position and power to exalt yourself, but to serve the people.'" So I go to them, and I say, "Things which eye haven't seen, things which ear hasn't heard, things which have not entered into the hearts of men, all that God has prepared for you as we interact together this week."

When Paul went and said, "Here's my authority. You can reject it if you want, but it's not me you're rejecting." I've said that to folks. Here's how you know if you're somebody like that. Somebody comes to you as a counselor… I don't just mean as an LPC, a Licensed Professional Counselor. I don't care if that's what you are. If you give them anything other than God's Word in response to their need, you are wasting their time. When somebody comes to you and asks what you think, if you respond with, "Well I think, or I feel, or it makes sense to me that…" then you are wasting their time.

By the way, sometimes you may say some things that have merit and are true, but it's only because, by some chance, you have matched up with what God is screaming at you to give you life. Every time when I go speak someplace and they say, "Tell us what you think we should do about this," I say, "If I don't start with 'God's Word says…' If I don't say, 'Jesus made it clear that…' If I don't say, 'The principles that God, in his love for you, has no longer hidden but has preserved for you say that…' then you ought to take it with a grain of salt at best."

That goes for them in the dark continent, and it goes for you right here. Why? The long arm of legalism, ritualism, religion, and the institutions of man are looking to steal your life, and your loving Father is looking to set you free. If you're taking your own counsel, and most of us get most of our counsel from ourself ("It feels right to me that I should…"), don't trust yourself if you can't back up your feelings with that God's Word has said. You are like a child who needs a loving shepherd so that you won't be controlled by fear and your emotions.

Read the story in the Watermark News today about how the long arm of the law of the world which is to isolate, to protect, and hide, had strangled the life from Jared until Jared started to hear another voice, a voice of truth that said, "Fear not, Jared. There is life in sharing your story with others who have shown themselves to be servants and lovers of men."

Let me say it this way. When we started Watermark, individuals said, "On what basis do you begin to gather as individuals who are going to represent God? What body sanctioned you? Who is in authority over you?" I'm going to tell you the answer that every single church ought to give or you ought to get out of it.

I didn't give them some denomination. I didn't give them some head or some man in authority in some ecclesiastical order. I said, "Our authority is the Word of God, and our shepherd is Jesus Christ. If we give you anything other than what he has offered you, run away. Get out of here." This is our letter of commendation.

When people today ask what Watermark is associated with, I say, "We're associated with Jesus Christ." They go, "Oh, great. Well, what do you commend yourself to?" Do you know what my answer's going to be? It comes in 2 Corinthians 3. This is what Paul offered up as his letter of commendation, and it's what I offer up. Other than this, we have no authority.

Second Corinthians 3:1-3 says this. "Are we beginning to commend ourselves again?" In other words, telling you who I am. "Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts."

Here's what I would say to people when they say to me today, "On what basis is this ministry God's ministry?" I would say, "It's not because the people who lead it have graduated from some school. It is not because the people who lead it have been touched by those who are in some ecclesiastical order. Here is the way this ministry has commendation and accreditation."

Let me make this very clear. Today at 2:30 to 3:00 we're going to gather people together, and we're going to call you to participate with us as individuals who are rightly related to God, not because we're members of a local community but because we have faith in Jesus Christ as the means through which men can be restored to God.

That alone is the means through which you're going to be reconciled to God, not by using your gifts, not by coming to church, not by giving your money, not by reading your Bible, and not by being in community. Jesus has said, "If you are in my family, if you are positionally related to me by faith, then you ought to participate with others in life so you can experience the fullness of what I want you to have.

I want you to be around others and gather together corporately as a body where you encourage each other, where you spur each other on, where you discover, develop, and deploy your gifts for my glory and your good, where you storage your resources together to establish tools and ministries where others can be served and hear about my greatness, where you can care for each other, where you can love each other, admonish each other, encourage other, and help each other, and where you guys can experience the means of grace that will allow you to have the life that as my children you can have."

God calls you to participate in a local body. Not so you can go to heaven but so that you can begin to experience the life that he wants for you now that will set you free from a persistently evil age. The spirit of this age is not to study God's Word and be yielded to it. It's not to share life with each other and be accountable and encouraged. It's not to use your gifts and talents and resources to serve others. It's to comfort and glorify yourself. He said, "There's no life there." So we gather together.

The people who gather together who are participating with us as members of the body of Christ at Watermark who know each other… Here's the question: Are our homes better? Are they lead by men who don't use their physical prowess and their societal place ordained by God to make everybody else in their family go, "I feel like this is your world, and I'm just living in it. I feel more like a maid than a mate. I feel like I'm here to pleasure you when you want pleasure and take care of the kids until you want to come around and get your picture taken with them and show them at the next party or next Christmas season."

Or are they filled with women who go, "I don't have to fight for leadership of this home because the guy leading it is an others-centered leader. He cares for me. He is subject to me in love. Even though he's in a position of power over me emotionally and physically in many ways, everything he does is out of interest for me, and he sets me free to be the woman God created me to be. I love him, and I adore him, and I try and do everything I can to encourage him. I want his leadership to be renowned because his leadership blesses me"?

Are the kids secure in the homes of participating members? Do they go, "Mom and dad model for me unconditional love. They have a good combination of truth and grace that God says we should have in our household. There is laughter here. There is security here. They order their lives so we can be shepherded well"?

Are the places of business that participating members of Watermark run loved by those who are employed by them? Are the rank and file thrilled to see that business prosper because the leadership of those businesses is looking to bless them and not just feather their bed with executive incentives so that they can become more and more pleasured with their possessions while the rank and file can be glad they just have a job?

If you're leading the way Christ leads, the people working underneath you say, "I'll never work anywhere else." Are you, as an employee of an organization, somebody your employer would say, "Of all the people we have at our job, that guy is the best. Why?" (Or, "That girl is the best. Why?" "That teacher is the best. Why?")

"Because she's not in fear the school district's going to find out how she's behaving. She teaches as if God is her boss, and when we aren't around, she knows God is. She uses her gifts, and she orders her time to love and serve to the fullest of her ability, and she lets everything she does be done to the glory of God and not for the pleasure of men. If we had 100 employees like her, we'd be a better district." (Or, "We'd be better sales force." "We'd be a better pharmaceutical company. "We'd be a better neighborhood.")

When that's going on, you don't need a letter of commendation. That is the letter of commendation. That's what the writer of Galatians is saying. "You want my letter of commendation? It's that I'm sent forth from God. I'm not coming on my authority. Let's look at the fruit of it and see where it leads you."

To the church at Corinth, he says, "You guys are it. Just like people were to look at where the Spirit of God dwelled during the time of Jesus in Jesus Christ, they can look at you and see this." How will the world know that you're rightly related to God? Acts 4:13. This is one of my favorite little passages of Scriptures that really talks about who we should be.

In Acts 4:13 it says, "Now as they [the people who were around these men] observed the confidence [the way they lived their life] of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men…" And yet they lived with such confidence and boldness. These guys were saying things and talking about purpose and life and forgiveness and hope and enduring and serving in a way that the best philosophers and educators of the day didn't speak with such confidence.

As they observed these uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling at the wisdom and skill of their life. All they could say was, "Don't we recognize those guys as having been guys who were with Jesus?" Folks, that is it. The world ought to recognize us as people who have been with Jesus.

So how does that flesh out, because like I said, Jesus' tomb was empty, he has been resurrected from the grave, and he has ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father. Jesus isn't here to spend time with in a corporal, bodily sense, but he is in other ways. The habits, priorities, intentions, and practices and attitudes of a disciple are the same today as they were then. You have to spend time with Jesus.

How do you do it? God has given us his Word, the prophetic Word made more sure. You don't have to get in line, hope that you're one of the 12, one of the 70, or one of the multitudes around him. He has given you his life, his Spirit which is here to illumine his life that you might understand more of who Christ is.

Are you spending time with Jesus? Are you around other disciples who go, "Let's break down why Jesus interacted that way with the woman at the well. Let's break down why he interacted that way with the woman brought before who had committed the act of adultery. Let's talk about the way he stood against dead religion and Pharisaical law. Let's talk about how he faced hardship. Let's learn from him."

Does the world look at you and go, "I can tell, man. You are spending time with somebody who is divine. You are being instructed by a Word that is not the word of men, and the way you live your life tells me. I don't know where you've been, but you've been with somebody who must have power over life and death."

In John 1:14, this is what the world ought to say when they look at us and go, "Have you been with Jesus?" I'm going to boil down for you what it means to be an individual who lives as Jesus lived. No man has seen God at any time, but in verse 1 it says, " In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

Verse 14. "And the Word [which was God] became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we [beheld what this life that God wants us to behold about him…the visible image of the invisible God…looks like] saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten [or brought forth] from the Father…." Not born but brought forth from God. Fully man. Fully God. Brought forth from God so he could identify with us as men and yet be the perfect man because he was God in human form.

What was he? He was "…full of grace and truth." He wasn't 50 percent grace and 50 percent truth, just like he wasn't 50 percent man and 50 percent God. He was 100 percent man and 100 percent God. He was 100 percent grace and 100 percent truth.

Anytime you are less than 100 percent grace and 100 percent truth in your dealings with the world and your responses to life's questions and challenges, the world is going to look at you and go, "I don't know who you're hanging with, but it must not be Jesus. It must not be God because God is always gracious, loving, and kind. He is always holy, right, and true. He is always just and gracious. He is always true and loving, never compromising one to be the other."

I'm going to give you an illustration of why the church in America and around the world, in one specific area, has blown it. I'm going to take a very scintillating, scandalous sin that everybody loves to go to: homosexuality. You have two extremes that have come screaming out of the church, and both of them, because they emphasize either truth or grace, are an embarrassment to God.

Some people have said, "God is a loving God. God is an accepting God. God is a caring God. God is a forgiving God. So we don't care what you do or who you are. You can come here. You can have any level of leadership. You can do whatever you want." In this very focused and debated characteristic of humankind (what we do with our sexuality) there are people who say, "In the name of the grace of God, everybody is welcome here. We don't care what you do because God is about grace." They've elevated people who have practices that are inconsistent with what God says we should practice because he loves us in a way that's confused the world.

There are others who say, "God is the God of truth, and if you don't get your life right, you're going to hell." They've made this particular struggle that humans have in the area of sexuality the one struggle you're not allowed to have. They've told them, "You're unacceptable in God's sight, and until you get their life together, don't even bother coming here."

We spent an entire hour, and I mean an hour on this, one Sunday when we talked about homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and we talked about an apology and answer to their claims and an assignment for you as a follower of Christ. Anybody who wants that CD, we'll give it to you. All our stuff in the media ministry is made available by streaming free through the web. You can get it every week back there at the media table. If you can't afford what it costs us to produce it, which is all we sell anything for, we'll give it to you. Listen to it.

Don't see if it's the wisdom of men. See if it's consistent with what God has said. If it's from God, it should show up as true in the physical sciences as well as in the spiritual reality in which we live. The reason the church is screwed up on this issue is because we've been too much about grace or too much about truth, and we have not been grace and truth.

People ask me all the time, "Would you ever let a homosexual be a member of your church?" I'm going to tell you that not only are they members of our church; we have some on staff. There are individuals who would say, "I am bent towards homosexual lust." We have men on staff who are heterosexual perverts as well. But we have none, homosexual or heterosexual, who give themselves to their flesh's desires.

In other words, if your pastor is going to make a mistake sexually, it's not going to be homosexually, it's going to heterosexually. It's an abomination to God if I live the way I wanted to live sexually. Just like some guys and gals on staff, if they lived the way they wanted to live, would be an abomination to God in a homosexual expression.

Both of us have a problem. We want to find life and meaning in our own understanding of how we should express our sexuality. God says, "Both of you need grace and truth. You need the grace for your perversion [your heterosexual lust or your homosexual lust], and you need the truth that will set you free."

There's not life in heterosexual fantasies or homosexual fantasies, in finding your emotional needs met by some physical relationship or finding some joy in a moment. There's life in this. Let me say this again. We don't have anybody, to our knowledge, on our staff or in leadership with this church or as a functioning member, who is committed to homosexual debauchery or who is committed to heterosexual debauchery.

It's the same way if somebody said, "Would you have a liar on your staff?" I guarantee you we have guys on our staff and gals on our staff, guys and women in leadership at our church, who have lied, but they don't look at us and go, "Well, I'm a liar. I've been a liar. As long as I know I'm a liar, I'm going to lie, and you're going to love me for it. It's just who I am."

We're going to say, "No. Can you make mistakes here? We all do. None of us are sinless. That's why we need a savior. But if you are committed to the practice, the Scripture says, of those things without repentance, without ordering your life in such a way that you can be free from those things, then we have an issue for your leadership, a real issue."

In some areas because of the high impact it has on others, if you struggle in that area we need to remove you from leadership for a while. Not as a punishment, but so the name of Christ might be protected. Here's what it says, "Are you an individual who is known as being with Jesus? Then is your life full of grace and truth?" This is what it says in 1 Peter 2:9-12.

"But you are A CHOSEN RACE [God has chosen to reveal himself to you] , A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD"

It continues. "You had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts [homosexual, heterosexual, or asexual…I don't care] which wage war against the soul." That whole message I gave talks about if you love somebody you will not let them give themselves into their lust.

I showed you anthropologically, sociologically, and physiologically what happens when you, in the name of grace, tell people to follow their lusts. It's the most unloving thing you can do. He says to keep your behavior excellent. Why? So that when people want to know what your authority is, what the basis is for you existing as people of God…

So in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, people who are intolerant of other ideas about what it means to follow God, they may, on account of your good works and your good deeds as they observe them, glorify God on the day that he visits them. In other words, this resurrected Jesus is going to come back in bodily form, and when he visits them and says, "I was King. I was resurrected, and this is what it meant to follow me," they're going to give thanks for you because you were a beacon of light to them.

This is why Paul said, "As I go out, I'm not going to really live…" We'll look at this next week. "…in a way that you approve of me. I want to live in the way that the one who is coming again to judge the quick and the dead, the one who has all the authority on the earth, I want to know that I'm pleasing him. You're not accountable to how men receive you. You're accountable to how God receives you." I want you to see how Paul starts this whole thing. He's saying, "This is my authority. Not how I feel, not what I think."

If you want to wrestle with or ask questions about why we believe God's word is alone authoritative for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. You are not being disrespectful of us. We want your questions. Do you think there are contradictions in our Bible? You can go to any Internet site and find a litany of them. Bring them. Let's wrestle with them. If this book is true, then no amount of scrutiny can affect it.

Let's put it against the Qur'an. Let's put it against the Hindu and Buddhist holy writings. Let's put it against the Pearl of Great Price, the Book or Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants. Let's put it against the translations that Jehovah's Witnesses and the Kingdom Hall put out. Let's test it. We welcome it. We'll give you a CD, and you can listen to it. We'll give you a PDF, and you can study it. Then we'll put you in a room where you can wrestle with it to your heart and mind's intellectual integrity and content so that you can go, "I've looked."

I want to make it very clear here. The Bible is our authority and conscious in God. We'll stand firm where it's firm, and we'll be flexible where it is flexible, full of grace and truth, never elevating one over the other, because you don't have to and you can't.

Watch this in verse 2. It says this. "…and all the brethren who are with me…""We're equally excited about blessing you and serving you. We're writing to you, all you little churches in this sub-political region called Galatia (this Turkish region)." You go, "That verse doesn't do anything for me." Well, it should, because in our day and age we have what I would call superstar Christianity.

Paul says Galatians is written with his own hand, but Paul says, "I'm not in isolation. I'm not some guy set apart from other men in a way that you ought to listen to me beyond other men. I am living in community." In fact, in Acts 13:1, Paul is the one who said in that particular deal, "I'm am part of a body of Christ. Here are the other men and women who are in life with me. We are seeking to serve Christ together.

At Antioch (that's Paul's home church) there were prophets and teachers. There was Barnabas, there was Simeon, who was called Niger, there was Lucius, and there were all other kinds of guys who were there along with Saul. Paul is saying, "I am not the guy. I am one of the guys who knows Jesus and his Word."

Why am I making a big deal about this? In our world today, and especially in institutional, ecclesiastical, man-made systems, we love superstars. We want to elevate certain men up and go, "That's the guy. If that guy will pray for me, we've got it going on now. If I go to that guy's church, if that guy baptizes me, that's going to really do something."

I'm going to tell you, Paul was not into superstar Christianity. Paul was a part of a group of men who knew Jesus and wanted to represent him. In certain systems, they have what I call illustrious potentate pastors where it just revolves around them, and the whole leadership of that church thinks their job is to not upset the pastor.

When Paul wrote his words to the churches that were forming, he did not say, "Go and appoint charismatic pastors in every city." He said, "Go and appoint elders [plurality of leadership]," because power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. You want to see problems in American Christianity, you look at men who have been elevated and there is nobody who swims with them and challenges them and sharpens them.

This church is full of elders and elderettes who are shepherding, loving, and encouraging people. The office of elder…we have five for the purposes of practicality and the function of getting together and communicating. We together are spending time in God's word with each other in subjection to the staff, and anybody in the body can come to us and say, "Are you guys men under authority? Is God's word your authority?"

I got a letter this week. I want to share it with you. I get these a lot, and one of the things we run into a lot is people come up and say, "I want to get to know my pastor." I go, "Perfect." They go, "Good. So when can we get together?" I go, "No. I want you to get together with your pastor. That's why we have GroupLink. That's why we want you to connect. We have elders, we have leaders, and we have deacons. We have folks who are men and women of God all through this community who are going to shepherd you and care for you."

They go, "No. You're my pastor." I go, "That doesn't really make much sense. In no way would it make sense if every time you dialed 911 you waited for Chief Kunkle to show up." I would move to that city as a criminal if that was the deal, that if every time you dialed 911 the chief of police of Dallas said, "I'll be there as soon as I can. You're in the queue. Good luck." As it is, there's a several-hour wait.

Here was the letter I got. It was a from a dear young man who wanted to meet with me and ask me a question that, as he was wrestling through Scriptures, he thought was legit, and he wanted to meet with his pastor. So I responded this way.

"Friend, I've sent my answer to your question to Becky…" Becky is the gal who works with me to help me use my time wisely. "…and asked her to hold it…" I'm not looking to skate from responsibility. I've already answered his question. It's typed, it's written, and it's ready. "…until you send me an email with the best answers that your community, your shepherd, your friends, and your partners in ministry have come up with as you wrestle with your questions with them.

Then, if it's still necessary for me to chime in because you are still unsatisfied with what the Lord showed you all as you studied and discussed Scripture related to the questions you problemed together, then I or whoever can best serve you will meet with all of you and then everyone can benefit together."

I went on to say, "The reason that we do it this way is because, firstly, it allows you to lead and sharpen and grow those who you are in life with as you model humility, a thirst for God's word, and leading in all things." In other words, you go to the folks who you're sharing life with and say, "I'm wrestling with this section of Scripture. I was reading it, and I'm not just somebody who is flying through and looking at the Scripture as some vitamin that passes through me.

I really want it to impact my life and this confused me about something that God said or something that God did. What do you guys think is going on here? What's the context? Can you guys show me insight here on how this applies to my life or why this isn't a contradiction." If nobody in his circle can find it, we'll widen the circle, and we'll widen the circle, and we'll widen the circle, but you'll show those people you're really committed to wrestling with questions honestly before God. That's a good thing.

"Secondly, it keeps you or whoever is seeking answers from being exasperated because you're waiting in line for Moses to speak. Thirdly, it keeps Moses from being exhausted while trying to answer everyone's question." Exodus 18 is where Jethro, Moses' father-in-law… Moses, just all of us who bring our father-in-law to work with us, said, "Dad, check this out. I'm a bigwig. From daybreak to night. Look at the line! They're waiting to talk to me because I'm the guy. Next question."

Jethro looks at him and goes, "Are you nuts, Moses? It's hot in the sun, and they are standing there waiting to walk to you. They are exasperated. If you can't tell, they're not real pleased when they get to you. You're a little weary by about 5:30, and your family hasn't spent much time with you. I thought you were supposed to be acting as the minister to God for the people (interacting with the Lord). All you're doing is standing in line all day. This isn't good, Moses.

Appoint for yourself leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, and leaders of tens. Then if the leader of the ten can't get it figured out, give it to the leader of the fifty. If the leader of the fifty can't figure it out, get with the leader of the hundred. If the leader of the hundred can't get it figured out, get with the leader of the thousand. If the leader of the thousand can't get it figured it out, get with the elders of Israel. Serve the people, but get it taken care of this way." If you do that forward, it creates a natural form for community discipleship and corporate growth, because everybody learns together."

Do you see the wisdom of this? Do you see why we're driving people into community? The bigger we get, the smaller we need to get. We're not leaving you alone. There is a line from every single member of this church to every resource we have in this church, individually and financially. You're connected. If we can't figure it out in our own little organization, we'll find it. We'll find it somewhere in another local body that'll help us. Financially, intellectually, or theologically…it doesn't matter.

So, I said to the guy, "You owe me your community, shepherd, friend, partners in ministry's best response, and with that response, all the names of people in your life, community, and ministry. Then I will share with all of them my answer. It is done, and it's waiting for you." Then I just put, "Thankful for Jethro, Todd." It's not because I think I'm too good for that guy. It's because I think he's too good to have to wait around for me, and there are other things that God has asked me to do.

Did you see in verse 2 how Paul sticks that in there and see the application for us? Are we part of the brethren, or do we love being "The Guy," isolated and alone? Four things are at stake there. You go on. In verse 3 it says, "Grace to you and peace from God…" What he's saying right there is everything you cannot earn on your own to please a holy God, you need from God through Jesus Christ. In your Bible, write down Romans 5:1 and write down Philippians 4:6-7.

Romans 5:1 says, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…" He's saying, "I want for you what you can never earn. Grace. I want you to have the peace with God that comes through Jesus." Also, in Philippians 4:6-7 it says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Paul is saying, "I want you to know that God is freely offering you what you could never earn…acceptance and love and provision from him. I want you to experience that peace with God. I want you to experience the peace today that Jesus himself experienced even when he was going to a cross, even when he lived in the midst of a dark and perverted world." That's what God wants for you, and he loves for you.

Verse 4 says, "…who gave Himself…" I love this, because one of the things that really frustrates me as a guy is the way Jesus is represented as some guy who got caught up in anger and was crucified, and the plan got away from him. No, that is nowhere in Scripture. Jesus was always in control. He was large and in charge, to use a dumb colloquialism, every minute of the day.

In John 10:17-18 he said, "They aren't taking my life from me. I'm laying it down, and I will take it back up again. The reason I'm laying it down is because of the wages of your sin…not mine. I don't have any…is death. But, when you meet the wages of sin [a perfect life who does not deserve the wage of sin], when that debt has been paid, a perfect sacrifice [because I'm an infinite God in finite form as a man] will appease the sin against a perfect, infinite God.

And when that debt is paid, I will take my life up, never compromising truth to accomplish grace. I will be just and the justifier of those whom I love. I'm in control. This is my plan. It doesn't make sense to you, but that's why you don't follow what makes sense to you. You follow me. I know it's horrific to you that God, who loves you and heals, is going to go to a cross, but when I go to that cross, I'm going to use it to heal you."

Do you see that? This is what he says. He says, "I do this according to the will of God our Father. Why? I'm showing you what God would do, because I am God. I'm full of grace and truth." When you understand this (it's not about your performance; it's about your acknowledging your inability to be what God wants you to be), it causes there to be glory to God the Father forever more.

That's why we get together and sing. We can't believe it. It's another week that we get to remind each other that Jesus paid it all. "All to him I owe." We go out of here going, "How can we live for him this week?" That's exactly Paul's point. Let's live in reckless abandon for him. Why? Watch this. Let's go back to verse 4.

It says in there that he gave himself for our sins, and this is why. Listen to me. God is not trying to rip you off. He's not trying to get you part of a club where he can control you. He is a loving Father who hates you being in bondage to the ways of the world and the ways of men. He did it so that he might deliver you out of this present evil age, because that's what a father wants.

There's nothing I wouldn't do to get my kids out of being influenced by an evil age that wants to tell them, "You're only as beautiful as the world says you are." There's nothing I wouldn't do… I'd say to my son. "Look, there's not life… This present evil age will tell you, 'There's life in being a man who in fantasy can conquer any woman, so dive deeply into porn and experience the pleasure of that.'"

I want to go, "No son. It's a lie. God didn't want you to be a great man who's desired by a woman in your dreams. He wants you to be a great man who loves and serves a woman in such a way that she would gladly give herself to him in reckless, wild, sexual, emotional abandon. Go get you some of that." I'm just looking at our son thinking, "Don't be one of those idiots who's stuck with a mouse. Go get you a mate."

God is not trying to rip you off. He's trying to set you free through Jesus. He doesn't want you to be a part of some ecclesiastical order where you have to go through sacraments so that what Jesus did plus what you do will get you rightly related to him. No. He wants you free so in the freedom you have from earning acceptance from the world and from him you can respond in love.

There's a right response to that gospel. It is a reckless surrender to him. That's what Paul's saying. "I don't really care what you think. I'm not worried if I'm too salty for the world. I'm worried if God, who I'm accountable to, is going to say, 'You weren't salty enough for me.' I want people to know how much I love them."

So this is what he says. In verse 6 through 9, he starts to drive it home. He said, "We're going to talk for the next four chapters before we get into the practical outworking of that. I can't believe that you took the freedom that Christ accomplished for you and you just walked away from it so quickly. You're AWOL from your Commander in Chief who died for you. You're deserting him." It's a military term.

"You who were called by the grace of Christ for a different gospel. You're going back into the bondages and systems of men. You're adding some Judas practices to your belief that Jesus fulfilled the law." Then he goes on to say this. "That other gospel, Jesus plus what you do, is not really a gospel. Only, there are some who were disturbing you and putting you back in bondage who wanted to steward the good news of Christ." Look at verse 8. Paul pulls the gloves off. He goes, "I'm going to tell you what I think of them."

"But even if we, or an angel from heaven…" I don't care if you're in upstate New York and your name is Joseph Smith or in the Middle East and your name is Mohammed. I don't care who you think you're hearing from. "…should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!"

Verse 9. Let's review. "As we have said before…" Well, no kidding. You just said it. "…so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!" Why? Because your Father in heaven loves you, and he wants you to be free to respond to him in reckless abandon.

Love surrender. Not out of obligation and fear, but out of knowing that he has your best interest in mind and you go, "He died for me. He paid a debt I could never pay. I owe him everything. Never to give him my resume but to show the world that he is worthy of every bit of exaltation I can give him. I know what he has done."

You know why people don't really celebrate Jesus? Do you know why we really don't talk to others about Jesus? It's because we have not been rescued from this evil present age. You're still in bondage to finding meaning in pleasure, finding meaning in possessions, and finding meaning in position. You're still in bondage to the ways of the world.

Jesus hasn't set you free from anything, probably because you're not in community, probably because you're not in his Word, or probably because you're not stewarding your life in the way that he will show you there's real life there. That's why we call you to come get some of the means of grace which will show you there is freedom.

Sweet Jared was sexually abused as a kid. His story in your Watermark News today said, "I was doing what the world told me to do." This present evil age tells you, "Don't discredit the family." This present evil says, "Live in isolation." This present evil age says, "You can't share with anybody your story," and Jesus is saying, "Oh yes, you can."

There are people full of grace and truth who will love you, who will help you meet a forgiving God who brings healing and hope in this present evil age, and guess what. The tomb of that God is empty, and he's coming again to set you free. Don't listen to your own understanding. Don't listen to the world's way. You listen to the word of man whose tomb is empty. That voice will set you free.

Father, thank you for these friends and a chance to dive into this little book called Galatians. It could be called "Dallasians" I see it. Oh, so much here for me. The long arm of the ways of the world is trying to steal life from me. Lord, I want to be a guy that this week serves others. Not because I have some title or some education but because I'm a student of your Word. Not in persuasive speech but with words of God.

May I start my sentence with, "Well, God's Word says…" Jesus made it clear of that. May I tell them that the reason your Word is there is not to bring us into bondage through certain behaviors but to give us life that you might rescue us from this evil present age. Lord, I know that there are all kind of voices that are screaming for us out there. You tell us that those voices are accursed and they don't speak to us the way that you spoke to us when you were here.

Those voices tell us we should be operating in fear and isolation. Those voices tell us that we'll never be anything because we've had failure in our past, and you with a voice of truth come breaking through. You tell us if we trust in you, you will take us where we can never get on our own. May we learn to listen to your voice, not just salvifically, certainly there, but the way that we live every day to find the life that you want for us. Amen.

Maybe you're out there and you're thinking, "Hey, what does this have to do with me today?" I hope you got a lot from it, and I hope you understand what Paul is doing is he's writing to a group of people he loves, that he gave his life to. He went a long way away from home to spend some time with them, and he saw them go back in the freedom he declared that Jesus was offering and listen to the voices that were in the world .

Those voices that were saying you have to perform, that you can't live the way Christ said you can live, in authenticity and connectedness and deep humility before others, that you can't tell people about the fact that you were abused when you were a kid, that you can't tell people about the fact that your marriage right now isn't what it should look like if you love God…

Those voices, those voices of your own understanding, the voices of the world's way saying, "Come on, that'll dishonor the family name. Come on, people will mock you," are not the voices of truth. Much, much more, the voice that tells you if you don't perform for God he'll never love you… The whole purpose of the law, I'm going to tell you incessantly over the next eight weeks, is that the law was there to show you you can't ever match up to the perfection he expects of any of us, so you need a Savior. His name is Jesus, his tomb is empty, and he says, "Fear not. Trust in me."

If you are in bondage to any voice but the voice of God and Jesus Christ, would you just let us know? On that perforated section, would you just say, "I want to know how to be free. I want to know how not to fear God in his perfect, holy judgment"? You can do it now, or you can do it this week with us, but don't put it off.

If you are in bondage to a way that seems right to man, but there is death in your life because your marriage is less than what God wanted, your relationships are less than what God wanted, your financial situation is less than what God wanted…you're in bondage and you're not free to live without wanting more and putting yourself in debt to others to get it…would you tell us so the voice of truth can set you free? The long arm of this world is looking to steal your life, and we're looking to break it so you can be free, because God loves you.

Have a great week of worship. Let us know how we can serve you.


About 'Galatians: The Long Arm of the Law'

What makes the Christian faith like no other? Its bold claim that we are accepted by God - not because we "follow the rules" - but only because of Christ's sacrifice. Yet how many of us, if we're honest with ourselves, are still trying to earn God's love!Having previously established the church in Galatia, Paul continues to boldly proclaim Christ and maintain that the law's sole purpose was to make us aware of our great need for God's grace. He warns against striving to merit God's acceptance by following strict religious practices. Doing so is an exercise in futility and a rejection of Christ's sacrifice.The message for believers today is clear: Relying on performance to earn God's love sets us up for bondage to legalism, pride and hardness of heart. Join Todd Wagner on this walk through the book of Galatians where you'll discover the danger of performance-based acceptance and learn to walk in the freedom offered through a relationship with Christ.