Text: Galatians 6:11-18 7/12/09 a.m.
Thesis: The differences in true and false religion are detectable.
Intro: As we come to the close of the letter to the Galatians we find the Apostle Paul picking up the pen.
It appears that he has been dictating the letter up to this point but now Paul takes over.
Possibly because of poor eye sight but more likely for authentication and emphasis Paul personally writes the conclusion of this important letter.
So Paul is going to bring it home for us. This is his conclusion; its his summary of the differences between true and false religion.
It’s the difference between an outward religion of rituals and an inward religion of the new creation.
Read Galatians 6:11-18
I) False religion cares about outward appearance, ease, and numbers
a) Verse 12 teaches the truth that false religion cares more about outward appearances than inward change.
i) It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised.
ii) One group is forcing circumcision on another group and the reason is to “make a good showing in the flesh”.
iii) This is always the case. False religion is driven by the desire to look good in the eyes of others.
iv) It was about bragging rights. Look at us. Look at how prim, proper, and kosher our religion is.
v) Everyone follows the rules, is refined, and looks nice.
vi) When we become more concerned about the outward condition of the flesh than we are concerned about the inward condition of the heart than we are in danger of unknowingly spreading a false religion.
vii) It’s the false religion that you have to look just like me.
viii) Misery loves company so if we can get more people to look like us maybe we’ll turn out happy and right.
ix) Followers of a false religion care more about outward appearances than inward change in order to make themselves feel better about themselves.
b) Our next truth, also from verse 12, is that false religion cares more about ease and comfort than costly faithfulness.
i) They were compelling circumcision, verse 12, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.
ii) This is a reference to persecution coming from Jewish unbelievers toward those Jewish believers who were radical about the cross of Christ.
iii) Now if you wanted to honor Jesus that was fine as long as Jesus did not have priority over Moses.
iv) It’s the idea that as long as Jesus is lock-step with what we already believed then you can have your Jesus.
v) But when the gospel is preached and the conclusion is drawn that circumcision counts for nothing, Judaism void of Christ is slavery, the uncircumcised who have faith are the true sons of Abraham, and the promises of God come to the Gentiles by faith and not by law-keeping well then it’s going to be on as far as unbelieving Jews are concerned.
vi) Unbelieving Jews were persecuting believing Jews so in response a false religion was born that would try and bring the two together.
vii) The first inter-faith movement was born. And what did membership in the inter-faith movement call for?
viii) A radical depreciation of the cross of Christ. Now you can have the cross but it cannot be the center of who you are and what you do.
ix) If you will stop all this talk about the cross and how Jesus’ work on it makes you righteous then we’ll leave you alone. You can have the cross but it has to be meaningless and powerless.
x) So to keep the peace false religion says, “really, if we just turn it down a little you’ll get off our backs?”
xi) Since false religion cares more about comfort and ease than costly faithfulness they decided that it wasn’t a big deal to balance the scales a little between Jesus and Moses.
xii) But the problem, as we’ve already seen, is that when it comes to righteousness by faith in Christ it’s an all or nothing deal.
xiii) Read Galatians 5:2-4
xiv) When a church moves the bloody cross out of the center that church is on a slippery slope.
xv) And the temptation is all around us. People don’t want to hear about sin, if you preach the cross you won’t draw a crowd, we’ve got to make our message more palatable in order to get them in and then we’ll tell them all about it. Stop preaching about sin.
xvi) The problem is that what gets them in is what will keep them in.
xvii) The cross is a first level primary nonnegotiable issue. If the cross is moved, degraded, or another issue is raised in competition with the cross than that church is in danger of losing the gospel.
xviii) We’ve got to get it in our minds that preaching the cross will bring persecution.
xix) And we have to ask, What do you love more, faithfulness to the gospel or comfort and ease?
xx) False religion loves comfort and ease above costly faithfulness.
c) Third, false religion cares more about numbers than righteousness.
i) Read verse 13
ii) The end of verse 13 exposes the desire of false religion- they want you as a convert so that they may boast in your flesh; that they may glory in your flesh.
iii) They were trophy hunters.
iv) It was honorable to train and help a Jew to live like a faithful Jew but it was a big deal to get a Gentile to convert and accept circumcision.
v) Wow, look at that guy he has convinced all those guys to be circumcised he must really be something special.
vi) And since they wanted to be seen as something special they would parade their converts and brag about, boast in, and glory over their converts.
vii) Never mind that those who were preaching this false gospel and winning “converts” weren’t even doing what they were preaching.
viii) It was smoke and mirrors; those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law.
ix) They were old west gun-slingers breaking the law in order to capture those who broke the law and then only so that they could be seen as good upstanding law keepers. It’s not honorable it’s deplorable.
x) But false religion needs converts in order to convince itself that it’s not a false religion; look at the numbers how can all these people be wrong?
xi) Now that we know what not to do let’s get on to the positive; what then is true religion?
II) True religion is cross-centered, humble, and a new creation
a) First, true religion boasts exclusively in the cross
i) Verse 14 opens with, “but far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”
ii) Let me quickly tie this statement into verse 4 where we are told to test our work then the reason to boast will be in self alone and not in neighbor.
iii) 14 paints the picture of never boasting except in the cross and verse 4 paints the picture of boasting in regard to something in my self.
iv) The truth of the matter is that verse 4 is a cross centered boasting. It realizes I am nothing and incapable of nothing good. The boasting of verse 4 is based on the truth that I have been crucified to the world and the world has been crucified to me.
v) Anything good that I have done is related specifically to the atonement, righteousness, and fullness that was given to me through the work of Christ on the cross.
vi) The boasting of verse 4 is a humble cross-centered boasting; it’s only because of the cross.
vii) I’m not acceptable to God or fruitful in life because of my merit or because I appear better than the next guy.
viii) I am acceptable to God and fruitful in life because of the merit of Christ. The cross makes me what I am so I will judge my life by the cross and I will boast only in the cross.
ix) I will not brag of numbers. I will not brag of converts. I will not water down the gospel to make my life easier.
x) I will gladly speak of the amazing eternal benefits secured for me in the cross.
xi) So how cross-centered is your communication? When you get excited about something how often are you excited about the cross?
xii) And this is no pitiful cross; verse 14 labels it the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
xiii) It’s the cross of the sovereign, ruling, Son of God who delivers his people from their sins and is coming again to take his reign over all.
xiv) This cross is powerful. And this cross leads to humility.
xv) Followers of a false religion brag about what they have done or what they can do.
xvi) Followers of the true religion brag only about what Christ has done and what Christ can do.
xvii) There is no other boasting except in the cross. This is important because boasting in something or glorying in something means worshipping or ascribing worth to that object.
xviii) Compared to the cross you’re going to boast in that puny thing?
xix) We need a revival of humility and cross-centered boasting. We need to be honest about our own total inability and boast in Christ’s perfect ability.
xx) So, true religion has a humility that boasts only in the cross.
b) Second, true religion is marked by cross-centered holiness
i) Verse 14 tells us that it is by the cross of Christ that the world is crucified to me and I to the world.
ii) Verse 17 says, “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”
iii) True religion alters your desires so that your life is changed so that you place a premium on costly faithfulness.
iv) Herman Ridderbos hit the nail on the head when he wrote, “the world as used here [stands for] everything outside of Christ in which man seeks his glory and puts his trust” (224).
v) What you define yourself by is what you are boasting in. Some people define themselves by their wealth.
vi) Some brag about how much money they have and some brag about how poor they are.
vii) Some define themselves by their jobs. I am a …
viii) Some define themselves by some tragedy or by some blessing.
ix) When Paul said that by the cross of Christ the world was crucified to him and he was crucified to the world he was saying that in Christ he died to everything empty and shallow that would distract from Christ.
x) What was important to him before he met Christ meant nothing to him after Christ.
xi) His desires were different. His priorities were different. And this is true because Christ is real and the cross is real and righteousness by faith is real and the Spirit is real and fulfilling the law of Christ through love is real.
xii) Because Christ truly changed him he lived a truly changed life; a life of holiness.
xiii) A life, verse 17 tells us, that included pain. The cross that he boasted in was the cross that brought him pain.
xiv) Stop preaching the exclusivity of the cross and stop being persecuted, but Paul was so completely gripped by the life changing power of the cross that he couldn’t stop boasting and he couldn’t stop preaching.
xv) So he calls on the church to stop causing trouble, stop following what is false, the scars of persecution prove the truthfulness of Paul’s cross-centered gospel.
xvi) True religion is marked by cross-centered holiness and often bears the scars.
c) Third, true religion is begun by inward change
i) The false teachers used circumcision as the beginning point of change. Some false teachers today use baptism as the beginning point of change.
ii) But verse 15 says, “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but a new creation”
iii) The 10 million dollar question is what is a new creation? What is the only thing that counts?
iv) We know what it’s not. It’s not the absence of weakness or temptation. It’s not a freedom from the battle between the flesh and the Spirit.
v) So what is it? First, it is a changed person.
vi) You were created at conception but now because of faith in the cross of Christ you are a new creation.
vii) So change marks the new creation but what type of change?
viii) It is the awareness of sonship with the accompanying blessings and benefits of sonship.
ix) Chapter 4 puts the new creation in the terms of adoption. You are changed by the cross of Christ in order to enter into the family of God.
x) In the new creation there is an awareness that because of Christ I am now a true child of God.
xi) And the Holy Spirit is in the new creation. Chapter 4:6, “because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
xii) Have you ever been led by the power of the cross to cry out in need or in trust or in love to the Father?
xiii) A new creation is dependent on the Father and so the new creation calls out to his Father.
xiv) Do you have this awareness? That you are a son of God because Christ is in you?
xv) Do you live life based on the fullness of the power that is in you because Christ is in you?
xvi) I don’t care if you are a good person. I don’t care what you have done as a good person. I don’t care what you have done to your flesh. What matters is if you are a new creation because of faith in Christ.
xvii) Do you have a dependence on Christ and a hunger for God?
xviii) True religion is begun by this inward change.
d) And finally, fourth, true religion is characterized by peace, mercy, and grace.
i) Read 16&18
ii) There is a rule for us who live in the freedom of the Spirit. The rule is total dependence on the cross of Christ to make you a new Spirit-led creation.
iii) If you live this way, trusting only in the cross, peace and mercy be upon you.
iv) What you long for be upon you. A solidity of soul, a restful spirit, an awareness of forgiveness, a right relationship with God.
v) If you are this way following this rule you are the Israel of God.
vi) It is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. Because you are joined to Christ and given his righteousness you can’t get become any more Jewish.
vii) The outward appearances are inconsequential. The inward nature of faith is everything.
viii) And we know it is everything because it is those of faith who experience peace, mercy, and verse 18 “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ with your spirit.”
ix) As the battle rages there is an awareness of grace; an awareness of the sufficiency and strength of Christ.
x) There is a tugging on your anxious and wandering heart to return to the center; return to the cross.
xi) It is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that convicts your spirit when you follow the flesh.
xii) It is the mercy of God that lovingly disciplines his sons.
xiii) And this grace and this mercy give us peace.
xiv) Galatians opened with the words, “grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
xv) Galatians ends with the same words.
III) Tonight I hope you will take these truths and test your life by them
a) Is your Christianity a false religion or is your Christianity the true religion?
i) Are you playing a game worried about what others think, worried about the numbers, and hoping someone will come along just like you and make you feel good about yourself?
ii) Or is the bloody cross the greatest demonstration of God’s love and the greatest proof of your wickedness?
iii) Are you a new creation who has tasted free grace, abundant mercy, and satisfying peace? Do you long for the fullness of these blessings?
iv) If you are, then you have reason to rejoice. If you are not, then tonight cry out in repentance and faith and you will be saved.