Sunday, May 31, 2009

From Shepherd's Hill again . . .

Take off the Mask

Paul Burrell

Welcome in the name of Jesus Christ. I am writing to you about some observations of my families this week. Sometimes, you can see the Word of God portrayed in people around you. It may be through good actions or bad. But, God’s Word is always true even if we don’t like what it says. Let’s look at our first passage today.

We are in the Book of Galatians this week. Paul wrote this letter to the Churches in Galatia, an ancient province of the Roman Empire. It deals with a common problem in a lot of denominations. That problem is that the law is seen as a requirement of salvation. Paul spends the first chapter giving his qualifications as an Apostle of Christ. It seems that some people will not just listen to truth or wisdom but need an authority to tell them that they are doing something wrong. We may fail to listen to our wives telling us to slow our driving down because we feel that we know how to drive better than she does. But if a police officer turns on his lights and pulls us over we might give a little more attention to our mistake after we pay the fine. It was the same truth in both situations, but the authority had to make it clear for us.

How sad when we won’t listen to our brother or sister in Christ even when they have told us something right out of the Bible. Let’s look at chapter two and verse eleven. Paul tells us of a little problem where he had to correct the Apostle Peter. It seems that Peter had two ways of acting. In the following verse it reveals that Peter ate with the Gentiles but after the Jews arrived he withdrew and ate with them instead. Now, this might be easy to overlook what God is showing us today if we do not remember Peter’s past. Peter was raised a Jew and followed all the laws of Jewish people. God had revealed to him that the Gospel of Christ would be brought to the Gentiles (Acts 10). God's will was made clear to him. He had been given a revelation to make sure that there was no doubt in his mind.

Isn’t it strange when we pretend that we just don’t know what God wants from us or why there may be problems in our lives after God has already told us what to do? I see it in people all the time. If God has told you His will, you need to follow it! Peter knew exactly that he was to associate with Gentiles and take them the Gospel. In Galatians 2:13 we read that the other Jews “dissembled” with Peter. That interesting word means to put on a false appearance, a mask or to act in a way other than the truth. Peter was pretending to fit in with the Jews and not the Gentiles for harmony’s sake. Sometimes peace is not worth the price.

Have you ever had someone deceive you into thinking that they were somebody other than who they really were? Maybe a false character was presented to you about how smart someone was or that they were wealthy and you later realized that the person was lying to you. I’m not sure why we would want to be anyone other than the person that God called us to be. Peter and these other Jews were so convincing that they drew Barnabas into their story (v13). Peter was caught in his lies, though, and Paul rebuked him in front of these Jewish men. His statement in verse fourteen gives us insight as to exactly what Peter was doing wrong. Paul said that Peter was living in the freedom of the Gentiles and then had turned around and was compelling them to live under the Law as Jews.

Let me give some real examples that we have seen over the many years we have lived as plain Christians. People see plain dress and always associate it with Christianity, and that is a good thing. It is a great tool for witnessing to others since they always ask us what we believe. But, we have met people along the way who went completely off course. Some started dressing plain after meeting us while others we met were already plain dressed. Through time many of them changed. The reason that they began to do it became clear. Instead of doing it for spiritual reasons some did it as a means to gain material things. For example, some dressed plain because it gave them favor or pity. Another thing we have seen is someone dressing plain because they feel more holy than others in doing so. Others are so torn about plain dress that they flip-flop back and forth and end up with confused children who never know what to wear when they wake up.

These are not just isolated cases but there have been many families that fit each problem I mentioned above. In the first example, the father probably tried it and it became something of a challenge to him. In doing so, he discovered that the world treated him kindly. In one group we knew, the family allowed their children to dress poorly and were always dirty on purpose because the general populous believed them to be poor. They could have cleaned up at any time but chose to be filthy as a rule.

Others started walking plain because they received a real revelation of being separate from the world. Somehow, it went to their heads and they became judge and jury for all the church. I suppose they felt like they were more holy than you and I and therefore were qualified to act in the place of God. We knew some families that became instant enemies with us after demanding that we give up all the luxuries of life. They required that Children of God should sit on concrete instead of upholstery and eat leftover pork and beans cold from the night before to avoid waste. One family withdrew from us after we bought our house a couple of years ago. We had been in a three bedroom house with one bathroom for almost ten years (seven people). When we could finally afford something larger that had two baths we were shunned. (I am not kidding) After all, God doesn’t want you to love this world or the things in it, right?

One father told me that all he wanted to do was sit on the floor and read the Bible. He neither worked a job nor took care of his wife and children but saw himself as a mighty man of God. I guess he hadn’t read up to 2nd Thessalonians 3:10 yet.

And then there was the other group that would show up plain one day and dressed in blue jeans another. When it suited them, they always dressed to fit in with the people around them. If they attended a worship service with us they acted like they always dressed plain. But later we would discover that it was only a show for us and that they were someone else when they were at home. Some even confessed that God was directing them to dress plain but dressed like they always had.

Now, let me say that in the spirit that the Book of Galatians was written you do not have to dress plain to be born-again. Wearing a cape-dress or broadfall pants gets you no extra points to get into heaven. We are saved by grace, not by works, lest any should boast (Eph 2:9). Recently we began an exciting Bible study looking at the feasts of Israel. God said many times that these were statutes for ever. We are examining each feast and the significance to the Jewish people and also to the Church that they hold. I love what Zola Levitt said. Zola was a Jewish Christian that understood the ties with the Old and New covenant. He has now gone on to be with the Lord but his studies are still available.

Zola Levitt said if you want to observe a feast or holy day you may. It gives you no extra points to do so and takes none away if you don’t. He then quoted the passage in Ephesians.

So, why do we dress plain? We have chosen this walk in obedience to God as He has called us to be separate in all things in life. We cannot answer for anyone else. Those who chose to live as a Christian will be persecuted. The enemy will try to frighten us so that we won’t stand up for our beliefs. We should fear no man when it comes to what we believe and be ready to give scripture to back it up.

How about your walk? Do you act one way around Christians and another around worldly people? Is your life so on fire for God that both sides know where you stand? If you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you? You see, we must walk true to what God has shown us. If you do something or refrain from something in the name of Jesus it should be seen by others. Without opening our mouths, our actions should testify of whom we are and Whose we are!

I love the way Paul finished this chapter in verse twenty-one. His term of frustrating the grace of God tells it all. Paul earnestly wants us to understand that we live under Grace. Our actions should not be to gain salvation. If we make a decision to walk in Holiness in any form that the Spirit has revealed to us through the Word of God we should understand that it is because of our love and devotion to our Savior that we do it.

I do not hold my wife’s hand or open a car door for her to make myself married to her. I do it because I am in love with her. What greater reason would someone have of dressing apart from the world than because they are in love with Jesus Christ? What greater reason would you have for studying His Word? May the Lord Bless the reading of His Word today.

Prayer-Father, if there is something in us that is insincere may we become totally blameless. Let our actions be pleasing to You and may our walk glorify You.

In Jesus’ Name-Amen

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