Let me complete Galatians Chapter 1, before moving on to the 'Fruit of the Spirit' in Chapter 5. Paul is writing this amazingly practical letter to believers - to disciples of Jesus Christ, who have been deceived by false teachers. They have tasted and experienced so much of what has been real, but they are deserting and reverting to legalism. You must keep the old law and observe all the old rituals.Now I have seen this happen all over the place. This is not 'theory'. This is happening in Scotland. People revert to 'norm'. That is a very real danger. They were also questioning Paul's credentials. If Paul wasn't really called by God, then you don't have to pay all that much attention to what he preaches and teaches - very subtle. That is why Paul takes time to explain how he came into this ministry. He defends his ministry - there can be a time when we too have to do that. He focuses those believer's attention on the Cross of Jesus Christ - and how we are rescued and saved from our sins. He defends his message. He is also shocked or flabbergasted to learn that these believers were so quickly deserting the One Who had called them. They were turning to another Gospel which is really no gospel at all. Beware of anyone who comes and preaches another gospel - offering something better or more exciting - or that you need to do this and you need to do that - or even, you need this book as well as your Bible. Paul pronounces a curse upon such people! Now that is strong. Many people are under a curse - how does it manifest itself? People sense or feel that there is an invisible barrier which keeps dogging them. People sense that they are just about to break free and things appear to be going well, when a long shadow overtakes them - and such people say - "Things never go right for me". "Why do I get so far and then everything goes so wrong?" "And do you know that so-and-so in my family has exactly the same problem." Paul feels so strongly about this - that he repeats it. We have to be very careful what we say. Remember we are accountable for every careless or idle word, and men will have to answer for them one day. It is obvious that Paul had been accused by these accusers of being a preacher who had sought to win the approval of men. You would have to have had a very good imagination to go as far as that in your criticisms of Paul. Do not mess with the message, and do not mess with the messenger. Paul was no people pleaser and he says so here, and then he makes this salutary statement, "If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." You cannot do both. It is impossible. A choice has to be made, and the earlier it is made the better. Jesus said, you cannot serve God and mammon! We are called to serve Jesus Christ - and live for Jesus Christ - and witness to Jesus Christ - and as we do so there will be some people who will not be pleased. We need to make this very clear. Perhaps in earlier years we disguised this - covered up this unavoidable truth - simply because it can be so painful. Verse 11 - I want you to know - and he still calls them brothers - I did not make all this up - and I did not receive it from man. I wasn't taught it in a theological college. Jesus Christ revealed it to me. The Gospel is NOT man-made. The Gospel can offend man's pride. It does not flatter man, and it does not affirm in him any goodness. Man can live in Compassion Crescent - Sophistication Street - Accomplishment Avenue - a bully of a business leader in Dominant Drive - but we have to come to live in Christ. There has to come that point where we are able to say something similar. Jesus Christ revealed His truth to me - in a service - in a prayer time - from the Word - as I was walking and thinking - but it has to become this personal. Matthew 16:13 to 17 - This happened to Peter - no man told you this - you did not work this out for yourself - this was revealed to you by my Father in heaven. This is what we each need - to have the truth revealed to us - by Jesus - by God the Father - or by the Holy Spirit. Then, we will not be easily swayed or tossed around or deceived by those who come seeking to persuade us of another way. What was at stake here was the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ - the authority of Paul - the authority of God the Father - the work of Jesus in rescuing us from our sins - and rescuing us from this present evil age. From the very beginning the Church has had to face up to the appearing of false preachers and the dangers therein. Just in case they had heard something about Paul's past, which was true, he mentions this. He goes on to describe how he had not always been a man of God. He had been a religious rogue. He used to be a men-pleaser - a crawler - as he crawled or climbed up the religious ladder because he had wanted to advance further than others. Paul had been a nasty man. He used to consider what men thought of him, but no longer. He used to be concerned about his reputation. But now his aim is to serve Jesus Christ. Paul met a man he thought was dead! And he was brought into the Kingdom of light and began right away to preach to those who were in the kingdom of darkness. One thing that is so encouraging here is - that it does not matter what you were - it is what you are that is vital, and what you can become in Christ. Verse 13,14 - he tells us what used to motivate him - until he met Jesus. Is there one word which summarises all that? PRIDE. The false gospel allows you to keep your pride - what you have done - what you think - what you have been - what you consider you have achieved. Verse 15 - But God intervened - and set me apart - and called me by His Grace - and was pleased to reveal Jesus to me - and for a purpose - so that I might preach HIM. To begin with he did not consult any man. He went off into Arabia - into the wilderness - reading his Old Testament in the light of his experience of Jesus Christ - isolated in God's Bible School. This man used to hunt Christians - he was violent. Now, he is talking about his sins - those sins which were forgiven. People would be afraid of Paul. He put believers in prison. Paul had no intention of becoming a Christian - a disciple of Jesus Christ - but God intervened. Jesus met him - confronted him - transformed him. God had a plan for his life - just as God has a plan for our lives. Had God not radically changed this man, there is no way he could have been changed. That is really the testimony of each of us! "Loving Father, as we read Your Word and pray, change and transform us; strengthen us in these critical times, and increase our faith in Jesus." Amen.
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