Pastor Scott's Blog

(for more blog entries, go to:  http://jcctracy.blogspot.com )

08/22/17 - Gal 5

Aug 22, 2017

You were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Gal 5:13

Sin uses freedom to satisfy itself, righteousness uses freedom to serve God and others.

In the book of Jeremiah, God tells Jeremiah how disappointed He is with the people and their behavior.  He says to Jeremiah: I saved these people and rescued them from Egypt, and brought them into the Promised Land, protecting them and providing for them.  But they go out and start living a corrupt life, living immorally, giving themselves to idols, rejecting my ways, and show up at my temple to get my help so that they can keep on sinning.  Are they trying to turn my temple into a den of robbers? (Jer 7). 

You would think that after seeing or knowing what Jesus endured on the cross for us, we would become much different than that, but Paul had to constantly remind the early church world that our freedom FROM sin does not grant us freedom TO sin!  We were not rescued and cleansed so that we could do whatever WE want, but so that we could do whatever God wants without guilt or regret.

It is very simple to understand, but so hard to teach these days because our culture has turned grace into a license to sin.  Just speaking about Christians (and not trying to judge), we all see people who pray and worship on a Sunday morning but then continue to satisfy themselves with alcohol, sex, or other immoral behaviors later that week.  Many claim to be Christian but don’t want to give to His Kingdom or serve their church family.  So often the behaviors of anger, greed, judgment, bitterness, unforgiveness, and more are discounted as ‘who I am’ instead of viewed as sins to get rid of.  We want God’s blessing and protection, but don’t want the change that freedom calls for.

This is an area that every Christian must wrestle out for themselves.  Is Grace going to be our personal license or personal calling?  Will we allow God’s Grace to reshape our lives into the Grander Vision God has for us, or simply try to use the forgiveness to get away with what we want to do with our life?

Paul spoke and wrote as a Jeremiah of his time, calling people out of their self-indulgent lives and back to total pursuit of God.  He, like Jeremiah, was ridiculed, persecuted, and ostracized by many.  Yet their stories are the ones we look at today and realize were devoted fully to God and others as servants.  Don’t measure life by the amount of pleasure or satisfaction WE get from it, measure life by the satisfaction and pleasure GOD gets from it.  Then we will leverage our freedom for good instead of for our flesh.
08/21/17 - Gal 4

Aug 21, 2017

So you are no longer a slave, but God's child... God has made you also an heir. Gal 4:7

Christianity is not a religion, it is family---we obey because He is now our Father & we have an eternal inheritance coming.

At one point in my technology career, I was asked to take on a national role for a company that had just acquired us.  We were honored with the request, but not sure what we were getting in to.  So like the recent TV show Undercover Boss, I asked to be placed into a few different branch assignments as a “new employee”, trying to learn how the operations worked, and what I could do to help.   I was assigned to a technician, who took me around to different sites and had me learn the ropes with him.  There are many life lessons I can share from that experience, but one that fits well with Galatians 4 is the position I played those days:  I was working the role of a first-line technician, even though my position in the company was an executive.  Knowing that I was returning to my position made it very easy to work and serve in the first-line role with all the energy I had.  It was both educational & inspirational.

Paul reminds all of us that we are Executives now!  Coming to Jesus has elevated our position as part of the family of God.  We are heirs to the eternal Kingdom!  Yet our role on earth is also changed to that of servant and first-line worker.  We already know what we’re returning to that executive position later.  So it gives us the strength and encouragement we need to serve in whatever role we are given now.

A few months later, I was leading a management conference for that region of the country, and that same guy came up to me after he realized who I really was.  He was embarrassed and worried that he may have done something incorrect, but after getting past the awkwardness, we enjoyed the connection those days gave us. 

I think that’s the same way it will feel with Jesus when we reach eternity.  It will start off a little awkward, knowing that we failed in so many ways, but once we get past that, we will come to enjoy the great connection we have with Him as our Savior and our Brother. 

Some view Christianity as another religion, but Jesus is not a religion, He is our family!  We don’t believe in a system, we trust in a Savior who is now our relative & friend.  We don’t obey and serve in these roles on earth to earn anything or prove anything to men, because we already know what our future position is. 

We’re the chosen family of God Most High, and the One who saved us is also the one who serves with us.  Knowing that gives us such great assurance, that serving in any role is no big deal.  Remember the promotion you have received, and enjoy the chance you get to serve Him by riding along with others who have yet to know Him.
08/18/17 - Gal 3

Aug 18, 2017

You are all children of God through faith, for all who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Him. Gal 3:26-27

Faith changes our identity to Jesus and baptism changes our conformity to His likeness.

Being the oldest in my family, I only got hand-me-down clothes from others outside the family.  But my two younger brothers were cursed with having to wear my hand-me-downs.  I’m sure they were ruined for life from that experience!   I do recall, however, a few things that they were not ready to wait for the annual closet cleanout to start wearing.  For some reason, it was open season on my clothes when something I had was considered cool to wear. 

I vaguely remember one shirt that was given to me for Christmas.  It was stylish and had a cowboy look to it, and I wore it the day after receiving it.  But that was the last time!  My brother seemed to always find it (even after trying to hide it), and the shirt was always on him or in the laundry.  Needless to say, it was a bit frustrating for me then, but I gave up trying to wear it because I didn’t want to look like my brother after he had worn it so many times!  (Guess it was his way of rebelling against hand-me-downs!)

When coming to Jesus as our Savior and Lord, He opens His closet for us to wear His clothes!  We get to wear his Royal Robe, try on His shirt of righteousness, fit into his pants of power, and slip into His belt of Truth.  Amazing thing about Jesus’ clothes, in spite of our differences, they form to fit!  We get the chance to wear the holiness of God in spite of our dirty souls and deformed bodies.  Jesus doesn’t mind, because He wants us to be clothed like Him.

Yet SO MANY PEOPLE prefer to reject Christ’s clothing like they are hand-me-downs.  Those clothes look old fashioned in today’s hip culture.  They seem a bit restrictive compared to the so-called freedom of movement our current fads offer.  They are VERY RECOGNIZABLE, and often ridiculed by friends or associates around us.  Yes, we have access to Jesus’ closet, but don’t really care for the clothes.

Friends, isn’t it time to appreciate the blessing God has given us!  He has offered us access to the Royal Wardrobe!  Don’t waste it because of the public opinions of your friends.  Put on the clothing that will permit us to be ushered into the throne room of heaven!   Celebrate that these clothes were given to you and are free of defects.  Put on righteousness, truth and power – and forget those old rags of popularity, selfishness and pride.  Enjoy the hand-me-downs, because they are help-me-ups!
08/17/17 - Gal 2

Aug 17, 2017

We have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law. Gal 2:16

Good works don't save us... Surrendering to Christ in faith saves us and results in good works.

People tend to view work in one of two ways:
1.       Work is necessary to accomplish our dreams or pay for our desires – so I will do what is required to get what I desire.

2.       Work is my purpose – it is the measure of my success in life – so I will work to prove myself.

God didn’t create work to be our identity, or to be our necessity.  Work was created as a gift to be connected with the Creator, and a tool for worshipping God.  Adam was given the assignment of work to not only provide purpose & pleasure, but to help him know the Father and be a part of His Family.  Work was a blessing – but it wasn’t the purpose – it was a method to support man’s purpose: to Worship God.

In spiritual terms, the word work is also what we call religion.  Works are the actions and behaviors we do to serve God and bring Him worship.  Get This: Works are NOT separate from faith, and they should not be absent from our life.  They are the flip side of the same coin called faith – one side is belief, the other is works.  A person saying they are spiritual but not interested in religionis just deceiving themselves and has neither.

Some people want to see worksdone BEFORE there is acceptance in the Kingdom of God – i.e. Work is necessary for salvation.  (You hear that out of people who want others to change behaviors before being baptized – as if a sick person must be healthy before going to the doctor.)  Works don’t save us, they are a sign of our salvation.

Other people want to throw out works (religion) and dismiss it as manipulative or unnecessary.  However, that goes against everything God said to His people and all that Jesus taught His disciples.  God saved the Israelites, then called them to show their love THROUGH their works.  Jesus taught His followers to show their love BY their obedience.  Works is not manipulation, it is expression.  The best demonstration of our belief is seen in our behavior.

Paul tells the church in Galatia not to put their security in works, because their works always fall short.  Instead, put their hope and security in Jesus, and allow their works to be a growing sign of that faith.  Likewise, we should stop using works as the method of proving salvation, and start showing our works as an offering of love.  The fact is:  the more we choose to show our love to God, the better and more constant our works will be!

You were saved by Grace, so show your love through your works.
08/16/17 - Gal 1

Aug 16, 2017

He gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age. Gal 1:4

We were rescued from this world, so don't go back to participating in its behaviors.

It was the first chance we had to go to the swimming pool that summer.  Our neighbors had invited us along with their kids, and mom allowed us to go with them while she was at work.  We piled in and headed off to the public pool in the next town over, and all of us were so excited.   When we arrived, we checked in and dropped off our stuff by some chairs, and four of us boys headed straight for the diving board!  No shallow end for us, we were going to make a big splash!  Two went off in front of me, and I ran down the board to jump off, only to see my best friend DIRECTLY below me.  I panicked, but somehow by the grace of God missed him, yet the damage was done.  Into the water I sank, sucking in a chunk of the pool with me.  I couldn’t breathe, and found myself disoriented, trying to figure out how to get out of the water.  I thought my life was over, when the strong arms of a lifeguard grabbed me and pulled me up to the edge.  He got me out, and helped me cough out enough water to breathe again.  About 15 minutes later, I was returning to normal, and ready to go back into the pool --- but this time with a bit more care.  Being rescued, I didn’t want to go through that again.

If only being rescued would have the same effect for our lives beyond swimming!

That story is a good metaphor for Christ’s work in us.  He was our lifeguard, jumping in to our pool from heaven, and rescuing us from the sin that had us drowning.  He not only saved us, but gave us a new chance to enjoy life again after being rescued.  Yet instead of using that life for His honor, we often find ourselves jumping right back into the sins that had caused us to drown before.  Somehow – we think being rescued has taught us how to handle sin – when instead the rescue should teach us to avoid sin!

At the next break, the lifeguard came and checked on me, and gave me some safety tips for the next time I would go off the board.  He encouraged me to swim again, just with a bit more attention to safety.  I was glad to comply!

If you follow Jesus, then you have been RESCUED!  Don’t waste it!  Eliminate the behaviors that were drowning your life with God, and pursue a life that obeys your rescuer.  He will let you in the pool again, but this time, swim in obedience to His purposes and ways.  It will be a safer experience and will be a greater joy to your life.