In the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul fervently argues against a group of legalistic teachers who were causing trouble. One of the first heresies in the early church was that of believing that a non-Jew had to adopt Jewish customs to be a proper Christian.
For instance, they thought that the Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised like the Jewish Christians were. The book of Galatians is the strongest work in the Bible against this legalistic false teaching, and against legalism in general.
Legalism is believing that there are other works that one must do in addition to having faith in Christ in order to be a Christian. Because of it’s emphasis on self-righteous works, legalistic people tend to be boastful. In Luke 18, the Lord Jesus described a Pharisee, who are infamous for their legalism:
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. (Luke 18:11–12)
Let’s call this boasting…
One of the best Western novels ever written is called Shane. Written in 1949, it has a crisp, clean style that is the mark of a classic. The main character, Shane, is a mysterious stranger who wanders onto the farm of a family in Wyoming Territory in the late 1880’s. The narrator is the eleven-year old son of the family—Bob.
Shane is taken with Bob and his family and stays on to help them settle their homestead. But there is a ruthless rancher who wants to push the homesteaders out and take their land.
Shane is the idealized man: strong and silent…loyal and true…and, of course, independent. He lends Bob a few words of wisdom throughout the book, such as:
“A man who watches what’s going on around him will make his mark.”
“Listen, Bob. A gun is just a tool…A gun is as good—and as bad—as the man who carries it. Remember that.”
“What a man knows isn’t important. It’s what he is that counts.”
There’s a lot to commend about Shane…he is strong and courageous…but where does his strength and courage come from? In the end, Shane disappoints, because his strength and courage are merely human strength and courage.
We mere mortals—we who are not fictional Western heroes—need a strength and courage greater than what we can dig up from within. For that, we turn to the premier passage in the Bible about strength and courage—Joshua 1:1-9.
THE ACCURACY OF GOD’S WORD (9:28)
As we start with this passage, we are going to talk about the accuracy of the Bible. Our first verse has what appears to be an error. So that you can catch it for yourself, let me read Matthew 17:1, which is Matthew’s version of this same passage:
1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, (Matthew 17:1)
Now, see if you can find the problem in Luke 9:28—
Luke 9:28 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.
Matthew and Mark both say “after six days,” instead of eight days as Luke does here (cf. Matthew 17:1; Mark 9:2). A Bible critic might jump on that to prove that there’s a error here, but it’s really very simple to explain: Luke includes the day of Jesus’s sayings and also the day of Jesus’s transfiguration, while Matthew and Mark only count the days in-between.
Matthew and Mark are precise—“after six days.” But notice how Luke states it, “it came to pass about eight days after.” He doesn’t claim any sort of precision, in fact, he claims to be imprecise when he says, “about.”
The Bible is a book written in common language—in the language of everyday people. It’s not a calculus textbook—it’s not precise down to the hundredth decimal place (unless it claims to be in a given verse).
Another televangelist has made the news. Jesse Duplantis (DU PLANT TIS), a prosperity gospel preacher (that is, his own prosperity), announced that Jesus has told him to buy a 54 million dollar private jet. Specifically, a Dassault (DAH-SOH) Falcon 7X. He says that God said, “I want you to believe in me for a Falcon 7X.”
Duplantis said, “Jesus Christ wouldn’t be riding a donkey today—he’d be in an airplane flying all over the world.” (https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/evangelist-54m-jet-jesus-riding-donkey-55507538)
Sigh, never mind that he isn’t Jesus. Jesus would fly, but I am sure that he would go on commercial jets so that he could be around people—the sinners whom he came to save—just like he did when he walked the roads of Israel 2,000 years ago.
What does Duplantis do with Jesus’s call to discipleship in passages like the one before us? Does a 54 million dollar jet fit with Jesus’s description of the Christian disciple’s life?
The hymn, “Hold the Fort,” was written by Philip Bliss in 1870. The inspiration for the song came when Bliss heard the story of the Union’s defense of Allatoona Pass towards the end of the Civil War.
The Confederates hoped to disrupt General Sherman’s supply lines by blocking the railroad that ran through the pass. The story is that Sherman signaled the garrison to “hold the fort” and “I am coming” or words something to the effect. There was a small, but extremely bloody battle. But the Union forces held their ground.
The message of the hymn is that Christians need to hold the fort of their faith against the persistent attacks of the world with the hope that one day Jesus will come.
Yet, it’s not just the battle against the world that we must hold the fort. There’s another war in which we must hold the fort. In fact, it’s a civil war because it takes place within us.
There are two opposing forces in this war: One is the law of sin in our flesh and the other is the law of God in our mind.
One of the most important questions in the world is the question, “Who is Jesus?” Knowing and trusting the right answer to this question gives a person eternal life. Another important question is “Why can we trust the answer the Bible gives us to the question, ‘who is Jesus’?” People often discard the question of who Jesus is because they don’t believe they can trust the answer. I want to touch on both questions. Let’s start with…
THE WRONG ANSWERS TO WHO JESUS WAS
Luke 9:18 And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?
Jesus and his disciples had, according to Matthew and Mark, travelled to Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13), some twenty-five miles north of the Sea of Galilee.
Here Jesus finally found some alone time with his disciples, away from the crowds clamoring for one miracle after another. Jesus asked the disciples a vital question: “Whom say the people that I am?” The disciples had been on a missions trip by themselves, so perhaps Jesus was wondering what people had said to them when they came to their towns and preached the Gospel.
Luke 9:19 They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again.
I learned a new word this week, momism. Momism can refer to several things, but the definition I discovered was those sometimes wise and sometimes witty sayings that mothers say to their children.
Another momism (at least I think it is) I found on a towel given to us as a gift: “Wash your hands and say your prayers because germs and Jesus are everywhere.”
There’s a kind of worldly wisdom that mothers have that comes from many sources (including their own mothers!) Most kids despise their mother’s wisdom when they are young, but when they are older, they often admit, “Mom was right!”
There’s also another kind of wisdom that not every mother has—a godly wisdom that comes from a relationship with the Lord. Those who have had godly mothers find themselves doubly blessed. Those who are young and have godly mothers right now should listen carefully to her.
Where does a godly mother get her wisdom? From the place where all godly knowledge and wisdom comes—