Women Embracing Faith

Thinking Through the Bible

Living With Promise and Hope April 19, 2011

Filed under: Galatians — womenembracingfaith @ 5:56 am
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READING GALATIANS

Read 5:13-6:10

Don’t you think most people would say they would like a life of freedom, hope, and promise? Paul’s defense of the gospel includes an appeal to these universal longings of us all. Justification by faith is, he wrote, a call to liberty. We are free from the necessity to prove we are good enough to make it to heaven. I am reminded of another old hymn, “Nothing to the cross I bring;simply to the cross I cling.” He urged these churches in Galatia to stand together on this freedom, and not allow anything to be added to the gospel. Otherwise, they are obligated to keep all the Old Testament laws perfectly and they will fail in that, and thus, lose their liberty. “Live like free men, not slaves,” he said.

All along he has reminded them of Jesus’s promise of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:14). They are to not only live like Issac, a free, rich man, but they are to live as children of the promise. They are to live as children of Abraham, even though none of them were Jewish. “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness” was both a promise and hope for them. “All other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand…” Christ is the Rock on which we stand. He give promise of righteousness and hope of eternal life. And now, as Christians, they had the additional promise that the Holy Spirit will encourage, enlighten, guide, and strengthen them (John 15:26-16:10).

But, wait. Now he gave them a warning:

Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word:’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But, if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another (Galatians 5:13-15).

Ah…here is the rub. If they weren’t careful, they would go after these false teachers with a vengence, and instead of acting with love and kindness, they would “bite their heads off.” Then, people would take sides, provoke one another, envy others, and strife would be the order of the day. Things would quickly get out of hand. There was an orderly way to stand firm, Paul said. It was to not listen to those twisting the gospel, to realize how false teaching would spread, and to support scriptural teachers and share with them. After all, they were to live as people who had these promises of righteousness, eternal life, and help from the Holy Spirit. They were not slaves to their sinful desire to have their own way and pre-eminance over others. If they continued to live as free people who were led by the Holy Spirit to love others, they would see themselves acting in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness ….. (Galatians 5:22). And this would give them even more liberty, promise, and hope.

DO YOU LIVE IN LIBERTY, WITH PROMISE AND HOPE?

This passage is chiefly about life in the community of the local church. But, we can apply it to our family life as well. There is a sense of standing up for the gospel in our immediate and extended family. Of cultivating a climate of freedom to believe in the promises and hope of the Scripture–even if others disagree. But, always acting and speaking with gentleness, kindness, love, and, of course, self-control and putting up with one another. You are free to be led by the Spirit, to sow the seeds of spiritual things, instead of always tending to rivalries between children, divisions between in-laws, someone’s controlling the family by fits of anger or drunkenness, or even sexual immorality. God will give your spirit grace through His Spirit.

What would sowing spiritual seeds look like in your family? Could you regain a spirit of liberty and hope as you stand on the promises?

“The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue, angry looks. It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife (Proverbs 25:23-24).

As Paul asserted with confidence, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers.”

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Why Did God Give The Law? April 10, 2011

Filed under: Galatians — womenembracingfaith @ 1:09 am
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READING GALATIANS
3:19-4:11

This letter was all about assuring these Gentiles that they are justified before God through faith in Christ Jesus. Their assurance comes from discovering they are looking at God as their Father in that kind of intimate, caring, expectant way we look at our Dad. This declaration of their acceptability hinges on the suffering of Jesus. Justification is tied directly to the cross endured Jesus who claimed to be the One promised to Abraham and to even Adam. Now they, pagan Gentiles, who have never lived according to the Old Testament law, are adopted into the family of God. They are sons with all the rights and privileges children have. They have inherited the blessings of the promises–to live in relationship with God as if they had never sinned and were not sinning now. And to cap it off, they have a Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Lord Jesus Christ promised would come (John 16:7-13). Paul said,” …so that the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14).

All the law given to Moses does not cancel out this promise given to Abraham. “For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise” (Gal. 3:18). The reason the law was given was that after 400 years surrounded by Egyptian worship of sun and other idolotry, the law was useful to reveal their sinfulness and cause them to fear and respect God (Exodus 20:18-21). They also needed visual images of the promised Christ’s blood being shed for them found in the sacrificial system. They would vividly see their own sin and need of a Savior through their failure to keep all the Ten Commandments. (We do too!) They would experience some of the majesty of God through the festivals and special days. They would come to know something of their own uncleaness through the dietary laws. The principle that some things were clean; some unclean became a part of their life. They would be, like children, protected from themselves by the limits set by their parents. Paul’s argument was that the law was like a Trustee or Guardian. The promise of Christ was kept in a legal Trust–riches reserved for them when they came of age. They could look forward to getting it. But, like children whose rich parents die leaving everything to them, they could not spend the money yet. They had to grow up first. Paul’s argument is that the promise of the blessings in Christ Jesus are like that–kept in trust until He came (4:1-7). Their responsibility was to accept this discipline and look forward to Christ’s coming. Moses, Joshua, and Caleb certainly did that.

The question Paul asked is: Why would you want to go back to those kind of restrictions now? You have been justified by faith. The promised One has come. He has died for you. You are no longer unclean! You have the Holy Spirit. You were not Jews, but you were living as slaves or children under guardian restrictions when you were pagans. He extends his argument to their Gentile experiences. You might have worshiped the Greek gods like Athena or participated in some other system seeking to pacify the gods. You were a slave to ceremony, rituals, diets, special religious days, astrology perhaps. Why return to that kind of system by adopting the rituals, circumcism, and diets of the Jews? You will be restricted again, enslaved. “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?” (Gal: 4:9). By adding anything to your faith, you are returning to your pagan traditions or adopting Jewish laws which were meant to be object lessons so everyone could understand the gospel. God gave the law to show us all our sin and our need of a Savior and to give us visual images to learn more about Him.

Be very clear about one thing. Paul was not talking in this passage about how we might become more like Jesus and show the fruit of the Spirit of love, joy, kindness, self-control. This passage is not about the process of growing more like Christ Jesus. Here he was attempting to stop teachers adding some law or ritual to justification by faith alone. What a joy to know we will live forever in relationship with God, being legally declared holy and acceptable to Him now and forever. Those of faith are sons, not slaves or children living under the restrictions of a legal document. They are in possession now of the inheritance–the promises of God made real to our heart by the Holy Spirit. We can live with those promises at our disposal. We can pray, knowing God hears us and is faithful to keep all His promises. We can intercede with God for others while “Standing on the promises of God my King; ….” as the old devotional hymn reminds us. We are free to stand on these promises–to spend our inheritance, so to speak. Paul’s application of this principle was, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). Reject the teaching of those who urge you to add something to faith. Don’t become a child again, living under a system of rules. Don’t be a slave again to someone’s false view of salvation. Being right with God is through faith alone; nothing added. Baptism won’t cut it. You will never be good enough, no matter how hard you try. Stand firm; be a woman of faith.

May I recommend two books: The Law and the Gospel by Ernest Reisinger (P and R Publishing, Philipsburg, New Jersey, 1997). ( I helped him proofread it.) http://www.cvbbs.com

The Chequekbook of the Bank of Faith by Charles Spurgeon (there are many editions out; Banner of Truth Trust; Moody Press). He shows you how to make the promises your own and urges you to cash in on them.

 

READING GALATIANS March 8, 2011

Filed under: Galatians — womenembracingfaith @ 11:30 am
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“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? (Galatians 2:1).

Paul did not mince words here. He equated any changing of the gospel to deserting Jesus personally. He tied the doctrine to the Person. Christianity is, above all, a personal relationship. And he goes on to curse the one who was adding works to faith as a means to be right before God. He is astonished they would listen….He warned of the repercussions of turning away from right doctrine. It would affect their strength to live for Christ and their assurance of His love for them.

Remember that Paul is writing to a church in Turkey that he started. He is reminding them of why they should listen to him. Apparently, someone had come to Turkey from Jerusalem and told these new believers that salvation was really by faith plus other things they could DO. If only these non-Jews could take on a little “Jewishness” they could be guaranteed that God would accept them! It is like an Anglo-American telling a Latin immigrant, “If you could just learn to shake hands and speak English, God will declare you righteous and accept you.” Paul didn’t agree with that at all; that wasn’t why he had started this church. It wasn’t to just pass on Jewish traditions.

“We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:15-16).

They were being taught to eat like a Jew, be circumcised as a sign of their Jewishness, to just become a Jew and THEN God could accept their faith in Jesus. Paul was more Jewish than anyone else; he was educated a Pharisee and worked hard to keep all the Jewish traditions. He had rejected Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God, the promised Savior, the Messiah. He had even sought to destroy Christianity. But, after he saw the risen Christ, he spent some time alone in the Arabian desert sorting out his ethnicity and his new faith, came back to Damascus, Syria for awhile, then spent time with Peter and Jesus’s brother, James. Then he returned to his hometown where he preached justification by faith in Christ Jesus for fourteen years. His ministry was well known and approved by the Jerusalem leaders even before he went to the Galatians.

Paul had concluded that the message of the whole Bible was that salvation and eternal life could be obtained only through faith in the promised Messiah. Jesus was that Savior. To add anything to faith alone was fatal. Jesus suffered, died, rose again, then went up to heaven where He sits in the favored spot beside the Father. He will come again to judge those living at that time, and those who have already died. Abraham, the father of the Jews, was saved in exactly this same way. His faith in the promised Savior was counted to him as if he were perfect (Galatians 3:6). No special diet, no ritual, no religious ceremony, no national origin, no tradition could be added to that to commend anyone to God. These teachers from Jerusalem were missing the mark.

You aren’t listening to someone who has missed out on the true gospel message, are you? The Jehovah Witness misses the Trinity so Christ Jesus is not really God. The Mormon doesn’t believe that the books in the Bible are the complete revelation of God. The Church of Christ adds baptism to faith. The Jehovah Witnesses teach that Jesus is the son of God, but not in essence, truly God. Some liberal Christians in Lutheran and Anglican and Presbyterian heritages teach baptism as a salvation experience. And on and on….Paul believed those teaching things like this was a serious error! (Galatians 1:9).

Of course, salvation through faith alone doesn’t mean you can just live anyway you want to! Peter used the phrase “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue..”.(2 Peter 1:5). He was talking about self-discipline and moral courage and steadfastness so one could grow and be fruitful in “the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ..” This passage is often quoted by those who add one or two things to faith. Don’t be deceived by that. Interpret every verse within the big picture of the whole Bible which is a message about salvation provided through the promised Savior.

OUR APPLICATION

You aren’t so hung up on your own traditions that you add them to faith, are you? Christianity is about knowing God not about ethnic or religious tradition or social customs. You wouldn’t let these preferences come between good Christians, would you? You wouldn’t let them interfere with the spread of the gospel, would you? Would we?

 

Teen Spirituality June 6, 2008

Filed under: Church History — womenembracingfaith @ 11:14 pm
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Our culture has things all mixed up. We give teens so much liberty in some areas and expect so little from them in others. One area of low expectations is spiritual experience. Ann Judson turned to Christ at 16, thus beginning her personal relationship with Him. Since her journal has been preserved all these years (since 1830), how she was feeling about this personal relationship is right out there.

Ann grew up in a small town in New England where few people (only 6.9%) joined a church. They had moved far from their Puritan roots. Life was fun and very social in the early 1800’s. (Think no T.V., radio, phones, or computers to interrupt talking to one another.) She loved the parties and the clothes. She thought herself safe because of her outward morality, and this was confirmed at the age of 15 when she interpreted “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan to mean that Christian reached the Celestial City by keeping to the narrow way. Yet, she began to doubt that she was even on the narrow way:

“My heart was filled with aversion and hatred towards a HOLY God; and I felt, that if admitted into heaven, with the feelings I then had, I should be as miserable as I could be in hell.

…I began to discover a beauty in the way of salvation by Christ. He appeared to be just such a Saviour as I needed. I saw how God could be just, saving sinners through him…A view of his purity and holiness filled my soul with wonder and admiration. I felt a disposition to commit myself unreservedly into his hands, and leave it with him to save me or cast me off, for I felt I could not be unhappy, while allowed the privilege of contemplating and loving so glorious a Being… I felt myself to be a poor lost sinner, destitute of every thing to recommend myself to the divine favor; that I was, by nature, inclined to every evil way; and that it had been the mere sovereign, restraining mercy of God, not my own goodness, which had kept me from committing the most flagrant crimes.”

At the private school Ann attended, around eighty young people recorded similar personal experiences. It was happening all across America and became known as the Second Great Awakening. Revival. People of all ages experienced similar spiritual intensity. Why should we not look for that today? Perhaps our low expectations for teen spirituality stem from our need of general revival.

APPLICATION

Think about His sovereignty:

“I am the Lord, and there is no other; I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.”

Plead for revival:

“Rain down, you heavens, from above, And let the skies pour down righteousness; Let the earth open, let them bring forth salvation, And let righteousness spring up together. I, the Lord, have created it.” (Isaiah 45:6-8)

This is what happened in Ann’s teen years. Her parents and sisters were also saved during this revival. People sought to please God and glorify His way of salvation through Christ. A concern for the lost nations arose. Churches formed a cooperative missionary alliance. Ann became the first American woman to go out as a foreign missionary.

Pray for revival.

You may order Ann’s biography (My Heart In His Hands by Sharon James) at amazon.com or cvbbs.com or alibris.com to find out why her memoirs affected a whole generation of American women.

 

Grandchildren May 19, 2008

Filed under: Family Life — womenembracingfaith @ 3:16 am
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“Children are an inheritance from the Lord.” Benjamin, Brandt, and John William.
What a gift!

 

Book Order Update

Amazon.com has used copies of my book, Old Paths For Little Feet. That might

help you save a little money if you don’t have a copy. Just type in Carol Brandt at search.

Don’t forget you can download chapters from my unpublished book about leading teens

(or yourself) into thinking skills that will help with Bible study. The download is free.

Just clink the link on sidebar: Old Paths For Little Feet. It will take you to CarolBrandt.net.

Hope this will help someone on a tight budget.

Carol

 

Spring in Florida May 15, 2008

Filed under: applications — womenembracingfaith @ 4:03 pm
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Spring here is so much fun. I grabbed a roach off the kitchen counter last night; I use a paper towel, of course. This is after paying the bug man $59 on Monday! And just now I glanced thru the slates of the window shutters to see a black snake gracefully gliding along a branch. He is always welcomed because he hunts rats. We all thrive here together. And of course, today is beach day for my collie and I, and he is very impatient to get going. But, I wanted to leave you with something to think about…

“And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:11-12).

To be earnest is to be serious and persistence. You can’t be lazy about seeking assurance of your salvation. No laying back and saying “Well, I looove Jesus!”

“But, what about your last post?” someone writes.

Thinking about its meaning and applying the Bible can be confusing sometimes, remember? What is clear is that God declares us righteous enough to be His child if we “have” Christ Jesus. That gives us such hope..spiritual life now and forever. But, we can’t sit back on our laurels and do nothing, becoming slow and dull of hearing. Instead, we need someone to watch. Someone who patiently and persistently keeps on believing and hoping. Who are you watching? I watch my friend, Lei Brady. I read Christian biographies.

Jake is nipping at my heels. Off to the beach! Remind me to think, and to be persistent and serious about the hope I have in Christ Jesus.

(Thanks for the unpublished comments of encouragement. I don’t have pictures of me all dolled up. This is Benjamin (oldest grandson) and I during one of his “swim” lessons.)

Carol