FOLLOWING THROUGH WITH WHAT WE KNOW TO BE RIGHT
A SERMON DELIVERED ORIGINALLY AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
18 JUNE 1995
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Over the past seven and a half years, you have heard me preach and teach about 750 times.
You've been taken on journeys back to the beginning of God's creation.
We looked forward into all the glories of Heaven.
We've walked along with many of the early Hebrews, and tried to understand their world and their relationship to God.
And many a time, we have walked along with Jesus, and with one or more of His disciples, to try to see and feel as they did.
But if you had to characterize or summarize my teachings and sermons in perhaps just a few words, you would probably say that they speak of Love, God's Love, and the hope and prayer that we would all live in it and share it with the world around us.
And do you know something? That is really the goal of the entire Bible: that in this love, we would walk with the Lord our God all the days of our lives, and even forever.
We may all want to do this, but we don't always do it.
Sometimes we forget, sometimes we are careless, and, unfortunately, sometimes we knowingly compromise, and sometimes we just don't want to do what we know to be the right thing.
Sometimes we go along with our friends and associates, even when we know they are wrong, and we are afraid to correct them.
And none of us are immune to acting this way, for even the apostle Peter fell into this trap when he went to Antioch.
He failed to follow through with what he knew to be the right thing to do.
Let's look at what happened as recorded by Paul in his letter to the Galatians (2:11-21):
11. But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
What Paul is doing is not easy.
He had to stand up in front of Peter and the others and, in effect, say, "Peter, what you're doing is not right. You are not living in God's love."
Paul had to assume the role of a father with an erring son.
And sometimes in situations like these, the "father image" may actually be younger, such as a “son” or “daughter.”
It would be very easy for a father or a mother to let their children do whatever they pleased, but that would not be love; for if you really love someone, you will correct them when they are wrong or in potential danger.
It is even harder when a youngster must correct an elder.
Listen to what Peter did:
12. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.
Do you see the key to Peter's problem?
He feared what the people from Jerusalem might say or do, so he turned away from the very people he was leading to Christ.
He feared, because he let go of his love.
And when we, as known Christians, do such things, other Christians might join us, as they did Peter.
13. And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.
Instead of asking the people from Jerusalem to join him and the Gentiles, whom the Lord had also touched and anointed with the Holy Spirit, he pulled away from the Christian Gentiles, which probably hurt them very much.
But Paul hadn't dropped his love, and in that love he felt the pain of rejection that the people felt.
And in that same love, Paul had to confront Peter, that he would realize what he was doing and correct himself.
14. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?
While Peter was with the Gentile Christians, he understood that they were saved by the grace of God apart from the law.
But when the other Jewish Christians from Jerusalem came to them, he sought to make these already saved Gentile Christians conform to the Jewish Law and rites.
So Paul reminds him:
15. "We are Jews by nature, and not sinners from among the Gentiles;
16. nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.
17. "But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be!
I think we can all agree that if God considered them worthy to be saved, then that is all that should be required.
It is we who sin, if we try to make some other condition a part of their salvation.
18. "For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor.
That is, the love and grace of God not only fulfilled the Law; it also destroyed the working requirements of the Law leading to salvation, which were actually impossible to completely fulfill.
19. "For through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live to God.
20. "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.
21. "I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."
Once a person truly believes in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, having confessed their sins and accepted the Lord's forgiveness, they are no longer under the Law, but under grace.
This is because Jesus paid the price of our sin through His death.
If we were still under the Law of God, we would have to die for our own sins.
Once we know we are doing what is wrong, and continue to do it, we are saying that Jesus died for nothing, as far as our own lives are concerned.
Now, some people might do something out of ignorance or fear, as did Peter; thus, it is our responsibility to help such a person in love, no matter who they are.
Remember that Peter's error and Paul's argument is based on the fact that we are saved by grace and not by the works of the Law, but for good works.
Yet even to this very day, we have all witnessed supposedly saved Christians returning to the Law to try to justify capital punishment and war.
Jesus was and is a peacemaker.
These Christians are making the same basic mistake that Peter made.
And, we can apply this principal to those who try to Biblically justify cruelty to animals, particularly in entertainment and with farmed animals.
We need to understand that God's unconditional love and compassion are an integral part of righteousness, and live accordingly.
If I do something wrong, you should tell me, and not hold back, for to hold back would not be a sign of love.
Likewise, I should tell you, because we are to truly love one another and be concerned about each other and help each other in our walk with God.
And if someone tells us to do something that is wrong, or wants us to join them in some sinful or inappropriate act, we are to refuse, and not fear them, but lovingly tell them of their error.
Follow through with what you know to be right, for this is truly a way of showing your love for and to others.
Your Comments are welcome
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