Paul’s Experience

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Well, how are you doing this morning? Yeah. Welcome to church, everybody. It’s good that you’re here. I’m glad that you. You made it. Yeah. We can give a whoop or whatever. Yeah. That’s wonderful. And we’re on a series together called Live Free. Comes to us from the book of Galatians. It’s it’s the thought that Paul carries within the context of this portion of Scripture. And the idea from the theme of what this book is about comes from Galatians chapter five and verse one. Says this Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. And the thought behind the book of Galatians goes this way when you read your New Testament. The first two books of the Bible written is James and Galatians. Some people debate over which book was first. Most people think it’s the book of James, but the book of Galatians came shortly thereafter. And when, when Paul began to pin this book, you. We understand that based on that there is no New Testament. He walks into the region of Galatia. He preaches the gospel. People come to know Christ. And shortly after Paul preaches his message to this region, he finds that religious people enter into the church. And they bring with their religious thinking religion, of which they propagate up on people. They say it like this Jesus is good. Really is not good enough. Jesus is what you need, but you need to go with this plus one thought.

The debate. It tells us in Galatians chapter five and verse two and three centers around the thought of circumcision. That’s good that you’ve accepted Jesus. But but in order to be with us and for Jesus really to like you, you’ve got to add these rules onto it. And one of those things is, is circumcision. You got to start obeying these laws and following this religion, then then God would be satisfied with you. Paul began to notice this teaching creeping into the church. This what he calls in chapter one false gospel that is anathema or it’s unredeemable. And he writes this letter to the Galatians, and he just says to them, listen, religion, this religion is robbing you of your joy in Christ. Jesus has created you to be set free. And so the encouragement throughout the theme of this book is to live free in Christ. You know, the tendency is, when I read the life of the Apostle Paul, sometimes I build them up to this super human being that has these super spiritual experiences that I can’t relate to in life. We’re going to find out as we study the Scripture that that Lord does appear and do some things in Paul’s life that seem a little, a little different than what might happen in most people’s lives. But, you know, as we look at the story and scenarios of of what happens in our lives as Christ enters into our world, the scenarios are often times a little different, but the stories tend to be the same.

What it means. This. We’ll start the story. You know, I used to live this way. But Jesus came in and he changed me. And now I’m pursuing him, and my relationship with him for the first time isn’t about religion, but it feels free. For the first time. I don’t feel dead, but I feel alive, I love Christ. Scenarios may be different, but the stories are the same in him. And Paul gets to this passage of Scripture and he’s written for us, chapter one, this, this gospel that they’re calling a gospel that isn’t a gospel at all. It’s robbing them of their joy in Jesus. And he gets to verse ten, and he really just starts to share about his own experience. You know, one of the things that Paul shares with us this morning is that that he discovers that his relationship with the Lord, the thing that is just robbed it. It’s been listening to men. He’s come in for particular worship and his assembly. And as he’s gathered from worship, he’s listening to the rules of men and the laws of men. And he’s allowed men to stand before him instead of God. And he’s just he’s tired of it. Paul’s tired of men. He didn’t. He doesn’t any longer want to rely upon them for his spiritual growth. But instead he looks to the Lord. And in verse ten he begins this experience for us this morning, describing his life.

This is what happened to me in Jesus. And the reality is, even though Paul’s story looks a little different because it’s got different scenarios, the same thing that happens in Paul’s life is the same thing that happens in the life of the believer as they come to Jesus. And so as we see Paul’s experience, we can add empathy from our own lives and relating to Paul and what happens in his world as he sees Christ and lets go of the doctrine of men. It begins in verse ten. He says this. For? Am I now seeking the favour of men or of God, or am I striving to please men? If I were striving still trying to please men, I would not be a bond servant of Christ. Starts off very simply in his life and he says, listen, I came to this moral dilemma, this decision, the spiritual opportunity for me. And I realized something. My spiritual life had been dependent upon other people rather than upon Jesus. It’s interesting that Paul would say that because when you study the Apostle Paul’s life. The tendency of the Apostle Paul is we would look at him on the outside and say, you know, he’s a pretty good person. But the thought that Paul is caring for us this morning is he’s saying to us, we we all know that we can run from God by being immoral. But did you know? You can also run from God by being moral.

We said last week God didn’t come to make bad people good. God came to bring dead people to life. Morality doesn’t mean your relationship with God is good. Doesn’t even mean you have a relationship with God. But Paul’s looking at verse ten and he’s saying that. The to do list was before me. The rules are needed to obey was right in front of me in the life I needed to live. Was there. But it was without Christ. Well, I choose to obey men or God. Well, I follow my spiritual life based on what people say or what Jesus says. Tell you, the fear of letting go of men and follow Jesus keeps many people from turning to Christ. Paul had this experience happen to him, and he shares his testimony with us in acts chapter nine. In verse three. This is a small portion of his testimony. He shares it a few times with in Scripture. But the story goes like this Paul is on his way to Damascus to kill Christians. He’s following the rules of men. It says as he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around me, and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? Saul, I’m bringing you to this place in your life where you have the opportunity to choose.

Is it me or is it men? Is my death sufficient, or is it the law of circumcision that you must follow? Paul’s warning to us. Is that law of morality robs you of your joy in Jesus. Superficial living of morality isn’t how we find Christ. We come to Christ, and Christ brings that change within us. And Paul comes to a place where he dictates to us in this passage of Scripture, guys, I was faced with a decision, and it’s the same decision that you’re facing today, Galatia. You have these people entering into your church telling you this is what God is about, and that is anathema. It is unredeemable. There is no freedom and no freedom. There is no joy. But Christ has come to set you free. Do you see how important this decision is in Christ for you? You know, one of the. Now, I shouldn’t say one. You know the thing that keeps us. From coming to Jesus and growing in Jesus is that we don’t see a need for Jesus. There’s a saying that goes, I have a big need for God, and I have a big God for my need. The reality is, if I knew I needed Jesus the way that Jesus communicates my need for him, then I would come to Jesus. I need him. Morality doesn’t get me to the place of my relationship with God that I need to be Christ alone. Does that Christ alone paid for it all.

I need him when I see that need, I come to him without seeing that need. I find no need for Jesus in my life, and I treat him just like I don’t know the iPhone. And my game looks fun right now. Maybe the Bible right now are the television looks great. Whatever. But it’s in the dependency of your need that you have the craving for Christ in your life. Can I tell you this? One of the reasons I think America spiritually is declining based on statistics. Is that were the most affluent, wealthiest people group in the world. We have the tendency to to mistake physical need for spiritual need. I think the physical and the spiritual is connected, but we we tend to disconnect those things. And when we’re filled physically, we’re satisfied spiritually. And when you are a country that becomes great wealth and you have everything you need, you see no need for Jesus. I mean, you look at third world countries, you gather for their services on Sunday morning. If I go past 1040 this morning, I will see someone looking at their watch today. Now Jesus is good, but can you get him in an hour, please? I gotta get my I gotta go. You go to a third world country. Physical needs aren’t there. Reminds them of their spiritual need of Christ. You gather for service, 3 p.m. and you’re just getting going. We don’t see a need. Do you know, in the world today, the average person lives on $2.

$2 a day. You know, America today, the average person makes $200 on a workday. 100 times more than everywhere on the in the world. You don’t have a need. We don’t see a need. I think that’s exactly why Jesus said in Matthew 19. He said in Mark ten and Luke 11, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven. I’m not going to end this by telling you I want your money. I don’t even care. What I’m saying is Jesus is connecting the dots for us. I don’t think he’s even talking about money. What he’s saying to us. If you don’t see your need for Jesus, then you’re not going to come to Jesus. I mean, you’ll be satisfied with the doctrine of men. You’ll come in and depend on other people for your spiritual life. And Paul gets this place in verse ten and he says, I think I’ve driven the point home, but there is this need for Christ in our lives. I was faced with this decision and finally in my life I saw it and I made the right decision. When Paul gives this example. This is one of those verses that give, I say, give me the heebie jeebies because he says this. I would have, you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to men. Uh, for I would have.

Let’s see. Sorry. According to man for I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it. But I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. The part of this that scares me is I see a lot of people, sometimes even on TV, say Jesus tells them things that I don’t think Jesus really tells them. It scares me. He tells someone, comes to me and says, Jesus says this. I’m like, hold it on, Clinton. What’s it gonna be? Oh Lord, you know, and here’s, here’s the here’s the catch for that. If it’s not found in Scripture, probability is Jesus didn’t tell you, okay, it’s got to line up with what God’s Word says. God’s not going to reveal something he hasn’t already revealed. But here’s the point what Paul is saying. Because I went to from the physical to the spiritual for me. Salvation is a supernatural thing. In order for you to come to Christ, something supernatural must take place within your life. Something outside of yourself occurs within you. Because salvation doesn’t belong to you. Jesus is the one who saves. And so when you come to the place of salvation and freedom in Christ in your life, it doesn’t matter about you. It’s him. And Paul, for the first time in his life, recognized that. I thought circumcision was this way to prove God my worthiness. But now I realize he’s going to tell us in Galatians three that none of that law proved anything to God other than I couldn’t deserve the sacrifice that he’s given to me.

And that’s why I trust in him. It went from physically depending on my ability to spiritually depending on Christ for everything. Jesus doesn’t just save you and then it’s up to you. Jesus is the one that continues to grow you, so your dependency on him is your growth in him and your joy through him. And so Paul tells us in this passage that it’s important in your life that you accept the King and that it goes from this physical to the spiritual. And then I love what he does in this passage. He then goes back to his former way of life, and he describes for us the challenges that he faced before he came to know Jesus. I’m going to read verse 14 first. Says this. Now was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries, among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. Paul says, do you know what my salvation was in previous to this? These rules. Do you know who I listened to previous to this? My ancestors, their traditions. I grew up in a home just like you. I was taught rules just like you. I thought those rules were important. Just like you. And what I found out. As though they were teaching morality, which is fine. They were robbing me of what Jesus brought to my life. Jesus sets me free. Yeah.

I think if you were to hang out with Paul, you would look at him and say, man, what a super follower of God. He’s so devout. What a holy man. But if you were to get near Paul in his personal life, you would also say, I cannot stand the dude. He follows me around everywhere. He shows me these verses. He’s telling me all the time what I’m doing wrong, how I can’t live up to the standard. I want to punch him more than I want to love him. But man, you gotta appreciate his love for the Lord. His religion became obnoxious. He was the dude telling corny Jesus jokes and he wouldn’t be telling Jesus jokes, corny godly jokes, and wearing funeral clothes, right? He didn’t see the joy of of knowing Christ apart from the rules of religion. Notice what he talks about in verse 14. A lot of eyes. When you live in the form of religion, that’s really what you become about. I. I did this, I did that. I went here. I accomplished this, but I love this about Paul. If you’ve got your Bible open, you look at verse 15 when Paul goes from religion to relationship in Jesus. What’s the first three words he says? But when? What? God. The eye dies. It’s not about me. It’s about him. Verse 13. Paul says it this way. Not only was I living these rules as religion to please the traditions of father using the excuse, you know, it was just the way I was brought up.

Verse 13 he says, for you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure, and tried to destroy it. Can I tell you the two biggest religions that keep us from Jesus? But I think keep us from Jesus, I should say pride. And guilt. You look in verse 14 and 13? That’s exactly what Paul says. Verse 14. The thing that kept me from Jesus was pride. It was all about me and my rules, of the traditions of my fathers. And verse 13, and I have this unrelenting form of guilt. I mean, look at what Paul did. You look at his relationship with Christ, you think coming to Jesus and he’s on his road, this road to Damascus, he’s been killing Christians. And now this Jesus of of his followers, he’s been killing once him. And what? Guilt. What guilt he carried in that moment. As a pastor. Can I tell you? My tendency is to find people who rest in a tremendous amount of guilt. Everyone I speak to in the privacy of their home. I shouldn’t say everyone, but almost everyone. Has something they just want to hide. Something they think about that brings guilt to their life that they look at and they think, Does Jesus really love me beyond that? Does Jesus really love me through this? Everyone has has said at some point I just must be the worst at this.

And Paul. And both of these examples is struggling with this nature of guilt, in this sense of pride, and proving his worthiness before the Lord. Paul’s listening to the old man. Who he was apart from Christ. But the reminder to us is that Jesus, when he died, he paid for it all. Jesus, despite your sin, demonstrates his love to you that whatever guilt you’re carrying, it doesn’t need to be carried anymore because Christ loves you even in the guilt and the sin and the shame. He knew you would do it before you did it. He died for it anyway because he loves you. And so Paul gets to a place where he says this. In knowing this. And knowing enough to be guilty over and knowing I had this pride and proving my worth, but knowing I couldn’t and I’d been following these traditions of men in my life. All I want, all I want is Jesus. And so he says in verse 15, but when God, who had set me apart from my mother’s womb, it wasn’t Paul, its God whom, and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his son in me, so that I might preach him among the Gentiles. I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem, to those who were apostles before me. But I went away to Arabia and returned once more to Damascus.

Finally in in my life when when I got it, I stopped looking to people and finally in my life. When I understood it, I turned it over to Christ and I was just hungry for him. Paul laid down the traditions of men. I wish I had a magic button as a pastor when people come to worship with us. I wish I had a magic button I could just push and it would just reset us. And we had this ability to look new and fresh at Jesus. Not bring our baggage. Not bring our religious thinking. But just to hear for the first time with clarity what Jesus says about you and how Jesus looks over you, and the freedom that Paul talks about being experienced in your own life. If you want to look fresh at your relationship with Christ here, here’s a couple of thoughts. Here’s what we don’t do. We don’t use God to improve your life. And what I mean is this don’t start your journey with God by bringing your agenda to God. Don’t say to God, God, here’s my plan. I’m doing this now. You figure out how you need to bless that. Instead do this. God. What’s your plan? What’s your plan for me, Lord? Can I join in? Can I tell you? Be patient. Don’t move until God directs you. So many of us in our lives have come to believe the doctrine of men rather than of Christ. And there is a period in our lives where we need to Sabbath.

There’s a reason God says that within the Bible’s rest. We need to recognize our need and sit with him and just let him pour into our lives. The Apostle Paul. When he came to know Christ, he was absent. The Bible tells us for about 2 to 3 years there’s this. They call it the silent years of Paul. Paul, they say to this point in his life before he came to know Christ. I’ve heard some people say that he has the equivalent of about seven doctorate in theology. He’s so smart, no one can understand him. And even seven doctorate in understanding the Old Testament. For three years. He goes to the region of Arabia and he just spends time with Jesus, allowing the Lord to pour into his life before he does anything for Christ. The story of Paul tells us. It tells us in the following verses that then, three years later, I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him 15 days. But I did not see any of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. Now what I am writing to you, I’m sure I assure you before the Lord that I am not lying. If you read the story of the life of Paul in the book of acts, at this point he goes back to Jerusalem, and he spent so much time with Jesus that Paul has all this passion for the Lord.

It takes him about 15 days before the city revolts and he has to escape for his life. That’s really what happens. He spent time with God, and he’s just on fire for what the Lord is doing within his life to to be on fire for the Lord and we just encourage you takes time in the Lord. And Paul. Saw Christ revealed in him. When I first moved to Utah, I had this thought about God, if I if I come to you and you don’t know him, all I’ve got to do is just convince you. I’ll be your Holy Spirit and I’ll let you know where you’re wrong. I’ll tell you about that. And you’ll. You’ll just agree with me. By the time conversation is done right, it will be wonderful. And then we’ll walk away hand in hand. I don’t want to do that, but we’ll walk away, okay? And we’ll be. We’ll be happy about what the Lord has done through us because of me. Then I got to this place where I realized, man, that ain’t working. That is. That is not. People don’t like it when you do that. So I got this new thought, and I’m tired of just telling people what it is that I think. Um, I’m just going to open up my Bible. I’m going to point to a verse. I’m just going to slide it across the table. And I want you to read it. And I want you to tell me what it says.

You know, I found out. People take the time to open God’s Word and really find out what God’s Word says. God uses that to change them. His word has power, not mine. His word changes lives, not mine. God never called me to be a Holy Spirit. God only called me to point people to him. When you read God’s Word. Changes your life. Whether you don’t know them or you do know them. God uses His Word powerfully in your life to transform your life. Can I hear more than anything living here? Of people who come to know Jesus. I open up my Bible. That is profound, isn’t it? I open up God’s Word for the first time in my life. I saw this need and I knew I had this need. I quit mistaking this physical, man made stuff for my spiritual need in Jesus, and I pursued that. And Paul is saying in this passage, I spent three years with Christ just allowing the Lord to pour into me before I did anything for him. We need spiritual surgery in our lives. Huh? I was watching a story this week of Pastor Rick Warren. He was on a television show doing a conversation about his son. And if you don’t know anything about Rick Warren, he’s this pastor of a larger church in California. And his son committed suicide just about five months ago. He’s in his early or mid 20s. It’s interesting because I was reading there’s a statistic that said, in America last year, 38,000 people took their lives, 30,000 of those were guys.

And and they were talking about just the problem with understanding, having a biblical perspective as, as us, as men. We’ve really emasculated our men and our culture today. And I think men have a hard time. Seeing their place in the world because of the way our American society is going. But anyway, nonetheless, five months they’ve been they’ve not been in public. No one could see him as the pastor of this large church. And he’s just been he’s just been recovering. And finally he comes on TV to talk about the experience that he’s going through recently and the challenges he’s he’s been facing. And they ask him about his faith in the Lord and what’s happened. And he said this I never questioned my faith in God. But I did question God’s plan. They asked his wife about the same thing and this is what she said. She she took comfort in this, she said. My son’s body was broken. She said, um, for years they had been struggling with all, all sorts of ways to get them, him, the help that he needs, whether it be prayer, whether it be taken to doctors, whatever it took. And she even said at one point her son said to her, um, mom, will you help me? Will you help me die? And he she responded back to him, you know, I don’t want to help you die.

I want to help you live. This is what she says. The Bible says. My son’s body is broken. And it says our bodies are buried in brokenness. But it also says that Jesus will raise it in glory. Response of the Warren family and their time of need. Let’s come to Christ. You may not understand what God’s doing. And your faith may be shaken. What a wonderful opportunity it is just to question God and His plan for your life. To spend time with him, allowing him to pour into your spirit that is broken. Get alone with God. Something interesting about your relationship with the Lord when you get alone with him. The Bible says, be still, my soul. Right when you get along with God. And the quietness of your life, your relationship with Christ. It’s real. When you give your spirit time to pause and reflect and just be silent before the Lord, rather than dictating to him what he needs to do, allowing him just to lavish himself in your life and the quietness of your soul, Christ gets real. And here’s the result of all this. Paul spends time rather than with men, with Jesus. Paul sees this need with Jesus. Paul. Paul spends time with Jesus and he shares this at the end of this passage. Then I went into the region of Syria and Cilicia, and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea, which were in Christ.

And here’s here’s how this happens. Hey. Paul’s coming. Wait a minute. The guy that killed people. Yeah. I ain’t talking to him. That’s all that happens. I don’t care what God did in his life. You talk to him first, right? In verse 22, I was still unknown by sight to the church of Judea, which were in Christ. But only they kept hearing. He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy. And they were glorifying God because of me. Scenarios are different. But the story is always the same. Do you know what he was like? Do you know what they used to do? I mean, do you know what their life said about them in the path that they were following before this moment? Jesus has worked a miracle. The guy that was killing me. The guy that I was afraid when I tucked my kids in bed at night. Christ has transformed that heart. Praise God. Scenarios are different. The story is the same. What if we just opened? The closet of our past. Previous to Christ. What ugliness would be there. What? Brokenness. What do we find? Doesn’t it just scream the beauty of Jesus? I mean, if you guys knew me. Before Christ. You would throw me out of here. The beauty of Jesus. You know, I look at the life of Paul, and I’ll close with this thought. A look at the life of Paul.

And I say to myself, you know, that’s great that Paul did that, but he was super Christian. That’s not me. All he did, all he did was get alone with Jesus. So much so that I think God wanted to communicate that to you. But do you know what Paul’s name means? Little. What God is saying to us in this man. If you saw him before, religiously obnoxious, noxious, and now he comes to Jesus and all he is is just little. But man, look what God did. That’s for us this morning. When you come before the Lord, let go of men. Just look at Jesus. Feel the need that you have. Take time just to think of the need that you have in Christ. What is it? What is it that pulls you apart? Is it pride? Is it guilt? What suffering is there? Take some time with Jesus in that need. Here’s the result. You don’t have to worry about being a super Christian God. God already knows you’re little. God transforms you. God uses you and they see the closet of the past and the future. You’re now living in Christ, and they say there is no result in that other than just to proclaim the name of God. So here’s my prayer this morning for us as a church. That we live in this experience. Paul’s giving you the scenario of his life, but it always produces the same in Jesus if we just come to him.

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