Hello and welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. One of the greatest challenges Christians face is to not live in judgment of other people. And that's hard, isn't it? We are tempted to look at someone's lifestyle, or actions, or even the color of their skin and to make unjust and unnecessary judgments. In several places, however, in the Bible we are told to leave the judging of others to the Lord and to focus on our own lives. In today's lesson on “Key to the Kingdom”, we will notice a story found in the letter Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia. He writes about his own experiences when he confronted someone who demonstrated partiality and who stood in judgment of others who were not like him. It is a story we perhaps can relate to today. Hopefully it will give us some things to think about as we seek to get along with other people. I hope you will stay tuned to this station for the next few minutes as we think about our relationships with one another. I encourage you now to open your heart and your Bible as we study together.
Many years ago, a dear friend asked me the question, “Does the Bible have anything to say about not showing partiality?” And, being somewhat naďve in my understanding of the Bible I responded to her question by saying. “I don't think so.” Well hopefully, after a few years of experience and a better understanding of the teaching of God's Word, I have come to realize the Bible teaches quite a bit about not showing partiality. We find it, especially, in the teaching of Jesus Himself. I think about what He said in Matthew 7:1, -Do not judge or you too will be judged.- Matthew 11:28, -Come to Me, all you who are weary and burden, and I will give you rest.- And in addition to many teaching statements like that, Jesus also showed not showing partiality, throughout His ministry. He healed both Jew and non-Jewish people. He praised the faith of a non-Jewish woman. He even went to the cross and gave His life for the salvation of everybody, no matter what their background might have been. Yet, I sometimes wonder why those teachings, and why those examples of Jesus, and other things that we find in Scripture, do not make more of an impact upon our lives, today. We continue to live in a world that is filled with division, and partiality, and favoritism, and hypocrisy, and it's sad. Consider for a moment the following examples. Perhaps you can relate to them. Racial issues divide nations, and cities, and neighborhoods. Just because the color of our skin is different from someone else's does not allow us the opportunity to look at other people as being inferior. There is inequality between males and females. In the business, and even in the social world, often times men are exalted to higher positions, or get paid more money, even for doing the very same work. Or think about this. Some nations exalt themselves above other nations. Even though we may be proud to live in a particular nation or country, whatever that might be, if we exalt ourselves above other people then certainly it is offensive to other countries around the world. And then there is this. Religious division compromises the unity for which Jesus prayed. Denominations of religious groups are far too many to count. Factions and divisions exist over disagreements, over even the smallest of details. Now obviously, these attitudes and these actions are not good. They promote prejudice and partiality. They cause tension and animosity. They show favoritism and hypocrisy. Perhaps above everything else, they go against the teaching and the example of Jesus and other teaching that is found in the Word of God. Now, that problem is not new. It's been around for a long time and one story in the Bible highlights partiality, and the need to get along with one another. It's found in Galatians chapter 2, and I want us to study from there for just a moment. There are 2 primary characters in the story of Galatians chapter 2, the apostle Peter and the apostle Paul. The apostle Peter's ministry primarily went to the Jewish world. The apostle Paul's ministry went primarily to the non-Jewish, or Gentile world. And yes, there were times when their ministries overlapped, but both Peter and Paul were converted to the very same Lord Jesus Christ. They spoke the very same gospel, or good news, message, but one day there arose a problem between the 2, because of that. Listen to what is found in Galatians chapter 2, beginning with verse 11. And keep in mind, this is Paul's account of the story, beginning with verse 11 and reading through verse 14. -When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you act like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?"- Wow, Paul hits Peter in the face with some very accusatory words. He says, Peter, you are not responding the way you need to respond when your fellow Jews come around. You show partiality against the Gentiles, or the non-Jews, and yet they are your brothers and sisters in Christ. You should not do that. That is wrong and it goes against the teaching of God's Word. Yes, Paul viewed Peter's actions as a failure to be honest about the truth of the gospel and he confronted Peter for taking a stance that said you need to keep the laws, or certain aspects of it, just like the Jews are doing in order for you Gentiles to secure your salvation. Peter's withdrawal from the Gentiles so influenced other people that even the young man Barnabas, who was a traveling companion of Paul, was led astray. Yes, Paul accuses Peter of acting insincerely and with hypocrisy, and he wants Peter and other people to know that it is only through faith in Jesus Christ that one can receive a part of that salvation, and it doesn't matter who responds to it, Jew or Gentile. We are all part of God's family. Now, perhaps Peter was giving in to the pressures of living in a Jewish society, and no doubt, they must have been great. And whenever they came around and Peter happened to be with the Gentiles, he would step away and go back with his own people for fear that he might be persecuted, or shunned, or abused in some way. Again, Paul's point is, that’s not what you’re supposed to do. You cannot play both sides of the fence. You cannot say one thing in your presentation of God's Word and yet act in a different manner. So, Paul uses this encounter with Peter as an example of how God provides salvation for all people; that God is not prejudiced, and God is not partial, and He shows no favoritism. We see that when He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, for the salvation of everyone. Paul continues on with his teaching here in Galatians 2, as we read now verses 15 and 16. -“We who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”- Oh, those who 1st received this letter from Paul, throughout Galatia, understood that Jesus died upon the cross to set them free from sin. Jesus was the one who provided the means of their salvation, and the people throughout Galatia responded to this good news message, and they put their faith in Jesus Christ, and they were baptized into Jesus Christ, and they identified themselves with Him. That truth still stands today. There is only one way to be right with the God of this universe, and that is through our faith in God's Son, Jesus Christ. That applies to all races of people throughout the world. So, what Jesus did on the cross is the ultimate demonstration of not showing prejudice or partiality. It is the great example of God not showing favoritism, for in the cross Jesus broke down that dividing wall of hostility, that dividing wall that separates all races and all people. Yet it seems today, problems develop when we begin to create our own lines of division. It happens when unity becomes uniformity. It happens when issues, and doctrines, and lifestyles, begin to be our primary focus, and it happens when our acceptance of other people is not based upon our common faith that we have in Jesus Christ, our Lord. As a result of that, many people in the world today become disheartened with religion. Many people drop out of a church. Some even forget to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and they say, “It's really not worth it.” They believe there is too much partiality, too many lines of division, far too much favoritism being shown, and so they look for some other solution. They look for some other person by which to be saved, other than Jesus Christ. Oh, I know many examples of people who are struggling with that very thing today, and it's sad to see that. It's sad to see the perception that some people convey to others. They say you have to be just like us or were going to draw this line of division, or distinction, and we cannot associate with you if you don't. So, they give up and they go down the street and look for something else. And perhaps you, even, have known some people, or know some people today, who are having that very same struggle, or maybe even you’re having it yourself. You don't know where to turn. You don't know what to do, and you pray, and you wish that we could just simply focus on the good news message of Jesus Christ. Oh, how I wish that was the case. Going back to the text, in verse 16, we notice that Paul makes a contrast between the works of the flesh, on one hand, and faith in Jesus Christ, on the other. He wants us to know that when we put our confidence in our works, or in our good deeds, instead of our faith in Jesus Christ, then it accomplishes absolutely nothing, that when we seek to do things better than the church down the street, when we seek to outshine our neighbor in doing good works, when we begin to count all of the good deeds and all the good things that we have done, thinking that through them we might earn a better standing in the sight of God, then it makes our faith in Jesus null and void. It really accomplishes nothing. Yes, Paul reminds us here what is really important. When we put our trust and our faith in our deeds or in our works then it really cancels out our faith in Jesus Christ, and thus the contrast between the works of the flesh and faith in Jesus. And so, Paul uses this encounter with Peter to point out that unity is based upon God's grace and nothing else. It is based upon the sacrifice Jesus made upon the cross and our faith response to what He has done for us. Oh today, when we seek to base unity on uniformity, or when we seek to prove ourselves right in all matters of religious doctrinal issues, or whatever it might be, we tend to miss out on some of the bigger issues in life. We miss out on things, which are far more important. One of those things is identified here by Paul, in chapter 2 and verse 10, as he begins this section; and that is remembering the poor. According to Paul, that's a big issue. According to Paul, that's a major thing that disciples of Jesus Christ are to do. Other things that Paul would write about are helping those in need, and following the example of Jesus in a lifestyle of ministry and service. Let's look at one more passage here in the 2nd chapter. We pick up with the reading of verse 17 through the end of chapter 2, verse 21. Paul writes, -“If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if
righteousness could be gained through the law then Christ died for nothing!”- Paul now explains how one's life in Jesus Christ, through the grace of God, transforms one's life. He teaches that faith in Jesus Christ is the alternative to putting trust or faith in our works. Yes, Jesus' death and our faith in Him makes a new life in Jesus a reality. And we receive God's grace when we trust Him instead of trusting what we might be able to do on our own. We receive God's favor when we trust Jesus instead of trusting in the laws that we might be able to impose upon ourselves, or perhaps even other people. Now certainly, Paul is not opposed to doing good works. He does that himself. He even writes, in chapter 6 and verse 10 of this letter: As you have opportunity, do good unto everyone, especially those who are members of God's family. Here is the key. Salvation is not found in our works. Salvation comes by God's grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, and no amount of law keeping, no amount of rule keeping, no amount of anything that we might do to add to our salvation, can make our salvation anymore secure than what it already is. Yes, Jesus’ death upon the cross, and our response to that, is what makes us right in the sight of God. We don't have to live up to someone else's expectations. Salvation is freedom from a performance-based religion. I don't know about you but I'm happy about that because I can never measure up, and I can never do enough good deeds, I can never do enough good works to prove myself worthy of what God has already done for me, through Jesus Christ. So, by faith I receive His great gift. If we were to think about everything Paul is sharing with us, here in Galatians chapter 2, we might summarize it this way. Salvation does not come when we rely upon our accomplishments. Rather, salvation comes when we rely upon the accomplishments of God. When we rely upon, and put our trust in, what God has done, by giving us the greatest gift He could possibly give us, it is then that we receive His salvation. And since that is the case, the apostle Paul then closes this section by asking the question, “What then is the point of Jesus’ death?” And the answer is, no point at all if we seek to be saved by our own works. For, if we seek to be saved by our own works and our own efforts then Jesus Christ died in vain. Our faith in Jesus alone is what brings salvation. And, because we believe in Him and we believe in His great sacrifice, we have that union with God. And, as Paul writes here, in Galatians chapter 2, “I have been crucified with Christ. I no longer live, but it is Jesus who lives in me.” Paul begins to submit himself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He submits to God's reign in him, and he begins to transition into that person. So, no longer do we look for ways to show partiality. No longer do we seek those lines of division, but we seek to be unified through our faith in Jesus Christ. And if we do not live with and accepting attitude toward others, who have responded to what Jesus has done for them, then essentially Christ died for nothing. And, of course, we know that to not be the case. So, when we put our faith in Jesus, and trust Him alone for our salvation, it makes a difference in how we live. In other words, we are transformed by Jesus’ death on the cross, and we look at people differently as we begin to transition into the kind of person God calls us to be here upon this Earth. We begin to make those adjustments in our thought process and the way we look at people, and we don't look at them through eyes of favoritism or partiality but we look at people through the eyes of love, just as God looks at you and me. I would encourage you to take just a couple of minutes right now to watch the following video clip. It's only a couple of minutes in length. It's entitled “Transitions”, and perhaps it helps illustrate our lesson for today.
Not long ago, this area was filled with people. It was graduation. Yes, many people came into this parking lot and they filled up these places, they went inside the gymnasium and they took part in a high school graduation. Parents and grandparents came to watch their children and grandchildren. Family, friends, everybody was here, and it was a special time. That's what happens with any graduation, high school, or college, or other special milestones in a person's life. After that graduation, of course, those students go on to other things. Their past experiences and their education have hopefully now prepared them for what lies ahead. They are able to make this transition into another phase of life, and it's a very important phase. That's the way it is with Christians. When we give our lives to Jesus Christ and when we identify ourselves with Him, as one of His followers, He transforms our life and we begin to go through a transformation process. We go through some transitions into making adjustments in our life, to hopefully line ourselves in with what God wants us to do in this world. You think about where you are in life today. Think about whether or not God is making some transitions in your life. Is He preparing you for something that lies ahead? Think about all the past experiences. Think about all of the different things that you’ve had going on in your life, and then think about where you are right now, and where God might want to take you as you think about what lies ahead. Yes, I encourage you today to think about making some transitions, or allowing God to make those transitions in your life, that will make your life even better.
Yes, salvation is much more than simply getting one's name on a church list. It is far more than saying a few prayers or reading some Bible passages. Salvation is much more than dropping some money in a collection plate from time to time. Rather, it has to do with living under the reign of God. It is understanding the difference between living by the works of the flesh on one hand and by faith in Jesus Christ on the other. Salvation has to do with accepting what Jesus Christ did on the cross for us, and our response of faith to Him. When that happens it begins to transform and change our lives, and also our relationships with other people. If Paul were here today I wonder if he would confront us, like he confronted his friend the apostle Peter? I wonder if he would say: you are drawing too many lines of division. You are showing too much partiality; instead, focus on what is really important. I wonder if he would say that the common ground for salvation is found in one's faith in Jesus Christ. And in spite of any differences that might exist, over nationalism, or gender, or race, or religion, there is only one thing that keeps you together, and that is faith in Jesus so look for those things that cause unity instead of focusing on that which drives you apart. Oh, as we live in this world full of division, partiality, and favoritism, let us keep in mind what God has done for us, through Jesus Christ. He breaks down those walls and He invites everyone, no matter who we are, no matter where we might live, no matter what our background might be, to come to faith in Jesus; to recognize what He has done for us on the cross, and to respond to that. And as we do so, it makes a transition in our life as we grow closer to the Lord and as we learn to get along with one another.
Thank you for joining us for today's broadcast. I hope this lesson gave you some things to think about in regards to your relationship with other people. One of the things we try to do at “Key to the Kingdom” is to offer many opportunities to study the Bible. On our website, keytothekingdom.com, you can enroll in a free Bible study. It requires no commitment of any kind. You can also view previous lessons and short inspirational videos. Oh, we are so pleased you joined us for today's episode and we pray it was of benefit to you. We also invite you to join us again next time as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom”.