Freedom in Christ

Freedom in Christ

Scripture: Galatians 5:1-15
Date: 12/10/2011  Lesson: 11
Paul explores the boundless limits of the freedom we have in Jesus Christ freedom to serve God and each other unhindered by the snares of sin.

Lessons on Faith

Lessons on Faith
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Greetings from Sacramento seventh day adventist church in Sacramento California. We are so glad that you're joining us to worship with us this morning, to study God's word, to grow your relationship with him. A very special welcome to you who are joining us here in the sanctuary. A special welcome all around the world. We know that you're joining us because we get requests for hymns every single week and we so appreciate those and we love to sing them with you.

As you can see, I have a special guest singing with me today. This is my friend alexandra hartwick. She's an eighth grader at orangevale school and she's helping me out this morning and I'm thrilled that she's here. Turn your hymns to hymn #122. We are singing hark! The herald angels sing! This morning.

And this comes as a request from annamarie in Arizona, alvin in australia, veronica, angel, and jasmine in the bahamas, abelino, alciro, ameidi, valencia, wilbert, and yadily in belize, Mark, brenda, and alisa, my sister, in California, the gibsons in Canada, shelly in colombia, linda, diana, Karen, and damar in grenada, corrine and cheryl in india, selina and jonathan in the netherlands, chiemela in nigeria, santos and tura in the Philippines, joy in south korea, stephen and rodney in trinidad and tobago, and aleks and miriam in yugoslavia. So all around the world we are singing Christmas songs today. Hymn #122 - we'll sing all three verses of hark! The herald angels sing! If you have a favorite hymn that you would like to sing with us on a coming presentation, I invite you to go to our website at saccentral.org and there you can click on the 'contact us' link and you can request any song in our hymnal and we would love to sing that with you on a coming presentation - a coming program that we are airing. So, our next hymn is hymn #124 - away in a manger. And this comes as a request from ariel and jessica in australia, veronica, angel and jasmine in the bahamas, kaylia, paige, and sherace in england, ken and anja in germany, linda, Karen, diana, damar, wilfred, and zaria in grenada, dustin in honduras, suvarna in india, lloyd in jamaica, aghalya in malaysia, florence in Massachusetts, shirley in Michigan, Matthew in Montana, selina and jonathan in the netherlands, ken and verna in New Hampshire, chiemela in nigeria, jamie, jenny, sandie and vern in North Carolina, yolina in papua new guinea, lely, edgitha, khasani and k'dani in saint lucia, neil in the united arab emirates, and carlos in venezuela.

Hymn #124 - away in a manger - and we're going to do all three stanzas. Let's pray. Our Father in Heaven, thank you so much for the promise that you are coming soon. And we base that promise on what you did in the manger - that you came as a baby to live for us, to show us how we can live through the power of you and your father and then you died for us and gave the ultimate sacrifice that we could be restored to you. We cannot ever begin to thank you enough.

But we are here with open hearts and we are here because we thank you. Just lift our hearts toward heaven this morning as we listen to Your Word. Please just help us to take the light that we learn to a dark world around us, that we can draw others closer to you and towards you so that when you come, we can be restored. We pray these things in your precious name Jesus, amen. Our study this morning will be brought to us by pastor steve allred.

He's the youth pastor here at Sacramento central. I would like to invite you to visit our website - amazingfacts.org and on that website you will find all sorts of incredible books to read - you can download them for free, and all sorts of amazing videos to watch online - you can also download those. As well, you can send in your prayer requests to Amazing Facts to central study hour through the amazingfacts.org website. So, I want to invite you to visit that website. Have you been enjoying this Bible study lesson series on the book of Galatians? It's a book that sometimes used to scare me, actually.

I thought, 'man, what is this book saying?' It sounds like it's saying 'the law has been done away with.' And, you know, some people have used it that way. They've used it to say, 'well, the Ten Commandments don't matter any longer and just, you know, live your life however you want.' But, as you've been studying this book so far, I don't think - I think you'll agree with me that you can't come to that conclusion. And today we're going to find out even more from this book that shows us what an incredibly balanced message Paul is giving us here. It's a message of salvation by grace through faith alone and yet, it's a salvation that leads us to live a life of love and obedience. Now, you may be familiar with John bunyan's classic book 'pilgrim's progress' and I'll confess I have not read through every word of it, but this is an adaptation of that book by a gentleman who lives not too far away from us, actually, here in Sacramento.

His name is jim pappas and he wrote - he adapted the book into a little more modern english and he added some neat dialogue here and there. It's a really entertaining and yet still very much along the same story line as John bunyan. It's a very good adaptation. But if you're not familiar - or just to kind of go back and talk about 'pilgrim's progress', the pilgrim is this young man called Christian and he is living in the city of destruction at the beginning of the book, and he is wanting to make his way to the city of God - to the new Jerusalem. And, as you read the story, he has some friends who are in the city of destruction with him.

I think one's name is pliable. Pliable is this very pliable dude. You know, he just kind of goes with whatever is going on around him and so he's kind of - he goes along with Christian for awhile and then he, you know, gets influenced by the people in the city of destruction and eventually he stays back and Christian makes his way towards the light. And this story - this allegory that bunyan wrote really sums up the Christian walk. It's amazing how he took what's in the Bible and he put it all into this book in kind of an allegorical form that makes so much sense.

There - as he's on his way - as Christian's on his way to the city of light, he's overcome by the giant of despair. Have you ever felt discouraged before? Then there's the slew of despond and there's all these different temptations that await him along the way. There are three ladies called the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life that try to get him to join their little team over here. He has some friends, hopeful and faithful - remember them? They encourage him - they help him out. Well, there was one thing - as I read the lesson here this week on the book of Galatians I thought about 'pilgrim's progress' because one of the detours that Christian took was to mr.

Legality's house. Have you read about mr. Legality's house? And so, on the way to the city of light Christian, it says, "turned away from the light and began the arduous climb toward mr. Legality's house. But as he came near the base of Mount Sinai he found it much higher, much steeper, and much more treacherous than he had imagined.

Moreover, when he was about halfway up, he found that the main mass of the mountain hung right over the path. Aye, it hung over in such a steep fashion that he feared it might break loose and fall on his head. Therefore did pilgrim come to a halt and begin to wonder what to do. 'Oh, woe is me. My burden has grown heavier than ever and I can no longer see the light.

Worst of all, this dreadful mountain hangs over my head and threatens to crush out my life. Oh me.'" Now, in case you're not familiar with the story, Christian has this incredible burden on his back, just like all of us without Jesus have the burden of sin and guilt. And so, he is trying to find a way to get rid of this guilt and before he gets rid of it - before Jesus relieves him of his guilt, forgives him of his sins and gives him just that freedom, that forgiveness that comes with that, pilgrim tries out going up Mount Sinai to get rid of it himself. 'Maybe I can go to mr. Legality's house.

If I'm good enough, if I'm moral enough, if I'm righteous enough on my own, maybe I can take care of this guilt - I can work it off. I can work my way to heaven.' But it doesn't work and so, later on, when Christian is on the path - and he is just so discouraged - he's fallen under his burden of guilt. He can't make it up to the top of the mountain. He meets evangelist who had originally pointed him - with the little book that evangelist held - toward the city of God. And evangelist says this to Christian, he says, "this legality, mr.

Legalist, could never set you free from your burden. Though you should climb this mountain a million times over, you can never be justified by the works of the law" - and then he quotes the little book - "for by the deeds of the law no man living can be freed from this burden." It's true isn't it? Have you ever tried it before on your own? I think the book 'pilgrim's progress', to me represents the Christian journey. And if you've been with Jesus for any matter of time, you know that we all go through these phases, don't we? And so if you've been with Jesus for awhile you've probably tried the legalism route. You've probably tried to get rid of the burden on your own. At least I know I did.

And you've fallen flat on your face and you realize it doesn't work. Maybe you're on that journey right now. Maybe you're climbing the mount sinai on your own right now and - believe me - if you keep following Jesus, you'll come to the place where you realize that the only way you can have freedom is through his gift of forgiveness and salvation. And that's what really our lesson is about today. It's that incredible freedom in Christ.

That's the title of lesson #11. Let's open our Bibles. Let's go to Galatians. Let's get right into it. Galatians chapter 2.

Galatians chapter 2. Freedom. What does freedom in Christ mean? And, of course, they have the memory verse there, 'for you were called to freedom brothers, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.' We'll talk more about that verse a little bit later, but right now, Galatians chapter 2. And, so Paul is writing to the church in galatia and here's what was going on - look what it says in verse 4, it says, "but it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage." So, these false brethren - we'll talk about them more in a minute too - I have a real problem with these false brethren and I think we still have this going on in the church today sometimes. But they come along and they are looking around - they're like, 'man, you guys are just too happy here.

You're too free. We're going to tell you - you need to do something else. Here's another duty for you to perform.' And we're going to find out that really the issue here, we're going to find out, is not that the law is the problem, the problem is how we utilize the law. What we look at the law to do for us. So, we'll get to that in just a second.

So, right now, though, Paul is talking about this freedom. These false brothers have come in and said, 'you guys are so free. What's going on?' Paul says, 'we do. We have freedom in Christ.' Paul, in this book, warns the Christians of two dangers. The memory verse kind of brings it out.

Number one, the first is legalism - mr. Legality - trying to work our way to heaven. Get rid of that burden on our own. And then the lesson says, 'Paul's opponents in galatia were so caught up in trying to earn God's favor through their behavior, that they lost sight of the liberating nature of Christ's work - of the salvation that they already had in Christ through faith.' The second thing that he was talking about here, is the tendency, on the other hand, to abuse our freedom in Christ and to think that since Jesus has given us salvation, we can live any way we want and do whatever we feel like. Christian confronted that on his journey to the city of light as well.

And then the lesson says, 'those who hold that extreme view, mistakenly assume that freedom is antithetical - it's opposed to the law.' But that's not true, we're going to find out. And then, I love this, right down here at the bottom of the first day's lesson it says, 'both legalism and licentiousness are opposed to freedom.' Now, I'd like to ask you, how is that true? How is licentiousness - okay, legalism we can kind of see that - yeah, yeah, yeah, you know, legalism kind of binds you up and makes you feel like you're burdened, you're working your way there, right? But what about licentiousness? People who say 'you've been saved so just live your life however you want.' How does that - how is that opposed to freedom? And we can probably all give some examples about that. One that popped into my head as I read this week was a friend I have - actually a few friends - who believe that, you know, drinking alcohol here and there and maybe even doing some drugs is, you know, you're free to do that. But the problem that I see is that I've seen some other of my friends and some of - yeah, some of my friends who have gone down that road. They say, 'I'm free to do whatever I want.

' But as they do these things, as they partake of these substances, does it really bring them freedom? In fact, they're controlled by these substances, aren't they? We call it addiction. And it could be any number of things. It doesn't have to be a substance, it could be the television, it could be the internet, it could be a habit, it could be a person even, in our lives. And what I've seen is when we depart from God's law, we actually are now slaves to these other things, right? We're addicts to whatever it may be. And Paul addresses that in this book, but especially in the book of Romans he talks about being slaves to sin.

And so, legalism and licentiousness are opposed to freedom because they equally keep their adherents in a form of slavery. Paul is here, he's saying in the book of Galatians, 'hey listen, stand fast in your freedom in Christ.' We're going to find out what that looks like today a little bit. It's a beautiful thing. I want to be free in Jesus today, don't you? Okay. So Paul goes now to - we're going to skip around here a bit.

That's what they like to do here. We're going to skip around all over the place, but staying in the book of Galatians mainly, okay? Chapter 5 and verse 1. The next lesson here, Sunday's lesson. Look what it says, "stand fast" - Paul says - "therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." Paul just almost shouts this out. 'Hey galatian believers, stand fast.

Don't give up the freedom that you have in Jesus. Don't be entangled again in a yoke of bondage.' In other words, they have been - they've had this yoke of bondage before, back when they were in the world, before they became Christians, they had a yoke of bondage. Do you remember back to the time before you found Jesus? Maybe there's someone here who hasn't found Jesus yet, but if you're a Christian, you can think back to when you didn't know Jesus. Were you happier then than you are now? Have you put your finger on why? What was it about then and what was going on in your life at that point that made it so that - you were supposed to be happier. Come on, the world says, 'if you can do whatever you want, you know, sleep around with whoever you want, eat and drink and do what - you know, all the different kinds of entertainment that the world offers, however you want, you're supposed to be happy, right? Las vegas is supposed to make you happy, all that stuff there, right? And yet we know it's not true.

There's something called a hangover. And sin has lots of them doesn't it? I don't care what, you know - there's a hangover from every sin. And this is what Paul is saying. He's saying, 'listen, stand fast in the liberty that Christ has given. Don't be entangled again with that yoke of bondage that the world used to have you bound with.

' Let's go to Galatians chapter 2 now, verse 16. Look what he says here. Galatians 2, verse 16. Paul says, 'all right,' - again, jumping around here a little bit - he says, "nevertheless, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, since by the works of the law no flesh will be justified." And so, what Paul is doing here is he's saying this, he's saying, 'all right galatian Christians, you used to be in the world. The world had you in chains.

You were bound by the sin and all of the things the world said would make you happy - it was actually binding - those addictions. He says 'now you've become Christians.' And there are people coming into the church telling you 'listen, you need to be circumcised. You need to do this in order to gain God's favor and earn your salvation.'' And he's saying, 'this new thing that they're teaching right now is akin to those things you used to do in the world. Just like those things in the past used to bind you, so this new requirement to gain God's favor is also a chain. It's a yoke of bondage that will not really set you free.

' Do you see the connection between legalism and licentiousness? They're really more hand in hand than I think we'd like to believe. And what I've found in my Christian experience and what I've observed in others to some extent too, is that, you know, we tend, if we're not really following Jesus, to fall into one ditch or the other. But they're both dangerous and they both will ultimately lead us in the wrong direction. Legalism, we think we can do it on our own. Where it feels good, it actually kind of caters to our pride because, you know, 'I don't need God as much.

I can pull myself up by my own bootstraps.' Good old American independence, you know, right? On the other hand you've got licentiousness, 'well I'm once saved always saved, I can do whatever I want.' - And that's just as dangerous. So, Paul says, 'listen. Be free in Jesus. Don't get involved in this new deception that's come into the church there in galatia. You're justified, not through obeying the law - the purpose of the law is not to justify you.

' What is the purpose of the law by the way? What does Romans 3 say? I don't know if you've talked about that before here. Romans 3 says, the purpose of the law is what? It is to show us the ideal, isn't it? It's to show us God's character, who he is, the beauty of Jesus. And yet, at the same time, the law is a little bit scary because as we look at the ten commandments, and then we look at our lives - the Bible compares it to a mirror - we look in the mirror and we say, 'man I am not measuring up to this law.' And so, it shows us our imperfections, our sins. And yet, is the law there to cleanse us from our sins? The law is not there to cleanse us from our sins. It is not there to save us in that sense, it is there to point us to Jesus who has the incredible cleansing blood to take away our sins.

And so, Paul says, 'we are justified not by the law, not through the works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ.' Now, the amazing thing is that Jesus Christ, his very character is the law. Isn't that cool? And so you've got Jesus' character here and Jesus says, 'listen, I have kept the law perfectly. I have exemplified it in my life. It is who I am. You've broken it.

You've sinned. The wages of sin is eternal death, but I'm here to offer you salvation because I laid down my life so that you don't have to die forever, and I'm going to give you my salvation if you accept it. It's free. You can't - you know you can never pay this debt off.' In just a minute I want to tell you a story that, oh it illustrates that so clearly. All right, Galatians 3, verse 13 - they skipped down to another verse here.

Galatians 3:13 says, "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us for it is written, 'cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.'" What is the curse of the law? Is it saying that the law itself is a curse? Is that what it's saying? What is the curse of the law? What does Romans 6:23 say? "The wages of sin is death." What kind of death? Eternal death. "But the gift of God is eternal life." It's the opposite - the antithesis of that life there, right? Christ has redeemed us from that curse having become a curse for us. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 21 that - or maybe it's 1 Corinthians 5:21 - I always forget which one - I think it's second. Anyway, it says that 'Jesus, he who knew no sin became sin for us so that we could be made the righteousness of God in him.' Right? So Jesus actually became the curse. He became the sin.

He became the terrible despicable thing that causes eternal death for us, so that we could be redeemed by that sacrifice. That is love, isn't it? That is amazing. That is what God has done for us. So you can never - see, the only way that you could be justified by the law is if you could die the eternal death like Jesus did - and resurrect. But see, none of us are equal with the law.

None of us have perfectly obeyed the law, so none of us could make that sacrifice and be resurrected again. Eternal death is eternal death, right? Jesus paid that penalty for us. The only way that we can pay off our debt of sin, that sin has - our sin has caused, is to die eternally. So, obviously, that means no eternal life, right? And that's what Paul is trying to say here. The only way you can be saved is through the sacrifice of Jesus.

Boy, powerful stuff. Now, in Galatians 5, verse 1, the verse we read up there at the beginning here - at the beginning of Sunday's lesson - "stand fast therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." The lesson brings out something I think that is very instructive. It's very poignant. Paul uses a word here for freedom. It's the same word that was used when the - in the roman world, a slave wanted to buy their freedom, okay? So if a slave wanted to buy their freedom they talked about how the slave would go to the temple of the Gods and they would go up there - you know, these were pagan Gods like apollo and whoever else, and they would go to the temple and they would pay a price to the God - an offering, basically.

So, you know, the priests and priestesses of this temple were making money off this, and they would buy their freedom from the God. And so, there's one inscription from back then that says this - here's how they would describe this freedom having been purchased. It says, "for freedom apollo, the pythian bought from sosibius of amphissa...a female slave, whose name is nicaea...the purchase, however, nicaea has committed unto apollo, for freedom." So basically, the way that the temple would write this down is they would say that the God apollo, when the slave would pay into the temple treasury, that the God apollo had purchased this slave's freedom and now this slave was free. And so the lesson says Paul is using a word here that evokes this imagery. It's using, kind of, this as a metaphor in a way, partially.

But the difference is this: could we ever pay the price to God to buy our freedom? No. And so what Paul says is 'Christ paid the price to buy our freedom so that we could be free in God.' Isn't that beautiful? Just like a slave. We've been slaves to sin. Jesus came along and said, 'listen, I'm going to pay the price.' The price was his own life. The price was him laying down his life for us so that we could be free.

The Bible says in Corinthians 6:20 'you were bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your life. In your body.' The price was far too high for us. We could never save ourselves, but Jesus took that price on his own shoulders. He paid it for us himself.

All right, so I'm going to skip over to Monday's lesson now, and they talk about the nature of Christian freedom. They say this, 'Paul's command to stand firm in freedom is not made in isolation, an important statement of fact precedes it.' Here's what it is. 'Christ has set us free.' Why should Christians stand firmly in their freedom? Because Christ has already set them free. In other words, our freedom is a result of what Christ has already done for us. And I think that's a beautiful way to put it.

It really sums it up. Basically, Paul is saying this, 'because of what you already are in Christ, you live your life in such a way that you glorify God. That you live a life of freedom. Freedom from sin. Freedom from licentiousness.

Freedom from the things that the world says you should do, and instead, living a life of freedom in God because of what Christ has already done for you.' They say this, they say, 'the ethical life of the Gospel does not present the burden of trying to do things in order to prove that we are God's children. Rather, we do what we do because we are already his children. Can you say amen to that? Now, back when I took algebra - do you remember back then when you took algebra? Did you like it? We don't have any math enthusiasts here today. What's up with that? Well, I didn't really like it either, but I remember this one thing from it and that is that you had to do things in the right order or you came out with the wrong answer and - with equations, right? And so, the way my teacher taught me was that - do you remember parentheses first? Exponents - multiplication, right? Division, addition, and subtraction - in that order, correct? And if you didn't do it in that order then what happened to the answer? It might look nice on paper, but it was wrong, right? And so, as Christians, I think about our Christian life in the same way. If we come and we're trying to do the right thing in order to gain our salvation - we're going to end up with the wrong answer, aren't we? But instead, if we come to God and realize that he has saved us, and then, as a result of that salvation, we live a life of joyful obedience, that will be the right answer.

And so the order matters. In other words, if we're obeying before we're saved, that's not the kind of obedience that God is looking for. He wants salvation first and then obedience. Does that make sense? Obedience is a - an outgrowth of the salvation that he offers to us. That's so important.

All right. So the lesson asks this question. Let's see here. 'From what has Christ freed us?' All right, let's look at a few other verses in the Bible. Go to Romans 6 - Romans chapter - we referred to this earlier a little bit.

Let's get into the - see what else the Bible has to say. Romans chapter 6, verse 14. "For sin" - for what? "Sin shall not be master over you, you are not under law but under grace." You and I know that when we give in to sin - you know, it seems like bad habits grow muscles a lot faster than good habits, don't they? It's easier to develop a bad habit than it is to develop a good habit, but, just so you know - and I think you've probably experienced this - developing good habits becomes easier the more you practice them, doesn't it? When you start having your devotions in the morning with Jesus and you make that a habit, it becomes easier, right? But bad habits, we just kind of are naturally inclined towards those and so, the Bible says sin is - it can be a master over us. It can be a terrible slave master. Romans chapter 6, verse 14.

And how about verse 18? Romans 6, verse 18. "And having been freed from" - what? - "Sin, you became slaves of" - what? - "Righteousness." So sin will put you in bondage, pure and simple. And it does it - boy, if you're not moving towards Jesus, sin is entangling you with its tentacles, you know. It just - that's what is the default mode for us as human beings because we're born into this world of sin. All right.

How about chapter 8. Okay, so first of all we know the first thing is from what has Christ set us free? What's the answer from these verses? Sin. Okay. Let's go to chapter 8 now, verse 1. See if you can see here what Christ has set us free from.

"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." What has Christ set us free from in this verse? Condemnation. What's another word for condemnation? Judgment. Any other words? Maybe ones that have a more of an emotional attachment to what - feeling condemned - we also know that as guilt, right? At least in one sense - so guilt. God has set us free from condemnation, from the guilt that is associated with sin. That's a good thing, isn't it? How about this one.

Let's go to Hebrews chapter 2. Hebrews - in the new testament there - chapter 2, verses 14 and 15. I like this one. "Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he himself" - Jesus - "likewise also partook of the same, that through death he might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil" - verse 15 - "and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." So he doesn't exactly tell us here what we're enslaved to, but it tells us some of the avenues through which we are enslaved, doesn't it? I think he's talking about being a slave to sin - to bad habits - here, but who in verse 14 is involved in enslaving us? Verse 14 says, "him who had the power of death that is" - who? The devil. Satan.

Jesus has made us free from the devil. Are there people in our world today who are in bondage to satan? That's the default mode for all of us, isn't it? Without Jesus. Okay so God says, 'I'll set you free from satan.' Boy, and he is a terrible slave master, isn't he? And look what it says in verse - I like this - "and might free those who" - through what? "Fear of death have been subject to bondage all their lives." So fear is a really terrible slave master as well. Isn't it? Have we all been subject to the tyranny of fear before in our lives? Fear can make you do crazy things, can't it? And God says, 'listen, I'm going to set you free from that.' I want that more and more in my life as well. And there are others - Galatians , verse 3 and verse 8, which we will not look at at the moment, although you can make your way back to Galatians.

It actually says that Christ has set us free from the elements of the world. The elements of the world. Of course in chapter 5, verse 1 it talks about the yoke of bondage - specifically in this context talking about working our way to heaven. Feeling like we can somehow earn God's salvation. That somehow we can, you know, put some money into the bank so that God will save us, right? Jesus said, 'listen, I've already paid it.

It's yours. It's free. Now here's what I want you to do. I want you to take it and live my life - a life of love back for me.' Now, okay. What does Paul mean by freedom? The context suggests that Paul was referring to freedom from the bondage and condemnation of a law-driven Christianity.

That's the Galatians here in - or the context here in Galatians. 'But our freedom' - the lesson says - 'includes much more than that. It includes freedom from sin, from eternal death, and the devil.' Amen. I want to go over now to Tuesday's lesson here. The title of this part of the study is 'the dangerous consequences of legalism.

' And I think that that is true. Legalism can be and is very dangerous. It leads us to think that we can save ourselves. It leads us to misrepresent God to other people. It leads to a lot of not very pretty things.

Okay. What does it mean to be justified by the law? Justification means being made right with God - justified. It's salvation. God is granting us salvation. He says, 'if you're trying to gain salvation by the works of the law - by obeying the law - you have been severed from Christ.

' In other words, if you're using the law as a method to gain heaven you're getting the order wrong. You know, like we talked about with the algebra equation thing. You're severed from Jesus. The connection's cut off, because you're trying to work your way to heaven on your own. Instead, go to Jesus.

Get connected with him. And the law part kind of falls into place. It becomes a natural outgrowth of that love, that salvation that you receive in Christ. So he says - this is strong language here - talking to legalists. Now, I know, come on now, we're adventists and we get a little uncomfortable when we talk about legalism sometimes, in some circles, right? But we need to talk about it.

We need to talk about what Galatians says because this book is not opposed to what the rest of the Bible teaches, it's in harmony with it, but he's emphasizing one point - at this point - he's saying, 'listen, be careful that you aren't trying to work your way to heaven - trying to keep the law to be saved. We keep the law because we are saved.' All right. Then he goes on, he says, 'the third objection to circumcision here is that it hinders spiritual growth.' His analogy is a runner in a race - verse 7. "You were running well. You were doing fine in this race.

Who hindered you from obeying the truth?" Once you go off on the track of legalism, it becomes like this cloud over your life - and I can testify from personal experience - that kind of shuts down your ability to really live the Christian life. You start focusing on yourself, on your performance, and on how well you're doing earning God's favor. And life becomes a great burden. Paul says, 'listen, if you're trying to run the race, legalism will just shut you down. You're not going to finish the race.

' Then he says this - going down towards the end here - I'm going to skip a couple of verses there, but Paul is so outraged, the lesson says, at these people for their insistence on circumcision, that he says that he wishes that the knife would slip and they would castrate themselves. Children plug your ears, right? We hope Paul's letter wasn't read in church when everybody was there. But, strong words, right? But he really views this as a serious thing and I can identify a little bit, because, you know, when you baptize somebody into the church and you see them, you've studied with them, and they've come to Jesus and they get into the church and then you see somebody who's off on a tangent - off on a wing ding - who pulls that person aside and says, 'here, believe this. Start eating up all this stuff that's kind of off here on a tangent.' It really makes you frustrated. You start feeling like, 'you know what? They're taking them away from the stuff that matters.

From focusing their eyes on Jesus and on His Word and they're focusing on all this stuff over here that could lead them astray.' And it happens, believe me, even in the adventist church. And I'm going to share a couple verses here really quick. We've got just a few minutes. Go to first - go to Titus. Titus is a little book there in, you know, one of the letters of Paul as well.

Titus chapter 3, verse 9. I just want to take a little detour here, because I think Paul, what he's saying here, happens still today - maybe a little bit different. Here's what he says to Timothy - to Titus, sorry. He says, Titus 3, verse 9 - "but avoid foolish controversies and genealogies." - These were things that people at that time were bringing into the church and saying, 'oh, this is cool stuff. Hey, look at this.

' But it wasn't biblical. It wasn't really focused on Jesus and on the word. He says, "avoid foolish controversies and genealogies, and strife and disputes.' - Even about the law. So when we get into fighting about non-essential things - even in the Word of God - stuff that's, in other words, kind of gray stuff. It's not either on one side or the other.

Look what he says here. "But avoid these things for they are unprofitable and" - what? - "Worthless or vain." Now, don't take my word for it, write down these verses. Timothy 1, verse 6, Timothy 2, verse 23. Those are some other verses that say almost the exact same thing. Paul is saying, 'listen, there are people in the church' - 1 Timothy 1, verse 6, 2 Timothy 2, verse 23, and of course, Titus 3, verse 9 here.

- 'That will try to divert you onto peripheral things, focusing on those things, baby Christians, don't be distracted. Focus on the word, focus on Jesus, don't get distracted with this other stuff. Ellen white - I like what she says about this. It's on my phone, so let me read it to you here. Desire of Ages page 396.

Listen to this. She says, "whenever the message of truth comes home to souls with special power" - listen to this - "satan stirs up his agents to start a dispute over some minor question." It happens a lot. Stuff that shouldn't even be an issue here at church - we start talking about these little things that are just ridiculous. "Thus he seeks to attract attention from the real issue. Whenever a good work has been done there are cavilers ready to enter into dispute over forms and technicalities, to draw minds away from the living realities.

When it appears that God is about to work in a special way for his people, let them not be enticed into a controversy that will work only ruin for souls." So, how do you know the difference between a controversy that's a peripheral issue that's going to distract us from what we need to be focusing on and what we should be focusing on. How do you know the difference? Listen to this. Desire of Ages page 396. Write this down. Memorize this.

Underline it. Do whatever. This is good stuff. Here is what we should be focusing on right here. "The questions that most concern us are" - are you ready? And I'm stepping on some toes probably because I - you know, I just feel like sometimes we talk about some issues - I'm not going to be too explicit here - conspiracy theories - some of these things that are just - they're distractions.

They're not really what God is calling us to focus on. Here's what the questions are. "Do I believe with saving faith on The Son of God?" Pretty foundational questions, would you agree? Pretty basic. But a lot of us, we're focusing on all the other things out here - the stuff that's just foolishness and we don't even know the answer to this question: "do I believe with saving faith on The Son of God?" Here's #2: "is my life in harmony with the divine law?" That's another foundational question, right? Those are the questions that we need to be focused on. Ellen white - I love what she says here, "these are the questions that most concern us.

Do I believe with saving faith on The Son of God? Is my life in harmony with the law?" You know, beyond that, it's all fluff. Don't worry about it. Focus on those questions. And if somebody comes along with something that says 'focus on this.' Look at God's Word. Let that be your focus.

Look at the prophecies of His Word. Don't focus on the stuff that's, you know, man's materials outside of that, but focus on what God's Word has to say. All right, let's turn the page and let's finish up here. And the next page's - the next day's lesson - is called, 'liberty, not licentiousness.' And I think this is beautiful because Paul, basically, here is saying, 'listen' - this is Galatians 5 - go back to Galatians here - Galatians 5, verse 13. He says, "brethren, you were called to freedom; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love" - do what? "Serve one another.

" Beautiful. You know, we can fall into that ditch too, can't we? So there's the legalism ditch, we talked about that this morning. On the other hand, there's the licentiousness ditch. We don't want to fall into that ditch either. Paul says, "don't use your freedom as an opportunity" - hey, by the way, what is an occasion for the flesh? He defines it down in verse 19.

Look what it says. "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident which are" - what? Well, we've got a whole list, right? "Immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities," - that means like hatred and things like that." - "Strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like this." He says, "those who do these things will not inherit the kingdom of God." So, no doubt here, Paul is not saying freedom leads you to sin. Not at all. The book of Galatians does not teach that the law has been done away with or that we can continue to live in sin, does it? No. That would contradict what Paul is saying in chapter 5.

Paul, instead, is saying, 'the law is not to be used as a method to gain salvation.' Can you say amen to that? Instead, it is to be - it's there to show us our sin and to point us to the one who can give us salvation, who then allows us to live a life of loving, joyful obedience. Isn't that beautiful? Beautiful. Now, what he says at the end of this verse, though, is very instructive. Look what he says. Verse 13: "for you were called to freedom brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love," - do what? I think we sometimes forget about this - at least I do.

As seventh day adventists we, you know, we're good with the Bible, right? We've got the Word of God, we know how to explain it, I think, the best, of any church that I have heard yet and that's why I'm a seventh day adventist Christian. It makes the most sense this faith. But that's not enough. Knowing facts, knowing doctrine isn't the sum total of what it means to be a Christian. Paul says part of it is serving other people.

In fact, I think that's a big part of it. In fact, the whole book of 1 John, if you've read it lately, basically says, 'hey, you know, we can say we love God and all that, but if we're not loving each other then we've got problems.' Right? And so, I think this is really where he sums up. He says, 'listen, freedom in Christ does not mean licentiousness on one hand, but instead it means that you're free, but you're bound on an obligation' - it's kind of a neat picture in a way - 'to serve other people. You've chosen a different kind of service. - You could say.

A different kind of slavery? Romans chapter 6 says that we're slaves to righteousness now. But God - it's not slavery when you're a slave to him. You know, I heard a story one time about a lady who was married to a man. They weren't very happy together. He would make her a little list of things to do every day when he left for work and she was supposed to have those things done by the time he got home.

Hope you guys don't do that to your wives. I don't do that to mine - she - well, she has a honey-do list for me - I take that back, but it's all good. So and we've only been married for a year and a half but anyway. But actually I'll tell you, the second part of the story I think applies to me because I actually enjoy doing what she asks me to do. So this lady, he would have a list, you know, 'iron my shirts', you know, 'have lunch on the table at 5:00 sharp - or dinner, you know - 'it better be hot.

' And, you know, it was just this list of things to do and she would do it - grudgingly but she did it. They had - they didn't have a very loving relationship, well one day he died and she got remarried a few years later and her and this other guy were deeply in love. They loved each other and a couple of years into the marriage she looked around at what she was doing and she thought, 'you know, I'm doing the same things that I was doing for my previous husband, who passed away, for this husband, but I'm enjoying it. I love it, it's fun. I don't have a problem having dinner on the table when he comes home from work and it's piping hot.

In fact, I try to do that. It's just natural and, yeah, I iron his shirts and clean the house and whatever else, it's just a -" what was the difference? The first marriage didn't have a love relationship. The second one did. And I think, as Christians, that's really what it boils down to with Jesus, isn't it? He says, 'you know, I have come to give you salvation. It's free.

You can never earn it, deserve it.' - In fact, you know, there's a story real quick - we're almost done here - Matthew 18, where the servant came to the King, remember that? Matthew 18, I think it's verse - that whole story there - and the King said, 'pay up or else I'm going to sell you off to the slave buyers.' And so the servant groveled around - he realized he couldn't pay the millions of dollars he owed. And finally the King said, 'okay, listen, I'm going to forgive you. You go ahead and just go free because you can never pay this off. I forgive you.' Well, you know the story, the guy went out and he was just like, 'oh this is awesome! Yes! I'm free!' But then he saw somebody who owed him a few dollars - a couple hundred bucks - and he started to - remember that story? - Strangle the person - 'give me my $200.00.' And the master - the servants of this king - the other ones saw it and said, 'listen, you just got forgiven millions of dollars and you're, you know, coming down on this other fellow for a couple hundred dollars? What's wrong with you? You don't get it do you? You don't get it.' I think sometimes as Christians we don't get it. We don't get the fact that Jesus has forgiven us a huge debt that we can never repay.

If we were to try - which some of us have done - we've all been in that ditch of legalism. You just know it's - you can never get that burden off your back. Just like Christian you're going along but Jesus comes along and says, 'listen, I will forgive you. I will forgive you that debt.' And then the response to that, unlike the servant in Matthew , is that we go out and we love other people, right? We say, 'because God has done this for me I want to serve him and represent him to others forever.' Do you want that experience in your life? I do too. And that's the - that's where it's at.

This is what Jesus came to offer us - a life that is more abundant. Not a life that's in bondage to legalism or a life that's in bondage to sin, but a life that involves freedom from sin and freedom in Jesus. A life of service to others and service to God. I want to invite you once again to go to our website www.amazingfacts.org. You can find all sorts of free stuff.

Books to read, movies and sermons to watch - all sorts of really good information there that you will want to check out at amazingfacts.org. If you've missed any of our Amazing Facts programs, visit our website at amazingfacts.org. There you'll find an archive of all our television and radio programs, including amazing facts presents. One location, so many possibilities. Amazingfacts.org.

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