2017-05-21 – First Baptist Church – First Baptist Church Edmonton
“The Furiously Free Life”
Remember last week…we were learning from that dynamic/raucous Jerusalem Council Meeting of 49 CE…and Peter…Cephas…Simon/Simeon….[it’s all the same guy!}
Is quoted as saying…
“You know that in the early days God made a choice…
that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us.
…Now why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?
On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus,
just as they will.”
That was then…this is now…it’s in the early 50’s CE…
And if there was a People’s Court show (Judge Wopner, Judge Judy) Paul would have been elbowing his way to the front of the line…
The fired-up Apostle, projecting Peter’s speech on a 1st century video-board… and saying to the judge/jury…I present to you exhibit 1.1…. Peter, just a mere 4 years ago, saying that the gentiles will hear GOOD NEWS!
“No distinction between us and them!”
“We believe that we will be saved through the GRACE of the Lord Jesus Christ!”
And now…my friend (my co-minister!) has become a foe! A hypocrite!
It seems that Paul is hopping mad at Peter and wants to publicly embarrass him about it!
What’s going on here brother Paul?
Doesn’t sound very loving does it?
But Paul believes that what is at stake here is not simply his friendship with Peter…but the fate and destiny of the church.
Paul has had his mind-blown (his religious circuitry board re-configured) by the Spirit of God and the presence of the Risen Christ.
He was literally knocked off his horse. Blinded. Until the scales fell from his eyes and he said: “I get it! The risen Jesus is rescuing Jews and gentiles alike! Opening all our eyes so we may turn from darkness to light…from the power of Satan to God…so that all may receive the forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 26:17)
So when Paul hears that this Church that he planted 7 years ago (45 CE) has gone from seeking God’s approval to seeking human approval…he goes beserk!
He writes: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the GRACE of Christ and are turning to a different gospel…if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!”
He’s got his dukes up…and he wants to use Peter as his “smells like false gospel” punching bag.
Paul is going for the jugular here…he really wants to make the point stick…
“When Peter came to Antioch (a church filled with many gentile, non-circumcised Christians), I opposed him face to face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James (a group of jewish Christians who were following Jesus plus keeping the customs of the law) Peter shared meals and communion with the Gentiles.
But AFTER they came and were teaching and modelling their “some rules required” way of following Jesus, Peter drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And worse yet, other Jewish Christians joined him in this hypocrisy and even my mentor, Barnabas was led astray!”
“When I saw they were not acting consistently with the TRUTH of the gospel, I said to Peter and the whole gang of hypocrites… “If you, though Jews, haved live alongside Gentiles and lived like Gentiles and not like a Jews, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
“We know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ!”
“If we build up again the very things that we once tore down we demonstrate that we are transgressors!”
I don’t know about you…but…
“I died to the law! Now I live to God!… My old person died with Christ…and now a new person has risen WITH Christ! It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.
I do not nullify the grace of God!”
* * * * *
Passionate. Furious. And a wee bit Un-hinged.
If Paul was an e-mailer…so much of this letter would be ALL CAPS!
Paul is modelling to us the “furiously free life.”
There are many models of furious Christians in the landscape of Christendom these days.
They are often furious defenders of truth, of doctrine, of a certain theological perspective.
But Paul is furious about defending freedom.
Paul wants the early church to stay free from anything that has the whiff of human control, because he is convinced that control and power will hinder and dismantle what the Spirit of Jesus is doing…he is aghast at the thought of all these freedom-loving Christians being rounded up and muted (?) up from living in and breathing in and being empowered by the life of Jesus dwelling in them.
And so the challenge lays before us.
What can we learn from this letter. How can we live out the exhortations of this letter?
What is the good news for us in the first part of this “dukes-up” letter from this amped-up apostle?
Galatians 2:20 is a pretty famously quoted verse from this letter, but I’d like to suggest that we ruminate on 2:21:
“I do not nullify the grace of God.”
That’s real good news for us.
It’s good news for Paul.
And it’s good news for Peter & future Peter’s ego… (Paul was pretty hard on him!).
I got so excited this week about this verse that I got a shirt made to declare it!
“I do not nullify the grace of God.”
–The good news of the first segment of this letter is that nothing that we do…or don’t do…nothing that we are ….or are not…can nullify the grace of God.
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “But for the grace of God, there go I”… usually pointing at some poor shmuck who’s down on her/his luck and we are supposed to comfort ourselves with a strange Christian-ese version of “glad that’s not me!”
But the reality is that at any given point in time during the day/week, we are all shmucks. We blow it. We do it. We don’t do it. We say it. We don’t say it. We think it. We don’t think it.
But the good news of the heart of Jesus and the reign of God is this:
“I do not nullify the grace of God.”
God’s grace overwhelms and consumes our lives. It knocks us off our horse and opens our eyes to a landscape of grace, mercy, forgiveness and love!
>>> Both Paul and Peter were ambushed by the grace of Jesus. At this point in the story, Paul hadn’t forgotten it…maybe Peter had, but Peter would come around… we read in 1 Peter…
“You (all) are God’s own people, that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light…once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 1:9)
If you and I desire to live the “furiously free” Christian life, it starts with a big pile of mercy & grace.
And it’s out of that place of grace that we live and proclaim the message of good news.
It doesn’t mean that we use grace as a doormat to live a life of laxadiasical-ism (see Romans 6) but it does mean that as we live and proclaim the good news of Jesus, who is risen and on the loose, a big reason that he is on the loose is to set us free… so that he (Jesus) who has begun a good (free-ing) work will continue to complete it in us…
One more quote for 1 Peter:
“As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honour everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God.”
As one preacher has put it:
“We are to….live fully in the dangerous freedom of Christ Jesus.”
Q: What might that look like, sound like in our lives this week?
The Christ-life who lives in us, and in the midst of this community might say it this way…
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim RELEASE to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,
To let the oppressed go FREE… to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4:18).
The Spirit of the Lord is upon us…
Think/imagine…those places where you will be this week…and how you might be a messenger of release / recovery / freedom / the Lord’s favour.
God inspire us as we proclaim words of release… recovery….
Take our lives, Lord and let them be…filled with messages of furious freedom…
in the name of the one who frees us and pours his outlandish grace upon us, amen.