Studies in Galatians – Wayne Barber/Part 9
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|He’s testifying that at salvation there was a death. The death warrant to our right to live as we please was signed at salvation. Our right to live as we choose was done away with. Paul is saying that the Law is no longer his master, but the Lord now is his Master. Christ coming into his heart broke Paul’s independent spirit to live as he chose to live.|
Christ Lives in Me
Turn with me to Galatians 2, as we continue in verse 20 where we left off the last time, and we’re going to go on into verse 21. We won’t quite finish it, but there is so much here. The last time we were together we saw the proclamation that the apostle Paul made in verse 20, and it was so powerful. And each one of us can say the same thing if we’re believers today. He said, “I have been crucified with Christ.” A powerful proclamation.
Now, what does he mean by that? He’s testifying that at salvation there was a death. The death warrant to our right to live as we please was signed at salvation. Our right to live as we choose was done away with. Paul is saying that the Law is no longer his master, but the Lord now is his Master. Christ coming into his heart broke Paul’s independent spirit to live as he chose to live. The proclamation: we have been crucified with Christ. The big “I” has been taken out of the equation and we now are identified with the Lord Jesus Christ. We were on the cross with Him. We have been raised to walk in the newness of His life.
Well, that is just proclamation. But also we saw the paradox he states in verse 20. As he continues he says, “It’s no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Have you ever thought about the divine exchange that takes place when we come to know Christ as our Lord and Savior? You see, all that we are is exchanged for all that He is. I don’t know if it has hit you yet or not. The only thing I can offer Him is my sin and my pride and my selfishness. That’s all I can offer to Him. There is nothing good about me. There is nothing good about you. We come as beggars, poor in spirit, as Matthew 5 would talk about, unable to help ourselves. “Oh God, we don’t have anything to offer to You but our sinfulness.” And God says “thank you, that’s all I want. Now let Me exchange your sinfulness for all that I’m.” You see, that’s what Paul is saying. He is a brand new person; Christ has come to live in him. Christ wore our robe of sinful humanity to the cross so that we might wear His robe of righteousness.
Now, let’s not forget the context in which this is said. Verses 11-18, the apostle Paul has had a confrontation with Simon Peter. Simon Peter made a foolish mistake. He bowed down to those Judaizers that came over to Antioch. In Jerusalem he did very well; he stood for the gospel of grace. He said there is not one thing that needs to be added to the message that Paul was preaching to the Gentile world; whether it be to the Jew or to the Gentile the message is that Christ is enough. But when the Judaizers came over to Antioch, he cowered down out of fear. He was terrified of them for what they could do to his reputation; how they could ruin things; about what they said about him; and he cowered down. Paul had to get right in his face. He said, “Peter, you haven’t said anything, but by your actions you have made a non-verbal statement, and you have sided with these Judaizers, which means you are a contradiction in terms. And everything you’ve been telling these Gentiles now means nothing, because now you’re saying that you’re back up under the Law with them.”
And in verse 18 the apostle Paul, it seems to me, gets tired of talking to Simon Peter and he puts it into first person. Even though the message is something for Peter to think about, he puts it into first person and he says, “For, if I rebuild what I have once destroyed I prove myself to be a transgressor.” Paul says, “I destroyed something when I came to be a believer. That old right to live as I choose, that old religious part of me died, and now the Law is done away with in my life; the Lord Jesus is now my Lord. And if I go back and put myself up under the Law, Peter, as you have done, then I rebuild what I had once destroyed.” Paul said, “I’m not going to do that. Christ lives in me. I found a new way of living. I found, not a set of rules, but I found the One who gave the set of rules, then came and accomplished them now lives in me. Now, why would I want to go back to a set of rules? I would rather walk in a relationship with Him.”
Now, I haven’t done this in a while, but you know where I’m going by taking my coat off. This coat can do nothing of itself. I don’t know how many times I have used this and I’m going to continue to use it till Jesus comes back. This coat can do nothing of itself. The Law that Paul was under could not produce what it demanded. Why? Because Paul was weak and there was nothing good in him. He could not attain the righteousness that God demanded. So here, there is that old coat. It just cannot do a thing.
However, if I get inside this coat it can do all kinds of things. I can say this sleeve raise up. Whoa! It can raise up. But I know something about the sleeve and why it raised up. It’s not because of the coat; it’s because of the life that is in the coat. Now do you want religion this morning? Do you want to go back up under the old set of rules that says you have to do this and have to do that and you want to try to attain it yourself? Or would you like to tap into that which God has given to you? All we can offer Him is our inability and what He offers to us is His ability in life. You see, Jesus living in and through the believer is as natural as breathing. We have to actually say “No” to Him to shut it off. It’s not a matter of us turning it on. It’s a matter of us turning it off.
You see, I don’t know if you have ever thought about it, but in electricity it’s that way. When you hook up a power line to a power pole and you run it into the house, anybody will tell you the power is on, and the switch is put on the wall not to turn it on, but to turn it off. And see, we have had it reversed forever. “Oh, dear God, empower us.” God says, “I have already empowered you. The problem is you have turned the switch off. You have chosen not to enjoy the power that I have given to you.” You see, religion turns the switch off.
If we can understand that the moment we decide that we are big enough and good enough to do something for God, we have just turned the switch off. If you can’t see that I can’t make it any clearer. You either go one way or the other. There is no middle ground. The two cannot peacefully coexist. And that’s what Paul is telling Peter. You can’t do that. So he makes a proclamation, “I’m crucified with Christ,” in that wonderful context of showing Peter where he’s wrong. “I have been crucified with Christ.”
Then he states a paradox. And the paradox is “It is no longer I who live but it’s Christ who lives in me.” Have you discerned that yet in your life? If you see anything good in me, I want to promise you it did not come from me. It’s Christ living in ne. This is why we’re not hung up in praising men. Why would we praise men? What is a man? What is he worth? It’s the Christ who lives in the man; He’s the one to be glorified in the church forever and ever as the book of Ephesians talks about. So we have a choice here; we either tap into the power He has given us or we can go back to playing church till Jesus comes. Now we have to make up our mind which way are we going to do it. Are we going to get a committee together and try to impress God with what we know we want to do, or are we going to let God do what only He can do in our life? That’s what Paul’s point is to Peter here.
Well, thirdly, after he has made the proclamation and stated the paradox, thirdly he reveals a principle. Now, this is the key to the whole verse right here, the last part of verse 20. “I have been crucified with Christ; it’s no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live [here it comes] in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.” Now, this is the key to the whole verse. How is Christ living in me? How is that topic, how is that subject, how is that truth made understandable so that I can appropriate it in my life? Now, I’m sure that question has to be asked. And I want you to know I did not write Scripture. God wrote it and He wrote it so that the Holy Spirit could reveal it to our hearts. If you cannot understand this I cannot do anything more. It’s right here in the verse.
To tap into the power that God has already given us is going to come out right here in this verse. It’s a very frustrating thing to know you have something, but not be able to get to it. You ever thought about that? Now Paul is going to tell us how to do that. My prayer has been all morning long, “God, I’m too frail in trying to make this understandable. It had to be revealed to me.” It has got to be revealed to us, folks. Now listen to what he says. It’s so clear. It’s on the last part of verse 20: “And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.” It’s right there. You say, “That does not sound very hard.” It’s not. We are the ones who make it complicated.
First of all it says, “The life which I now live.” That is a very powerful statement. He’s not talking about before salvation. He’s talking about after salvation. So if anybody ever comes in this context and says Paul is talking about how to get saved, no, he’s not. He’s talking about how to live once you have been saved. “The life which I now live,” present indicative active. My very life right now; this is after salvation. “The life which I now live in the flesh.” Now the term “flesh” in Romans and perhaps in Galatians can be used two different ways. One is the body. But the other way it can be used is the mindset that we had before we became a believer. That is why our minds have to be renewed so that God can transform our life. Here it means the flesh and blood body. Paul says that “when you look at me I’m the same, I look the same to you as I did before I got saved.”
Now, if you think about it for a second, Paul had the same body after he got saved that he had before he got saved. Isn’t that a bummer? You haven’t thought about it yet, have you? I just want you to know, folks, if you were ugly before you got saved, you are ugly after you get saved. I can’t help that. That is just the way it works. If you were short before you got saved, you are going to be short after you get saved. If you were tall, you are going to be tall. Paul says, listen, “If you look at the outside of my body you are going to see the same person you saw when you used to know me as a Pharisee, when you used to know me when I lived under the law.” The change that has come in Paul is not something on the outside. The change is on the inside. You see, religion can only change your lifestyle on the outside. Christianity changes your life from the inside out. Yes, it will show up on the outside. But what Paul is trying to say is, “I still look the same on the outside, but, oh how different I’m on the inside.”
Now here is what he says. “The life which I now live in this body—the same body I had before, the one that gave me a fit before—continues to give me a fit. But there is something different on the inside. The life which I now live in the flesh [How does he do it?] I live by faith in the Son of God.” Now that’s it right there. You say, “Come on, give me something more complicated. Give me 17 principles. Help me out on this.” I can’t do it. That is all he says and that’s enough.
Let me ask you a question. Are you living by faith in the Son of God? Are you living that way today? And if you are not then no wonder the power has been switched off in your life. Yeah, you are saved. You are very saved if you have received Jesus into your life. But you are not experiencing any of the power of His life in the fullness of who He’s because you have chosen to live it your way.
“I live by faith in the Son of God.” Now that word means “living by faith,” it means totally dependent upon the Son of God. It’s a total trust in Christ, a total trust in Christ. Now you say, “What is the big deal about that?” What is the big deal? Paul used to live in a total trust of himself. He lived under law. Law demands that we do it ourselves and perform to attain. And Paul says, “I used to live, my total trust and focus was the law because the Law to me was the way to righteousness.” And that is why you go back to verse 19 when he says, “I died to the law. Man, I realized something; the Law could not produce what it demanded in my life.” So he says, “Now I no longer live that way. My focus is not the Law. No sir, my back is to the law. My focus is the Lord Jesus. I’m going to trust Him till the day I die. I’m going to live dependent upon Him.”
Now, you cannot live dependent upon Him unless you live dependent upon His Word. How many times have we said that? Faith comes from hearing; hearing comes from what? The Word of God. Do you realize what we preach in here is not enough to take you through the week? This has got to become your spiritual refrigerator. You live out of this Book. It dictates to you how you behave. It dictates to you how you think. And Paul says, “I’m going to trust God and I’m going to trust what word He had.” By the way, he only had the Old Testament and probably some of the Gospels. He wrote three fourths of the New Testament. So what is he saying? I’m living off of the fulfillment of that which God has said and who He is. We live in a day when we have got the Word. It’s complete now. We have the Word of God. No man can say he lives by faith and totally trust God unless he lives in the Word of God, allowing the Word to get inside of him and to transform and renew his mind. He lives totally dependent upon Christ.
I used to have a little sign on my desk that said, “Yes, Lord!” In fact, now I have a new one. Somebody gave it to me, so I have got a brand new one now on my desk. And what that means; you say, “What is the question?” Hey, the question does not matter. It’s the answer is what matters. You have got to solve it before God ever tells you to do anything. God, yes! The answer is yes. The answer is yes. Whatever You want is what I want. I want Your desire to become my desire. And I want what You want in my life. Now you say, that is awfully simple. Yeah, simple to say, but it’s very complex when you think about it. It reaches into the every area of your life.
You see, Christ is not somebody you come to hear about on Sunday mornings. Christ is somebody you live with and know intimately moment by moment, seven days a week. And when we walk in here we just catch the overflow of the joy of people who have walked with God all week long. That is what the church is. It’s not to produce anything. It’s just to come along side and encourage what is already there.
Paul will never get over the fact of how much God loved him. The motivation of his life has been that he has been loved by God. Look what he said, “And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Now he knows that God continues to love him, but he’s pointing to something here. He’s pointing to the greatest demonstration of love that anybody could ever have. Anybody that says God is a hateful God, that God is an uncaring god, is a person who is either intentionally ignorant or he certainly is ignorant of what the Word of God shows. When Jesus came to this earth God never has to do another thing to demonstrate His love for you and me. Jesus came and died for you and for me. What does that mean? That means that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believed in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” This is the greatest demonstration of love that has ever happened.
And when Paul understood that God had loved him; Paul was the one who stood there and caused Christians to die. He stood there when Stephen was stoned to death. And yet God loved him, and that is the motivation of his life. It says in Romans 2:4 that “It is the goodness of God, the kindness of God that leads you to repentance.” When it suddenly dawns on you that in spite of you God loves you, that becomes the motivation of your life. No preacher has to stand up and beat people into submission to obey God. If you have to do that that is religion. But in Christianity there is relationship and the motivation is God has loved me; therefore I love to focus and obey Him who loved me and gave Himself for me.
“Loved me” is aorist indicative active or aorist active participle. This points to a specific event. It happened at one particular time. He’s not talking about the fact that He loves me today because He knows He does. But he’s talking back to that very act and he goes on to explain that. He says “and gave Himself for me.” Boy, I want you to hang on to those words. Isn’t it interesting how personal this has become to Paul?
I tell you what, the day I got saved, after being a minister for about eight years, quoting John 3:16 since I was little enough to learn it, it finally hit me it was not that God so loved the world anymore; it was God so loved Wayne, God so loved Wayne. I was telling a group earlier, I just had to confess it before God. I got up this morning; I have been irritable. I have been frustrated, short with my wife, and it just hit me as I was driving to church today, God still loves me. Doesn’t that hit anybody here? Or maybe you think you deserve it today. I don’t know, but I surely don’t deserve it. And Paul does not deserve it and Paul is trying to bring this out. He so loved me. He loved me, says John the disciple, and kept saying, “I am the disciple whom Jesus loved. I am the disciple whom Jesus loved.” And here he becomes the apostle of love in his last three epistles. What do you think he’s talking about?
You see we think so highly of ourselves we think we deserve something. No, no, no! Haven’t you seen sin yet? Haven’t you seen the selfishness and pride of your life? Haven’t you come before God as a wretched sinner and said, “Oh, God, I want You to know that I ask You to forgive me.” And God just loves you, and that frames your obedience from that point on. If you are not walking in that kind of light, then you have missed the whole point of what Christianity is all about. The psalmist said it: “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?”
You know what the word “gave” here is. “He gave Himself for me.” It’s the word paradidomi. It’s a different word than didomi, to mean just to give. It means to hand oneself over. Do you realize what he’s saying? Jesus could have at any point spoken and rid the world of everything that is here, because He’s the Creator of it. But instead He chose as the God-man to give Himself over to His accusers, to those who would put Him on the cross. Why? Paul said it. He said for me, but it was also for Wayne. It was also for you. He gave Himself. He allowed Himself.
Can you imagine a fellow driving the nails into His hand? The man who was breathing air, the one he’s nailing to the cross created the air that his lungs were breathing. But He gave Himself over. Why? Because He loved you and I. Jesus said it. He said, “Greater love had no man than to lay down his life for his brother.” That is exactly what He did. He laid His life down for you and I. And somehow it has driven a spear into Paul’s heart and he will never be the same. He will never be the same. The reason he lives, putting his faith in Christ is because he knows the character of the One he’s trusting. He has given His life for him. This one act of love, Christ dying on the cross for the sins of the whole world, stands above all other acts of love that could ever be recorded. And it has so personally affected Paul that it has changed his life forever. Peter, if you want to ignore that kind of thing then go on and ignore it, but man, I cannot ignore it Paul says.
I have been crucified with Christ and Christ lives in me and the life I now live I’m not going back and live like I used to live, putting my faith into what I can do to please God. I’m going to walk over here; I’m going to live submissive unto Him. By faith in Him, total trust in Him, total trust in His Word; that is how we appropriate this life. And what is the motivation? The fact that He has loved me, He has loved you. This is the principle of how we appropriate the life of Christ. For us, if we trust Him, we now have His Word and that Word is what we love and we seek to obey.
I just want you to know I really do believe in the elder system. You know how I feel about that. I believe we as a corporate body have honored God. We have done what He said to do. Now you watch the blessings that He’s going to bring into this congregation. You don’t ever obey God that He does not immediately empower you with that, that which He has given you to do. And so we’re going to experience that. I believe we’re going to experience that corporately. But my pray is that we will experience it individually in our lives.
You say, “Wayne, I still haven’t got it.” Well, I’m so sorry. Let us do it this way; if you cannot get the concept then look at it situation by situation by situation and maybe it will get a little bit simpler to you. But the truth here is so clear: if I will trust God, trust His word, then I can walk and appropriate. The switch is back on. I can appropriate what He has already given to me.
I’m telling you, I cannot believe how irritated I was when I got up this morning. Have you ever done that? I just got up irritated. I mean, the grass irritated me. Everything irritated me. And I don’t know why God allows that in our lives, but I think some of it is to just give us another glimpse at how wicked our flesh really is. It’s kind of like when you pull up at the parking lot out here, “Well, reverend, what are you going to them today,” you know. You are, you are a wretched man. Your flesh is wretched. Do you understand, Wayne, how much you need the very message you are preaching to others? It hit me this morning. It hit me this morning how desperate I am for this message. Has it hit you yet? Has it really hit you yet? It’s never going to happen, friend, until we bow before Him. There is no gray area. But when we bow that switch is turned back on and everything we already have, we already had we begin to experience.
That is what he’s saying. Why would I want to go back with you, Simon Peter? Buddy, you go on your own way. I’m going this way. Paul is speaking for himself now, first person. Okay, he stated the proclamation. He made the proclamation, “I am crucified with Christ.” Now he has stated a paradox, “It’s not me living; it’s Christ living in me.” Then he gives the principle. “The life I now live,” how do I live it? What is different now than it was before? “I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” I don’t live by faith in His Word. I live by faith in the God of the Word; that is why the Word means so much to me. You see, if you don’t trust the character of the God who wrote the Word you will never trust the Word.
But fourthly, he explains the problem. Now here is where it gets down to where we all are. Here comes the problem right here. Many people don’t realize that when they don’t say yes to Christ they are nullifying the grace of God. I wonder if that has hit you yet. Oh, some of you maybe haven’t got a clue yet, but you’d better be listening to what he’s saying here. He says, “I don’t, in any way, shape or form nullify the grace of God.” You see, when we go back and we choose to try to perform in order to attain to something, what happens is we nullify the grace of God, that whole attitude.
How many committees have you sat on in your life and watched the committee struggle to come up with something that perhaps God would be pleased with? Yeah, we have been there. You ever served on a nominating committee? Remember when we had the nominating committees? The committee of the unwilling that had been forced to do the unnecessary. Really, the impossible. I mean, how many times have we tried to sit in a long range planning committee? Where do you want the church to be in six years? I haven’t got a clue. I just want to know where I’m supposed to be today. But we project ourselves out as if we have got some kind.
Now there are times when God does give us that understanding, but what I’m talking about is when we try to come up with a plan and we ask God to bless it. Now when that happens we have just nullified the grace of God. And you say, “What is that grace of God?” Well, real quickly, two things, one is the undeserved favor. None of us ever could deserve it in a million years. That is how we got saved. That is how we live. But not only that, it is the enabling power of God, the transforming power of God. When I choose to do it myself God says, “Oh, you can do it fine. You don’t need Me. Help yourself. Wayne, that is good Wayne. Go on. You want to do it yourself, help yourself.” I will tell you what, what God initiates God sustains. What we come up with we have to sustain.
Have you been there? Buddy, I have been there. We must understand His living grace, which is Christ living in and through us. We have got to see this is very, very conditional. It’s conditional, which means it’s to the degree and measure of my willingness to say yes to Him, that He even begins to move in my life. I only experience Him to the degree I’m willing to bow before Him. What Peter had done when he sided with the Judaizers, when he cowered down, drew the line and said “I’m not going to associate with you Gentiles anymore,” when he did that he nullified, at that moment, the grace of God.
Now the word “nullify” is the word atheteo. Ath means without; thetomos means to set aside. He said, “I did not set aside the grace of God. I chose not to go back and live as I wanted to live. I chose instead not to set aside the grace of God.” The King James Version translates this “I do not frustrate the grace of God.” That’s not bad. That is not really the rendering literally, but that is not bad because that is the idea. Here is the grace of God. It’s the switch. You don’t need a switch for it. It’s hooked in. And God is trying to empower you, empower you, empower you, but you say, “No, God. I can do it myself. Look at my business, I did it myself. I’m going to do my Christian life the same way.” And God says fine, flips the switch off and you have just nullified the grace of God. You have just shut down the power of God that wants to work in and through you. I have done it a million times. “I don’t frustrate, I don’t nullify the grace of God.”
Now, he says “I do not”; that is present tense. Present tense means Paul says I live to appropriate the divine ability of God. I live that way. Peter, you can go back if you want. But, buddy, I don’t want any part of that. I want to live to appropriate God’s living in me. You see, religious works which the Galatians had fallen into—don’t forget your context—had nullified the grace of God. And Paul stood against that and said, buddy, you can do what you want to do. I’m not going to nullify the grace of God in my life.
Now let’s get real practical. How many of you grew up in a church understanding that you had to do, do, do, do, do. Anybody understand what I’m talking about? And they measured your spirituality by what you did at church: How many times you come to church last year? I didn’t miss a time. You had those little envelopes. Every week you had to check off and say did you do your daily Bible reading? Yes. Did you contact anybody this week? Yes. I lied on those things every week of my life because I thought what you did at church determined your spirituality. Religion always says that. Did you go to mass? Did you come to church? Did you do this? Did you do that? And that always somehow is the measure of what you are spiritually.
No, sir! That’s what Paul is trying to say. That’s not the measure of our spirituality. If we were appropriating the grace of God in this congregation, we would never have to ask anybody to volunteer for anything. Did you know that? Because the gifts would begin to function and you would have people. We would need 150 people right now as ushers. We would need people in the youth department to be adults to go down and help supervise those kids. We need help in every area, but what do we do? Send somebody from the secret service to your door to find out what is going on and what your social security number is. No, if you have people walking in the grace of God the body functions. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty in the body of Christ.
Where does that start? It starts with me. It also starts with you. When we start getting serious about our Christian walk and we start willing to say yes, Lord, yes, Lord, you don’t have to worry about the church. The church will flower, it will bloom, it will blossom. It will be what God wants it to be. But until we get people out of their comfort zone and to understand what it means to set aside the grace of God, we’re not going to get anywhere, folks. It’s just going to be the same old-same old when Jesus comes back. My prayer is it will never happen here. I don’t believe God sent me here for it to happen here. I believe this, God has got the best days ahead of us. But the key is our own hearts and our own intimacy with Christ and whether or not we’re willing to walk with Him.
Well, let’s just look and see what we nullify. What do we set aside when we choose to do church our way, when we bring the world’s ways of doing things into the church and we decide to do it the world’s way? What have we just set aside? Alright, let’s just look. First of all, when you set aside the grace of God you set aside your usability, your functionality in the body of Christ. There is no function. You have no purpose in the body of Christ. Well, I have been an usher for 50 years. Big deal! You never were useful in the body of Christ. That is a tough one, isn’t it? Let me show you what I’m talking about. It says in 1 Corinthians 12: 4, “Now there are varieties of gifts [and all of us are gifted differently], but the same Spirit.” You know what the word for “gift” is. It’s the word, you know it well, charisma. We get the word “charismatic” out it. It bothers me that some people build a denomination off of something we all experience. It’s the grace of God. Ma means the result of that grace; charis means grace. In other words, the result of God’s grace working in our life is the gift or the function we have in the body of Christ.
If I’m going to go back to playing church again, if I’m going to go back to doing it the way the world does it, I have just shut down my function in the body of Christ. God’s hand is not upon it and God’s anointing is not with it. You see, that is what happened. There is no function to anybody in the body of Christ until he’s living under the grace God offers to him. When we set aside the grace of God we also forfeit God’s sufficiency to accomplish what He has told us to accomplish, monetary sufficiency, financial sufficiency.
I’m talking about when God puts something in front of you and it costs you, He will provide for that if He raised it up. He says to the church in 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God,” and it’s in the context of giving. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything you may have an abundance for every good deed.” The narrow context is the grace he speaks of is the financial sufficiency to be about the things that God has told you to do. It’s not something, it’s not health and wealthy. It’s to accomplish what God has said.
You can trust God to always provide for you where He guides. And that is the grace. But when you start doing it your own way, oh, buddy, we’re in it for ourselves. You use a gimmick to start something and come up with it yourself, you are going to have use a gimmick to make it happen. You put people under guilt, do something. But, you see, you don’t have to do that. You don’t have to do that when God is being honored and glorified in your life, when you are living submissive to Him you can participate in the sufficiency God wants for your life.
When we set aside the grace of God by choosing to put ourselves back up under the Law we forfeit the ability to bear up under the trials of life. Have you ever seen a Christian who cannot bear up under the trials in his life? Look carefully whether or not he’s living under grace or he’s has gone back to trying to do it himself. If you set aside the grace of God here, 2 Corinthians 12:9, “And he said to me,” this is when Paul was crying out to God, “take the thorn out of my flesh.” God had put it there to humble him and he would not. And God said no three times. I like the way God is real simple in His answers. Paul said, “Lord, take it away.” “No.” Paul, I mean “God, take it away.” “No,” three times. Three strikes you’re out. I mean, He’s not going to do it. But he led Paul to say this, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’” If you are not going to live under the grace of God then you cannot participate in the grace that will help you bear up under what is going on. He says, “For power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I would rather boast of my weaknesses that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
Do you realize the people that walk through the valleys of life trusting God all the way through it are people who are experiencing the enabling power, the grace of God? But you can put two Christians in the same hospital room with the same disease, one of them will have victory, the other lives in total defeat, miserable, scared to death. Why? Because they are not participating in the grace of God. They have set it aside. They have chosen to go in a different direction. When we set aside the grace of God we forfeit the power that God gives us to complete the assignments He has given to us.
Paul says in Ephesians 3:7, “Of which I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power upon our lives.” I would hate to think of having to be assigned someplace and not be under the grace of God. I had said to God, “God, I want to finish well. I want to finish well.” The interesting thing about that is, God heard me and God knows you don’t finish well unless the pressure is on you. And He put me here and I’m thinking every day of my life what am I doing? I’m going to a mega-church conference this afternoon. What does that mean? I don’t have a clue. I have never been to one. I’m going to walk in that place and sit down and think, well, what am I doing here. And they are going to say, what are you doing here? I don’t know what I’m doing.
But every day of my life we have dealt with so much stuff that we come to the end of the day and it’s just like you have to fall prostrate before God and say, “God, You are exactly right. We can’t do this God. Why did You put us here?” And God says, “Because I want you to live the message that you have been preaching to everybody else.” Are you going to live it? Or are you going to bail out like others do? I want to tell you something. You don’t experience the power of God unless you are walking under the grace of God. There is no enablement; you can do it yourself. Help yourself. You have got a choice. But you will not walk in the fullness of God. You will not have a clue what we’re talking about. Worship will mean nothing to you until you start bowing and crying out to God and get transparent with Him and say, “Oh, God, I’m a failure. That is all I can ever be. God, take my failure and would You replace it with who You are?”
If you set aside the grace of God, people don’t see Jesus in you or me. Second Thessalonians 1:12 says, “In order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, seen in you, recognized, and you in Him.” How? “According to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” When I nullify the grace of God I’m not a witness to anybody. I’m not a witness to anybody. But also when we set aside the grace of God we have no strength to face opposition. Oh, 2 Timothy 2:1. In the face of opposition Paul tells Timothy from prison where he’s about to be martyred, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” You have got to start there. That is the only way you can face opposition.
There is no humility in our lives when grace is not being lived. It says in 1 Peter 5:5, “You younger men likewise be subject to your elders. And all of you clothe yourself with humility toward one another for God is opposed to the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.” Does He give it to the proud? No, He does not. And so when I choose to be proud, living my own way, and I don’t want to get right with Him, I set aside the grace of God. To say it in a more succinct way I guess, when grace is set aside, when Wayne gets up in the morning and chooses to live his life his own way he sets aside the grace of God, then the Christian life at that point is shut down. It cannot be lived. Only under grace can it be lived because only Christ ever lived it and He lives it in and through us.
So the problem for the Christian way of living is we haven’t thought about it perhaps that we’re nullifying the grace of God when we say I’m going to do it my way. God, don’t You call me. I have got a great plan here. I will call You. At that very moment you have just nullified the grace of God. We cease to be functional in the body. As a matter of fact, one of the verses I did not read says that we don’t even have the grace to speak to one another. Would it not be great if we were all walking under grace and everything we said was seasoned with God’s grace and it built us up instead of tearing us down? Boy, that would change our emails, would it not?
See, when you don’t walk under grace it’s easy to understand where this stuff comes from. This comes from people who don’t have a clue about the normal Christian life. I want to walk in the power of God, Paul says. And coming in this morning, frustrated again, I just said to the Lord in the car, “Lord, I want to experience, I want to preach, I want to live it. I’m tired of being frustrated and bitter and critical.” And the very moment I choose not to bow before Him that is what I’m. That is what I’m folks. That is who you called as your pastor apart from Jesus, a total utter failure. But thank God He did not come to renew our flesh. He came to replace it. Have you seen that about yourself this morning? Has that come clear? I wonder how many of us here today are setting aside the grace of God. “Oh, I’m successful. I have got money in the bank. I have got a retirement program.” Whoopie deal! Have you done it at the expense of experiencing the grace of God? He’s not impressed. He’s not impressed at all when you get to heaven; I have never seen a hearse yet, pulling a U-haul. Have you?
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Dr. Wayne Barber
Wayne has taught the message of “Living Grace” around the world. He is president, founder, and principal speaker of Living Grace Ministries and Senior Pastor of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He learned to exegete Scripture by studying for 10 years with Spiros Zodhiates, one of the leading Greek scholars.