First Baptist Church of Minneola
Your New You: As Real as it Gets
- INTRO - It might had surprised you last week to learn that Paul introduced people-pleasing as the key theme of his letter to the Galatians. We discussed the matter of Galatian people succumbing to the people-pleasing temptations associated with a false gospel which was no gospel at all.Do you recall the key verse:For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.We discussed Paul’s defence of his apostleship; if Paul can’t be trusted then neither can his message. Paul defended his ministry by sharing about himself; his personal story became his best argument.In our text we’ll note Paul defending the gospel:For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.We’ll hear Paul relate where the source of the gospel:For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.We’ll pay attention to how, instead of stringing out scriptures or proof texts, Paul simply tells his story:For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it;Paul knows his best argument is the story of his own transformation; it’s no different for us. Our changed life is a powerful argument for the gospel.Your new you is as real as it gets!TRANS - Let’s break this down into three areas. Instead of reading the entire passage, we’ll read some verses, spend some time there, then move on until we address all of our passage.I’ve divided into three points. We will discus the origin of the gospel, talk about Paul’s spiritual transformation, and look at the effect of the gospel in Paul’s life.We’ll close by asking how might we learn from Paul’s example about sharing our testimony?Let’s move to our first point.Paul’s Gospel is from God (vv. 11-12)Look again at vv. 11-12:For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.Paul tells us he received the gospel from Jesus Christ. Clearly this is the important feature of this verse. Paul does not name himself as the source, but God as the source of the gospel.It’s one thing to believe in the gospel, but pretty amazing when everything in our life points to the gospel.It really goes against the odds; a self-centered person suddenly lives for God. Prior to God, everything about our lives seem to oppose God. Then, everything about us changes.ILL - We all have stories. If you are a Christian, you have at least two. You have the conversion experience it self; that is the time you were spiritually renewed. Then there is the many, many, many times we come back to Jesus. We’re reborn, that is spiritually made new. Then, we are renewed each day and sometimes more than once during a day. We use words like salvation and sanctification to describe this journey. The result is glorification when we die; that is we get to move into the presence of God because of what Jesus did and we believe by faith.In my experience, I knew I gave my life to Jesus as a boy, but didn’t surrender to his Lordship until I was an adult. I don’t recommend that path and that is part of how God uses my story. See, my failure to follow Jesus wholeheartedly is part of my story and God can use that to reach others who are like the man I once was.Now Paul was once like the people he is addressing. Then, everything about him changed. He, unlike me, Paul didn’t take anytime to surrender to Jesus’ Lordship.What I hope you will understand this morning is that there are all kinds of people and all kinds of stories. And, God uses all of them. There is someone that needs to hear your story and God wants so much to see that happen. I hope today’s message encourages you to share your amazing life’s story.TRANS - Now that we’ve touched on the source of the gospel, let’s visit the effect it had on Paul.Paul’s Conversion is from God (vv. 13-16a)Look at vv. 13-16a:For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood,If there ever was someone who was unlikely to become a Christian, it was Paul. Paul was a devout Jew, a Pharisee “extremely zealous” he notes. Being a Pharisee, Paul was out to persecute Christians. He was “persecute…and tried to destroy it.”Luke describes Paul this way:But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.Paul was not an easy convert. A Pharisee was a tough nut to crack, much less the “extremely zealous” type, they were not easy to convert. According to Luke, Paul was “breathing threats and murder” later in the next chapter in Acts.Let’s look at what Paul says about himself in his writing to the Philippians:although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.What Paul calls “confidence even in the flesh” is what blinds people from their need for Jesus; makes it impossible to come unaided to the Lord. We can’t get past ourselves to get to Jesus.But, God is sovereign in salvation! When God spiritually changes someone, like He does with Paul, it proves to the person and everybody else that “Christ Jesus came to save sinners.”God makes the impossible possible. God has a strategy to save the seemingly unsavable. God is sovereign in salvation.Never lose confidence is the power of God to change a life. Never give up hope that God can change the person most opposed to Christianity, the Bible, or even your testimony. When it comes to saving souls, God gets that done.TRANS - We’ve noted that both the gospel and the conversion are from God. Paul was changed by the gospel and the power of God. Paul’s spirit is renewed. Let’s glimpse into his post new life activities to see how the change first impacted his life.Paul’s Conversation is about God (vv. 16b-24)Let’s finish reading our text. Looking at vv. 16b-24to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” And they were glorifying God because of me.You and I are our best argument for truth, not just because our life is changed against all odds, but others see it and say so.This is what happened with Paul. Look at v. 22:I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ;Even while the Jerusalem believers didn’t personally know Paul, his reputation was know by them. Paul’s change was so considerable, the people had a special way of speaking about him. They spoke of him being persecutor turned preacher:but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.”The change in Paul was a real reversal, dramatic, and undeniable. Who could argue Paul’s spiritual transformation?Now, look at the power of the gospel:And they were glorifying God because of me.People worshiped because of the power of the gospel in Paul’s life.Do you see it?You are your best argument for the truth of the gospel in your life.When you change, people see it and praise God because of you. Your life is a powerful argument for the reality of the gospel when, like living water, you splash on those around you.Recall Jesus’ instruction to you?:Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.When you are full of light, when you shine that light on others, when they see it, God in heaven is glorified:For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.When your life change is so real that others see it, when people talk about it, it proves to you and everyone else that the power of God for salvation is for those who believe.What other reason is there to explain the change in the lives of Jesus followers through the ages? Is there anything else to explain the dramatic change in our own lives?TRANS - Sometimes we need a reminder of the power of God. It’s easy to fall into a mindset of thinking being a Jesus follower is simply learning more about Jesus in Sunday School and going to church. It’s easy to overlook the amazing truth of the power of God to bring salvation to the lives of sinners just like us.The gospel is not simply some kind of recipe for making Jesus followers. It is divine power to change even the most difficult of people. The gospel is not simply a story about how to get right with God. It is not some nice story about Jesus, who he was and what he did, it is the grand announcement of who Jesus is right now.The gospel is the power of God to save everyone who believes. That is how we must treat it, how we must speak about it, how we must tell our story about it, and the reason we live our lives this way.TRANS - We’ve noted the gospel is from God, that conversion is from God, and that God wants His followers to tell others our story about what God did and is doing in our lives.What is God asking you?ResponseI mentioned we’d close by asking how might we learn from Paul’s example about sharing our testimony?Let me encourage you with a story about a change life that affects millions of people.ILL - You might know the name John Newton. He wrote the hymn we often sing “Amazing Grace.” Before John was a follower of Jesus he was a slave trader, a rebel against God.God was merciful toward John. Despite all the wickedness in John’s heart, all the terrible things he did to other people, all the lives he destroyed, God showed him mercy. Jesus got hold of John’s life saving him.John wrote a friend about his conversion:I, though long a ringleader in blasphemy and wickedness, was spared, and though banished into the wilds of Africa, where I was the sport, yea the pity of slaves, I was by a series of providences little less than miraculously recovered from that house of bondage, and at length appointed to preach the faith I had long labored to destroy.John, like Paul, did most terrible things to other people. He was part of something so horrendous, so evil, yet God reached out to bring John to salvation.John, like your pastor, we left a life of wickedness to become a pastors who understood the power of God, the grace of God, and the love of God, that changes even the most rebellious sinner.Prior to dying, John Newton penned something he wanted on his tombstone. It reads:“John Newton, Clerk, Once an Infidel and Libertine, A Servant of Slaves in Africa, was, By the rich Mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Preserved, Restored, Pardoned, and Appointed to Preach the Faith He had long laboured to destroy.”John’s testimony, like Paul, your pastor, and your very own, is a powerful argument for the truth of the power of the gospel!The most vile of sinners, the hypocritical people, the superficial sinners, no matter how far from God a person is or was, God is powerful to change a person and use that testimony.A transformed life, a life lived to glorify God, is a powerful proof claim, a truth claim, for the gospel.Your story is unique among all of God’s children. What makes it powerful is not the story itself, but that you put it into the hands of God. Some of what I thought were my worst presentations of the gospel were used by God to change people.You are your best argument when it comes to sharing Christ with someone else.Are you willing to put God to the test and see His power use your testimony? We noted the Bible’s command that you share, that it’s God’s gospel and power that do the work.I hope that learning or revisiting what the Bible teaches us through the life of Paul this morning will challenge you to find a way to share your story.Experience the grace of God in the gospel and others will see your transformation and glorify God because of you.Your new you is as real as it gets!(end)
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