Friday, March 24, 2017

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 26, 2017

Over 126,000 readers worldwide

(GOD can restore us with HIS abounding love)
(Joel 2)

   It must not be forgotten that JESUS HIMSELF was raised on Scripture. HE based HIS entire ministry on what it says. And HE approached HIS death with its words on HIS lips.
    Peter C. Craige once wrote, “When people cease to care, then religion, morality, social customs, and values, all cease to function as mortar that holds together a society, and maintains ancient faith”.
    In the Old Testament book of Joel, the prophet’s strong images of the locust here in chapter 2, verses 1-11, and his urgent call or reform in verses 12-17, remind us that our personal relationship with GOD should take priority over the secular affairs of this life, even marriage (v.16).
    When we become too pre-occupied with worldly affairs, then, we truly have become too pre-occupied with the wrong agenda, and we have become overly concerned about things that we have no control over. The only thing in life that we really can control is our own choices, even though a lot of times the devil can convince us that we don’t have a choice. In fact, satan is forever busy trying to convince us that it is impossible to obey GOD, and then he shows us how easy and fun it is to do the wrong thing, which is obeying him.
    However, we always have control over our own choices, whether we know or not, for perhaps it is the greatest power that GOD ever bestowed upon mankind. Our relationship choices are always critical to our personal wellbeing, and oftentimes, even to the wellbeing of those whom we love. Our relationship with GOD is our greatest asset, and it too can also affect those whom we love and care for, but in a good way.
    In this terse but powerful book, Joel is addressing, not only his generation, but also future generations as well. In verses 12-17 we see “a call for repentance” by the prophet of GOD, as Israel moves ever closer to the catastrophic invasion and capture of Samaria, in northern Israel, by Shalmaneser’s Assyrian army in 722 B.C. (2 Kings 17:7-23).
    However, if we, in this generation, do not put a halt to our moral slide into imperviousness toward GOD, we too can face the same unfortunate results that Israel had to suffer with way back then. We know this to be likely because the same thing happened again to Israel, as history now records how Jerusalem, in southern Israel, fell to Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian forces in a like manner in 586 B.C., and this was an even greater disaster for “GOD’s chosen people” than the first (2 Kings 25).
    The phrase “The Day of the LORD” is one that can be used to describe “any time that GOD chooses to intervene into our existence” for the purpose of “judgment”, or, even “blessing”, as far as that goes. And even though it may be, for the most part, associated with the “End Times” in our thinking, it can, and has, always taken place at any point in history that GOD chooses to exact those actions upon us.
    However, one of the things that Joel points out in this passage is that, it’s not too late to repent, until GOD says it is, and he appeals strongly to his people, Israel, to take advantage of GOD’s grace and patience, buying up whatever time they have left to appeal to GOD with repentant hearts, so as to obtain HIS mercy and forgiveness (Vs.12-14).
    In verses 18-32 we can see a light at the end of the tunnel when we humble ourselves and earnestly appeal to GOD for mercy and forgiveness for our offenses against HIS moral codes and precepts, personally, and, as a nation. The LORD promised HIS people then, and HE promises us now, that, HE will pour out, not only physical blessings upon us, but more importantly, HE will pour out HIS HOLY SPIRIT upon us, and we as a remnant, will experience extraordinary wonders, and this includes men, women, and children alike.
    We can now all experience the beauty of a restored relationship with GOD, through JESUS CHRIST, if we choose to. Joel’s prophesy, contained in verses 28-29, regarding GOD’s outpouring of the HOLY SPIRIT, is one of the oldest such prophesies in Scripture.
    In the New Testament this prophesy delivered by Joel is cited by the Apostle Peter in Acts chapter 2, verse 17, as he delivers his, now famous, “Pentecost Sermon”, the first sermon ever preached in the Christian Church. There Peter suggests that Joel’s prophesy was being fulfilled at that moment, as they celebrated the very birth of Christianity as an organized force of GOD, in the world.
    This timeless book, which seems to place no particular importance on dates, does however suggest that, “even now” is still “the right time” to repent. However, Joel warns us that, “true repentance” is more than just saying, “I’m sorry”, but rather, true repent is a thing of the heart, not just words, or even actions. He tells us in verse 13 that GOD wants us to “rend our hearts”, or “drastically change the way we think” (attack sin while it is still in the thinking stages, before we commit it).
    Earnest repent is not about us hating the consequences of sin (the problems brought on as a result of sin), but rather, it calls for us to actually hate the sin itself (hate sin enough to not want to go there in the first place). When our hearts are truly broken by sin, and we long to return to GOD, then, and only then, will we experience the necessary changes in our lives that GOD promises, are soon to follow.
    In the biblical Greek, the word used for “repent” is “metanoia” (met-an-oy-ah), and it means “to have a strong compunction for” or, in other words, experience “a strong feeling of uneasiness that is brought on by a sense of guilt, or, sting of the conscience, before we do the wrong thing, not after”.
    No one has ever gone through this life, except JESUS, without ever having the need to repent. Only HE, WHO is now much more than man, can make that claim. And so the question for Christian converts becomes, “When the “waves of joy” that we experience when we first become Christians, have crested, and then begins to level off, will our waters still flow in the direction of JESUS CHRIST?
    Conversion to Christianity can never be viewed as “an emotional undertaking”, but rather, it is a “lifestyle change” or “a metamorphosis of the heart”, an alteration from worldly thinking and behavior, to GODly thinking and behavior, sharing the mind of CHRIST, WHO is “the standard example to aspire to”, if, we indeed desire to overcome the world as HE did.
    All GOD ever asks of us is that we stay faced in the right direction, focused on the life example of CHRIST, the only man who has ever overcame the gravitational pull of this world. As our great pioneer, JESUS blazed a “lighted path” through this dark world for us to follow, and to also lead others to. However, this lighted path also goes through “the cross” and so there must be some suffering along the way. But JESUS promises that whosoever can withstand these tribulations until the end, ultimately, will be “saved” (Matthew 24:13).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Friday, March 17, 2017

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 19, 2017

Over 125,000 readers worldwide

(How to be rightly related to CHRIST, and each other)
(John 15:1-16:4)

   Throughout the Old Testament, the analogy of the “vineyard” is used as a depiction of GOD’s beloved Israel. However, this term is never used apart from the idea of degeneration. The descriptions by Isaiah (Isaiah 5:1-7), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:21-22), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 15 & 19:10-14), Hosea (Hosea 10:1), and King David (Psalm 80:8-13) all stress the point of degeneration, or, a moral decline of GOD’s chosen people (the Church).
    In John 15:1-16:4, the author of GOD writes of JESUS’ instructions to HIS Disciples, that they should be “rightly related to HIM”, “rightly related to each other” as Christians (15:11-17), and, “rightly related to the World” of Unbelievers (15:18-16:4).
In other words, Christians are to have three respective duties. They are to;

·        Abide in JESUS (Vs.1-10)
·        Love each other (Vs.11-17)  
·        Witness and testify to the World (Vs.18-16:4)

    “I am the True Vine” is the last of the seven, now famous, “I am” statements of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST that are found in the Gospel according to Saint John. The scene in this particular passage, takes place on the eve of JESUS’ trials and subsequent Crucifixion by Roman method. Here JESUS seeks to relate and demonstrate to HIS Disciples, and to us, just what GOD THE FATHER, and HE HIMSELF, expects from HIS followers as Christians living in the world.
    JESUS, as the “True Vine”, fulfills that which GOD had intended for the Israelites and the world in general. GOD is the Cultivator and Protector of all of life, human and otherwise, and HE desires good fruit from each of us. In fact, we see JESUS stressing that point in this passage (15:2-16), no less than eight times. The fruit, which GOD expects from the human side of HIS creation, is “obedience”, “righteousness”, and “justice”.
    JESUS tells us that every branch, or person in this case, that does not produce good fruit will be cut off from HIS vine, and indeed, cuts themselves off from eternal life. Here we see that, every person (branch), who professes to be a follower of CHRIST, is not necessarily a “true follower”, or “a producing branch” of “THE TRUE VINE”. Such branches, or people, will be cut off from THE TRUE VINE in the last day, or in the “time of harvest”. The great example of this is Judas Iscariot. Although Judas Iscariot was a branch of THE TRUE VINE, he was not a producing branch, or true follower. He did not produce good fruit, and therefore, had to be cut off from THE TRUE VINE, and burned in the end.
    In the Greek, the word the Apostle John, and other New Testament writers use for “remain” is “meno” (men-o), and it means “to stay in a given place, state of mind, relationship, or expectancy”; and “to abide, continue, dwell, or endure”. This word occurs 11 times in this particular chapter of this Gospel account of John. The fruitfulness, of which JESUS speaks of in this passage, can only occur, as a result of HIS life being reproduced in ours.
    In other words, our life and behavior must reflect JESUS’ life and behavior, and we must “remain” in HIM, or “continue” to reflect HIS image to others, through our own behavior and actions, throughout our remaining lifetimes, after pledging ourselves to HIM.
    We, as Christians, must prove to the world, through our behavior and actions, not our mouth, that Christianity really does produce the best men and women. It is only by doing this, that we can be considered to be “true followers”, or “producing branches” of the “TRUE VINE” of GOD, which is CHRIST JESUS.
    All those who remain, or abide in JESUS, will also continue to bear good fruit until the day of the final harvest. However, all those who fail to remain in JESUS, or, in other words, “remain on the LIVING VINE”, despite all of GOD’s tender loving care and faithfulness to them, they will have to be lopped off from the VINE, and cast into the fire to burn as useless wood in the end.
    In John 15:11-17, JESUS moves on to instruct HIS disciples (and us), as to how we should “rightly relate to each other” as Christians. Here, we see JESUS delivering to all who seek to follow HIM, the only commandment that HE would ever give, and it is to “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12), and it is a commandment that the Apostle John personally, never forgot.
    According to Jewish folklore, the Apostle John, who lived longer than all of JESUS’ original twelve Disciples, in his old age, had to be carried into the Temple, because he could no longer walk. At that time, the Apostle’s sermon consisted of only one sentence, “Little children, love one another”. It is one of the more lovely stories in a Biblical Church history that consists of countless lovely stories from the early Church. Every time I think of it, it nearly brings me to tears.

John 15:18-16:4

   In John 15:18-16:4, JESUS instructs us on how we should relate to the world. I continue to stress the point that, when we choose the Christian walk, we automatically become strangers to worldly behavior. We are no longer permanent residents of this earth, but rather, we become citizens of Heaven, and therefore, the laws of GOD should become paramount to us.
    Here in this passage, JESUS warns of the hatred that the World will have for those who follow HIM. As long as a person belongs to the World, the World will always love that person. That is primarily because that person resembles the World through his or her behavior and actions, and to hate that person, would, quite literally, mean hating themselves.
    The person who hates “the true Christian”, hates JESUS, and thereby, hates GOD. Anyone, who is shown the Word of GOD, and does not accept it, is guilty of denying CHRIST, who is the “personification” of the Word of GOD, and therefore, is GOD.
    We as Christians have a duty to go out into the world and share the Gospel with dignity and respect. JESUS empowered us with the HOLY SPIRIT, and GOD goes before us, to prepare the hearts of those to whom we may be speaking. “Be of good cheer”, and “be not afraid” is what JESUS said to Peter and HIS other Disciples that day in far off Palestine, where HE “walked on water”, in order to give them encouragement to “remain in HIM”.
    We, as Christians, are called to go out into the world and spread GOD’s wonderful gospel with dignity and respect, and we don’t have to be afraid as we proceed. JESUS will always come to us, from across the storms of life to render aid to us when we’re in need of it, but we must continue to bear good fruit, by remaining in HIM, if we are to expect HIS help with our mission. If we fail to bear good fruit, as Judas Iscariot failed to, we will be cut off from the “TRUE VINE” that brings with it, Eternal Life.
    JESUS eternally encourages us through these immortal words that HE spoke to HIS closest disciples, just prior to HIS ascension back into HIS Heavenly Realm; “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the FATHER, and of the SON, and of the HOLY GHOST: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I AM with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:19-20 - KJV).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Friday, March 10, 2017

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 12, 2017

Over 125,000 readers worldwide

(Made alive with CHRIST)
(Ephesians 2:1-10)

   Whenever we decide to choose the Christian walk, we are also choosing to alienate ourselves from worldly attitudes and behavior. We are no longer permanent residents of this earth, but rather, we become citizens of Heaven in advance, so to speak, and therefore, the laws of GOD should become paramount to us, right now, while living here on earth.
    Aspiring Christians need to begin to let GOD dominate our thought process, if we are to move away from the spirit of this world, satan, who refuses to obey GOD at any time. We have to, in effect, “change our mind”, or “repent” from our former “worldly way” of thinking. We then can, in a very real sense, begin to “share the mind of CHRIST”, and we can begin to incorporate HIS thoughts into all of our decision-making.  
    In the biblical sense, the word “heart” is translated from the Greek word “kardia” which describes one’s “thoughts” or “way of thinking”, not one’s emotions. Still, our conversion is often treated as “an emotional experience of psychological change”. And even though here in Ephesians 2, Paul correctly depicts “conversion” as a “spiritual transformation”, or, “a metamorphosis” from “a state of spiritual death” into “a state of spiritual life”, this passage does have some psychological implications also.
    Before our conversion to Christianity, we generally follow the ways of the world and are driven by sinful thoughts and desires. And while, even after conversion, we still are capable of sin, our lives are, for the most part, re-oriented toward GOD, through the power of the HOLY SPIRIT. However, all in all, it is not until a person actually falls in love with goodness, that wrong things, will no longer fascinate, and have power over them.
    The reality of “our inward change”, must, in time, be reflected in a true change of lifestyle, actions, and behavior, and if it’s not, the supposed conversion, is not real. Our relationship with GOD is our greatest asset, and it must be nurtured and invested in, in order to keep us from “backsliding” and returning to old worldly behavior, or “spiritual bankruptcy”.
    Human nature has long been corrupted, and we constantly tend to desire to create “a god who is made in our own image”, instead of desiring to worship the GOD, WHO made us in HIS divine spiritual image. The GOD of our salvation through JESUS CHRIST is the only GOD, and theologians often debate whether it is salvation or faith that HE grants to us freely.
    However, the true Christian has “faith” that “the gift of salvation” is an example of how GOD’s grace is greater than all of our sins combined. Paul tells us that GOD acted graciously to grant salvation to each of us who believe, and, no amount of good deeds can earn us what GOD freely gives.
    GOD determined long ago to form the Christian Church out of the now flawed humanity that is “us”. He always took those of us who were “dead in sin” and made us “alive in CHRIST JESUS”. HE, quite literally, re-fashions us to make us suitable for every good work that HE has prepared for us to do, and, through JESUS CHRIST, HE closed the gap between us and HIMSELF, and brought us back into “a personal relationship of friendship with HIM”.
    GOD sees the unbeliever, who is walking with satan and is thereby, in step with, even this current generation and it’s worldly way of thinking, and HE desires to exchange our old “life of misery”, and “temporal happiness (at best)”, for “a life that is filled with grace, mercy, and eternal spiritual riches”.
    Salvation, and GOD’s continued abundant grace, is available to all people. However, one has to voluntarily choose to become a partaker in that salvation and enormous grace. Every human being has the opportunity to be “made alive with CHRIST”, to be at “oneness and peace with CHRIST”, and, to “be a temple for the LORD”, our GOD and SAVIOR, WHO is now, in Heaven. We’ve always had the “liberty” to choose, however, we can never obtain “freedom”, until we use that liberty to choose CHRIST JESUS, and walk away from the trappings of this world, which, right now, is being dominated by satan.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Friday, March 3, 2017

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 5, 2017

Over 124,000 readers worldwide

(Loving one another)
(1 John 4:7-21)

   Since perfect love originates with GOD in the Christian sense, a person who loves his fellowman is one who is born of GOD, and, in a discerning way, “knows” GOD (“oida” in the Greek – “to know inherently or intuitively”). Therefore, in contrast, the absence of love can be viewed as evidence that a person does not know GOD. And although all mankind shares “GOD’s nature” that is given to us at birth, by the time we reach an age of accountability, we have, through parental misguidance and being a product of our environment, been alienated from those “communicable attributes”, and we, as a result, have to be “born again”, in order to retrieve them.
    In 1 John 4:7-21, the apostle and author of GOD, John, elevates the topic of love to yet another level. Here John shows the divine and inseparable link between “GOD” and “love”. GOD showed how much HE loves us by sending HIS only begotten SON into the “human realm” so that we the people might have eternal life through HIM (v.9). HE did not send HIM because we were lovable, but rather, HE sent HIM because HIS love for us required that HE rescue us from ourselves.
    Such an action from GOD provides the defining standard for love as we know it, and thus, we as Christians are responsible to love each other because we enjoy the privilege of GOD’s largesse. Not only is GOD the source of love, HE is love itself, by HIS very nature. GOD is love, and anyone who doesn’t love his fellowman doesn’t know GOD.
    Christians who say they love all mankind, and indeed, really do have the love of GOD in their hearts, cannot stand idly by and watch while any other groups of people, different than themselves, are being treated unjustly, or, are being oppressed in any way, without coming to their defense in the name of JESUS. The love of CHRIST must be expressed fully by us, and exemplified through us, in our actions (v.12).
    In the New Testament Greek, the word used for “abide” is “meno”, and it means “to stay in a given place, state, relationship, or expectancy”. If we abide in our relationship with GOD, our love will grow more perfect. And when our history judges us, we won’t be afraid to come before GOD. We can face HIM confidently, because our history will show that we tried to live like CHRIST here on earth (v.17). Learning to show and express the “divine love” of CHRIST will dispel all fear of the coming judgment, which “true Christians” will not have to face.
    Because GOD is love, and CHRIST’ new commandment is love, it only stands to reason that love will inevitably bring us closer to each other, and, at one and the same time, closer to GOD. It is only by love that we ever come to know GOD, and it is only by GOD, that we ever come to know love.
    “The Christian Hope” has, throughout the history of the Church, served as motivation to make life on earth conform more fully, with the Word and ways of GOD, just as they were presented to us by JESUS CHRIST, during HIS life here on earth. The very foundation of that Christian hope, rest on “faith” in CHRIST JESUS, WHO delivered us into salvation.
    The only commandment that JESUS ever gave us was to “love one another”, and so we see why it is said that “faith”, “hope”, and “love” are “the three great enduring things” (1 Corinthians 13:13), and of those three things, “love” is the greatest, because “GOD is love”.
    All that we know now is partial and incomplete, because, until we finish this Christian race, we will remain “children” in the purest sense of the word, and in the true sense of what knowledge really is. We are incapable right now, of handling the Heavenly knowledge that GOD will one day impart to those who abide in HIM to the end. But we do know now that if we don’t have love for those brothers and sisters that we now see all around us, we will never be able to love GOD, WHOM we cannot physically see at all. We must rely on our “faith” to maintain “hope” as motivation to endure this earthly journey until we are ushered into GOD’s OWN glorious presence by CHRIST JESUS.
    And finally, in the biblical Greek, the word used for “confidence” is “parrhesia” (par-rhay-see-ah), and it is “a sense of sureness that is exemplified in both spirit and demeanor”. GOD HIMSELF has commanded that we love not only HIM, but also, our Christian brothers and sisters. And when we honor and obey that command, we can be confident that, when we stand before the LORD, our conscience will be clear, and we will be able to face HIM without fear, guilt, or shame.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander  

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, February 24, 2017

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday February 26, 2017

Over 124,000 readers worldwide

(Keep in step with the HOLY SPIRIT)
(Galatians 5:16-6:18)

   In the biblical Greek, the word used for “world” is “kosmos”, and it is from that word that we derive our English word “cosmos”. In the spiritual sense, it is that complex intertwining of sinful desires that shape our world of “lost humanity”.
    When we choose the “Christian Walk” we should automatically become strangers to worldly behavior. We are no longer permanent residents of this earth, but rather, we become citizens of Heaven, and therefore, the laws of GOD should become paramount to us. It is not until we fall in love with “goodness” that “wrong things” will no longer fascinate, and have power over us. Our relationship with GOD will then become our greatest asset, and by contrast, the person who loses his or her heart to the things of this world, becomes the person most vulnerable to satan.
    The end of all things earthly is near, for each of us, personally. For, that is the warning in the messages that the ancient prophets, and, the New Testament writers and thinkers, all leave us with. And those warnings are just as valid today as they ever were. In this day and age, both the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD, and the Bride (the true Christian Church) are beckoning us to come out of the world (Rev. 22:17), however, unfortunately, the lure of this world, and satan, are beckoning us to stay, and further indulge ourselves, with our own “sin nature”.
    The HOLY SPIRIT in us will always seek to compel us towards CHRIST, while the “sin nature” within us, will always try and tug us back toward the world. That battle that wages on inside of each of us, between “the reason to do right”, and “the passion to want to do wrong”, will continue to stay with us, long after we accept the gift of salvation. However, through our strength in CHRIST, we can ultimately overcome the “gravitational pull of this world”, just as CHRIST did, and find our place in “the ultimate happy ending” that has been prepared for us by GOD, since the foundation of this world.
    In Galatians 5, verses 16-21, the Apostle Paul advises Christians to choose to live their new lives in the HOLY SPIRIT, as opposed to returning to their old life of doing what their sinful nature dictates to the flesh. Here Paul gives us a “catalog of evil things” that we are to have “self-control” (“egkrateia”/eng-krat-i-ah) against, while yet living in this world. While certainly we have to exist in the world physically, we don’t have to participate in its Luciferic agenda.
    Contrary to the beliefs of most Christians, our call is not to try and “make the world a better place”, but rather, it is a call by GOD to, first, remove ourselves from the world spiritually, and then, help to extract others, leading them out of the darkness of this world and into the light of CHRIST. The world belongs to satan at this point, and this world, since the beginning has never improved from one generation to the next, not even during JESUS’ first advent.
    The earth is where GOD planted HIS “vineyard”, and HE entrusted mankind by giving him dominion over it. Man ceded it over to satan in the Garden of Eden, and caused sin and death to enter into the world. Since then, all throughout scripture, the analogy that GOD uses of the “vineyard”, is never mentioned apart from the idea of “degeneration”, which means, civilization has never gotten better, throughout all the ages, though many a man has tried.
    Down through the ages, man has failed to recognize what his one assignment from JESUS is, and that is “to draw other men from the world” that he has already given over to satan, and then, we are to “make them disciples of JESUS”. It is not until JESUS HIMSELF returns, that HE promises to make the world a better place (the Millennial Kingdom). That’s HIS job, not ours.
    Back in verse 1 of this chapter of Galatians, Paul reminded us that our “Christian Freedom” does not mean that we have freedom in indulge in the trappings of the lower side of human life, but rather, it is freedom to walk in the true life that can only be found in CHRIST JESUS, and, in our reliance on the power of the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD to guide us. Here in this passage (Vs. 16-21), every word that Paul uses in his list of evil doings has a very vivid picture associated with it.

·         Adultery” and “fornication”, for instance, is quite literally the opposite of chastity, which true Christianity requires from all of us as people made in the “spiritual image” of GOD.
·         Uncleanness”; Here Paul uses the Greek word “akatharsia” which describes the pus of an unclean wound.
·         Lasciviousness”; from the Greek word “aselgeia”, which means, readiness for any immoral, lustful pleasures, or, to be sinfully out of control. 
·         Idolatry”, which is the worship of anything, or anyone, other than GOD”.
·         Witchcraft”; it literally means the use of drugs, which in ancient times was a necessary part of sorcery.
·         Enmity”, the complete opposite of love, it describes one who is characteristically hostile to someone else.

    All together, Paul mentions no less than seventeen fruits of evilness that the “human sin nature” can easily cotton to. Anyone, who chooses to indulge in any of these “works of the flesh”, unless they repent, can never enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Starting in verse 22, the Apostle Paul shares with us, a list of “lovely things” that characterize the “fruit of the SPIRIT”. The catalog includes;

·         Love,
·         Joy,
·         Peace,
·         Patience,
·         Kindness,
·         Goodness,
·         Fidelity,
·         Gentleness,
·         Self-control.

    The HOLY SPIRIT is the engine that drives the converted person’s “new self” in the opposite direction of their “old self”, away from their “sin nature” and the world. HE also produces in the converted person’s personality, the “fruits of the SPIRIT” that are mentioned here by Paul.
    These “GODly qualities” replace the “unGODly desires” for the “fruits of evil” that had previously “dominated the thought process and actions” of the now “converted person”. It then becomes the responsibility of that converted person to keep in step with the HOLY SPIRIT (Gal. 5:25). He or she must then “live by the SPIRIT”, and “be led by the SPIRIT” responding only to HIS promptings, as HE seeks to guide our decision-making in every area of our lives. We must, in our hearts, show our reliance on the SPIRIT, and our confidence in “doing what we know to be right”. Our lives will then no longer be marked by our sinful acts, but rather, it will be marked by the deeds of one who is submissive to the SPIRIT of GOD.
    In Paul’s final advice to the Galatians in chapter 6, verses 11-13, he points out to them that he is closing out his letter in his own handwriting, and not that of his personal scribe. He again stresses some of the issues that he had previously discussed in this letter. These final words contain both a summary, and, advice on how to proceed in the future, as far as their dealings with detractors are concerned.
    Detractors and false teachers, for the most part, go along with the program of man, either because they fear persecution from man for teaching the truth of GOD’s word (in other words they are cowards), or, because they are more interested in “glorifying themselves” by influencing people to “follow them”, instead of following CHRIST.
    “True men of GOD” refuse to boast about anything except what JESUS CHRIST did on the cross, in order that HE might save us from eternal damnation. Paul says that “it is because of the cross that his interest in the things of this world died long ago, and the world’s interest in him died along with it (v.14).
    When we choose the Christian Walk, it is the “circumcision of the heart” that becomes paramount, not the “physical circumcision” of the male’s sexual organ. If that was the key, then women would be blocked from salvation. What really matters is whether we really have been changed into a new creature because our “heart”, (“kardia” in the Greek, which means “our thinking”) has been changed to the thoughts of “the things that are important to GOD”, and away from those “things that are important to the world” (v.15).
    Paul’s body bore the scars that served as evidence that he belonged to CHRIST JESUS. And if we are to follow JESUS’ example as Paul did, we too, can only follow that example by “going through the cross” (suffering for the cause of CHRIST JESUS). GOD expects us to suffer for the faith we say we hold, until we can began to believe in our thinking (heart), that we really do hold it. GOD, WHO knows all things, knows through HIS infinite wisdom that, if our faith costs us nothing, then, we are in danger of valuing it at “nothing”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Friday, February 17, 2017

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday February 19, 2017

Over 123,000 readers worldwide

(Stand firm in CHRIST)
(Galatians 5:1-17)

   Whenever we turn to the LORD, the “veil” that prevents us from understanding the truth is removed. Our minds are no longer hardened, and so, now we begin to perfectly understand the things of GOD that we had previously failed to comprehend. This veil can only be removed by the “SPIRIT”, whenever we start to believe in the “Risen SAVIOR”, JESUS CHRIST.
    “And now the LORD is that SPIRIT, and wherever the SPIRIT of the LORD is, there is “freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Everyone who has had the veil removed can now be “free” to be the mirror that brightly reflects the glory of the LORD. And as the SPIRIT of the LORD works within us, we become more and more like GOD, and reflect HIS glory even more to others in the world, through our behavior.
    Here in Galatians chapter 5, verses 1-15, Paul reminds the Christians at the Church in Galatia of their newly found “freedom in CHRIST”. He encourages them to remain free, and to not get tied up again in the “slavery of the LAW” (v.1). The Christian life is a life apart from law and license, and it is, instead, a life lived according to the SPIRIT. To turn to the law does five things Paul says, and they are all negative to the Christian Believer;

·         It ruins grace (Vs.1-2)
·         It makes a person a debtor (v.3)
·         It causes one to fall away from grace (Vs.4-6)
·         It blocks the progress of those who believe (Vs.7-10)
·         It nullifies the purpose of the Cross (Vs.11-12)

    The Galatians, who had been influenced by the “false teachers” who had infiltrated the church since Paul had left the area, had begin to rely on “circumcision” and other Jewish rituals and observances to make them “right” with GOD, instead of relying on their faith in CHRIST. They did not realize that, by doing these things, they were actually “cutting themselves off from CHRIST, and thereby, from GOD’s grace (Vs.2-4).
    In the Greek, the word “apokaradokia” is the term used for “earnest expectation”, or “hope for the future”. We, who live by the SPIRIT, eagerly anticipate “the first signs of the coming of the glory of GOD” (CHRIST’s return). We look with “high expectations” to receive everything that GOD promises those who are right with HIM, through our faith in CHRIST. When we place our faith in CHRIST, it makes no difference to GOD whether we are circumcised or not. What is important is that we have an undying faith that expresses itself through “love” (Vs.5-6).
    Paul warned that it takes only one person to infect all the others (v.9) in the church, and he said he was trusting in GOD to rescue them back to the right path. He knew too, that, GOD would judge those responsible for leading the church astray by confusing the people and mixing the “holy with the profane” in the church, in word, thought, and, in deeds (v.10). 
    The Gentiles in the church at Galatia needed to realize that the Jews were persecuting Paul because he preached against the doctrine of Judaism, which supported the belief in the law and good works. He was never a component of “circumcision” for Gentiles, which was a religious rite that GOD charged only to the Jews, and no one else.
    The “freedom” that Christians are called to, is not the freedom to satisfy our “sin nature”, but rather, it is the freedom to satisfy the “nature of GOD” that is within us, by serving one another in love. Paul says that the whole law of GOD can be summed up into one command; “Love your neighbor as yourself”. It is high time that we become aware of how we’re destroying each other by choosing to live in the prison (world) that is, outside of CHRIST JESUS.
    We as Christians must learn to live according to our new life in the HOLY SPIRIT, and when we do that, we won’t be doing the things that our old sinful nature craves. Our old sinful nature, that we accepted into our lives the moment we first disobeyed GOD, at an age of accountability, loves to do the evil works of satan. Those works are exactly the opposite of the works of the HOLY SPIRIT, which mirrors GOD, exactly. Those two forces are constantly battling each other inside of us, causing all of our choices to never be free from conflict.
    When we allow our choices to be directed by satan, we put ourselves on a dangerous path of destruction. However, when we allow the HOLY SPIRIT to direct us, we put ourselves on a path that leads to eternal life with GOD in Heaven, and as a result, we are no longer subjected to the restraints of the law. In other words, we no longer seek to obey GOD as a matter of obligation, but rather, we choose to obey GOD because we greatly desire to, because it is “right” and “good” to do so. Therefore, it becomes an “attitude change”, which leads to a “lifestyle change” that is compatible with GOD, right now, while we live here on earth.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander