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Happy New Year to everyone.  Have you all made your resolutions?  I made six last year, and I kept everyone of them all year long.  They’re in an envelope on the top of my file cabinet. We enjoyed having several of you in our home on New Year’s Eve.  Josh determined in his heart he was going to stay up until midnight and it was looking good until at 11:50 he simply announced, “I can’t make it.  I’m going to bed, and so he did.”  He was tired and fragile and weak.  True he is only six, but he was so close and yet he missed it all. Please turn in your Bibles to Galatians 2:20.  I hope you brought your Bible with you this morning as this is the “Year of the Word” at Teays Valley Church of God where we will Work On Reading Daily This month, our emphasis is the book of Galatians.  There are quizzes on the six chapters of Galatians on the lobby table for you to take home and use as study guides as you work through the book.  Bring it back on the last Sunday night of January, signed, and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a 25.00 gift card.  In my Bible study this week will work through the book of Galatians line by line. I have truly enjoyed rereading the book of Galatians this week.  I love that in chapter one Paul lifts up the Word of God as supreme, declaring there is no other Gospel.  It doesn’t need propped up or added to.  It’s enough all by itself. I love that in chapter two, Paul says we are crucified with Christ and that Christ lives in us.  That means the same power that raised Christ from the dead is alive in me! I love that in chapter three, I am justified by faith alone and that there is neither Jew nor Greek, salve nor free, male nor female, but that we are all one in Christ. I love that in chapter four, I hear I am not a child of the slave woman, but the free woman which means I’m a child of promise.  I don’t have to work out my salvation, I just walk in salvation.  I don’t have to work out my deliverance, I just walk out my deliverance.  I don’t have to work out my calling, I just walk out my calling.  I don’t have to work out my future, I just walk into my future with security knowing that all doors and walls have been knocked down and all obstacles are out of my way. I love that in chapter five there is no limit on the peace I can have, the love I can give or the self control I can exercise and that I don’t have to keep in step with the Joneses, but that I can keep in step with the Spirit of the living God. And finally, I love that in chapter six I’m reminded that I belong to a body of believers who love me and will watch out for me, correcting me, sharing my load, and helping me to win big in this life. For today, we’ll concentrate on one pivotal verse in chapter two.  It is verse 20. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Silent Prayer There is an exchange of hope in these verses.  Where we once you had to hope that you could keep the law which was like trying to get to Florida by running in place, now you simply have to hope in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.  I’d like to propose that our New Year’s Resolution should simply be a commitment to the “Exchanged Life.”  This exchanged life involves four things. It involves a crucifixion.  “I am crucified with Christ.” Basically Paul says, “I am dying to the Law because it doesn’t work.”  I’m all about quitting something if it isn’t working.  There is nothing more frustrating than doing the same thing over and over again when the result is failure, condemnation, guilt, and shame.  Paul felt the same way, so he said in Galatians 2:20 19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. Listen, there aren’t enough smells and bells, there aren’t enough rituals and rites, not enough incantations and religious spells and not enough good works to make you holy.  It was the shed blood of Christ on the cross that has qualified you forever to be in God’s presence.  You have to get over the notion that you can somehow keep enough laws to earn your salvation.  You can’t.  If you could, Christ wouldn’t have had to lay down in your place and die. Paul not only died to the law, but he also died to the world, and to sin.  Through his death on the cross, Jesus made it possible for us to be unaffected by the things of the world, unimpacted by sin.  That’s how dead people are.  They are unaffected by what is going on around them. Paul simply ceased to see and hear the clamor of the world and the temptation of sin, and chose to live as though they didn’t exist, giving them no power over him. We see in this chapter, that Peter, however, had lost sight of his crucifixion.  We have the evidence in verses 11-13.  Paul says, I opposed Peter to his face because he was wrong about some things.  What was he wrong about?  Instead of being dead to the law, Peter was trying to have one foot on the law and the other on grace through faith.  Peter was a Jew, and he had gotten the whole crucified with Christ thing before Galatians says certain men came and told him he was in the wrong for eating with folks that were uncircumcised.  He had let others bring the law back to life even though because of Christ there was now neither Jew nor Gentile. You see, when you are crucified, you are not only crucified to the law, to the world, and to sin, but you have to crucify your reputation.  You can’t shrink back into religious bondage or some kind of sinful lifestyle just because someone thinks you ought to.  You don’t shy away from fellowshipping with a certain kind of person or engage in a certain situation just because someone thinks you ought to.  It’s not so important who you are seen with, who you can claim you know, what neighborhood you live in or what kind of car you drive.  If you are dead, that is, if you are crucified with Christ, you don’t care about the opinion of others. Paul had gotten it when he claimed to be crucified with Christ.  That kind of crucifixion is total surrender.  We see his reputation was crucified because in chapter one verse ten Paul tells us he isn’t out to win the world’s beauty pageant.  He says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” If anyone was on the fast track to worldly success, it was Paul.  He details in verse 14 what his accomplishments were.  He says, “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age.”   Paul was in the gifted program.  Paul was on the accelerated track.  He says he was “extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”  He knew the law and wanted to hold everyone else to its unkeepable standard.  Check out verse 15, though.  It starts with three words that precede any crucifixion.  It says, “But when God.” Everyone say, “But when God. . . “  “But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me (allow me to undergo a spiritual crucifixion) so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia . . .”  Paul basically said, I immediately tuned out the opinions and voices of others and obeyed the voice of my God to whom I am crucified. You see, when God got a hold of him, he was no longer concerned about his reputation, his status, or being seen with the right kind of people.  He left the religious country club and started preaching to the Gentiles. Once upon a time there was a bunch of tiny frogs…. who arranged a running competition. The goal was to reach the top of a very high tower.  A big crowd had gathered around the tower to see the race and cheer on the contestants….The race began…. Honestly:  No one in the crowd really believed that the tiny frogs would reach the top of the tower. You heard statements such as:  “Oh, WAY too difficult!!” “They will NEVER make it to the top.” or: “Not a chance that they will succeed. The tower is too high!”  The tiny frogs began collapsing. One by one…. Except for those, who in a fresh tempo, were climbing higher and higher.. The crowd continued to yell, “It is too difficult!!! No one will make it!”  Listen, when you are crucified with Christ, you turn a deaf ear to the world and its negative and defeating cries. The crucified life means being crucified to the law, to the world, to sin, and to the opinion of others. Listen, if I had listened to the opinion of others rather than the voice of God, I wouldn’t be in ministry today.  There have been a few folks along my journey who would have wanted to squeeze me into a religious or cultural tradition that minimized women in ministry when in fact God’s Word says Jesus has liberated me to live a crucified life, full of His power, full of his authority.  According to Galatians 3:28-29  28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.  I’m not a partial heir, but a full heir, and God can do anything with my life that He chooses.  If I’m crucified with Christ, He possesses me and I listen to His voice and follow His plan regardless of how popular or accepted it is at the time. It involves a transformation.“I no longer live.” Isn’t that what II Cor. 5:17 says about all who are in Christ?  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has gone.  The new has come!”  The old man received an eviction notice. What does it mean to say that we no longer live?  When Christ takes up residence in us, we take on a new life.  It’s the life of Christ.  We follow in His footsteps.  We listen to His voice.  We submit to His will.  Whatever our old life looked like, it doesn’t look that way anymore. We not only take on a new life, but we take on a new character.  The character of Christ is expressed through us.  However we dealt with people in our old life, we don’t deal with people that way anymore. We take on a new pattern of speech.  We preach the Gospel.  We speak the truth in love.  We get rid of negative, critical self talk, dirty jokes and words that don’t edify people.  However we spoke in the past, we don’t sound that way anymore. Colossians 3 echoes confirms transformation when it says in chapter three verse three:  “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”  When something is hidden, you can’t see it.  It’s as if it isn’t there.  Our lives are hidden with Christ.  He is the one that is seen.  We just need to make sure we stay hidden.  The passage goes on to say, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” You see, part of our struggle sometimes is that we don’t want to make Christ our life.  We just want him to be a part of our lives which means that we aren’t really crucified.  We want to keep him in a little Jesus box and pull him out on Sundays or when we’re with our church friends, but at other times, we want to pretend we control our own destiny and live any way we want.  No, when we are crucified with Christ and we no longer live, Christ isn’t just a part of our life.  He IS our life! He’s not just in us.  He expresses His life through us.  Whenever He needs a miracle accomplished that requires someone in human skin, He performs it through us.  Whenever He needs to speak words of life and encouragement and healing to someone that requires someone in human skin, He speaks them through us.  Whenever He needs to touch someone who is lonely, desperate, in depression or in despair in a way that requires someone with human skin, He touches through us. Whatever is towed is just along for the ride.  We’re the boat being towed.  Christ is the power.  Christ is the life.  We let Him live it through us. T his exchanged life: It is experienced through expectation.  “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Let me give you a simple definition of faith.  Faith means, we simply act like God is telling the truth.  I make choices based on the belief that God will give me the strength, resources, time, energy, relationships, promotions or whatever is needed in order for Christ to be able to live out his life through me.  Plain and simple it is obedience to do what God asks of me as I trust Him to do what He says He’ll do through me. The only way to live successfully in this body, in this flesh, is to live by faith.  By faith, I am united to Christ forever. When He died, I died; when He arose, I arose with Him. He lives out His life through me as I walk by faith —this is the Christian life! Faith deals with our feet, not with our feel.  This New Year, we need to ask Christ to do in us what needs to be done through us. Though 41-year-old Steve Cunningham has been blind since the age of 12, he has his sights on setting a new world record. Cunningham wants to be the first blind person to fly an airplane around the United Kingdom. Cunningham has already been recognized as the world’s fastest blind man, driving a sports car at more than 147 mph in 1999. A year later he broke the speed record for a blind person in charge of a speedboat off the English coast. Cunningham’s Piper Warrior is equipped with computer software that translates the data from the instruments into spoken words. Cunningham is updated on the plane’s altitude, position, and speed at the touch of a button. Though he has a co-pilot, Cunningham is in complete control of the plane. The co-pilot is onboard to keep a look out for other aircraft and to make sure the information from the instruments is correct. He will not be allowed to touch the controls. Cunningham insists his challenge is not as difficult as one might imagine. He says sighted pilots often fly “blind” through clouds or at night, so his chore is not too different from ordinary flying. He says, “You don’t fly an aircraft on what you can see, you fly an aircraft on the information that you are getting back from the control panel.” According to Cunningham, acting on information received, not the act of “seeing” is the key to flying an aircraft. When it comes to Spiritual things, the ability to ignore what we see, and focus on what we know through faith is the key to walking by faith.  You’re not flying blind when you live by faith.  You’re simply responding to the information you get from the control panel, from God, through the Holy Spirit through His Word. Living by faith is the only legitimate response to the cross.  Look at Galatians 3:13-14 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. Do you see that Christ redeemed us so that we could live by faith?  Because of the cross, we were able to exchange the restrictions of the law for the freedom of faith.  To choose not to live by faith, to choose to live by only what can be seen or touched or mapped out minimizes the gift Jesus won for us.  What good is it to receive salvation by faith and then to live in bondage restricted to only what is known in the natural realm?  The life of Christ, which is to become our life, is a life of miracles, signs, wonders, passion, and adventure.  That is the life of faith we are to embrace. The whole book of Galatians was written to help remind people that they weren’t to live by the law, but by faith.  Why is this so important?  I’m glad you asked (name).  Because if we don’t choose to live by faith, believing that we are walking in Christ’s righteousness and secure in His victory, we’ll be worried that each step we take might be the wrong one.  We’ll be anxious about making any decision for fear of making the wrong decision.  “I don’t want to witness, I might say the wrong thing.”  “I don’t want to serve in the church, I might fail.”  Because we think we can’t live up to whatever standard is out there, we don’t try.  Our focus in those moments is on getting it wrong.  Faith, however, helps us focus on the reality that God will get it right every time.  He has all of the pressure on Him so that we can relax and simply follow.  Look at Romans 14:23. Romans 14:23 23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. Do you see the implication of these verses?  The person who has doubts feels guilty if he eats something the law doesn’t allow.  The person who has faith says, “If God has given you freedom, be free.  Don’t live in condemnation.”  You see, the law didn’t work because all it did was remind us of how pathetic we are.  Faith is the response to the love of God in Christ that tells us how precious we are.  Yes, we are powerless.  Yes, we are sinners, but we are sinners for whom Christ died because He loves us and that changes everything! Did you catch the last part of Romans 14:23?  Everything that does not come from faith is sin.   That sounds serious.  Sin leads to death.  Faith, however, leads to life and freedom in Christ. We’ve got to retrain our minds in this area because we’re told from the time we enter this world that “seeing is believing.”  Listen, some things have to be believed in order to be seen.  Somebody in this room needs to take a risk to believe that when you step out on faith, God is there to support you and you won’t fall flat on your face. It involves a motivation.-“ in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” There is no greater motivation than love.  I live a life of faith because Christ loved and loves me.  That’s why I choose to be crucified with Christ.  That’s why I let Him live His life through me.  That’s why I exercise faith.  I am motivated to make this exchange because God loves me. The love of God is an amazing love.  It has incredible attraction.  Once you gaze into His eyes and see His face, you won’t want to look away. It’s an amazing love because it is so giving. He loved me and gave Himself for me. Why did He give himself? Because He loves me. He wanted me to be spared.  He wanted me to go free, so He took the punishment I should have received.  He became my substitute.  He did so, so that I could live this exchanged life. I Timothy 2:6 says He gave himself as a ransom for all people. If there was ever a need for an inclusive bailout, it was at the cross of Calvary. Whether you know it or not, you need to be rescued.  Galatians 1:4 says, “4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.” We just came through a season where we likely received something from someone.  They made something or purchased something, wrapped it and gave it to us.  Whatever we received symbolized or represented their love or devotion to us. Jesus didn’t just give us a gift that he made or purchased, something outside of himself.  He didn’t give us a token of his affection, He literally gave us himself. The exchanged life involves a major motivation because as a result of the amazing gift Jesus has given, I want to give my all for Him; not just some spare change in an offering plate, not just church attendance, not just by doing a good deed or two, but I want to exchange my life for His by being crucified with Him, being transformed by Him, and through an expectation that He will do in and through me everything He has promised.  God’s love has motivated me to live the life of the great exchange. Look at II Cor. 5:15 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. I’ve known people who determined they were going to be good, going to get it all right, going to do good deeds, belong to a church, and give money to the poor.  But like Josh on New Year’s Eve, because they are human and weak, they fail.  So close, and yet they miss it all.  Crucifixion, transformation, expectation and motivation-They all have something in common.  They are inward responses to the love of God, not outside acts resulting from a New Year’s resolution or a determination of our will.  But they are the result of a total inward surrender to the work of Christ.   This New Year, will you allow God to do a new inward work in you as you submit to crucifixion, embrace transformation, live with expectation and allow the motivation of God’s love to help you lay your life down?
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