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Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - A Seat at the Table

Craig Smith - A Seat at the Table


Craig Smith - A Seat at the Table
TOPICS: Live Free

Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills. So good to have you with us this weekend. We’re actually beginning a new series today on living free, which I’m pretty sure is something that as followers of Jesus, we’re supposed to experience. And I know that Jesus said this, he said, “If the Son, which is his favorite title for himself, if the Son sets you free, then you’re free indeed.” So he said, “If I set you free, then you’re free indeed.” So clearly, freedom is important to Jesus. And freedom is important to Christians. But the reality is that we talk a lot about freedom. But I don’t know that we always experience freedom. It kind of reminds me of America, actually.

Stick with me for a second. Here’s an interesting fact about America. Like we love our freedom, right? We have freedom bumper stickers in our cars, we wear freedom t-shirts, we go to freedom festivals, we talk a lot about being free, we’re very proud of the fact that we’re free. But check this out. We have the highest rate of incarceration of any country in the world. Which means that in the land of the free, there are a smaller number of free people than anywhere else in the world. Ain’t that bizarre? Percentage wise, there are fewer people experiencing freedom in the land of the free than anywhere else.

And I actually think Christianity can be like that, we talk a lot about experiencing freedom in Christ. But we don’t always actually experience that. It’s what we’re gonna talk about in this series is how to actually experience the freedom that Christ came to give us and calls us to live in. Now, our guide for the series is gonna be the Book of Galatians. The Book of Galatians, if you wanna start making your way there is in the New Testament. So it’s in the very last portion of the Bible, if you’re kind of flipping through, you might come across 1 and 2 Corinthians, it’s right after that. It’s in the New Testament, which means that it’s after the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.

And the Book of Galatians, was written to a group of people living in the ancient Roman province of Galatia. It’s in what we would call the highlands of modern-day Turkey. It’s maybe also important to understand that it’s about halfway between Jerusalem, which is the birthplace of Christianity and Rome, the center of the Roman Empire. And so it’s sort of right there in the middle, where Christianity was beginning to really encounter the non-Jewish world. Because Christianity first began as a Jewish faith. Jesus was a Jewish man and all of his followers were Jewish people. And so Christianity was originally a Jewish thing. But as the Gospel began to go out into the non-Jewish world, it began to create a certain kind of tension. And that’s really what we find in the Book of Galatians. Is that tension between the old way and the new way, between Jerusalem and Rome, between the Jewish world and the Gentile, or the non-Jewish world. And what does it look like for Christianity to move out into the non-Jewish world?

Now, Galatians was written by a man named Paul. Paul, a very interesting guy. Paul was, of course…he was born, and raised, and educated in a very strict Jewish environment, which meant that Paul believed what really all the Jews in the first century believed, which was that to belong to God, you had to behave Jewish. To belong to God, you had to behave Jewish, you had to be a Jewish person, and you had to behave according to the Jewish laws and cultural standards.

And that’s really what he believed, and partly because of that Paul hated a guy named Jesus. Paul hated Jesus because Jesus, a couple things. Number one, he claimed to be the Son of God. That really frosted Paul’s shorts. Second, Jesus flipped the script on the Jewish way of thinking about belonging to God. Jesus didn’t seem all that interested in people behaving first, he seemed to be okay with letting people belong in relationship, which he thought would lead to behaving. That’s completely opposite. The Jews said, “You behave so that you can belong.” And Jesus said, “No, you belong so that you can behave.”

And that was part of the reason that Jesus ultimately was arrested, and he was executed publicly, thrown into a borrowed tomb. But then, of course, three days later, hundreds, literally hundreds of people took to the streets in Jerusalem, claiming that they had met the risen Jesus, that Jesus was back from the dead, and those hundreds became thousands. And eventually, they came to call themselves Christians, followers of Jesus, Christians, and Paul hated Christians maybe more than he hated Jesus.

And so, early in Paul’s life, his mission in life was actually to hunt down and kill Christians, which he did very faithfully until he actually met the risen Jesus. He met him on a road to a city called Damascus. And in the moment that he met the risen Jesus, he realized that Jesus had been right about who he said he was, and right, apparently, about the way that it came that you became someone who belonged to God. And so Paul actually went on a world tour. He began to tour the ancient Roman world, telling people, the opposite of what he’d grown up believing. He was moving throughout the world telling people that if you believe in the resurrection of Jesus you belong to God and everything else follows from that. You don’t have to behave in order to belong, you have to belong in order to behave. That was the message he brought to the province of Galatia. They were non-Jewish people. And it didn’t matter because he came and said, “It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to behave Jewish, you have to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Everything else will come after that.”

And many of them accepted that, they became followers of Jesus. And then Paul continued his world tour. He went off to other parts of the world to tell them this good news. And as he was gone, some other people came to Galatia, some other people from Jerusalem, probably some Jewish followers of Jesus, they came to Galatia. And they looked at the Gentile followers of Jesus. And they said, “No, no, no. I don’t know what you heard, but you’re doing it wrong. If you really wanna belong to God, then you have to behave in certain ways.” And it was confusing for the Galatians. And Paul eventually heard about the confusion, he heard what was going on, and he was not happy about it.

And so Paul wrote the letter of Galatians, to clarify, to help them understand what the message of the Gospel is, and what it looks like to actually live it out. Not only beginning a relationship with God, but continuing in that relationship with God. That’s really what the Book of Galatians is all about. And it doesn’t matter where you are in your relationship with Jesus. Maybe you’re a follower of Jesus, but you’ve sometimes felt like you struggle to experience the freedom that everybody talks about in Christ.

Or maybe you’re a follower of Jesus, and you feel like maybe you’ve experienced that. But maybe you’re having a hard time letting other people experience that. Maybe you’ve tended to impose on other people, and you recognize that and you struggle with it, but you’re not quite sure how to get out of that tendency to do that to others. Or maybe you’re not a follower of Jesus yet, and maybe it’s partly because you have a hard time believing that in Christ, we actually have freedom in the way that Christians talk about because you haven’t necessarily seen that lived out. It doesn’t really matter where you’re coming from, the Book of Galatians can be a very powerful word from God into your life.

So why don’t you go ahead and grab your Bible, if you haven’t already, and make your way to the Book of Galatians, which begins this way. Galatians chapter 1, verse 1. “Paul, an apostle sent not from men nor by a man,” I’m just gonna pause there for a second because even though we haven’t finished an entire sentence, Paul’s already said something really, really important here. He says, “He’s an apostle,” and in Greek, that means a sent one. So he says, “I’ve been sent on a mission,” but he says, “I haven’t been sent by men.” He’s gonna ultimately say he’s been sent by God. But it’s interesting. He doesn’t just say, “I haven’t been sent by men,” he says, “I wasn’t sent by men or by what, a man.” And that’s a really strange thing, because he didn’t need to say that, right?

So why say that? Why get so specific? And the answer is, because what seems to have happened is that some of the people who had come to the Galatia and that were causing problems, were saying, “Well, it didn’t really matter what Paul says, because I was sent by so and so. I was sent by somebody very important, very influential.” And we don’t necessarily know who that person was, if I had to make a guess, I’d say it was probably James. James was the brother of Jesus, who came to believe that his brother was, in fact, the Son of God, because of the Resurrection itself. James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem.

And I suspect what had happened was that people had come to Galatia, and they claimed to be sent by James. Not only that they actually were sent by James, but they claimed to have been sent by James. And it didn’t really matter who it was, because the point was, they were like, “Well, you heard this freedom business from who? Oh, okay, well, here’s the thing. Have you heard of so and so? I’m sure you have. He’s kind of a big deal. Yeah, I’m coming from him.”

And because I’m coming from him, you need to pay attention to what I have to say. And what Paul is saying right here at the very beginning is, “No, you don’t?” What Paul says right off the bat is, “It doesn’t matter who someone was sent by. All that matters is what they say about how we belong to God.” Do you hear me?

It’s what Paul’s saying right off the bat. He says, “I wasn’t sent by men or a man.” I know other people are claiming that. But it doesn’t really matter who someone was sent by. All that really matters is what they say about how you belong to God. And if they don’t say what I’m saying, don’t listen to them. In fact, a little bit later today, we’re gonna see him say, “I don’t care if an angel comes down from heaven, if he tells you something different about belonging to God than what we’ve told you, do not listen to them.”

So he says, “I wasn’t sent by men or by a man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father who raised Him from the dead.” He says, “That’s who I was sent by.” And that’s credibility enough. But he says something that is really important. It’s foundational for the Book of Galatians. And it has to do with the way that he identifies God the Father, right? He identifies God the Father as who? As the One who raised Jesus from the dead. In the original Greek, it’s actually a little bit stronger. He says, “The Father, the One raising Jesus from the dead.”

The point is, that’s how you need to think of the Father. This is probably the most important thing to understand about the Father. He’s the One who raised Jesus from the dead. Now, why is he leaning in on this raising Jesus from the dead? Because it’s the heart of Christianity. And it’s the heart really of what Paul’s gonna say throughout the Book of Romans, which in very simple language is just this, belonging to God depends on believing in the Resurrection. That’s the heart of the gospel, as Paul teaches it. Belonging to God depends on believing in the Resurrection. And that’s it. Everything else follows after that.

That’s the most important thing. That is the thing. That’s the basis of how we belong to God. That’s the basis of the mission that we have to communicate to other people is that belonging to God depends on believing in the Resurrection. That’s what Paul was all about. That’s what he taught the Galatians. But that’s the very thing that’s being challenged by these outside agitators that have come to Galatia.

Okay, so why is the Resurrection so important? Why is it so central to Christianity? Because it’s in the Resurrection that we actually become confident that Jesus actually died for our sins. See, Jesus, understand this, Jesus didn’t come claiming to be a prophet. He didn’t come claiming to have insight from God to share. He didn’t come claiming to be a great teacher, he did all those things. But that’s not what his mission was. His mission as he said, it was this, he said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. That’s my mission.” He said, “I came to die for the sins of the world, I came to pay with my blood, the price of your rebellion against God.” That’s the heart of it.

Now, that’s a great idea. But how do we know that it’s true? How do we know that he actually did what he said he came to do? Because anybody can say, “I’m going to die for your sins. I’m going to die for the sins of the world.” Anyone can say that. But how do you know it’s true? And the answer is the Resurrection.

Here’s the thing, the Resurrection of Jesus is the proof that God accepted his sacrifice. Does that make sense? Because it’s only by God choosing to raise Jesus from the dead, that we begin to know, “Oh, actually, Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished what he said it would. Sin is actually paid for, death is defeated.” And so, the Resurrection of Jesus is the proof that God accepted his sacrifice. And it’s the proof that by trusting in his sacrifice, we also can be saved. That’s why that’s at the heart of Christianity. And that’s why Paul says, “The basis of belonging to God is believing in the Resurrection.”

Okay, but why is he hitting this so hard right at the very beginning of this letter? Because here’s what’s happening. Someone was telling the Galatians that belonging to God required more than believing in the Resurrection. That was the core problem. These people had come to Galatia and they were saying, “No, no, no. Belonging to God requires more than just believing in the Resurrection.” Yeah, believing in the Resurrection is important. But that’s not enough. That’s just a piece of the puzzle.

And what Paul’s gonna say throughout this letter is, “No, it doesn’t. Belonging does not require more than believing in the Resurrection. And anyone who tells you that needs to not be listened to.” So he says, “That’s the essence of what I’m writing to you about.” And he’s continuing his greeting. So we haven’t even gotten through his initial greeting. And we’ve already begun to see some of the key issues. But then he goes on, he says this, “And to all the brothers and sisters with me.” In other words, he says, “It’s not just me writing to you, I’m writing to you on behalf of all your brothers and sisters.” And that’s interesting, because he never does that in any other letter.

In his other letters, he might say, “You know, it’s not just me writing, it’s me and Titus writing,” or, “It’s me and Timothy writing.” He may identify a couple of other people who were writing, but this is the only place where he says, “All the followers of Jesus are writing to you.” But notice what he calls them. He calls them brothers and sisters. In other words, what Paul is saying is, your whole family is worried about you. Your whole family is worried about you. Which family? The family that you belong to, by believing in the Resurrection.

You joined a family in that moment. And now your whole family is concerned about you. Because you’re beginning to be confused, you’re beginning to live in a way that suggests that you’re trying to earn your way into a family that you’re already part of. And that’s creating some real strangeness. He says, “Your whole family that you belong to, by your belief in the Resurrection. They’re worried about you.” He says, “I’m writing to the churches in Galatia.” It’s what he says. He says, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father in the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

He says, “Grace and peace to you,” he says, “Grace from God, and peace with God.” And understand, this is important. In the ancient world, peace didn’t mean the absence of conflict. That’s how we tend to think of it. Like if there’s peace, it just means people aren’t fighting. That’s not peace in the ancient world. Peace in the ancient world was about relationship. Peace in the ancient world was about intimate relationship, that the relationship was working the way it was supposed to, that there was community going on. That there was family going on. That’s the essence of peace. And he says that’s the peace that you’re supposed to have by grace. God’s grace is undeserved favor to you, by sending Jesus to die for your sins, brought you into the family and gave you peace with God. There’s this intimate relationship with God.

And then he goes on in these couple of sentences, and he really gives the gospel itself in a nutshell. He gives the whole message of the gospel. And it’s basically this, is that we belong to God, by our belief in what Jesus did for us. We belong to God by our belief in what Jesus did for us. That’s the core of the gospel. That’s what this is all about. But it’s that heartbeat. It’s that core, that’s actually being challenged by these people that have come from the outside.

And he says this, he says, “I’m astonished that you are so quickly deserting the One.” I’m just gonna pause there for a second. He says, “I’m astonished that you’re so quickly deserting the One.” And notice, he doesn’t say that, “I’m astonished you are so quickly deserting the doctrine I taught you.” He didn’t say, “I’m astonished you are so quickly deserting the theology that I gave you.” He doesn’t say, “I’m astonished you are so quickly deserting the practices that I encourage you to take part in.” No, he says, “I’m astonished you are so quickly deserting the One.”

That’s relationship. He says, “I’m astonished you are so quickly leaving this relationship.” And the question is, who’s the One? And some people have taken it to be? Well, that’s Paul. He says, “I’m astonished you are so quickly leaving me.” But I don’t think that’s the case. I actually think he’s talking here about God. That’s why I capitalized it. He says, “I’m astonished you’re so quickly leaving your relationship with God.” Which is ironic, because that was the very thing the Gospels intended to make possible, that by God’s grace, you begin a relationship with God. But he says, “Now because of these outside people that have come in” and he said, “But it’s these other things you’ve got to add in.” He says, “You’re actually leaving your relationship with God. You’re walking away from the very relationship that the Gospel made possible.”

Now, here’s an important thing to understand. And it’s something I think, as a church, we’ve always struggled with. And it’s this, it’s the depending on religion, the rules, and the regulations, depending on religion, leads to abandoning relationship. Depending on religion, leads to abandoning relationship. The more we depend upon our efforts, the more we depend on trying harder and harder, the further we get from the actual relationship, which makes transformation possible. That’s what Paul says, he says, “I’m astonished you’re so quickly leaving the One. You’re moving out of that relationship that God made possible.”

He says, “I’m astonished you are so quickly deserting the One who called you to live in the grace of Christ.” And this is really important too. Don’t miss this. Notice, he doesn’t say, “The One who saved you by grace.” Right? He says, “The One who called you to live by grace.” In other words, he says, “You’re abandoning the One who’s actually made it possible for you to live your life moment-by-moment, day-by-day, fueled by grace.” And sometimes what happens is we have this idea that we’re saved by grace, but then, once we’re kind of in the front door, it’s up to us.

Well, once we’re actually in the front door, it’s about effort. It’s about trying harder. It’s about working until we get to the point that we’re almost like we’re paying Jesus back for what he did by letting us in the door. And really, what Paul’s saying here is, you’re getting it wrong. What he’s saying is, listen, how we live, how we live day-to-day, how we live is a byproduct of belonging to God, by grace. It’s not just how we begin the relationship. It’s how we experience the relationship. It’s how we live out our faith, every moment of every day. How we live is a byproduct of belonging to God, by grace.

And here in, we really begin to encounter the major tension in the Book of Galatians. And really, it’s a tension that the churches struggled with for 2000 years. It’s the tension between something that I’m gonna call gracism. I don’t know if that’s a word, but we’re gonna use it in this series. Gracism and something else called legalism. How many of you have heard the word legalism? Okay. Legalism might be a new word for you. I’m gonna define it for you here, okay. And I’m gonna define it and I want you to understand that my definition may be a little different than some of the definitions you’ve heard. This is gonna be a little bit of a simple definition. But I think as we go on in this study, you’re gonna begin to see why this definition works.

Here’s what legalism is. Legalism says that belonging depends upon behaving. Okay, really, legalism is the demand. Check this out. Legalism is the demand that someone behave in order to belong. Does that make sense? It’s the demand that somebody behave in order to belong. Now, that’s an oversimplified definition. So don’t send me that email, okay. I know it is. And I know, I’m fully aware that belonging to any group requires at least a certain minimal level of behaving, okay? You can’t belong to a basketball team if you insist on showing up to practices and games wearing football gear and carrying a crossbow, okay.

But can you belong to a basketball team if you wear Air Jordans, and everybody else wears Nikes? Of course you can. But if the team says, “No, you can’t belong to us, because you’re not wearing Nikes.” That’s legalism. It’s the demand that somebody behave in sort of non-essential ways before they can belong. And see, here in is the heart of the issue that Galatians is dealing with. There’s legalism, and then there’s gracism. And legalism and gracism organize three major issues in very different ways. Here’s the three issues that we’re kind of dealing with. Okay. There’s believing, we talked about that. There’s belonging, we’ve talked about that. And there’s behaving. We’ve talked about. Those are the three issues: believing, belonging, and behaving. And the question is, what’s the relationship between those things? How do they work together?

And here’s what happens, legalism says this, legalism says that believing plus behaving leads to belonging, does that make sense? Legalism says, “Believing and behaving leads to belonging.” Gracism or grace, says that, “Believing leads to belonging, and belonging leads to behaving.” Does that make sense? That’s the message of grace. It’s the message of the Gospel. Believing leads to belonging, just believing alone leads to belonging to God and His family. And that belonging is what leads to behaving. This is the tension.

So people say, “No, you got to believe and behave, and then you can belong.” And then there’s another group of people who say, “No, believing leads to belonging, and belonging leads to behaving.” Now, which one’s right? I can only tell you what Jesus seemed to think. And what Jesus seemed to think very clearly, was that belonging was the key to behaving. That belonging is what led to behaving.

That belonging is what led to lasting change in someone. Because you look in the life of Jesus, what do you see, he was perfectly willing to let people belong before they behave? He never said, “Come follow me. But before you do, let me see the checklist whether or not you’ve gotten your life in order.” Jesus never said, “Hey, let’s hang out, assuming that you’ve met some basic requirements.” He never did that. He invited people to belong, he ate with sinners and tax collectors. We’re told that many times in the Gospels, which is part of the reason that the Jewish people couldn’t get a handle on him, he claimed to be from God. And yet he had intimate fellowship, he had intimate meals and relationships with people who were still sinners.

They hadn’t done anything to fix it. Jesus seemed to think that belonging came first. And so here in really is the issue. See, both legalist and gracist agree that there’s a behavior problem. Okay, don’t get me wrong on this. There’s absolutely a behavior problem. We’re sinful, and our sin is a problem. Our sin creates a barrier between us and God. That’s what Jesus died to remove. But our sin also creates obstacles in our relationship with God. It makes it hard for us to experience everything that God has for us, it makes it hard for us to be transformed into everything God intended for us. Our behavior is absolutely a problem. Both sides agree on that.

But here’s the big question. Yes, our behavior needs to change. The question is, how do you do it? Here’s the thing, what accomplishes lasting change? The desire for belonging, or the experience of belonging? That’s the key question. What really changes us? Not in a temporary way, but in a long-term lasting deep soul level, the desire to belong to, “I’m gonna do these things so that they’ll accept me,” or the experience of being accepted. Beginning to change us from the inside out.

That’s really the key question here. And it’s the big difference between gracism and legalism. And Paul says, “I taught you gracism. I taught you a relationship with God by faith and belief in the Resurrection.” And by the way, when I say belief, I mean faith. Belief is not just an intellectual, “Oh, I get that that happened.” But it’s a willingness to trust it, okay. That’s what we’re talking about when we’re talking about belief. He says, “That’s what I taught you.” But it’s not what you’re hanging on to, he goes on and he says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the One who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel. You are turning to a different gospel, which is really no gospel at all.”

He says, “These people have come along, and they’ve caused you to turn to something else entirely, which isn’t a Gospel.” See Gospel means good news, literally it means good news of victory, okay? And the victory is the Resurrection. Why is the Resurrection such good news? Because it means that God has accepted Jesus’s sacrifice. We’re freed from our sin, we’re accepted into the family of God, and we begin to change from the inside out because of our belonging. He says, that’s the good news. He says, “You’re turning away from that. You’re turning to something else entirely. And this thing you’re turning to now it’s not the gospel. It’s not good news, because it’s actually a reversal of it.” In fact, here’s the reason it’s not good news, because legalism unplugs the Gospel from its life changing power source, which is belonging.

That’s why he says it’s not good news, because legalism actually unplugs the Gospel from the wall outlet. It’s not empowered anymore. It doesn’t have transformative power. It’s the experience of belonging to God that begins to actually change who we are. But legalism says, “No, no, to belong to God, you got to do these things.” And then the more we do that, the more we move further from the relationship, and the less power the gospel actually has. He says, “Legalism unplugs the Gospel from its life changing power source, which is belonging.” He says, “This is no gospel at all. This is not good news in the slightest.” But he said, “Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion, and are trying to pervert the Gospel of Christ. But listen, even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preach to you, let them be under God’s curse.”

As we’ve already said, so now I say again, literally just said it, if anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse. That’s pretty serious, right? This is a big deal to God. He’s a little bit worked up. And bottom line, what’s he saying? He’s saying, “Listen, if it’s not all grace, it’s no gospel.” It’s the bottom line here, if it’s not all grace, it’s no gospel. If it’s grace, this far, and then it’s work, it’s no gospel. If it’s work, so that this and this, that’s no gospel, if it’s not all grace, it’s no gospel. If it’s not grace to get in the front door, and grace to live out every day, it’s not the gospel. If it’s not all grace, it’s no gospel.

Years ago, when Coletta and I first moved to Colorado, I came here to go to Denver seminary. And within a few weeks of being at Denver seminary, we got invited to a party. It was a party with some students from the seminary, some faculty from the seminary. And I felt a little awkward getting the invitation. I was like, “I’m brand new here. I don’t really know anybody. I think they’re just being nice to me.” Basically, it was grace. Okay. I get invited to the party by grace. And it was a really fancy house up in the mountains. I mean, I knew that when we got up there, I was like, “Whoa, we should not be here.” We had to go through the guard house and everything and then drove up the driveway. I probably shouldn’t say whose house it was. It was the house of somebody who brews some beverages up in Golden, believers, really nice couple.

And so we went into the house. Well, I got to the house and I stood outside the house, honestly, because I was like, “I should not be here. I should not ring that doorbell.” But I eventually got the courage and rang the doorbell and the hostess came. She’s very nice. She invited us in, kind of welcomed us. And then she went off and we just kind of hung out in the foyer a little bit. I was like, “I should not be here.”

And I heard a kind of laughter and talking kind of looked over and like, in the kitchen, I could see there’s a really big kitchen table. And there were a bunch of people there, were gathered around the table and they’re having a good time. They were laughing. They were talking. They were joking. And clearly it sort of felt like family. And that way eventually kind of wandered over and there were a couple of seats, but I was like, “I do not belong at this table. I’m just gonna hang out on the outside here.” And eventually the host noticed what we were doing, and he’s like, “What are you doing?” And he kicked out a chair and he said, “Sit down,” like, “Okay.” And we sat down. And it was interesting, because just by sitting down there and suddenly being part of the family, so to speak, I began to feel different. I began to like…I felt like, “Well, maybe it’s okay that I’m here.”

And I began to contribute to the conversation and I began to feel better about not just the fact that I was there. I began to feel better with a lot of things, Coletta had moved from Ohio to Colorado. We didn’t know anybody out here. We left all of our family back there. We didn’t have any friends yet. And so I was like, “Maybe the seminary thing was a stupid idea. I’m not even sure I can do this. I didn’t go to Bible college. And so I’m reading a bunch of stuff with a language I’ve never heard of in my entire life. I don’t know that I can do this thing?” And essentially just sitting at the kitchen table with those students and faculty being part of that conversation belonging there, I suddenly started to think, “Well, maybe I can do this. Maybe this is going to be okay.” It was actually very transformative of my experience, not just there but of the whole seminary experience and the whole new life we had in Colorado.

And I think it’s interesting that so many Christians seem to think, “Grace gets me in the front door, but I have to earn my seat at the kitchen table.” But in reality, it’s grace that gets us a seat at the kitchen table, and it’s the seat at the kitchen table that really begins to change us, in all the ways that our hard work never will. Does that make sense? Are you with me?

What Paul is saying is grace gets you in the front door and a seat at the kitchen table. And that, that changes everything. But that’s exactly the thing that legalism challenges. Legalism says, “No, no, no. Believing that’s important, but believing plus behaving that’s how you get to behaving, or belonging.” And Paul says, “No, that’s not gonna work. In fact, that’s not good news.” No, no, believing get you belonging in the front door, seat at the kitchen table. And it’s that belonging that leads to behaving. If it’s not all grace, if it’s not all grace, it is no gospel.

So as we start this series, let me encourage you to ask a couple questions. And the first question is this. Where do I have a Jesus plus attitude when it comes to others belonging to God’s family? Let’s just ask an uncomfortable question right off the bat. Where do you have Jesus, believing in Jesus but also behaving in certain ways before I’m willing to acknowledge that you belong to the same family that I do?

Like, let me be intentionally provocative, okay. Don’t bother sending me the email on this one. Okay. I know this is gonna bother some people. It bothers me, I struggle with this and it’s why I share it, okay. Here’s the thing. If someone has said to you, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died on the cross for our sins, that he rose from dead three days later, and I have put my faith in that Resurrection. But I’m not sure that I believe everything the Bible has to say. Are they part of the family? Can you draw a circle that says we’re all part of the same family?

I wanna be honest, I struggle with that one, especially in my younger days, I might have drawn a circle to have included them, but they would have had a dotted line around their half of the circle. I’m not 100% sure, but…and even today, I’m kinda like, “Well, okay, maybe you’re in the family, but like, you’re on that side of the family,” right? “You’re like a cousin or something like that.” I struggle with that. And yet what Paul seems to say is, no, the Resurrection is the basis of belonging. Believing in the Resurrection is the basis belonging. Okay, but what about that? How would you define that? Or maybe there’s some other issue. Maybe there’s some other thing, maybe something you’re really passionate about?

Maybe it’s politics. Maybe it’s a particular belief, theologically. Maybe it’s a doctrine, or it’s a social practice or something like that. But where do you have a Jesus plus attitude when it comes to allowing other people to belong to the family, at least recognizing that they belong to the family? It’s worth wrestling with. Because inadvertently, what we can end up doing is the very thing that these outside agitators were doing in Galatia. Inadvertently actually unplugging people from the only power source that will actually bring lasting change.

And here’s another question to wrestle with. Where do I have a Jesus plus attitude when it comes to my place at the kitchen table? Because reality as I know many of you are listening this message, and you believe you’re saved by grace. But now it’s up to you. Now it’s about trying harder. Or, as we said, in our series, back to the beginning of the year, Fresh Wind. we said, “It’s not about rowing hard, it’s about raising sails, to catch the fresh wind of God’s Spirit.” Paul’s gonna talk a lot about the Spirit in this Book. And he says, “The fresh wind of the Spirit that moves us forward that changes us. We experience the power of the Spirit, living by grace, not just being saved by grace, but living by grace.” And sometimes that’s what we unplug ourselves from because we have a Jesus plus attitude about our place at the kitchen table. The good news of the Gospel is you’re not just saved by grace, you’re not just in the front door, but you have a place at the kitchen table. Would you pray with me?

God, we thank you for this very simple, but very challenging Word. And Lord, I confess for myself and probably on the behalf of some of my brothers and sisters that it feels dangerously simple. And it’s easy to actually worry about it. It’s easy to worry that if we don’t impose certain behaviors, that we’re somehow cheapening the reality of what you’ve done for us, like I feel that struggle. And yet you’re servant Paul was very clear, Jesus was very clear that people belong because they believe in what Jesus did for us. And then anything beyond that, that actually might be counterproductive. And it’s not that we don’t care about the transforming work of your spirit. It’s not that we don’t care about ultimately behaving in the ways that are appropriate to your people. But that the way to get there is rooted in the power of grace and the Gospel.

And so we ask that you convict us about the ways that we have maybe imposed that on others that we are tempted to do that. And Lord, would you give us access in our own hearts, the freedom to experience the relationship you call us to, not just a way in the front door, but a seat at the kitchen table that is rooted in grace, undeserved favor. We commit our study of the Book of Galatians to you for the next several weeks. And pray that you teach us how to resolve these tensions, or at least how to live in them appropriately. Because if it’s not all grace, then it’s no gospel that we preach.


If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you go on mission with me right now? Would you just begin praying for the people listening to this message that are not followers of Jesus yet? And if that’s you, let me just speak to you for a moment. Maybe for the first time today, you’ve heard the real Gospel which is all grace. You don’t have to clean yourself up to come to Jesus, you don’t have to make up for the wrongs that you’ve done before God will accept you. Jesus died to do that for you. God loves you so much, he sent his own Son to die on the cross to pay for your sin. And to prove that he accepted his sacrifice, God the Father, raised him from the dead. That’s a fact of history. And if you believe that, and if you’re willing to put your trust in it, you can belong to God for now and forever.

And if you’ve never said yes to trusting in Jesus, you can do that right here right now. There’s absolutely nothing that stands in your way. All you need is that belief. And here’s how you do it. You’re just gonna have a conversation with God in your heart. You can say it out loud. You can say it silently. He’s gonna hear it either way. Say something like this:

Hey, God, I’ve done wrong. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead. I’m ready to put my trust in you. Jesus, I’m gonna follow you for now and forever. Amen.

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