Would you open your Bibles tonight to the book of Galatians, chapter 3? I want to read verses 1 – 5. I will be referring to some other verses throughout the course of the message tonight, but I want us to begin with just these five verses:
O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified? I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
O you foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? Who has cast a spell on you? Who has hypnotized you that you should not obey the truth? I’ve always been a poor sleeper. Even to this day I can never really remember having a good night’s sleep or getting up feeling rested. I don’t like these people who jump out of bed singing every morning. I think it is of the devil. I take getting up very seriously. I don’t believe you should jump out of bed. I believe you ought to sit on the side of the bed there for ten minutes with your head cupped in your hands, realizing that it is dangerous out there. I have always been a very poor sleeper.
When I was pastor, I went for about six months where I just didn’t get any sleep at all. I finally decided to go to the doctor to see if he could find out what was wrong with me. There had to be something wrong that was keeping me from sleeping. He ran these tests. I went back in a few days later. I was sitting in his office, and he walked in with the folder that contained the results of my tests. He said, well, preacher, I can’t find anything wrong with you. I can’t find anything organically, physically that is causing you to be unable to sleep. Of course, he had to be a joker like a lot of doctors. He said he did find out however that I was too short. See, I thought I was too fat. He said according to my chart you ought to be 7 feet, 3 inches tall. I was glad to hear that because it’s a lot easier to stretch than it is to reduce. He said he couldn’t find anything that is causing you to be unable to sleep. I said, well, I have got to have something. I was asking if he would give me some sleeping pills. He said he really didn’t like to do that. You can become addicted to those things and half the time you wake up with a hangover.
He said what he would really like to do was teach me self hypnosis. When he mentioned the word hypnosis, red flags kind of flashed before my eyes, and some bells rang in my ears. I didn’t know about that. It was spooky to me. When I thought about hypnotism, I always thought of some nightclub magician making somebody cackle like a chicken or bark like a dog. He could see my hesitancy. He said, preacher, I know all the things you have heard about hypnosis. All hypnosis is self hypnosis. You hypnotize yourself without even knowing it. That’s why you get sleepy a lot of times when you are driving down the highway gazing at that long ribbon of pavement. You get drowsy. It’s the most natural thing about the world. It will take me about six weeks to teach you how. You can put yourself to sleep and wake up without any kind of hangover.
I thought what do I have to lose?—except my mind. I said okay I would give it a try. So I went into his office every week for an hour for six weeks. He did teach me self hypnosis. It was one of the most disappointing things in my life, not because it didn’t work. It did to a certain extent. I don’t use it anymore because it takes too much concentration. What disappointed me was that it was so simple. I thought I was going to be initiated into some deep, dark secret. It was simple. You just lie down on the bed, fix your eyes on a greasy spot on the wall, or a dead fly in the screen, take your attention off everything else and focus on that one thing. You say to yourself: I am sleepy. I am sleepy. I’m getting sleepy. My eyelids are so heavy. I can’t keep them open. I’m going to have to close my eyes. I’m getting into a deep sleep. I’m going to count to five backwards. By the time I get to one, I’ll be in a deep, deep sleep. It is simply a matter of mind over mattress. That’s all there is to it.
Paul writes to these Galatians. He said, O foolish Galatians. In that phrase he is both showing his love for them, and his contempt for what has happened to them. I like the Phillips translation. It reads: O my beloved idiots. O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth? Somebody has cast a spell on you so that you are no longer walking in the truth.
What is the essence of this bewitching? What was this truth, or this false truth that these Galatians had been led to believe. I think you have it right there in verse 3 where he says: After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? I want to say to you tonight that I believe that one of the greatest bewitchings that has come upon believers is getting them to believe that even though they are saved by grace through faith, and they began in the Spirit, yet they are perfected by the works of the flesh. If we are going to grow and mature in the Lord, it is going to be by our performance, by following rules and regulations. If somehow I’m going to become more pleasing to God and more like Jesus and grow in maturity, it’s up to me to do it. I’ve got to work hard and be busy so I can become Christ-like.
Please don’t misunderstand. I believe a Christian ought to be busy. And I believe he ought to serve, to work. I believe that with all my heart. What I am saying is that service and activity will not make you spiritual. We do these things (serving, being active, busy for the Lord) out of gratitude for what God has done for us. It is the issue of grace. We do not do these things because we think by doing things we are going to be more acceptable to God.
If grace means anything, it means this: God has already accepted you. There is nothing you can do to make God love you anymore, and there is nothing you can do to make God love you any less. What happens is that some people come along like these Judaizers came along after Paul left. They said Jesus was good as far as it goes; he just doesn’t go far enough. You’ve got to add Moses. It’s not enough just to have faith; you’ve got to have works. It is not enough to have the Holy Spirit; you’ve got to have the law. So these believers had become bewitched. They thought, okay, now I’m saved. No doubt about that but if I’m going to attain my goal and be everything God wants me to be, it’s going to be up to me. It is going to be up to my efforts and my performance. I’ve really got to work hard in order to impress God and please him. Folks, I want to tell you something. We are saved by grace through faith, and then there is the growth process where day by day we are being made more like Jesus, being conformed more and more into the image of God’s dear Son. Friends, that is not something you accomplish by your performance, by your efforts. Works cannot bring life to a lost man, and they cannot bring maturity to a saved man.
Why do people think this? What gets into people so that they think it is up to me. Most of my Christian life is struggling in the flesh trying to overcome. It’s because they have been hypnotized. In order to be hypnotized you have to take your mind off other things. You have got to have your attention diverted from other things and focused on this one thing. Paul in this passage mentions three things that these believers have had their attention diverted from that enable them to be hypnotized and bewitched by false teachers. I want to talk about those three things very quickly tonight. The moment you take your eyes off of one of these three things, or a combination of them, you are going to be plunged into the pit of self effort, thinking that you are going to grow and become like Jesus simply because you do more than somebody else does. What are these three things?
We become bewitched when we take your eyes off the manifestation of the cross.
Let’s read again what Paul has to say to these people: You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? In the Greek text, the word you is in the emphatic position. In other words, Paul is saying, I can’t believe that you of all people have been bewitched. I could understand somebody else being bewitched, but I can’t believe that you have been bewitched. Why? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. In other words, Paul says when I was with you, every time I taught, every time I preached, it was as though I had a big billboard up there, and Jesus crucified was on that billboard. You could translate that word billboard. I think one translation does say before your very eyes Jesus crucified was billboarded before you. I said I didn’t make such a small matter of it. It wasn’t just a mention. It was the major portion of my message. It was the heart, the central of everything. It was like a billboard was right there in front of your eyes, and I can’t believe that you of all people have taken your eyes off that and forgotten that.
Dr. Rogers, when you travel like I do, they think you know stuff, if you are from out of town you know things. People ask me what I think is one of the greatest threats to modern Christianity. I think there are two. 1) I think we are losing confidence in the power of the Word of God. 2) We are forgetting the cross, minimizing the cross.
There are some churches that are trying to be so seeker friendly to the world that they won’t mention the cross because it is offensive. My dear friend, I would rather offend a lost person by preaching the cross than to offend God by leaving it out of my message. That is what we are doing today—minimizing the cross. What happens? Listen, when you minimize the cross, you take your eyes off the cross and put your eyes on yourself. Then you begin to think it is up to you to do it all.
Let me tell you what the cross means. Jesus Christ dying on the cross means that everything that was ever needed for my salvation and sanctification and glorification was accomplished by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. It’s already been done, already been accomplished. Everything that was necessary for my salvation, for my day-to-day living, for my glorification has already been done by Christ on the cross. When I forget about the cross, I don’t preach the cross; I don’t like to talk about the cross. If you don’t talk about that, what are you going to talk about? There’s only one thing. You talk about your goodness, your efforts; you’re doing the best you can.
If you want to know how to tell the difference between new age stuff and Christianity, that’s just it. In new age, there is no cross, no sin. In new age you have to solve your own problems, get in touch with your inner self and your inner child, pull yourself up by your boot straps and find the god that is within you. But when you come to the cross, it slays man’s pride and self effort and throws him on the floor and says you can’t do anything to merit my favor. You can’t do anything. Natural man doesn’t like to hear that. When we take our eyes off the manifestation of the cross (forget the cross), that is the moment we begin to focus on ourselves.
Let me show you one thing that the cross means. (You are going to have to listen a lot faster than you are listening for me to finish.) Look in chapter 6, verse 14, where Paul says, But God forbid that I should boast, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified unto me, and I unto the world. There is a double crucifixion there. Paul says the world has been crucified unto me and I unto the world. In other words, Paul says as far as I am concerned, the world is dead. Friends, when you forget about the cross, the world comes alive to you. You begin to fancy it. But he says I have been crucified to the world and the world unto me. In other words, Paul says as far as I’m concerned, the world is dead, and as far as the world is concerned, Paul is dead. That means if I am really going to proclaim the cross, and live by the cross, and understand the cross, I have to understand that the world holds no attraction for me, and I certainly don’t have any attraction for the world. This is just my opinion, which I respect. I believe with all my heart that the reason so many preachers and religious leaders today are minimizing the cross is because they want to be thought well of by the world.
Ever once in awhile I like to read the letters to the editor. Maybe there is an issue that has been tumbling around in the pages, and some dear saint writes a letter to the editor and starts off like this: sirs, I am a Bible-believing Christian. Do you know what, they have done it right there. From that moment on, the world is not going to listen to you. As I told a group the other weekend, you can be against homosexuality if you have other than Biblical reasons for being against it. The world will respect your opinion about abortion unless you throw up the Bible to them. If you announce yourself as a Christian, and these are my beliefs based on the Bible, I have news for you. As far as the world is concerned, you are dead. You have nothing to offer. The reason we have such a tendency to minimize the cross is because we want to have an ear with the world. The Bible says the ear we get with the world is that which comes from proclaiming the cross. Somebody says, but that offends people. It was meant to. That is the whole purpose. It offends natural man. So, first of all, you take your eyes off the manifestation of the cross.
II. We become bewitched when we forget about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
I love verse 2. This is always a good question. Paul says,
I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
This is all very logical here as you follow it with Paul. First of all, there is the cross and what Jesus did on the cross. He did everything that was necessary for our salvation and for our sanctification. Now, it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to take that and make it real in our lives, and to apply it in our lives. We weren’t saved by the works of the flesh, were we? No! How were we saved? By the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit; we began in the Spirit. Are you so foolish to think that what you began in the Spirit can now be finished by the works of the flesh? Not so. And so when you and I minimize the work of the Holy Spirit, forget about the Holy Spirit, don’t wait for the filling of the Holy Spirit and try to go out. What are we doing? We are working in the flesh.
Paul has a great deal to say about the Spirit. Turn over to chapter 5, verses 16 and following. He is talking about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of those believers. He comes down to verse 22 and says, but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. Notice, as I’m sure you know, the word fruit is in the singular. He is not talking about nine different fruits. He is talking about one fruit with nine characteristics. You say you have love but not much patience. Well, that would be all right if God graded on the curve, but he doesn’t. If you are really walking in the Spirit, you are going to exhibit all nine of these characteristics.
Have you ever taken the time to study those nine characteristics? Do you know what they are? They are the character of Christ. What he is saying is that the Holy Spirit is not only the one who begins us in our salvation, but he is the one who makes us like Christ. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. It says the fruit of the Spirit. I like to think of the Spirit as a fruit tree planted in the believer.
When we had our farm in Arkansas, we had a big lake. The road leading from the house down to the lake was lined by big oak trees. It made a beautiful walk down the road to the lake. I was there one summer, and I noticed as I came to that last oak tree right before the lake, it looked as though someone had taken a pencil and ruler and drawn a straight line right down the middle of that tree. All the leaves on one side of the tree were dead, and all the leaves on the other side of the tree were green. What that meant was one side of the tree was dead, and the other side of the tree was still alive.
I didn’t think too much about that at the time. But I came back on Thanksgiving, and all the leaves had fallen off the trees. I was walking down that road and came to that tree. It looked as though somebody had taken a pencil and a ruler and had drawn a straight line down the middle of that tree. All the leaves on one side of the tree, though they were dead, were still hanging on the branches. And all the leaves on the living side of the tree had fallen to the ground. That puzzled me. Why did those leaves not fall? Then I began to look around. We had done some clearing and cut up a lot of brush but had not had time to burn it. It was dead, and I noticed that the dead leaves were still on those dead limbs.
When I got back home, I talked to a friend of mine who knew a little bit about everything. I mentioned that to him. Why didn’t those dead leaves fall off those dead trees? He said, oh, leaves don’t fall off trees. They don’t? No, dead leaves don’t fall off trees. They are pushed off by the life that is in them. As that sap begins to fall in that tree, it pushes off those old dead leaves so there will be room for the new leaves next spring. Since there is no life on the one side, there is nothing to push off those old dead leaves.
You know, God is really smart. What if he had arranged that differently? Let’s say I have a hundred trees in my yard. It’s fall and time for those dead leaves to come off so I get a ladder and climb up one of those trees. I’m pulling off all those dead leaves. They hang on quite tenaciously. Finally I finish. It’s taken me a whole day, and right at the top there’s another . . . well, close enough. But I have 99 trees to go. I’ll never finish by spring. Suddenly, God says to me, son, what are you doing? Father, I’m pulling off these old dead leaves so there will be room for new leaves next spring. God said I don’t recall ever creating anybody that stupid. You don’t have to pull off the dead leaves. All you need to do is make certain the tree is alive and healthy, and that life is flowing through the tree. It will all by itself push off the old dead leaves and produce the new leaves.
You see, I spent a greater part of my Christian life climbing trees, trying to pull off dead leaves. Do you know what I’m saying? I’ve got to quit this. I’ve got to give up this. I’ve got to give up that. I think I’ve just about cleared the tree, and there’s another one full of dead leaves. God came to me and said, son, that’s ridiculous. All you need to do is make certain the Holy Spirit is flowing through you and filling you. Do you know what? He’ll push off the old dead leaves of hate and its place put on the new fruit of love.
The glorious thing I have about preaching tonight is that I’m not asking you to go out of here tonight and surrender to a new set of rules and regulations so you can be right. I am asking you to go out of here submitted to a person. When the Holy Spirit has his way with us and we walk in him, then those old dead leaves will take care of themselves. But if you forget the ministry of the Spirit, you’ll think it’s up to you and your effort.
We become bewitched when we forget the message of faith.
I have been talking about these three things: the cross, the Spirit, and faith. If you study the book of Galatians, you’ll find that over and over again. That’s the key to the whole book. He says in verse 5, Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Paul is so smart. Verse 6: Consider Abraham. These Jews who had become Christians and were trying to get these Galatian Christians enslaved by following the rules and regulations of the law kept saying if you are going to be children of Abraham, you are going to have to do this. You aren’t going to heirs of Abraham’s promise if you don’t do this. They kept pushing Abraham down their throats, rallying around Abraham. You have to keep the law if you are going to be children of Abraham. Paul doesn’t shrink from that or run from it. He comes right back and pushes it down their throat. Do you want to talk about Abraham? Let’s talk about Abraham. He quotes Genesis 15 where the Bible says that the Lord imputed unto him righteousness because he believed. What’s so important about that? That was 430 years before the law ever came long. If it takes the law to make you a child of Abraham, if it takes the law to make you a heir of Abraham, then there is something funny somewhere because Abraham was justified by his faith 430 years before the law ever came along. I just want to ask you this one thing. You received the Holy Spirit long before you heard about the law. These were Gentiles. They didn’t know anything about the law. Now they have been saved; the Holy Spirit indwells them, and Christ is in their hearts. Then these Judaizers come along and say they can’t be saved without the law. You can’t have the Holy Spirit without the law. They said that was funny because they received the Holy Spirit long before we ever heard of the law.
Paul comes down to verse 11: Clearly no one is justified before God by the law because the righteous will live by faith. You’ve heard that before, haven’t you? The just shall live by faith. It’s quoted four times in the Bible: Habakkuk 2, Galatians 3, Romans 1, and Hebrews 10. If God says the same thing to me four times in the Bible, I get the idea he is trying to tell me something. Four times he says the just shall live by faith. I think what he is trying to tell me is the just shall live by his faith.
It is faith that makes it universal. If it were works, there are some works we could never accomplish. Isn’t it wonderful how God has made his salvation so available? O. Christmas Evans, the Scottish evangelist, used to say you could put a man in a wooden barrel, nail down the lid, wrap chains around it, padlock it, then punch out the knothole and whisper through that knothole how to be saved, and he could be saved. Right there in that barrel. Isn’t that amazing? It’s all by faith. The just are not saved by faith; they live by faith. I live the Christian life the same way I entered the Christian life. As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, Paul says, so walk ye in him.
All of this starts in Habakkuk 2 where the Chaldeans are swooping down on the people, and it looks like they are going to be destroyed. Habakkuk has been complaining because God is not doing anything about the Chaldeans. Habakkuk is, in effect, saying, what is going to happen to me? I’m righteous. What’s going to happen to me? God says the just shall live by his faith. The Hebrew word can be translated the just shall survive by his faith. I’m glad to know I’m going to survive, aren’t you? Do you know how you are going to do it? Not by your works. You are going to do it by faith.
In 1948 they made a discovery called the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest portions of Scripture that we have on record. For years now a few scholars have kept those to themselves. That’s the way scholars are sometimes. A scholar can take this small piece of a parchment of Isaiah and study it for 30 years and then write an article in a journal on it. Then he is famous. That was what they were trying to do. They wouldn’t let anybody else look at them.
But through the efforts of the magazine Biblical Archaelogists, all those things have been let loose and more people are free to study them and benefit from them. One of the interesting things is that part of what they found was Habakkuk 2, plus a Qumram commentary on Habakkuk 2. When it comes to that verse that says the just shall live by his faith, the word his is capitalized. Thus, it is translated the just shall live by His faithfulness.
I don’t live by my faithfulness; I’m not faithful. I don’t have an ounce of trust in my trust. I don’t have faith in my faith, folks. But God is faithful. Do you know why I’ve survived so long? I would have killed myself years ago. I’m surprised that God still talks to me, much less listens to me. I don’t why he didn’t just throw me away. But he has been faithful. He promised to be with me. He promised to bless me. He promised to guide me. He promised never to leave me nor forsake it. Folks, it is HIS faithfulness. Abraham said that he was persuaded that what God had promised, God was able to perform. That is the key. I’m all the time making promises to God, and then it is up to me to perform them. No, that’s not the way it works. God makes promises to us. What he has promised, he is able to perform. I haven’t promised God that sin shall not reign in my mortal body. God promised that to me. I have not promised God that every need of mine would be met according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. He has promised that to me. If I make the promise to God, it’s up to me to keep it. No wonder some of you are so worried. Forget about making all these promises to God. Just take out your Bible and write down all the promises he has made to you. Then the just will live by HIS faithfulness. In the final analysis, that is all we’ve got. For if God is not faithful, then there is no hope for any of us. Bless God! He is faithful.
Bow your heads . . .
Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing?
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2006