8/2 Message: “U Turns and Roundabouts”

2 Aug 2020 Sunday Worship Service

Call to Worship: Galatians 2:11-16

11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For 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. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of 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 the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

Tithe, offerings, and Prayer Concerns: Father in Heaven. Thank you, Lord, for all that we have and are in you. Lord, today we pray that you accept our gifts and the offering of our whole being. Father we pray that you use us to further your kingdom in this world.

Amen!

Message Reading; 2 Peter 3:13-17

13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Message; U Turns, and Roundabouts

It seems that life is full of U Turns and those roundabouts that mimic car traffic. Speaking of car traffic, have you ever noticed that the way a lot of people drive, mimics the way they maneuver their shopping cart in a store or how they walk in a crowded Mall. If they are blocking traffic in a grocery store, cutting in front, racing down the aisles, stalled and blocking traffic in the produce section, lounging in an entryway, or stalled in the middle of the main thoroughfare in the Mall blocking traffic and talking on their cell phone, you can make a safe bet they drive just like that out on the roads.

Life is a lot like that if you think about it. We get in the habit of doing things in a certain way and before you know it, we are locked into a behavior on auto pilot. Now I can cut people off, merge without looking, talk on my phone while driving and in a certain family member’s case apply makeup while on the phone (it’s not my wife), all at the same time. Now that’s talent! I have talked with her while she has pulled this trick in the past. I almost feel guilty like I am aiding and abetting in the misdemeanor.

Then there is the opposite type of distracted driver. These are the people in my neighborhood that are liable to stop their vehicle right in the middle of the street while thinking something through like how much milk do they really need from the store, or a personal favorite; stopping the car (again in the middle of the road) to chat with someone they know that is out for a walk. (Again, it’s not anyone I know from church)

Well, many is the time that I really did need to go to the Lord for forgiveness because I was using the push button on my emergency brake as a virtual missile launcher again. Taking out legions of neighbors, and other assorted drivers in droves, with virtual carnage surpassing the Battle of the Antietam proportions by 05:30 am on a typical morning commute morning. Don’t get me wrong, this is wrong, and I’m working on it.

So what does any of this have to do with a reading from Paul to the Galatians, or a General Epistle from Peter?

Well when we write anything in length, our written communication begins to tell who we are as people. Biblical forensic specialist have been busy making diagnoses on Peter and Paul and the rest of our Biblical inscribers for decades. Sometimes is very helpful to read the specialist thoughts on who our Christian Ancestors were, and sometimes it’s important to take what you hear with a grain of salt. If someone is investigating with preconceived thoughts, doctrine agendas, buyer beware!

What I love about reading the New Testament in its entirety is that you get to see real growth and development of both Paul and Peter. In Peter’s case, from the Gospels, through Acts, culminating in His two letters towards the back of the New Testament, there is real growth. Maturing from a rash young man wanting to walk on the water but lacking the faith to back it up, to a restrained maturity in 2 Peter.

With Paul, His youthful rashness and his egging on the crowd to stone Stephen in early acts, through His four missionary journeys, and the maturing that takes place in his epistles. Galatians is an earlier letter and it shows in Paul’s maturity or lack thereof, compared to a later letter like Romans where one can read Paul’s Gospel of Good News.

Today I am comparing an earlier Paul letter (written around 53 AD), to a letter Peter wrote later (around 67 AD) towards the end of His ministry.

Again why is any of this important? Today’s message is all about how we treat each other in life. How we correct and support each other, for better and worse. And how some of our habits in life that we want to change are life time challenges.

In our Call to Worship today we have an earlier letter of Paul writing to the churches in Galatia. These were the home-churches in central modern day Turkey. An area that Paul visited in his first missionary journey. Here are Paul’s own words:

11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For 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. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of 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 the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

Of course everything in life needs to be observed in the context that is actually taking place. This is where when in doubt we need to give plenty of grace as we critically look at Paul’s words. Our Apostle to the Gentiles is upset with Peter, Barnabas, and others because of hypocrisy. Saying one thing, and then doing another. Kind of like when a politician says you can’t do something, and then goes and does it.

A quick word about hypocrisy; do we have any hypocrites among us? People saying one thing and doing another. Well. All of us. When people say hay those Christians are hypocrites. They say don’t sin, but they do, and then they go to church. And they are right.

If a person is struggling in sin, this is the place they need to be. If the word of God doesn’t help them, then maybe service to God, and other people might be what plugs the hemorrhaging sin from their very being. If we are concerned about being hypocrites, because we are trying and failing in our approach to being better people. You are not alone. In fact we are all struggling with Paul. He writes about his challenges in his letter to the Romans 7: 14-15;

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

I think in life there are hypocrites, and then there are hypocrites. To struggle and to do things because you made a mistake, or accidentally fell into actions or thoughts is completely different than intending to do something.

Example: If I were to tell you that it is bad to do something, and then I go and intentionally do that very same thing, know its wrong, and hide it, and plan to keep on doing it, and plan to keep telling you not to do it, you know (not for thee, but for me, or for thee and not for me) I am imbedding myself deep into hypocrisy.

It’s the difference between lying and actually lying. A person can speak a mistruth and not be lying. (Although you wouldn’t know that in today’s gotch-ya culture) Those people who catch themselves in a mistruth are usually very anxious to clear up an accident. Big difference!

If we look at what Paul is saying about Peter, Barnabas, and the guys, in a 21st century kind of way, he is telling the Galatian churches that we need to live our faith. If we proclaim something on a Sunday, we need to be living it on a Wednesday. If we tell someone that it is OK to do something, or to eat something with a certain group, then reframe when members of our church are around. That’s hypocritical. Paul is correct.

Have you ever found that you needed to clean up your language when you are around certain people like your spouse. Your church family. Well maybe you should just skip to the chase and not do anything to clean up to begin with. I think, that is kind of what Paul is saying.

I am not bragging, and I am not proud, but there have been times when I needed to perform a verbal U Turn. Where I had to catch myself in mid-sentence. When I was saying something and thought what I had to say was inappropriate for the occasion. What is really frustrating is when you change your mind again and end up doing a complete roundabout, and say what you were originally going to say, only to be embarrassed because you were right the second time when you were performing a U Turn and keeping your mouth shut.

This is the kind of behavior I believe Paul is addressing the two sides of us within us, fighting it out from time to time. Paul is also saying that We: …

16 know that a person is not justified by the works of 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 the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

If I am living to follow rules that I want to break, instead of living by faith, being transformed by Jesus Christ, I am at war within my very being. It is so easy to miss the mark when it’s all about compliance and following instruction. When I am living my faith, I am no longer thinking about complying, behaving, or screwing up. Now I am living who I am, and loving others, showing no favoritism, but following the Lord is the call to my worship life.

On a side not, a person can be right and still be wrong in life. You can be 100% accurate, get all the facts, data, and history correct, and still be in the wrong. I am referring to, what I am alluding to, is what Paul wrote in the Love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13;1,2

 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

In other words, when I am in the midst of sharing all of my profound wisdom with other people and am coming off as a know it all, arrogant, overly passionate, nasty, mean, or as an outright jerk of a human being; people are probably not going to listen to me. Here are Paul’s words about the dispute over Peter’s hypocrisy;

11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned; and verse 14

14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

Nothing beats a little passion to flip the switch of ignore. Paul is right, but who wants to be corrected to the point that there is no more air left in the room. I wish I had a dollar for every person we so called Christians have corrected, improved, or set straight, straight out of the church. Better yet, I wish we had those people back.

Don’t get me wrong, there will be people that just plain do not want to be a part of our Body of Christ or live by our ideas of that a family in God should behave and live like. There is a place for everyone. I just want to be sure that when I am trying to help another person in their growth and maturity in Christ, that I am being discrete, and humble whenever possible.

By the way, it is not a sin to judge something Paul has done and decide for yourself that his approach was not right for you. That is why God gave you discernment, and the ability to think. Also, we are not discounting God’s word, grace, or teachings, just Paul’s approach to human dynamics.

Peter for his part along with Barnabas and Co. were wrong. Thankfully, and apparently, they and the witnesses to this disagreement were not driven away from their faithwalk. Barnabas would continue to be the man of encouragement, who influenced much more of the New Testament than he gets credit for, and Peter will grow and mature, probably reset his ways and continue to stumble and get back up well into his maturity in later years, where he instructs us in our Message reading for today; 2 Peter 3:13-16

13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Peter is explaining that we all struggle and God’s patience means our salvation. But there is more associated with this teaching. We are also to keep trying our hardest to be found spotless, and blameless. We all know this is done by God’s grace and not on our own efforts, but it does not excuse anyone who gives up and goes their own way.

Next, Peter not only sites Paul’s teaching, but also sustains and builds up Paul’s often difficult instruction as correct. That is maturity of a person who has continued to grow and learn as they age, and a sure example of the solidarity that the Body of Christ needs to show a pagan world.

Where ignorant and unstable people will distort the hard things to understand in our faith, but members of God’s family will hang in there and keep getting right back up when they have fallen or missed the mark in their Faithwalk.

On this journey that we are on my friends, there will be times that a U Turn will become essential as we reset our walk on a more direct route to the Lord. Some people will be so caught up in resetting that it will appear as if they were diving through a roundabout with a farm tractor. Going round and around, and not very fast, and they never exit and pick a path, because they are still trying to find out who they are, and who the God is that they serve.

My hope and prayer for you this week is that you find your stride in the Lord, not let the petty externals that throw you off your course consume you, that if you must correct others, that you do so humbly, prayerfully, and discreetly. That if you receive correction, you use Peter’s example and return criticism with praise. And you and your Lord rise above the worldly, and cruse on Wings of Eagles.

Amen!

Benediction: Based on Psalm 23