Category: Theology


Below is the basic text of the sermon that I preached on Sunday, February 27th, at Hemlock Grove Christian Church.

When I preach, although I typically have the full text with me, I usually from time to time stray from it and add things when it seems proper and when I feel Led- so these aren’t the exact words delivered- but you’ll definately get the overall picture.

 

Galatians 1:6-10

 No Other Gospel

 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

1)   Question- What is the Gospel? V.6 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel

A Question: What is the Gospel?  We just read about the Gospel in these five verses. The word gospel in that time frame appears 5 times. Actually, the word appears 5 times in four verses, since it appears twice in verse seven.  So what is “Gospel”? We talk about the “Gospel” all the time. We sing about the Gospel all the time. We read the Gospels- so what is it?

                This question must be central to our minds as we read this text. What is Paul getting all riled up about? Why waste the time if this isn’t important?

What gospel means:

                Well perhaps we should begin with what “gospel” means. That seems like a good place to start.  When we take the word back, and look at what it means in the Greek, all it really means is “good news”.

Good news.  Now when I say “good news” that means exactly what you think it means – “Good news!” No twisting to the word to say “well in Christianity, we change the meaning of “good news”. No, “well we say good news, but it isn’t really”, no, Good news, means just that- good news.

                But what IS the good news- and more specifically, what is the good news that Paul is talking about here and what does this good news look like?” We can go around and say “hey, we have good news! Good news here!” but, if we don’t know what’s so good about it, well, what’s the point?

So what is the good news? Well Paul in the Book of I Corinthians puts it like.

I Corinthians 15:1-8

1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

“Christ died for our sins”….”he was buried”…..”He was raised”. This is the Easter account. But- what’s so good about it? He died for our sins. Christ took the penalty for our sins, a punishment we deserve- death-, and allows us the opportunity to be an interactive, personal, relationship with God our creator. In a nut-shell, this is the good news. But do we understand this? What this MEANS is more than these words.

Good News Means:

We’re imperfect, and deserve separation from a perfect God. We aren’t really living without Christ living in our place- bringing the amazing possibility that the immortal immaterial perfect all-powerful Creator of the Universe breaks into our reality and seeks to know us and wants us to know the greatness that is living with God.

The Good news? IT’s the fact that God is involved. It’s the fact that we are invited by God to be involved IN the Good News.  God involved US, humans in sharing the good news, and involved us at the most serious of points in bring salvation to the world when we PERSONALLY share in a relationship with those who don’t believe.  As He seeks us, so we, the Reflectors of our Creator, seek. God the message of love to the world has us share it also, and share the Truth of the Gospel- the good news- to all.

To All? All the hurting, all the poor, all those are seeking holiness on earth. It’s good news for all who want to help to hurting- it’s good news for all who feel a place in their heart to help the poor- and it’s diffidently good news for those who wish to be more like God. It’s good news for all who realize they can’t do it alone. It’s news for all those who know that deep down this world should and CAN be different- and want this would be better- if any of this is you- then THIS is good news.

Yet the “good news” is that the scriptures never allow us to merely point fingers and say “sinner!” That is NOT preaching and that is NOT the good news. The scripture admonish us to speak Truth- which includes the amazing message of salvation, the mind blowing possibility of life becoming as Christ, and the energizing mission to make whatever we’re doing at this moment a reflection of the truth of God. The “good news” that God wants YOU to be involved to bring goodness and new life to the world around you. The “good news” that the first step towards salvation is NOT you taking a step towards God, but the step the Church makes towards you (For God first stepped towards us)- and consequently, every step you make, will step in time with you towards becoming like God- and never going along that Way alone.

This is the good news. It changes us. And this is what I’m trying to get across- Where God is involved

2)   Question- Why would someone turn to a different Gospel?  V.6-7 and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

Paul, ever the concerned about the Church, fears that the men and women who are part of the Church in Galatia are turning from the gospel- the good news of Jesus Christ….to something else.

A different gospel- a different type of Good News. This possibility is something that so often worries the Church. We worry if a preacher isn’t preaching “Sound Doctrine”, and this verse is often used to validate the act of villanizing a preacher who we believe is “wrong”. But, what IS a different Gospel?

Imagine that you’re shopping at a yard sale, or at a flea market, and you find a booth that is selling the latest items at a MAJOR reduction. But after a while, you get to thinking- this can’t be right- how is this person selling a Rolex watch for 10 dollars- or the selling the latest Coach bags for pennies on the dollar. You think to yourself- this isn’t adding up. This CAN’T be right.

For Paul, this different gospel was very specific it seems. Men, who were traveling speakers, came from town to town, and it seems where presenting a message of salvation that incorporated the teaching of Jesus, but also infused it with additions that in Paul’s eyes eroded away from the very basis of good news. (Looks stuff up in book)

This was NOT the situation where we have two Christians looking over scripture and coming to different opinions on topics that are not central the message of the good News of Jesus Christ. Paul would have been very comfortable in telling someone they were wrong, but at the same time, he placed a priority on the issue of unity. Yet, if the gospel was compromised- well that was a very different story.

But WHAT is a different Gospel? Well there’s probably tons of ways that we can look at this, but a different Gospel could be seen as a different Goal, and different Grace, and a different God…..yes, four G’s- I DID go to a Bible college…

Different Goal What is our Goal? Is it our own comfort? Is it self-fulfillment?

As a Christian, we live to glorify God- through our relationship, showing God in our lives, showing God at work in us. But so often, we seem to get things turned around- we focus on ourselves. We thing- I need to do this to make myself a better person.

Sometimes, we thing that being a Christian is all about making ourselves feel better.

But honestly, it’s so often because we just don’t like the goal. Part of the Goal of the good news is that over time, Christ in us brings a Change of life style. Just like an athlete with a good coach will over time bring a change- a positive change- in how you play your game so that you play better and more competitively, so too God in our lives brings a complete change so that we slowly move closer to being like him. That takes effort, and that times pulling things out of our lives that we don’t want to give up- and quite frankly we just don’t like that. – but when we change the goal- we no longer become what God needs us to be- and the good news, is NOT possible.

Secondly, a different gospel usually has a different grace.

Different Grace-  

Verse six says that we are called “by the grace of Christ” Grace- something received undeservedly- which is what the gift of salvation is- grace, undeserved, and totally beyond our ability to totally comprehend. We do NOT deserve it- it’s not just called “Amazing Grace” because it has a melodic tone- it’s amazing because we see the love exposed in the action.

Yet so often in the Church, grace becomes a different Grace. We expect perfection and change before someone comes to Christ.  We expect that they get their lives in order before becoming a member of the Church.

We want the person to show perfection- and then we’ll let them through the door. But here’s the problem. This isn’t Grace.

The Grace of God is undeserved. Nothing we can do can EARN grace. No amount of good work- no amount of praying, no amount of Bible reading, no amount acting “the right way”, no amount goodness, can earn you anything.  Grace is undeserved- anything else cheapens the Grace- until its no grace at all.

If you have different Goals and different grace…..we end up, with a different God.

Different God– A different God? How that seems sortta extreme don’t you think?

What is a different God? A God that doesn’t care about sin? A God that seems distant, and we act as if isn’t involved in our lives.

Of course, many of us, from time to time totally miss the boat- and something else is our God. Our jobs, our classes in school, or families, or hobbies, the games we place, the things we do. We end up putting a primacy on those things, rather than being as God wishes us to be.

Yet our God cares for us- and this God beyond comprehension has chosen to bring us into his salvation. He chose to bring us into his work of bring the Gospel- be chose to bring us into the work of the Good news! It’s the powerful Gospel, the shocking Gospel, the “Say what?!?!?! Gospel”.  The good news that Christ has died for you. The Good news that eh Father has sent his son to die for our sins.

So often when thinking of this, we think of ourselves. Our Sin, the state of being, our status, our inability, our failure, or actions hate and rejection ….but hang woah woah woah woah woah, why all this focus on US? IT’s Gods sinlessness, its GOD’s state of being, it’s God’s status, it’s Gods ability, its Gods success, and it’s God’s Actions of love and acceptance and in light of that, we realize who we are.

But THAT’S the good news! Who God is, what he has done, and what he does- that’s the good news!

So, the Good News? The God, who is here, right now, in our midst, comes into our lives despite of who we are. The good news that this God sent his son, Jesus Christ to die to allow perfect and eternal life with him. The good news that God is with us, the good news that God is waiting, the good news that God is waiting today to bring a God charged life as he intended to us today.

Let’s pray.

Galatians 1:6-10

 No Other Gospel

 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

       

           So I’m preaching on the above scripture from the letter of Galatians, written by the Apostle Paul.  This is a jammed packed section of scripture, and it actually allows for a lot of ways to go about looking at the passage, and allows that it be used in a number of ways in a sermon. But you may be asking “So how does one come up with a sermon text?”

Well that’s a good question really. The avenues to select what a person is preaching on are endless. There’s about as many ways to pick a sermon topic or sermon text, as there is sermons that have been preached.  Above all, I won’t be able to go over every way that you can be used to come up with a sermon text. With that thought in mind, here is just a small selection of ways to go about it. (I apologize in advance to any Bible College student who is pulling out their Homiletical Textbooks if they are reading this.)

Pick A Topic

 You can pick a topic (the sermon I preached a few weeks ago was a topic sermon). By this, a preacher will select or theme or idea, and select texts that go with that issue.  For instance, you could pick the biggies- love, grace, sacrifice, the crucifixion, etc., and select Biblical verses that coincide with those topics.

                Another form of a topic sermon is to have a number of different points, and then select verses that coincide with that point.

First instance in the last sermon I preached, I had a variety of short, small topics that would all come together to form one full message. So instead of having one big message on “love” with 4 or 5 points about it, I rather had 4 or 5 different points that while different, expressed one idea.

The Expository Sermon

Another form of sermon is the “Expository Sermon”. In this form of sermon, you select a text, and attempt to preach based upon the words and message of that text.  So, for the sermon that I’m preaching on the 27th, my sermon text will be Galatians 1:6-10, and I’ll be attempting, as best as I can, to tease out what the verse is talking about.

HOW the verse is selected is up to the speaker. Some sections of scripture have a well-known overarching theme, and a preacher can selection that particular section of scripture if based upon the theme he wants to talk about.

Another form of this type of preaching consists of preaching through a Book of the Bible. This is basically what I’m attempting to do with the Book of Galatians. While not hitting every verse, it allows a preacher a frame work to be able to connect a number of sermons together, and allows the listener to be able to follow along, and how the general areas of the Bible the sermon will be coming from next.

The Lectionary

Many churches, but definitely not all, follow what is called the lectionary. Those of you coming from the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Orthodox, or Methodist Churches will be familiar with this in one form or antother. The lectionary is a liturgical calendar, that selections section of scripture to correspond with the particularly season, and circles through the various Biblical texts in a three year cycle.  This is particularly helpful in and around the holy weeks of the faith. More so, it sets a logical lead up to those holidays. I personally consult the lectionary quite often around Easter and Christmas when I’m called on to preach.

A link to the lectionary, so you can get your head around if you’re not familiar is here.

http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/

The Listener

What do you think the listener needs to hear? Typically, when this point is brought up, many immediately go to “what sin needs to be confronted”. The topic of sin in Christianity is a major point, and should not be shyed away from- but I’ll be the FIRST to admit that it can be taxing to do- since one may feel as if they are coming down to hard on the listener, or the very fact that the preacher is also as sinful as the listener.

Yet the “good news” is that the scriptures never allow us to merely point fingers and say “sinner!”. That is NOT preaching and that is NOT the good news. The scripture admonish us to speak Truth- which includes the amazing message of salvation, the mind blowing possibility of life becoming as Christ, and the energizing mission to make whatever we’re doing at this moment a reflection of the truth of God. The “good news” that God wants YOU to be involved to bring goodness and new life to the world around you. The “good news” that the first step towards salvation is NOT you taking a step towards God, but the step the Church makes towards you (For God first stepped towards us)- and consequently, every step you make, will step in time with you towards becoming like God- and never going along that Way alone.

But often times, there are more pressing issues to touch.

Often times, a person who is called on to preach, particularly if you’re a fill in, will be preaching to a congregation that is going through a time of change, transition, or pain. In the past year, for instance, I have preached in congregation that had fired their previous minister, and to a congregation who had lost its Church building my means of arson, and were making plans to rebuild. In situations like this, I believe a minister has a RESPONSIBILITY to deliver not mere words, but words of comfort and guidance- which will also, be words of truth.

                By this, the text selected speaks to the situation by showing love and concern, and by showing solidarity, any by showing connection to Biblical passages.

God

The final point is of MOST important- and is one that most preachers and ministers, including myself,  fail to full connect with- and is the point that seems most obvious- where is God leading the writing of the sermon. The New Testament teaches the often elusive Holy Spirit guides and helps us in understanding of Truth- and consequently, in a Christians study of the Word. As Christians, we use our minds and intellect to think about and ponder the scriptures, but at the same time, we must never  forget the balance of needing have God’s guidance.

It is my prayer that this sermon is one of God’s leading and Truth…..and, might I add, I hope that it’s yours also 😉

           Whenever anyone writes a sermon, almost invariable there is some sections, some points, and some paragraphs, that you just don’t know how to write it..

            This is where I’m at tonight. I’m referencing in my sermon I Corinthians 15:3-8. Since Paul references “gospel” a number of times in the the text I’m preaching on, I decided to go to the verse where Paul succinctly writes the foundation of the Christian faith- the Gospel, the Good news.

I Corinthians 15:3-8

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

And here comes the writers block- the good news- what’s so good about it?

           As a Christian,  I can start to list a long laundry list of “good things” that come from the Gospel. I can be mechanical about it- the Gospel is foundationally the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth- who is the Christ. Or, as I’m going to look at in my sermon “Christ died for our sins“.

            Yet the implications of this are mind boggling. It’s easy to through out things like- “by this we have salvation!” ,“because of this we can have eternal life” ,“this is the Love of God” “because of this I’m no longer condemned”, “by this we have forgiveness of sins”, “by this, the barrier between God and man has been tore down” or “because of this we can have a personal relationship with God!”

            True, True, True, True, True, True, and True….and insert your orthodox statement and I’ll say “True”. But for the majority of people, in just hearing this, they may say “o that sounds like a nice thing” or “o, well could be kinda cool”, or how about “well that’s….neat???”. But no, this is the “good news” not “nice news” or “kinda cool news” or even “neat….news???”.

            Here’s a hint- for so many Christian- even for me on a lot of days it because the “true but not really sure what it means news”. This then becomes “what does this mean for me news” and  the “it’s true, and I believe it but I don’t really see the implications news” and finally, once they realize that there has got to be something to this good news, it’s the “what does this look like news”. Is this merely a cognitive understanding of your position in relation to God? Well it is that- but it’s so much more! But how do I communicate that in a way that actually makes a person say “OOOO, so THAT’S why it’s call good!”

            I’m a firm believer that a majority of people who hear the Gospel message, while hearing it, rarely truely hear it. They hear words, but they never get what’s the big deal about it- it’s seems “nice”- but never “good”. And that is the Churches fault- and as a speaker, my responsibility.

            So I’m back to that original nagging question- The good news- what’s so good about it?

Writers block…of the most frustrating kind.