Recently one of our pastors, David Faile, used a trailer from the 1931 movie classic, Frankenstein's Monster, to illustrate a point from his sermon on Colossians 2:12-3:4. (See a clip depicting the scene from the inset picture http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5URYhXE55bo&NR=1)
The message was that before we accepted the gift of Christ's atonement for us, we were all dead in our sins. We felt dead and we looked dead. We wore grave clothes, and were basically slaves to sin. We were paralyzed by spiritual rigor mortis. The work of Christ gave us the opportunity to be truly alive. We are free to embrace the change that only his Spirit can give. We have the opportunity to go from being a collection of dead body parts to being fully alive in Christ. Being alive in Christ requires a new way of seeking, thinking, and living. That's the gist of Pastor Faile's message. My hope is to use this message as a springboard to show something new that God has put on my heart to share with you.
Last week I read though the Book of Galatians as I wore myself out on the elliptical stair stepper at the gym. There is nothing like immersing the mind and spirit in the study of God's Word to take your mind off the pain of exercise. The Word was helping to build me up in more ways than one. Anyway, the Book of Galatians was written by the Apostle Paul around AD 49. It was a letter written to the Christian churches at Galatia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe to refute the teachings of an extremist Jewish faction of leaders called the Judaizers. This group of Jews was teaching that all new believers must fully obey all of the Jewish laws in order to be a part of the family of God. They said that even the newly-saved Gentiles (non-Jews) had to convert to Judaism and completely follow the Jewish law in order to please God and earn salvation.
In this letter, Paul pulled no punches in setting the record straight. He addressed those who were accepting the Judaizers' false gospel, and he called them gullible Christians that were being easily fooled by those who twist and change the truth concerning Christ's message. The Christian believers in Galatia were being duped into believing that they did not have Christian liberty, but that they were tied to the law. Paul refers to them as putting themselves back into slavery to sin when they had already been freed from it. He was basically accusing them of choosing to have a dead faith that relied on works.
Paul wrote to the churches regarding his confrontations with the apostles Peter and James over the same issue. Paul wasn't a people-pleaser. He cared only about pleasing God by setting the story straight. Paul wanted the believers to see that salvation in Christ is NOT earned by following rules. In fact, it isn't anything that can be earned at all. The Good News of the Gospel is not just for groups of people who can follow a prescribed set of laws. The Gospel is for EVERYONE, and there is no hierarchy when it comes to salvation. It doesn't matter if you are Jew, Gentile, white, black, etc. Salvation is for all. There are no strings attached. It is absolutely a free gift.
Paul demonstrated that salvation is by faith alone, and not by careful rule following. Having laid the foundation, Paul builds his case for Christian liberty. We are saved by faith, and not by keeping the law. Our freedom means that we are free to love and serve one another, not to do wrong. Out of our gratitude for the free gift of salvation, Christians should carry each other's burdens and be kind to each other. In Galatians 5, he discusses the supernatural outpouring of the Holy Spirit that is available to all who accept him by faith. These are the Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. The spirit gives us the ability to live good lives that bless others. It seems that the Judaizers had the cart before the proverbial horse. They taught that you had to do works in order to be saved. God's Word says that we are saved through grace, and that good works are an outpouring of our gratitude for God, empowered by His Holy Spirit.
Having read Paul's letter to the Galatians, I have to ask myself if I am living my Christian life like a legalistic Judaizer, or am I living like a believer that is constantly aware of the fact that he is saved by grace? Am I completely caught up in the do's and don't's of the Christian life? I think sometimes I get caught up in that trap. God has recently made me aware that I also unfairly judge others on their works, setting myself up with the delusion that I am more obedient or more holy than them. When I let myself slip into this trap, I am completely ineffective in my witness. I am choosing to put on those death clothes. I am choosing spiritual rigor mortis. I am choosing to be an ineffective witness for Christ, as I am not relying on the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in me. I am unwittingly and incorrectly relying on the law to bring me favor from God and others. When I fall into this rut, I am choosing to live as if I were dead in my sins.
I want to show that I belong to Christ by doing what Paul called all Christians to do: show that I belong to Christ by nailing my passions and desires of the sinful nature to the cross and crucifying them there. I want to live by the power of the Holy Spirit, following the Holy Spirit's leading in every part of my life. I want my life to be an outpouring of the gratitude I have to God for saving me. Without His power, I AM DEAD. I want to love others as Christ did. I want to embrace what J.I. Packer refers to as the True Christmas Spirit. As Packer wrote, "For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor-- spending and being spent -- to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care, and concern, to do good to others -- and not just their own friends -- in whatever way there seems need." I want people to see me and emphatically say, "IT'S ALIVE!!!! IT'S ALIVE!!!"
About the Chief Outkicker
- Steven W. Skolik
- Dayton, Ohio, United States
- I've accused my friends, Jeff and Jonathan, of reaping more out of life's harvest than they deserve. I joke about this with them, but in reality, I am actually the one who has been blessed way beyond what I deserve. I have a wonderful wife who loves the Lord and who loves me. I have three great kids. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is my great provider. I have done nothing to deserve the good and wonderful gifts I have been given in this life. I am the one who is "outkicking my coverage" daily. Life is good. I am a teacher (18 years and counting), a husband, and a proud father. Most of all, I am a Christ follower. My desire is to follow Him so closely I am covered in the dirt of his sandals. Follow along as I work on allowing the Spirit of God to help me navigate this blessed life He has given to me.