Friday, July 2, 2010

Perfected in Our Imperfections / Acquitted of our Condemnation- Galatians 2:11-13

"But when Peter came to Antioch,
I opposed him to his face,
because he stood condemned.
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.
And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy,
with the result that even Barnabas
was carried away by their hypocrisy."
                                                   (Galatians 2:11-13)

True confession time! In reading over these verses, which were next on my list, I found myself initially saying: "Oh well - nuttin' today!" Some days that is how it seems.

The Word looks empty and impractical.
It appears more historical than devotional.
You know, I came close to simply skimming over this section and going on with the duties of the day, checking my Bible reading off of my "to do" list.

I am learning that my Bible reading is no "to do" it is a "to digest". I thought there was 'nuttin' and once again I am proved wrong. I am amazed yet I not surprised at what has pierced my heart this morning from this "impractically historical "section. Truly, this is the living Word of the living God and surely every jot and tittle of it is inspired and is profitable for our teaching, reproof, correction, training and full equipping for every good work.

Here's the condensed scoop that has so radically grabbed my attention this morning:
There are no perfect people... there is One perfect Propitiator!

Let me try to flesh that out. Here's what's happening...

Paul has been in a bit of a conflict with the Judaizers regarding circumcision. These guys are part of the "Jesus plus" contention. They are of the belief that men need Jesus "plus" the sign of circumcision in order to truly be saved. Paul has been dealing well with them - always pointing them to the same truths we have just looked at in Galatians chapter 1 - grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. He has even gone so far as to call in the other apostles and leaders of the church to examine the issue just to make sure he's teaching them rightly.

Peter is among those who have been gathered to examine things. He is there to help assess the situation. He arrives and, at first, when he meets with the Gentile churches we find him hanging with them well. He's eating their food and drinking their beverages. He's feasting and fellowshipping - just as he should.

BUT...then...enter the Jewish Christians.

"Uh oh! What will they think of me?!" asks Peter.

He withdraws.

He bails from their banquet.

He hides from their hospitality.

He parts from their presence.

And why? Because Peter - like us - was a people pleaser!!!

Do you see how big that is? Do you get it? Does it encourage your heart as it has mine?

Friends, there are no perfect people! Think about it, THIS IS PETER!! Sure, we've seen him blow it in the past - but didn't he learn from his mistakes? Come on, THIS IS PETER!!!

Peter, the zealous one, who alone went to Jesus in the storm on the raging water only to sink when his faith failed him and his eyes wandered. YET... this is Peter who was rescued and restored by Jesus and learned from his drowning to walk WITH Christ in His power instead of simply TO Christ in his own strength.

THIS IS PETER!!! Peter who denied Christ so horribly prior to the crucifixion - yet Peter who was the only disciple to get close enough to Jesus to get caught. This is Peter who wept so bitterly because he betrayed his Lord. This is Peter who was so perfectly and precisely restored by Jesus after the resurrection and told to go and feed His sheep. This is Peter who after that point is a different dude - humbly bold with the gospel. It is he who led the other apostles in their appointment. THIS IS PETER - and you know what my friends? Peter ain't perfect.

Most assuredly we are not to attribute perfection to any person - not to Peter, not to Paul, not to Penny, Patrick, Perry or Patsy. And we are certainly not to think it true of ourselves!

Matthew Henry writes:
"Here note the weakness and inconsistency of the best of men. Here note how prone they are to falter in their duty of God out of an undue regard to the pleasing of men."
Do you struggle in this area? Do you find yourself fumbling and stumbling in this very thing that Paul warned us about in the previous chapter - this area of pleasing people and seeking the favor of men above the favor of God?

Friend, you're not alone. Here is the rubber of sin meeting the life of a saint - and a saint whom we tend to consider a "big dog". This is Peter - the mighty Peter - the bold as a lion at times Peter - and he fell into people pleasing!

It is a true and worthy statement: "no temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man...."

I was momentarily stopped in my tracks this morning as I read these words about Peter here in Galatians 2 and as I thought of my own struggles - not only my struggles with people pleasing but also my struggles with every other sin in the book!

My own inadequacies,
     my own falterings,
          my own flat out failings flooded my mind.
You know, the text says that Peter "stood condemned". Hands down he was guilty! There was no denying it nor any doubt about it. He "stood condemned."

Wow - you know what?
Left to myself I stand condemned too.

Guilty as charged.

Justifiably worthy of having the book thrown at me!

Left to ourselves we are all of these things but resting and trusting and believing in Christ we are not!! The promise of condemnation is catapulted as far as the east is from the west if we are saved by His sufficient sacrifice on our behalf. Remember, "Christ gave Himself for our sins that He might save us from this present evil age." No condemnation is just one of the many benefits of gospel grace.

I received a precious note from a faithful friend yesterday on this very thing. She had been studying in Romans 8 and was greatly encouraged by what she had learned about our acquittal in Christ. She knew that I would be as well and that is why she wrote, sharing with me both what the word said and the incredibly encouraging comments of Matthew Henry regarding it.

That chapter begins with "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." It ends with "Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yet, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us."

Henry writes regarding these things. It is lengthy but is well worthy of our long lingering.

"What shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us, so as to prevail against us and hinder our happiness? Be they ever so strong, ever so many, ever so mighty, ever so malicious, what can they do?

While God is for us we may with a holy boldness defy all the powers of darkness. Let Satan do his worst, he is chained. Let the world do its worst, it is conquered. Principalities and powers are spoiled and disarmed, and triumphed over, in the cross of Christ.

Who then dares fight against us, while God Himself is fighting for us? And God IS for us! We have supplies ready in all our wants. Who can cut off our streams, while we have such a fountain to go to? Think on what God has done for us and on what our hopes are built. He spared not His own Son and we may know that He loves us in that fact. He did not spare His own Son that He might spare us!

Can it be imagined that He should give so great a gift for us when we were enemies, and should deny us any good thing, now that we are friends and children? We have a ready answer for all accusations and a security against all condemnations. This word is enough, "it is God who justifies."

We may challenge all of our accusers to come and put in their charge. Who shall lay anything against them? Doth the law accuse them? Do their own consciences accuse them? Is the devil, the accuser of the brethren, accusing them before our God night and day? This is enough to answer all accusations, "it is God who justifies". This fact overthrows them all; it is God, the righteous and faithful God who justifies. Who is he that condemns?

Though they cannot make good the charge, yet they will be ready to condemn; but we have a plea ready which cannot be over-ruled. It is Christ that died for us.... It is Christ, and our union with Him, by which we are thus secured. By the merit of His death He paid our debt."

Are you condemned as Peter?
You can be redeemed by Christ!!
This is the message of the gospel.
This is the certain hope of the Christian.
Is it your message?
Is it your hope?

Christ's death has paid the price and His resurrection has proven the pay.
"It is finished."
Your debt is paid.
The guilt is gone.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those imperfect people pleasing persons who are in Christ. Christian - there is therefore now no condemnation for you.

Peter wasn't perfect. Neither are we. Neither is anyone other than our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ - the great God-man.

In glancing at Martin Luther this morning I was pierced with the fact that in our common imperfection there is actually common comfort. [If you read nothing else I have written this day, please read this. It has so lifted my own faint heart.]

Luther writes:
"Samson, David, and many other excellent men, fell into grievous sins. Job and Jeremiah cursed the day of their birth. Elijah and Jonah became weary of life and prayed for death. Such offenses on the part of the saints, the Scriptures record for the comfort of those who are near despair. No person has ever sunk so low that he cannot rise again. On the other hand, no man's standing is so secure that he may not fall. If Peter fell, I may fall. If he rose again, I may rise again. We have the same gifts that they had, the same Christ, the same baptism and the same Gospel, the same forgiveness of sins. They needed these saving ordinances just as much as we do."
My faltering friends, let us recognize our inability to be perfect. We are guilty of imperfection. But let us not stand eternally condemned in our guilt. Instead, let us rest on Christ - the perfect One - who "gave Himself for our sins that we might be delivered from this present evil age."

Resting in my perfect Redeemer, rescued from own my imperfection,

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