Gardendale Nazarene

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Galatians | Pastor's Blog | Gardendale Nazarene


"In Christ"

Sunday, we are beginning a new series on the Sermon on the Mount.  I have to say that I’m really excited about this series.  

As I have been writing out my ideas for this week, I realized that I have too much material. So today, I’d like to get you thinking about Sunday and the direction for this series.  

Let’s start with a couple statistics:
  • The phrase “in Christ” appears over fifty times in Paul’s letters.  
  • There is an additional forty appearances if you add “in the Lord (Jesus/Jesus Christ)” and “in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  
These phrases have been a source of discussion for Bible scholars for years. What does Paul mean with the term “in Christ”? Some have argued that “in Christ” is similar to a membership card. I only carry two membership cards in my wallet- the Jefferson County Library card and a Costco membership.  

Neither of these memberships really change anything. One of them allows me to walk into a library and leave with a book or a DVD for a couple weeks. The other card allows me to enter a store and spend more money (and get a bunch of free samples!).  I’m not changed as a person because of my library card or Costco membership.  Membership does not always equate to transformation.  However, to be “in Christ” is a life-changing transformative event.  

Let's look at a few Pauline passages where he uses this phrase:
  • 2 Corinthians 5:19- For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.
  • Galatians 3:26- For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
  • Galatians 3:28- There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
  • Galatians 5:6- For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.
Sunday, we will be looking at Colossians 3 as foundation for this series.  Look at how Paul opens the chapter, "Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God."

To be 'in Christ' is way more than a membership card!  It is a change in reality, hope, love, and life.  On Sunday, we will look at what it means to be 'in Christ.'  Here's four points that we will look at: 

To be in Christ is to know:
  • We have been raised up with Jesus to new life.
  • We have been given a new identity, one in which Christ dwells.
  • We have received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
  • Our citizenship is now in heaven. 
May we live into the beauty of knowing that we are in Christ..."For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God..."

grace and peace,

Pastor John

Radical Togetherness

As Christians, we are summoned and authorized to move outside ourselves and into the shared reality of Christian community. The community of faith to which the New Testament bears witness is characterized by the practice of a radical togetherness.

Last Sunday, I preached about the importance of the 'one another' passages in the New Testament. Here is the list I shared (and it is far from exhaustive):

  • “live in harmony with one another” (Rom.12:16)
  • “welcome one another” (Rom. 15:7)
  • “are servants of one another” (Gal.5:13)
  • “comfort one another” (I Thess. 5:11)
  • “bear with one another lovingly (I Thess.5:11)
  • “do good to one another” (I Thess. 5:15)
  • “are subject to one another” (Eph.5:21)
  • “confess our sins to one another” (James 5:16)
  • “forgive one another” (Cor.2:13)
  • “love one another from the heart” (I Pet.1:22)
  • “meet one another with humility” (I Pet.5:5)
  • “pray for one another” (James 5:16)
  • “have fellowship with one another” (I John 1:7)

In this list Paul, Peter, James, and John gives us practical examples of living out Jesus' command in John 13, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

This week has been a rough week. Many of our families are dealing with deep grief from the loss of loved ones. In these moments, we need more than ever to love one another. Take a moment, send a note and tell someone you love them.

May we pray for one another.
May we love one another from the heart.
May we comfort one another.

Nothing is Wasted

Last Wednesday night was our second week studying Galatians. We wrapped up chapter 1. This section of Galatians is Paul's testimony of the change in his life brought about by Christ.

We looked at Paul's statement the other night and discussed five traits in his testimony that we also see in our testimonies. One of these points has stuck in my mind this week.

Galatians 1:18 reads, "Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Peter and remained with him fifteen days."

HistereĊ is the Greek word we translate as 'to visit.' HistereĊ means 'to swap stories.' I can't get rid of this image. Can you imagine the stories Peter told Paul in those fifteen days?

In my mind, I see them up late as Peter recounts the heartbreak of the night he denied Jesus then the emptiness of that long Saturday. The hope of running to the tomb that Sunday morning. Then, with tears running down his face, he recounts the story of jumping out of the boat a few days later when he realized Jesus was standing on the shore.

This little verse brings up another point. Think about Peter for a moment. How would you describe Peter?
  • He was a fisherman, thus we can assume he was poor.
  • He had little education.
  • He was impulsive in actions and words.
  • He knew Jesus personally.

What about Paul? How would you describe him?
  • He was well educated by the best teacher around.
  • This education probably meant that he was from a wealthy family.
  • Paul calculated his words and actions.
  • He zealously attacked the Church.
  • He never knew Jesus personally.

These are two very different men. I find the beauty of the story in the way that God used each of them to shape history for Him.

Peter was sent to the Jews. Paul was sent to the Gentiles.

God used them in particular ways. God took their past and used it for His glory.

The same is true for you. No matter your background, God wants to use you. God doesn't throw out your past. He uses it to shape your future.

In the story of the changed life, nothing is wasted. God wants to use you and your story. I pray that we are open to God's desire to use us.

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