Mike was heading off to college. He had spent the last 18 years of his life with those who had loved him most, but now he was packing up, pulling out, and staking a claim on a new life of his own.
When Mike arrived at the University he completed all of the paper work, unpacked his bags in his dorm room, met his new roommate, and prepared himself for the first day of class.
As the weeks rolled by Mike wasn’t having any problem with the course work, but he sure missed home. He never realized how much he enjoyed his family until he was not able to see them every day. He never realized that his mom was a world-class chef until he had to eat cafeteria food every day, and he never realized how good he had it until he didn’t have it any more. Mike was lonely. He called home and his parents heard the heaviness in his voice. They encouraged him to get involved in something, they asked him if he had found a church, and they encouraged him to meet some new friends.
One day while Mike was studying in the Student Center for an upcoming class when another student came up and sat down. He introduced himself and said that he recognized Mike from having him in History class. The stranger asked “get-to-know-you-questions” like “Where are you from? How many hours are you taking? What’s your major? and “What dorm are you living in?” They talked for about 30 or 45 minutes and then the guy had to go so he could get to class. As he left he said, “I’ll see you in class.”
The next time history class rolled around the guy walked into the room and spotted Mike. He made his way to the back of the room, smiled, and took a seat next to Mike. After class he asked Mike if he would like to go with him to “The Hall” to eat lunch…it’s free. Who could pass up a free meal? Mike went with the guy and when they arrived at a big house just off campus there were probably 50-60 college guys and girls already there waiting for the meal to be served. Everyone was so friendly. Everyone was introducing themselves. Mike, who knew nobody just a day before, now had 50 instant friends.
A man appeared from the kitchen with an infectious personality and a smile that would light the night sky. He welcomed everyone, invited them to bow their heads to give thanks for the meal, and said, “We’re glad you’re here! We want our home to be your home while you are here at college.”
Mike enjoyed an awesome meal listening to everyone around him. The kids were from all over the country and all of them seemed so happy and excited to see one another. Mike left the meal that day excited about finding some new friends.
As the semester rocked along Mike got more and more involved with the group of college kids. He started going to a Bible study with them on Tuesday nights, he went to the luncheon every Wednesday, and he signed-up for a weekend retreat just before Christmas break. There were things that Mike heard during the Bible study that sounded different than anything he had heard while he was going to church at Grace Presbyterian back home, but he brushed if off since he wasn’t really awake or paying attention on most Sundays.
Mike was paying attention now. He couldn’t help but pay attention with all of the other kids so eager to learn. They were taking notes, they had the most incredible worship times that he had ever experienced (a far cry from the dragging organ he use to listen to back home), and the warmth of the group made him want to be there.
Mike called his mom and dad and told them about the group of kids that he had gotten involved with at school. His parents asked, “What denomination are they?” Mike didn’t know. They said, “Do they teach the Bible?” Mike said, “I go to Bible study with them every week.” They said, “Mike, we’re glad that you’ve found some friends, but you need to ask some questions to find out more about the group.” Mike was kind of discouraged that his parents weren’t more excited about his new friends, but at the same time his folks raised some questions in his mind that made him think.
The next time he went to history class he found his buddy. When class was over they were heading to lunch together at “The Hall” and Mike asked, “What denomination is our group affiliated with?” Mike’s buddy kind of brushed off the question and said, “I don’t really pay too much attention to denominations. I just know in my heart that I’ve found the people God wants me to be with as I seek Him.”
When Mike went to Bible study he started looking with new eyes at his surroundings. He read the material that was given to him with a more thorough eye, he picked up information that was lying around and scanned it to try and find out who was sponsoring the get togethers, and he found an answer. The material on one of the pamphlets he had picked up had the words, “The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society” printed on the back. Mike had never heard of the Watch Tower Society, but the next time he talked to his parents he told them what he had found out. His dad said, “Mike, those are Jehovah Witnesses…they are a cult. You really need to back away from that group and find a group that teaches God’s Word.” His mom chimed in and was more alarmed and urgent in her counsel. “Don’t go to “The Hall” again Mike. You can’t trust what those people are telling you. They will lead you astray and corrupt you spiritually.” Mike listened to his parents, but when he got off the phone he began to think about all of the friends he had met. They were so nice and fun to be with. They were much more sincere and passionate than any of the young people he had known back in his youth group. Being with them just felt so right…so how could they be so wrong?
The dilemma that Mike found himself in is the same dilemma that many well-meaning Christians find themselves in today. They know the Truth, they’ve been to a Bible teaching church and heard the Word of God, they’ve accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior of their life, but…The familiarity of the church and the monotonous voice of the preacher fails to move them. They are looking for something more, something supernatural, an experience of intimacy, an experience that makes their heart race and their soul burn with passion, something that makes them come alive. The only problem is this: If we seek experiences rather than the Truth or allow our experiences to shape our understanding of Truth, then we will find ourselves shipwrecked on the shores of deception.
In our Scripture for today the Apostle Paul is shocked, he is amazed, he is dumbfounded that those in Galatia that had sat with him in Bible study were now exchanging the Truth for a lie. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for this morning found in Galatians 3:1-5.
1You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4Have you suffered so much for nothing-if it really was for nothing? 5Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? (Galatians 3:1-5 NIV)
” How could you?” Paul can’t believe the report that has come to him! He had been there in Galatia with Barnabas, they had preached Christ and His crucifixion as the only means of salvation, and yet now he was being told that the brothers and sisters in Galatia were being duped, hoodwinked, and bamboozled into believing that there was something more! Something more than Jesus? Come on, you’ve got to be kidding! Paul begins Galatians 3 by writing, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?”
When Paul calls the Galatians “foolish” he doesn’t mean to imply that they are stupid or have no intellectual capacity to stay with the Truth. The people who read the letter knew good and well what Paul was saying to them. He was saying, “Use your head!”
The Greek word for “foolish” means, “pertaining to an unwillingness to use one’s mental faculties in order to understand.” The people were not using their capacity for understanding and as a result, they thought and behaved foolishly. The word for “foolish” is used 6 times in the New Testament and if we will take the time to read some of these verses then the definition of the word will begin to take shape for us.
First, let’s turn to Luke 24 and take a look at the two disciples who were walking on the road to Emmaus with their heads hanging low because Jesus had been crucified and now He was dead…they thought. They had lost all hope even though Jesus had told His followers over and over again that He had come to die, but that He would rise again.
The followers of Jesus were walking on the road when all of a sudden a stranger joined them and said, “What’s up fellas?” They said, “Haven’t you heard?” Then they told the stranger who was Jesus, alive and well, what had taken place. At one point in the conversation they said to Jesus, “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21 NIV)
Finally, Jesus had listened to all He could take. How many times had He told them? How more clearly could He have explained it to them? How could they have missed it? Jesus says,
25 …”How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27 NIV)
Next, let’s take a look at 1 Timothy 6:9-10. It wasn’t just the followers of Jesus on the road to Emmaus who left their brains at the door and allowed their experience to lead them astray. When the Apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, he told him that a person’s desires can lead them away from the Truth as well. Paul writes,
9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:9-10 NIV)
There is no greater teaching tool for a person to utilize in learning about money than God’s Word. In God’s Word we can learn the proper place of money in our lives, the perils of allowing our thirst for money to hold us in its grip, and where all of our resources come from and how we are supposed to use them so that God will be glorified. Paul says that those who want to get rich fall into temptations and their foolish desires will plunge them into ruin.
Knowing God’s counsel on finances is not enough, we must use our head and allow the Spirit of God to give us discernment when our desires do not match God’s Word.
The final place where we will turn this morning in looking at the use of the word “foolish” is Titus. Turn with me to Titus 3:3-7. Paul writes,
3At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7 NIV)
Paul says that before we come to Christ we lived foolishly, thought foolishly, and acted foolishly in every conceivable way. We don’t have to be foolish now. Things changed when the love of God was revealed to you and me. Things changed when Jesus came into our hearts, gave us a new mind, and saved us by His grace! When Jesus comes in a transformation takes place. In Romans 12:2 we read about this transformation and the impact that it has upon our lives.
2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2 NIV)
God transforms our minds by His Spirit so that we can know the Truth, abide in the Truth, and allow the Truth of God to keep us in God’s will.
In America today we are captivated by our senses, shaped by our experiences, and all too often led astray by appearances. This is not only true in society at large, but it is also true in God’s Church. We want and yearn for “experiences” of God, signs of His miraculous power, and we want to feel spiritually alive. So much of what is captivating today is based on emotion and not necessarily Truth. John MacArthur writes in his commentary on Galatians about this predicament. He writes,
Christians who rely on self-oriented emotions instead of Scripture-oriented minds are doomed to be “tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). When they judge an idea on the basis of how good it makes them feel or how nice it sounds rather than on the basis of its harmony with God’s Word, they are in serious spiritual danger. Most cult members did not become involved because they were intellectually convinced the doctrines of the cult were true but because its teachings and practices were appealing. Their minds were not persuaded; their emotions were victimized. (MacArthur, John, Galatians, pg. 64.)
We need, desperately need, God’s Word. Enunciated and articulated with clarity, explained with accuracy, communicated with integrity, and lived with vibrancy.
Paul writes at the end of verse 1, “Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.” I’m sure Paul probably didn’t draw with pen and paper the story of the crucifixion of Jesus, but by his using the word, “portray” he let’s them know that he couldn’t have made it any more clear or plain. The word for “portray” means, “to write before, to depict or portray openly, to write before the eyes of all who can read,” or “to depict, portray, paint, before the eyes.” Paul taught the crucified Savior so that everyone could understand, and they did understand, while he was there. Now, something had changed, something had happened. Paul says, “Who has bewitched you?” It was like someone had cast a spell on the folks of Galatia. In a very real way, someone had. The false teachers had come in after Paul and had deceived the people who had started with Jesus, but were now pursuing something else, something more than total and complete reliance upon Jesus.
In verses 2-5, Paul asks a series of six questions of the Galatians. He writes,
2I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4Have you suffered so much for nothing-if it really was for nothing? 5Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? (Galatians 3:2-5 NIV)
The very first question that Paul asks brings us an important lesson for those of us today who live in a day when many are teaching that you become a Christian by accepting Jesus, but to receive the Holy Spirit you to have a second experience of God, a “deeper” spiritual experience.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to all who receive His Son as Lord and Savior of their life. The Holy Spirit is given to believers so that we might be able to know the will of God, to convict us of sin when we go astray, and to remind us of God’s Word as we live life to His glory. Those who teach that the Spirit of God comes as a second experience of God are just flat wrong. Romans 8:16 says,
16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:16 NIV)
John echoes the same sentiment in 1 John when he writes to believers.
13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. (1 John 4:13 NIV)
Again in 1 John we read about how we can know that Christ lives in us and that we are children of God. Turn to 1 John 4:24 with me and let’s read.
24Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (1 John 4:24 NIV)
John MacArthur writes in his commentary on Galatians that it is absurd to believe that the full gift of the Holy Spirit comes at a later time. Let me read to you MacArthur’s words.
It is therefore ludicrous to maintain, as some Christians do, that the full gift of the Holy Spirit comes through an additional work or experience. A person who does not have the fullness of the Holy Spirit does not need a second blessing; he needs salvation. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is inseparable from the new birth. At no time before salvation can a person have the indwelling Spirit, and at no time after salvation can he not have Him. (MacArthur, John. Galatians, pg. 66.)
It is important for us to know this because there are many folks today whose teaching on the Holy Spirit is contrary to Scripture. They speak about a “second baptism,” a “deeper experience,” or a “second blessing.” All of the blessings of God are found in Jesus Christ and Him alone!
Let’s go back to our Scripture as we wrap things up this morning. To sum up all of Paul’s questions we can turn to the middle of verse 3 where Paul writes,
After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? (Galatians 3:3 NIV)
Doesn’t it seem like Paul has been hitting on the same teaching in a myriad of ways in his letter to the Galatians? Paul keeps hammering away at justification by faith, salvation by God alone through Christ alone, over and over again. Don’t think he is a broken record or that he only has one sermon in his arsenal my friend. It is just that there is no teaching that is more foundational or more neglected than this basic truth. Everywhere Paul went he ran into the same thing: people were trying to earn their way to God. Everywhere Paul traveled he found that there were many teachers who were more than willing to teach the people that they could start with Jesus, but once they came to know Him as Savior then they needed something more. They were false teachers who gave false teachings. They were present in Paul’s day and their descendants are still with us today. They have always been around leading people astray. They were present in Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s day as he wrote in 1887,
Avowed atheists are not a tenth as dangerous as those preachers who scatter doubt and stab at faith. (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Sword and the Trowel, August 1887)
We must use our heads this morning. If you are not a believer this morning and have never asked Jesus into your heart then you are defenseless against the ploys and plots of the Enemy to lead us astray. There is a way for you to build up your defenses and stand strong against the Enemies attacks, but there is only one way: Surrender your life to Jesus Christ. Trust in Jesus alone as the sole source of your salvation, your only hope for abiding in the faith.
For those of us who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives then we must use our head. We can’t be led by our emotions, we must be led by God’s Word. Any experience that we have, we must check with God’s Word. I want to invite you this morning to set your mind on the Word of God, allow God’s Spirit to stay your mind on His wonderful Word, and trust Him to lead you in His Word as you live life for His glory.