Where is the Blessedness?
If you would please, take your Bibles and turn to Galatians chapter 4.
We continue our pilgrimage through this book.
(Verse 12) I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong.
(Verse 13) As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you.
(Verse 14) Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.
(Verse 15) What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.
(Verse 16) Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
(Verse 17) Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them.
(Verse 18) It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.
(Verse 19) My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,
(Verse 20) How I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!
>As Iíve shared with you on many occasions as we have come through this book...
The Galatian Christians were believers that they had first heard the gospel because of this man, the apostle Paul.
They had never heard about Jesus, or if they had, theyíd not paid much attention to him...
Until Paul preached to them the gospel.
Many, many Galatians were saved, men, women, young people...
And many of them gave their lives to Jesus.
A church had been started because God knows that Christians need the church.
You see, if weíre left out as individuals to face the things of this world all by ourselves...
Then sometimes we can be overwhelmed by the enemy and by the course of this world.
But God knew that we needed to fellowship with each other...
Not only to receive strength and power from him...
But also to bind together to praise and worship and adore him.
There is such a thing as private Christianity and private worship and private service.
But thereís also a place for public Christianity, for public service and public worship.
And God knew that we needed that.
And so a wonderful church had been founded there in Galatia.
>After Paul left a group of false teachers came in...
And they were teaching that you cannot be saved just by repenting of sin...
And putting your faith in Jesus Christ.
That before you can become a Christian you must first become a Jew.
And then having become a Jew, then you can become a Christian.
And so all of the Gentile males in Galatia were ordered to be circumcised because that was a Jewish rite.
And they were admonished to give strict adherence to the law, the OT legalistic system.
And not only were the Galatian Christians being told to do this by false teachers...
Many of them had already started doing that.
Many of the Galatian Christian men had submitted to the rite of circumcision...
And many of them were trying to keep all of the minute factors of the law.
They were observing holy days and seasons...
And they were doing everything that these Judaizers, these false teachers, were telling them to do.
They were turning away from the liberty that they had in Christ...
And going back to a bondage of religion that could not save and did not bring anyone closer to the Lord.
Paul writes to them as an apostle, and thus far thatís pretty well all weíve seen of his writing.
Heís writing to them as an apostle...
As one who has the authority of God vested in his life.
He writes to them and he says, "How could you be so foolish?
O foolish Galatians, who has cast a spell on you?
How could you possibly abandon the liberty you have in grace and go into the bondage of the law?"
Paul said, "Brothers, become like me, for I became like you."
You see, no one knew more about the law than Paul did.
Paul had spent his whole life in that Jewish legalistic system.
Paul had given his life to the study of the law and to live by the law...
And yet Paul knew that all that time he was not saved, and he did not belong to the Lord at all.
Paul had come out of that.
Paul had been wonderfully and gloriously saved that day as he made his way to Damascus...
And the blinding light from heaven came and knocked him off his horse.
And there on that Damascus road Paul gave himself to Jesus.
Paul said, "Listen, I have already been in what youíre going back into and thereís nothing to it...
It doesnít bring any contentment...it doesnít bring any purpose...
It doesnít bring any satisfaction...it doesnít bring any joy...
It is nothing but an enslaving process that puts more and more rules and regulations on...
And brings you no closer to your relationship with God."
And so Paul has been speaking to them as an apostle.
>But now he begins to speak to them as a loving parent.
Look there in verse 19. Paul says:
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth.
Now I understand that Paul was a man and Iím a man...
And men can talk about the pains of birth, the pain of the delivery of a child...
But thereís no way that a man could possibly know that like a woman could know that.
But Paul is simply using these terms to describe the tenderness and the affection and the compassion...
With which he now speaks to them.
He says, "Iím speaking to you as a mother who loves you and who gave you birth."
He said, "I feel like Iím going through the pains of deliver all over again."
Paul reminds them that theyíve not injured him.
Theyíve not hurt him.
You see there were some that were saying, "Now youíre probably gonna hear from Paul...
But itís only because he has a wounded ego.
Because he sees you deserting him and his false message and coming under this system that is true.
And so youíll hear from him because itís a blow to his ego that youíve left him."
>But Paul writes to them and he says, "Listen, Iím not writing to you out of a wounded ego.
Iím writing to you out of a broken heart.
My heart is broken because of what you are doing."
He does three things in this passage of scripture to admonish them as a loving parent.
>First of all, he reminds them of their former affection for him.
The second thing he does is he reminds them of the former joy they once knew.
And then finally, he is going to reveal to them and show them the strategy of these false teachers...
To show them as they really are.
>Now first of all, he reminds them of their former affection for him.
You know there is not anything worse than someone who used to love you not loving you anymore.
I donít know of anything worse than that.
Sometimes young people will say to me, "My parents donít love me anymore."
Sometimes a wife will say to me, "My husband doesnít love me anymore."
Sometimes a husband will say, "My wife doesnít love me anymore."
Sometimes parents will say, "My children donít love me anymore."
Thereís not anything more discouraging than love that has gone sour.
Paul writes to these folks and reminds them that once they loved him.
>Itís interesting how Paul got to Galatia.
Many times Paul went to a place because he sat down and charted the course...
And looked at the map and planned to go to a place.
Paul did not go to Galatia by plan.
Paul went to Galatia because an illness compelled him to go there.
Look there in verse 13.
Paul says, "As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you."
Paul did not go to Galatia as a healthy preacher ready to preach the gospel and plant a church.
Paul went to Galatia because of an illness.
He could not continue as the charted course demanded...
But rather he went to this area of Galatia to rest and recover from an illness.
>Now some have suggested that Paulís illness was epilepsy.
And some have suggested that Paulís illness was malaria.
Others have suggested that Paulís illness was a stomach disorder...
And then others suggest that Paulís illness was a disease of the eyes.
Now no one can be dogmatic and say this is what it is, but I have to tell you what I believe.
I believe personally it was a disease of the eyes.
That as perhaps Paul was in prison after prison and dungeon after dungeon...
Around filth and mire and disease and germs...
That some virus perhaps had settled into his eyes.
And Paulís eyes had become swollen and full of pus and perhaps bloodshot.
Even as he would stand before people that old pus would run out and drip down the sides of his face from his eyes.
Whatever his illness was, it appears to me to have something to do with his eyes.
Look there in verse 15. Paul says:
What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.
At the end of the book Paul says:
See what large letters I use as I write with my own hand.
Paul did not write the whole book of Galatians.
He dictated it, and someone else wrote down the words he spoke.
But when it came to the end of the letter, he took that pen from the scribe...
And in great big block letters like a schoolboy...
He wrote the ending in his own handwriting.
Why did he write like that?
Because of his eyes...he could not see.
>Over in the 23rd chapter of Acts, Paul is standing before the Sanhedrin and heís pleading his case.
And one of them stands and brings a sharp accusation against Paul, and Paul doesnít recognize who it is.
He says, "You whited wall. You ought to be the one to face the punishment."
And one of the soldiers struck him and said, "How dare you say that about our high priest."
And Paul said, "Iím sorry. I didnít know it was the high priest.
I could not see him. I didnít recognize him."
So there was something wrong with Paulís eyes.
And whatever it was, it was obvious.
>You know sometimes people can be sick and we donít know theyíre sick.
But Paul had such an obvious disease, and whatever it was, it was repulsive.
It was the kind of sickness until you couldnít bear to look on his face.
It was just nauseating.
But look what he said in verse 14:
Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead you welcomed me.
That sickness, that illness, those eyes that were so swollen and puffy and the pus running all down the side...
That which many people had turned away in disgust from...
That which most would not even look at, you were not that way.
>He says in verse 14: You did not treat me with contempt.
You didnít treat it as something despicable and to be hated.
And he said, "You did not reject me...you didnít turn away like others had.
You didnít duck your head like others had."
He said, "When you saw me, you saw my obvious sickness.
But you did not despise me and you did not reject me."
"Rather", he said, "you received me. You welcomed me...
You opened your arms...you opened your home...
You opened your heart to receive me."
He said, "You received me as though I were an angel of God."
But he said, "More than that, you received me as though I were Jesus Christ himself.
You loved me...you welcomed me...you rolled out the red carpet for me.
In spite of my repulsive condition, you welcomed me to come to you and received me into your hearts.
Jesus himself you would not have received any more royally,"
Paul says, "than you did receive me. Donít you remember?
Donít you remember the love you once had for me?"
>The second thing Paul reminds them of is the joy they once knew.
Look in verse 15: what has happened to all your joy?
To all your happiness?
But it means more than happiness...it means joy.
You see, not only had they received Paul, they received teh Christ that Paul preached.
And on the basis of having received Jesus, they were full of joy.
Whereís the joy?
I remember how it was when you first gave your life to Jesus.
I tell you, friends, Iíve been preaching now for 7 years and I tell you...
Thereís not anyone happier than a brand-new born-again child of God.
I mean, when a person first gets saved he would assault hell with a water pistol...
Because heís so overcome with joy.
I mean they are happy.
They want to do something.
They want to go somewhere.
You canít give them enough of the word of God.
They want to sing gospel songs.
They want to hear Bible sermons.
They want to tell somebody about Jesus because a new convert is full of joy.
Itís only after theyíve been expose to too many Bible scholars that they cool off.
Paul says, "Where is the joy, the blessedness that you once knew?"
You see, they had lost their joy.
>Do you know why people lose their joy?
They lose their joy because they lose their first love.
Jesus in Revelation 2 spoke to the church at Ephesus, and he said,
"I know your works and I know your labor and I know your doctrinal integrity.
I know this and I know that."
But Jesus said, "I have somewhat against you. In spite of all the pluses and pluses and pluses...
I have something against you, and what I have against you is,"
Jesus said, "Youíve left your first love."
You know what that means?
Jesus said, "You just donít love me like you used to."
Oh we call it a lot of things.
We call it maturing...we call it being sophisticated...
We call it that cooling down process...
But Jesus said, "You are like you are because you donít love me like you used to."
Jesus said, "Remember the height from which you have fallen."
Thatís exactly what Paul is saying to these Galatian Christians.
"Remember the height from which you have fallen."
You have lost your joy.
>Then the last thing Paul does.
Not only does he remind them of their former affection for him and remind them of the joy theyíve now lost...
He sets forth the strategy of these false teachers.
Look in verse 16...Paul says:
Have I now become your enemy, by telling you the truth?
(Verse 17) Those people are zealous to win you over.
Paul says, "Theyíre trying to court you."
Oh, theyíll do anything.
They use words of flattery...you are so nice...
Youíre so attractive...
Some of you men stole the heart of your wife away from another man when you were single.
Some of you are married to a woman who used to be engaged to someone else.
And you began to court her, "Honey, youíre the prettiest girl in all the world."
That guy she was engaged to didnít tell her that.
"Honey, I believe that I would love to shower you with diamonds...
I would love to shower you with furs and homes and cars."
That guy she was engaged to didnít tell her that.
You see what you were doing?
You were courting her away from someone else.
Now all is fair in love and war.
And if you had to do that to get your bride, I hope you are still convinced you did the right thing.
>But I want to tell you, itís not the right thing in Christianity.
Paul said, "They are trying to court you away, and one of the things theyíre using is words of flattery."
But Paul says, "but for no good."
He says, "What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them."
>Secondly he says, "Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?"
They had once loved Paul.
They had once welcomed Paul.
They had once received him into their hearts.
They were once ready to give him the eyes out of their own heads if they could have.
But now they are calling Paul an enemy.
>Paul said, "Donít you understand that these who have come to court you with flattering words...
What theyíve done is they have turned you against the true ministers of the gospel."
>Well let me close by saying this.
There is a true gospel.
There really is a true gospel.
Now sometimes the man who preaches the true gospel is a warm and loving and kind and compassionate man.
And sometimes the man who preaches the true gospel is kind of cold and hard and abrasive...
And sometimes even offensive.
Sometimes the true gospel is preached out of the mouths of men that are genuine...
And sometimes the true gospel is preached out of mouths of men that are phonies.
Thatís always been.
Paul wrote to the church at Phillippi and he said...
"I know that there are some who preach the gospel out of pure motive."
And he said, "I know there are some who preach the gospel out of a false motive."
But he said, "Iím just happy that somebodyís preaching the gospel."
There is a true gospel.
Sometimes itís preached by good men...
And sometimes itís preached by men that are not so good.
But I want to tell you, the gospel is still pure and still powerful...
Regardless of who preaches it.
But there is also a false gospel...
And usually the false gospel is preached by people who appear to be kind and gentle and compassionate.
But no matter how kind and gentle and compassionate they are...
Their gospel is still false.
>You tell me what a man thinks about Jesus, and whether or not Jesus alone saves...
And Iíll tell you whether that man is a preacher of the true gospel or a false gospel.
Paul said, "Donít go back into a system that is dead and useless...
When you have the opportunity to have this rich love affair with Jesus."
>Perhaps youíre here today and youíve never been saved.
You need to come to Jesus this morning.
You say, "Bro. Joe, I donít know how to come to Jesus."
You just walk down the aisle and someone here will tell you how you can be saved.
Thereís no reason for you to leave this building today lost.
You can be saved today right here this morning.
Maybe you need a church home.
Youíve been visiting here...you like it here...
You sense a oneness with the people here.
You believe this gospel the preacher preaches, and you are blessed here.
You are fed here.
You want to move your membershipo.
We welcome you.
We invite you to come and be a part of this family.
And I want to tell you, if you come today youíll be just as much a part and just as loved a part...
As folks who have been here for 17 years.
Thatís the way here are here at HCBC.
Once youíre a part of us, youíre just a part of us.
If you want to sit awhile and soak up, you can do that.
If you want to go to work, you can start next Sunday.
Whatever you want to do.
Youíre a part of the family.
You donít have to prove one thing to us.
We invite you to come.
Maybe youíre here today and like Paul said to these folks, "Youíve lost the joy of it."
Your Christianity has become dull and routine.
Itís become rigid...itís become dos and doníts...
Dotting Is and crossing Ts and there is no joy.
There is not warmth...thereís no affection...thereís no love.
Thereís no fellowship with Jesus anymore.
Itís just become religion.
I want to tell you, the altar is the office of God.
Godís office is open today, and if youíve lost the joy...
I want to tell you, the main business that goes on here in this office of God is flooding hearts with joy.
And if youíll come tell the "Boss", heíll give you your joy back.
Just tell him, "Lord, Iím tired of this religion. I want my joy back."
Heíll give it to you.