How to Know Your Standing with God

Andy Stanley

This is Part 2 of our series “Brand New.” If you weren’t here last week, you can catch up (for free) right here.

Here’s what we said last week: The arrival of Jesus signaled something absolutely brand new. When Jesus showed up on the scene he initiated something brand new.

The Temple Model, a reference to the Jewish temple, was done. Jesus had a new model.

The Temple Model is about:

  • Sacred places
  • Sacred texts
  • Sacred men
  • Sincere followers

Jesus initiated something brand new:

  • New covenant
  • New command
  • New ethic
  • New movement

The Temple Model was built around a standard that only the elite could meet.
Jesus came along with a model that no one could meet.

The Temple Model required followers to come make peace with God.
Jesus said, “Forget that. From now on I want you to make peace with your neighbor. God can wait.”

The Temple Model was nation specific.
Jesus came along and said this was for all the nations. It was no longer about geography.

In essence, Jesus said, “When you are standing on the most sacred place imaginable, the person next to you is more sacred.”

What Jesus launched was completely new! In the early days Gentiles flocked to his message because  they were tired of the paganism of the day. Jewish Christians in the first century had a tension to manage. It didn’t feel right for them to give up customs and traditions and accept Jesus. It felt sacreligous for them to abandon the Old Testament Laws.

Our consciences determine religious realities whether they reflect reality or not.

We’ve all experienced this. Have you ever had somebody say, “Hey, you shouldn’t feel that way.”?
That works great in marriage, try it some time (ha!).

Or, how about this one? “You shouldn’t feel guilty about that.”
Does that do away with your guilt? No!
Why? Because your conscience has been fine tuned to values. Sometimes this bumps into the consciences of your friends. Why is that? Because we all have different values.

I grew up Baptist and my dad was a Baptist pastor. I had friends who were Catholics. I just didn’t get them. They had to go to confession. What was that? Just tell God you’re sorry and move on! But their conscience told them they had to do it. Meanwhile, us Baptists didn’t drink any alcohol. Zero! My Catholic friends were like, “We drink alcohol in church.” That floored me! Really? So they wondered why I/my family didn’t drink.

The way you are raised and the way religion is presented to you it fine tunes your conscience. That’s why, for some of you, this will be a difficult next couple weeks in this teaching series.

So here’s what happened. The early Jewish Christians (and this is totally understandable) attempted to assimilate Jesus into the temple model. The hung on to all their temple ways and tried to merge Jesus teaching into temple thinking.

And then along came the Apostle Paul to the church’s rescue. You should know this, the Apostle Paul showed up on the pages as Saul of Tarsus. He did not show up as a Christian, in fact, he was a Pharisee. He claimed to be the best Pharisee. He memorized the Torah, taught the Old Testament Law, and sought out to single-handedly destroy the church. He would have, until God got his attention.

When Paul became a Christian, he got it! He understood more than anyone else that Jesus was not Judaism 201, it was a complete departure from the old. Jesus was here doing something entirely new. Paul understood how dangerous it would be to mix the old with the new. Merging and blending was not going to work.

On Paul’s first missionary journey he went to Galatia, modern-day Turkey. He planted little ecclesias, Jesus gatherings. Jewish and Gentiles embraced Jesus. Paul left the scene and, behind him, came some Jewish Christians. They told the people who Paul wasn’t giving the whole story and to actually become a Christian you first had to be Jewish. Jesus was Jewish so you have to become Jewish to follow Jesus too.

For the next few minutes, I want to try to illustrate the extraordinary emotion and anger Paul had about the idea of mixing these two things. In this letter we discover what a big deal this really was.

Jewish Christians who believed Gentiles must convert to Judaism to join the Jesus movement.

Becoming Jewish would have meant surgery for the men (circumcision). When the Apostle Paul found out that these other teachers came in and mixed the Jesus movement he became Apoplectic. That’s a word that has “pop” in the middle of it and Paul was so mad he almost popped. He was mad!

If they didn’t understand that Jesus brought a totally new thing, or if they tried to mix the old with the new, it would dilute, denude, and pollute the message of Jesus.

We’re going to walk through Galatians 5 to experience the intensity and understand why this should be a big deal to all of us.

Galatians 5:1 NIV
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

If your version of Christianity doesn’t make you feel free, you are doing it wrong. If following Jesus doesn’t mean you feel free then something is wrong with your version of Christianity.

Galatians 5:2 NIV 
Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.

Paul was not against circumcision. He was Jewish and circumcised. Circumcision wasn’t the problem. In this context, however, it represented an old covenant. Jesus had come with a new covenant. So Paul was saying that if the people embraced circumcision (as an adult) then they were embracing the old covenant.

Galatians 5:3 NIV
Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.

The whole law was a big deal. Because the people were trying to blend religions. Paul told them that if they wanted to embrace the old covenant then they had to follow the whole thing. Dress right, eat right, follow the Sabbath and all 630+ laws. God has sent Jesus and started something new, don’t hang on to the old.

Galatians 5:4 NIV
You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

What is falling away from grace? Imagine this: You appreciate the work of the church and as a gift you present me a $100 gift card. But I demand to pay you for it and settle at $25. Now it is no longer a gift card it is a discount card. I just took the gift out of the card.

Paul is saying that grace is the hallmark of the Christian experience. Grace is that God knows everything about you and chooses to love you anyway. You don’t deserve it, can’t earn it, or anything! The moment you try to earn grace, you have done away from it. Grace is a gift. The moment you start bargaining with God and trying to earn your way is the moment you have fallen away from grace.

You think that’s extreme? Just wait:

Galatians 5:6 NIV
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.

This next part is extreme. So extreme that you would think I had gone off the deep end if I just came out here and preached on it.
And if you’re not a Christian, what Paul is about to say addresses the reason why you resist churches and Christians in particular. Because so much of what is resistible about the church is what we have resisted. Coming from the Apostle Paul:

Galatians 5:6 NIV
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Timeout. Have you seen how thick the Bible is? You’re telling me the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love? Not one of ten things, it’s the only thing. One thing! That is the only thing of value.

Circumcision and all it represents goes like this, “God how am I doing? How am I doing, God?”
That’s all vertical.
Paul says that day is over.
If you are a Christian, you’re in! Quit worrying about what God thinks about you, he is for you.

If someone dies for you they are for you.

Quit looking up and start looking around. The only thing of value is how you treat other people, not how you treat God; God is fine.

This is a big deal. Really, really big deal! If your approach to God is hoping you are good with him, that’s temple thinking. That’s the old model.

Galatians 5:7, 9 NIV
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”

A single-cell fungus changes the whole thing. A little bit of temple thinking, legalism, withholding grace and it’s ruined.

It only takes a small dose of the wrong thing to corrupt the whole thing.

Paul was sharing that this is something new. Not a mix, blend or balance. It may be easy to think, “Settle down, Paul.”
But the Apostle Paul knew exactly where it would lead. This next part shows just how apoplectic Paul became about blending the old with the new:

Galatians 5:12 NIV
As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

In a sense, “If you’re going to start cutting, cut it all off!”

Seems extreme but he knew the people didn’t understand what was at stake. And he knew what was at stake because he was previously a part of the temple model in the first century. He saw it front and center what happens and how it goes off the rails. This is a big deal to Paul and it’s a big deal to us.

Paul knew that if they tried to blend, this is what would happen:

  • Leaders would become self-righteous. Because leaders would always create the law in a way that they could uphold it and nobody else could.
  • Followers would become hypocrites. They would dumb-down God’s law to the point when it doesn’t hit their conscience. The temple model brings the rules down so low that we become self-righteous.
  • Texts would be manipulated.
  • People would be mistreated. Ever been mistreated by a church?

Paul knew if we cling to old things then we will miss the main thing. Here is the main thing:

Galatians 5:13 NIV
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

This isn’t about a game with God. But we try fooling ourselves to thinking that God forgets all our sin.

Paul is saying that if we are worried that loving people will cause us to forget the main thing, whoa whoa whoa… then you don’t know what the main thing is.
Use your freedom to serve one another freely in love-

Galatians 5:14 NIV
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

All you have to remember is one command! Not 630+, one!

Remember the movie Wizard of Oz? It could have been 12 minutes long, but it was over two hours. The whole movie she’s walking around in the ruby red slippers that would have taken her back to Kansas. The whole time!

Paul is saying to the people, “We had the secret the whole time. It’s love your neighbor as yourself.”
That’s what Jesus said! Love God, love your neighbor, the rest is detail.

You want to know how you’re doing with God? Look around and you’ll know how you’re doing.

Galatians 5:6 NIV
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

When you get this right, you will pray differently.
When we get this right, we will see sin in a completely different way.
When you get this right, your religious experience as a Christian will be characterized more by freedom than anything else.
When we get this right we will treat people better.

If this feels extreme it means that you have been paying attention.
If this feels wrong and too unstructured that’s exactly how the Jewish believers of the first century felt. In fact, by the third century the believers went away from that. And things began to change.

Imagine for a moment how different our communities would be if just the Christians decided that only one thing matters- Faith in Christ expressing itself through love. No other ratings, just how I treat other people.

Your bad church experience isn’t because somebody loved Jesus, it’s because of how we treated you. That’s why you can’t mix and match. The moment you look up to evaluate how God views you is the moment you have taken your eye off the people who matter most to your heavenly father.

So what would it look like this week? What would it look like if with every interaction you asked, “What does love require of me?”

It may be consensual, legal, or uncomfortable but what does love require of you?
That will change your life and everybody’s life you intersect with.

We’ve allowed the old to blend with the new and it didn’t split 50/50. The new got about 5%.
The new is here and it’s all we’ve got.
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Try that for a week.

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North Point - BrandNew

This message is from Andy Stanley
North Point Community Church
Title: “Apoplectic”
Series: “Brand: New”

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