CHOICES MUST BE MADE
Scripture: Galatians 1:1-12 Princeton Christian Church 12 September 2021
Christianity is about making a choice. Do I choose to do things God's way, or mine? Do I choose to follow His wishes, or do I want to follow the wishes of others who disagree with Him? The Bible repeatedly tells us: "Make a choice."
There is the story of the “good old boy” who came down out of the mountains one day. He was all dressed up and carrying his Bible. A friend saw him and asked, “Elias, what’s going on? Where are you going all dressed up like that?” Elias said, “I’ve been hearing about New Orleans. I hear that there is a lot of free-running liquor, and a lot of gambling and a lot of really naughty things going on there.” The friend looked him over and said, “But Elias, why are you carrying your Bible under your arm?” Elias answered, “Well if it’s as good as they say it is, I might stay over until Sunday.”
Now, obviously, that’s a joke, but it is meant to make a point. No one would really do stuff like that… would they? Well, actually they would. There are people who live one way at church and live entirely differently the rest of the week. They do things throughout the week that they wouldn’t dream of doing at a church building. They’ve bought into a strange kind of theology. Theology, of course, is the study of God. Those, who follow this strange theology don’t mind being religious, just not TOO religious … and just not quite all the time. Just when it suits their particular need at the moment. By the way, we must be careful how we use the word religious. We can be “religious” about anything or anybody. It depends upon the degree to which we worship that thing or person.
Paul tells us … he never bought into that kind of theology. In Galatians 1:10 he writes: “Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
What’s that mean? It means Paul made a choice between Jesus and something else and Jesus won. That also means - WE have a choice - a choice to please Jesus, or a choice to please the world. John said it this way: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15
SO MAKE A CHOICE!
The thing about making a choice is that if I choose, FOR one thing, I have to choose AGAINST something else. As Jesus said: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other....” Matthew 6:24
Now, the issue here in Galatians is – there was a theological conflict at that church. The churches at Galatia were pretty much-uncircumcised Gentiles. Jews were apparently in the minority. But there were some circumcised Jews who tried to tell them that they weren’t Christians unless the Gentile believers got circumcised. In other words: They had to become Jews before they became Christians.
Now, the problem was, God had already cleared that up said that Circumcision was NOT required anymore. Gentiles who believed/repented/confessed Jesus / and were baptized - they didn’t need to get circumcised. The Jews seemed to believe that circumcision is what saved a person.
Later in Galatians 3:27-28, Paul told them “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (you don’t need to do anything else) There is neither Jew nor Greek. You don’t have to become a Jew first. There is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
So Paul was saying you have to make a choice. You can choose God’s way of being saved… or you can listen to someone else’s way. But you’ve got to make a choice. But you need to understand… God’s way is the only way that will work. Following any other way will lead you to destruction.
As Paul wrote: “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8-9
There are false teachers out there (Paul says, let them be accursed). There are people who try to get you to accept ANOTHER Gospel (again, Paul says, let them be accursed). There are people who teach a Gospel contrary to the one that Paul preached and still, again he says let them be accursed).
What do you mean accursed? It means – they are condemned by God because they are nullifying the death of Christ.
I think we can see Paul was very serious about choosing whom you will serve. This isn’t just a theological dispute about what angels look like. This isn’t a squabble over what color of carpet you ought to have in the sanctuary. This isn’t a quarrel over whether you should sing hymns or choruses. THIS IS A FALSE TEACHING that perverts the hope we have in Jesus. It robs the blood of Jesus of its power. It distorts the message of Christ on the cross.
So, here is what is going on in the church in Galatia, and in many churches in our day and time. Most people believe they can be saved, that is, loved by God if they just follow the right set of rules. For example, the people Paul is condemning here in Galatians believed that those rules could be summed up in the Old Testament law books. They believed that if you could just obey enough of the rules in the Old Testament, you were a shoo-in, or maybe just squeak by. And only people who did everything right would make it in the gate.
Making sure people were circumcised was just a small part of what they believed, but that’s how they got their foot in the door. That’s how they began to introduce their theology.
Nowadays, a lot of people don’t usually know enough about the OT to know those rules, so they tend to make them up as they go along. For example: According to a survey from last year - Roughly half of Americans believe they will go to heaven if they are “generally good” or “do enough good things”
Now, what are those GOOD THINGS? Well… they don’t know! And what constitutes “ENOUGH good things? They aren’t really clear about that either, but they’re pretty sure they’ll know what it is when they see it. In reality, what they are saying is the Good Things are those things that I consider good things. They won’t accept God’s assessment of what good things are.
Michael Bloomberg, the previous mayor of NY said it this way: “I am telling you if there is a God when I get to heaven (Notice he said “when”, not “if”) I’m not stopping to be interviewed (I guess he meant “judged”. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven.”
Now, notice what Bloomberg was saying there. He has EARNED salvation. He’s done enough good things that God HAS to accept him. Think about it this way: What Bloomberg was saying “I’ve done enough things right, so my RIGHTeousness (things that I MYSELF have done) that SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS has earned me a place in heaven”
Bloomberg believes that – God couldn’t keep him out if He wanted to. Bloomberg DESERVED to go to heaven.
Now essentially that’s what people (who say they’ll go to heaven because they’re good) that’s what they’re saying. Their good deeds have bought a seat in the choir.
But how do we know that’s not true? Well… the Bible says it’s not true. Romans 3:10 Paul writes: “as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one’”
But wait a minute – is it possible that Paul was maybe… wrong??? I don’t think so.
In Galatians, Paul goes to a lot of trouble to explain, he’s not just a nice Sunday School teacher. He was specifically chosen by Jesus to speak for God. “I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I RECEIVED IT BY REVELATION from Jesus Christ.” Galatians 1:12
Peter agreed “our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do THE OTHER SCRIPTURES.” II Peter 3:15-16
In other words, Paul spoke and wrote FOR Jesus, and what he wrote WERE Jesus’ words. They were NOT his own words… they were the words of Jesus.
Now, we have excellent human teachers in our churches, but when they teach they don’t speak FOR Jesus. They take the words OF Jesus and try to explain them to us. They are not inspired like Paul and Peter, and James and John.
So when a teacher or church teaches something that contradicts what we find in the Bible they’re teaching false doctrine and they risk being condemned by God. That’s why James warns teachers to be careful what they teach because they will be “judged more strictly” (James 3:1) especially when it comes to the issue of salvation. Because God takes that very personally. Our salvation is why Jesus came and died on the cross. Wise people don’t mess with that.
So, when it comes to how we should be saved, teachers/churches should be very careful not to tell people things that aren’t in Scripture. Essentially, if a plan to save people is not in Scripture… that is another Gospel.
For example, we shouldn’t tell people that they can be saved by being good. Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Nowhere in the Bible do you read that a person is saved by their own self-righteousness. IT’S JUST NOT THERE!
And people shouldn’t teach that you can pray a prayer and “ask Jesus into your heart.” The book of Acts is filled with stories of people who became Christians, but not one of them was saved simply by being led in a “sinner’s prayer.” It seems to me that when a person is leading another in the “sinner’s prayer” it is the one who is leading, not the person who is confessing. The sinner’s prayer --- IT’S JUST NOT THERE!
And Churches shouldn’t teach that babies ought to be baptized. Nowhere in the Bible do you read that Peter, Paul, or John ever went and baptized a baby. IT’S JUST NOT THERE. That’s why we don’t do that here. You really need TO WANT to become a Christian after having been taught, to be baptized.
So, what does the Bible say we need to do to be saved?
Well, let’s just look at what Paul wrote
We’re going to do a “5 FINGER EXERCISE."
1 – HEAR - We need to know and understand THE GRACE OF GOD… we are saved by the grace of God “… by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Without God’s grace, nothing else matters. Without Jesus’ death and resurrection, you could believe, repent, confess, and be baptized all day long, and it wouldn’t make any difference. That is Hearing the Word.
2 - BELIEVE - you must believe Jesus was God in the flesh and came to die for you. “though (Jesus) was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). Only God was sinless enough to die in your place, but God can’t die… so He sent Jesus to walk among us. He emptied himself of His God-ness and became human so He could die in our place.
3– REPENT - you must accept that you’ve sinned and want to change. This acknowledgment is godly sorrow, which produces repentance, leading to salvation…”2 Corinthians 7:10
A preacher told that he was once speaking with a young man who wanted to become a Christian. He talked to him about faith (he said he believed) and then he talked to him about repentance. He explained that repentance means we must accept that we’ve sinned and that without repenting of that sin we’re lost. He then asked if he believed that he was a sinner and he seemed a bit shocked and said “Well, I’m not that bad a sinner.” The preacher said, “Well, I’m sorry then. I can’t baptize you if you don’t believe you’re a sinner.” The young man looked at me in surprise and said “Okay. I’m a sinner.” By the way, would say to that young man there are no degrees of sin. Sin is Sin. There or no little sins and no massive sins.
4 – CONFESS - You must be willing to confess that Jesus is the Lord and master of your life. Romans 10:9 says “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” That means that you’re confessing that Jesus will now OWN you. Everything you have - every possession, family, home, car… etc. – it’s all His. You’ve turned it all over to Him to guide you in the use of these things.
5 – BE BAPTIZED you must be willing to let yourself be buried in the waters of baptism. Romans 6:3-4 “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
You see, it’s all about making the right CHOICE for Jesus. Jesus CHOSE us by volunteering to die in our place on the cross, and we CHOOSE HIM by our Faith, Repentance, Confession, and Baptism.
A preacher named Mike told of his conversion to Christ. He said his family was known throughout the community as the worst example of humanity. The parents were irresponsible. The kids were troublemakers. They lived like animals, even eating food out of trashcans. And EVERYONE who saw them thought, “That’s just who they are. That’s all they’ll ever be. They’ll never change.” But Mike did change. One day he heard about what Jesus had done for him. That Jesus had died for HIS sins, and that Jesus wanted to change his life. And Mike decided that was what he wanted. So, he believed in Jesus, repented of his sins, and was buried in the waters of baptism for the forgiveness of his sins. He eventually became a preacher and taught several members of his family – and led them to faith/repentance/ confession and baptism. Then one day, Mike was at the funeral of his brother-in-law. One of the women who was there (and who had not seen him since his conversion) spoke with him and she said that she was amazed at the change in his life. She said - she was surprised at what HE had made of himself. Mike responded: “Oh I really appreciate your compliment, but I really didn’t change myself. It was Christ IN ME that that changed my life.”
Mike made the choice ….. and JESUS MADE THE CHANGE. That is how we all can come to Christ. There is no other way. We make the choice Jesus makes the change.
Are you ready to make that choice? Are you ready to make the change?