Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
We’re talking about Biblical cursing today.
Sounds like a crazy subject. Like…what in the world are we talking about today?
Am I going to be up here swearing at you?
Are we talking about crazy hocus pocus cursing?
Are we going all Harry Potter today?
All good guesses…but no.
We’re going to be looking at a passage in the NT today that talks about a curse.
It’s not a word that we typically associate with the Bible.
I say curse…and you’re probably thinking like witches, and brewing, and spells to turn you into a frog.
But the Bible actually uses this word more than you’d think.
And typically it’s a word that’s used in place of a word like consequences or even judgment.
So…in ancient times…they might say, “With obedience comes blessing, and with disobedience comes a cursing.”
And they don’t necessarily mean, if you disobey your mom as a teenager and break curfew that there’s some witch chanting a curse over you (cuz remember…words change over time)
They just mean…that you’ve broken an agreement, and with that comes the curse (the punishment of that agreement)
Does that make sense?
It’s a good thing to clear up before we get into today’s passage.
We are in a series on the book of Galatians in the New Testament in the Bible.
Galatians is a book written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Galatia (one of the earliest churches in Christianity)
And Paul is writing them because some other people have come to town after him and told the Galatians a different way to be saved…to be forgiven…to be made right with God.
They said…”Believe in Jesus…AND ALSO…make sure you’re a really, really good person by observing all of these extra Jewish things (Circumcision, Jewish dietary laws, etc.)
And Paul’s purpose in writing Galatians is to refute that idea and remind people that salvation is by faith alone.
Galatians is one of the tougher books of the New Testament to interpret.
So once again this summer, we will be…what I would like to call…diving deep into the simple.
Because while this is a complex passage…( it’s very rich in doctrine about God)… it’s ultimately about the most simple truth of Christianity.
That God loves you and Jesus died in your place.
So we’re going to study and dive deep into the doctrine of soteriology today.
That’s a word that people say to sound smart…that simply means the study of salvation.
How does one get saved? How does one get right w/ God?
We do a lot of different styled messages at Renovation (super practical, philosophical, and sometimes a bit more theological like today)
If you’re a believer in Christ…this oughta really enrich and expand the depth of which you understand how God saved you.
Let’s get into the passage.
CURSE VS. LIFE
If you want to follow along today, we’re going to be on page 944
Or, you can follow along with your YouVersion Holy Bible App.
Last week, we looked at verses 6-9, and how Christians today, like Abraham in the OT, are saved by faith in God…not by being a good enough person.
Today’s a great Sunday to keep the text in front of you as there are a lot of complex parts to look at
But I’ll do my best to make it simple…even if you’re just checking out God for the first time.
We’re going to cover verses 10-14 today…but let’s start with 10-12
(Galatians 3:10-12) – NIV
10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”
So, okay, what’s happening here?
Well, first off, Paul’s actually quoting Deuteronomy 27 (OT) when he says “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of Law”
Well, what’s the law? Is that like, “Don’t speed on the highway. Don’t rob a bank?”
Not quite. The law is a portion of the OT in the Bible that was given to the Jewish people about how they should live.
The 10 commandments would be a part of the law for example.
And Paul quotes a verse of the law that basically says, “Hey…if you can’t do this law-thing flawlessly, you’re in trouble. In fact, you’re cursed. Justice is coming on you (because you’ve broken a law)”
Think of it this way: In America, if you just break 1 law, does that mean you aren’t served justice?? No.
Now…the Jews back in the day knew that no one could pull off perfection, and that’s where faith in God for forgiveness comes in….even back then.
But Paul astutely reminds the Galatians that clearly…you can’t get right (be completely forgiven) by God by obeying all of these moral laws.
A) Because of what we talked about last week: The Bible through and through clearly teaches that people are justified by faith (Paul used Abraham as an example last week)
And B) he says, “Look, even the law itself says that as soon as you miss one detail of it…the curse is on you. May justice come on you.
The law was never meant to save us…we’ll actually talk more about its real purpose later this summer.
Paul’s saying there are two schools of thought here…two different doors that people think lead to salvation:
But one leads to everlasting life…and one leads to the curse of separation from God
One door is: Faith that Jesus saves you…and other is that you save yourself with your good deeds (and often a little Jesus sprinkled in)
Which brings me to today’s stat of the day: It’s going to sound crazy at first, but bear with me.
91% of Americans are deciding between those two doors:
Do I get to heaven by faith…or by being a good person?
Now, I know I’ve been accused of making up stats before, and boy that sounds like a made-up one, but it’s not.
Mathematically, we can subtract out people of different religions in America, because they’re trying to enter heaven through a totally different door (completely diff. subject)
Roughly 4% of Americans are a different religion (Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Budhists, etc.)
Another 5% of Americans are atheists.
They’ve said. There is no door #1 or #2 to heaven, because…there is no heaven.
And after subtracting that out, fascinatingly enough…despite American’s exceedingly low church attendance, 91% of people still believe (half-heartedly or not) that something like the Christian God is out there somewhere.
So, if it’s the Christian God…shouldn’t everybody be thinking…I get there by faith in Jesus? By believing he died for me?
Ideally…but actually the majority of that 91% number aren’t thinking that way….because churches haven’t articulated salvation that well…or…people are now dechurched…or their parents did the “church thing” but they’re unchurched
Yet…they do believe Jesus existed…and believe God is out there…and they’d like to go to heaven someday.
So they’ve got to pick between two doors: Faith in Christ…or earn it yourself.
Imagine one door saying “Faith: Enter through this door…and follow this path…but you’ll have to trust that Jesus died for you. You’ll have to follow Him. Repent. Die to yourself. The path might even get ugly. You’ll have to trust in Him as your Lord.
Then you see another door. This one’s significantly wider. It looks nicer. The paint’s not as rusty. And it says, “DIY.” - Do It Yourself.
“Find your own way to God…to heaven. Just be a good person…don’t murder anyone…and you’ll get there eventually!”
Interestingly enough…even Jesus himself paints this dichotomy of two doors…two gates.
(Matthew 7:13-14) – NIV
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
But here’s where it gets complicated.
Not everybody has all the information when they start walking down a path.
This is why evangelism…telling people about the good news of Jesus is so critical.
We need to say, “Hey! Choose the narrow road! That’s where life is!”
Christians are called to be guides that point the way.
To some…the Jesus door doesn’t look that appealing at first though.
Die to myself. Surrender to God. Give my LIFE over to Christ. Fully obey Him.
So we think…Nah…God’s a merciful dude…I’ll just make sure I don’t rob any banks, go to church once in a while, and I’ll be hanging out w/ the big guy upstairs for all of time.
But Paul’s saying in Galatians…that if you choose that door….If you choose to say, “I will make it there by obeying enough of the law (good deeds)…you’ve chosen a door and are walking down a path that can only lead to a curse”
That leads to separation from God for all of eternity.
The choice to try and make it by the law is a choice to inherit the curse of the law.
Because the LAW (Good deeds) simply do not have the power to bring you life.
Sure, you might walk a few old ladies across the street and help a few hipsters buy deodorant…but you’ll also still have a long list of sins sitting in front of you.
And they won’t be paid for. They won’t be forgiven.
Because just obeying the law…just being a good person…can’t help us deal with our sin.
Interestingly enough…If we are to really dive into the meaning of Paul’s words here and break down his argument…
When he’s talking about people who are trying to be made right by the law (while it can be applied to just anyone trying to earn their way to heaven), he’s actually (in context) specifically talking about people who think they’re going to earn their way to heaven through their RELIGIOUS good deeds and affiliation.
And this is a tough question…but how many people in our American churches right now….are believing that they’ve been saved…made right in God’s eyes…are ready for heaven…
But they’re thinking so…not because of what Christ did for them…but because of the things THEY DO
Because of their church attendance…or affiliation.
Because “I was baptized and confirmed Lutheran, so why wouldn’t I go to heaven.”
Because “I go to the Baptist church every week and serve…so obviously God is gonna forgive me.
But that’s all about US. And what WE do.
But it doesn’t work like that.
In fact, the Bible even goes as far as saying this in Isaiah:
(Isaiah 64:6) – NIV
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
Although God wants us to do good, serve others and love others (that’s central to the teaching of Jesus)…when it comes to salvation…when it comes to…are we made right with God…are you guilty or not guilty to go to hell?
When it comes to that…God (through Isaiah) uses hyperbole to say that all of our righteous acts (our good deeds) are like filthy rags on a scale.
Whoa. That’s intense.
But in so many ways it’s true.
I mean c’mon, most of even our good deeds…we do for us.
To make us feel good…or better about ourselves.
But they’re probably not going to outweigh or sin…and they certainly aren’t going to be enough to earn us a place near a Holy and perfect God for all of eternity.
I don’t know…maybe you’re just way more holier than me…but if God is just weighing my good deeds and my sin…I’m in trouble.
Here’s another way to look at it…if we’re truly thinking deeply about God.
If it truly is door #2. If we’re supposed to get saved…get right w/ God…by obeying the law…by being good enough…
What real hope is there for us to somehow “bribe God with our lowly virtues?”
Are we hoping that we can offer a God…who is already all-sufficient (meaning: He doesn’t need anything)…are we hoping that we can offer Him our good deeds in some sort of exchange to overlook our egregious sin?
As if we would say, “Here God…if I promise to serve the poor…will you accept that as good enough to overlook the times I cheated on my spouse?”
Now…Hardly anyone actually SAYS this stuff.
You don’t say to God…”If I go to church and work in the nursery will you overlook the time I cheated on my taxes?”
We don’t say it…but it’s how we live.
If you’re not believing that you are going to heaven by what CHRIST did for you… and you’re not an atheist…and you’re not a different religion…the only thing left is the belief that as long as I’m a decent person (a few God things sprinkled in)…I’m good.
Which is what they were saying in Galatia.
But the law (being a good person) can’t give you life.
This is actually what separates Christianity from every other religion.
You don’t need a certain level or morality…or enlightenment…this isn’t Islam where Allah is going to measure at the end how many times a day you repented and then weigh the scales of your good and bad…
If it’s about us saving ourselves…we’re in trouble.
We’ve gotten ourselves into this mess…and we cannot get ourselves out.
That’s like the alcoholic drinking to get sober. The way you got in is not how you get out.
We brought the curse upon ourselves through our own rebellion.
The reality is: If we want to be judged by the law…by how good we are…we can be nothing but guilty. We can’t avoid the curse of the law.
The only way for us to get free…is for God…in His remarkable love…to be willing to transfer our sentence of death (the curse) to another.
And God…although Holy…although Just…is that in love with you…He was willing to offer you just that.
Look at verse 13
CHRIST BECAME THE CURSE
(Galatians 3:13) – NIV
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”
And this is REALLY fascinating because Paul’s argument is RICH with Old Testament quotations.
See, in ancient times they killed people in all sorts of gruesome ways.
Impalement through a stake or stick of wood…or even on a cross.
In many translations it reads, cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.
The greek word essentially means “Wood.”
Could be a pole…wood made from a tree…even a cross.
And Paul’s actually quoting a verse from the OT.
Because they believed, if someone was killed that way, they were cursed. Cursed with final punishment. Death.
And Paul’s pointing out to the Galatians…and how interesting is this!!...that all we get from trying to earn our way to God with good deeds is the curse of the law…
Is the curse…the punishment still on us.
But Christ…But JESUS…became that curse for us.
They said people who were killed on a cross were cursed.
And he became the curse to take our curse off of us.
Or as Paul so astutely writes in 2 Corinthians:
(2 Corinthians 5:21) – NIV
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
So God…lets his one and only son be sentenced to death (cursed in those days), so he can absorb OUR curse…so we could be made righteous in his eyes (made right w/ him)
SO THAT WE MIGHT HAVE THE SPIRIT (THE GOSPEL)
And then Paul says:
(Galatians 3:14) – NIV
14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
So the only way we really start a relationship with God (which when we do the Holy Spirit comes and dwells in us)…the only way to do that is to believe that Jesus…died in your place…took the curse for you…
And it’s saying, I want to follow this guy who died in my place
I want to give my life to Him!
And that is salvation. And nothing else Paul says.
Because every time we add religious regulations to salvation…
i.e. “You’ve got to get baptized…you also need to have 1st communion…you need to be confirmed…you need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit…you need to dress a certain way...you need to read a certain type of Bible…we’re missing the very core of Christianity.
You can do NOTHING apart from Christ to earn your salvation.
It’s a gift. Not a reward.
And we are made right in Him…only by our faith in what He did…and never by anything we did.
And I wonder…have you made this decision?
Are you following this awesome…mighty…majestic God that is so in love with you He offered his OWN SON to take your place and absolve the curse meant for us?
Have your put your faith in that?
Because believing in that (the Bible says), and saying, “I’ll follow Jesus now…”….THAT is how we are made right in God’s eyes.
Through the gift of faith.
And I wonder…what are you basing your salvation on?
Maybe you’ve even been coming HERE for a few years now…but if you were really honest…you would say you’re going to heaven because you talk about God…come to church…pray at meal times…avoid huge sins.
Some of you have been here for even 2-3 years…but you have NO RELATIONSHIP with Christ.
If you were brutally honest, you’re just doing religious things to feel better about yourself
Which is no different than choosing the door to appease God with our Good Works.
But when we truly make a decision to FOLLOW Christ and believe He died for us…God comes in, dwells in us, and begins renovating us.
So I want to ask you a bold question: Are you basing your salvation on the fact that you now do Christian things or because you’ve put your trust in Christ that He died for you and you’re following Him now with your life?
Because they’re an eternal difference between the two.
Today…Paul’s making a divide between those who are letting God change them and those who have merely started their own self-improvement while in the walls of a church.
Have you believed Christ died for you and have you given Him your life?
Because He did!
He died…for messed up people like you and me.
Before I was a Christian, I used to think I didn’t even need to worry about this stuff…I went to church every once in a while…was a decent guy…I’m good.
But that was all about me…and me getting their on my own was only going to be a door that led to a path that eventually dropped off a cliff.
My own good deeds can never build a ladder to heaven.
Only Christ can save us!
It’s like this. I want you to imagine something with me.
If you want…you can even close your eyes and picture it.
Imagine you’re towards the end of your life.
And you’re standing in the middle of the road. And you see this enormous mack truck driving right towards you. (SWITCH TO “TRUCK” LIGHTING)
It’s still a ways off…so you figure…I’ll just walk off and move to the side of the road.
You start to lift your legs to move…except your stuck. Completely. It’s like you’re glued to the pavement.
You are completely powerless to save yourself and the truck is still right on path to hit you. The lights are getting brighter..
You get a better look at the truck…it’s almost like it’s coming in slow motion…and you shockingly realize…that this truck…is carrying your sins.
It’s like all of your lies…hate…sexual sin…bitterness…rejection of God….are all piled in the back of this truck…
And now they’re coming at you…as if to finally rend their judgment.
You’re totally frightened now. You feel like there’s no way out and life has finally caught up with you.
And then you get an idea. You start to shout at the truck!
You start to shout all the good things you’ve done!
“But wait!! I went to church!”
I helped my neighbors!
I was in the rotary club!
I did meals on wheels for a few years!
But the truck doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
And then all of a sudden…out of the corner of your eye…you see a man on the side of the road…he claims his name is Jesus…and he has a ridiculous offer for you.
He says, “Just trust in me. Believe that I can save you…and I’ll come in…I’ll push you out of the way…I’ll be the curse for your curse….I’ll take those sins on me!...I’ll die in your place!
“But I won’t force it on you. You have free will. You’ve got to ask me. “
But what can he do? And why do you need his help?
You’re debating…but the truck keeps coming…you can’t even tell the speed…maybe it’s gonna be sooner than you think…
You decide to keep shouting your good deeds at the truck:
I gave to the red cross after earthquakes!
I helped in my children’s ministry!
I cooked meals for people when they had babies!
I took care of my elderly mother when she was dying!
It’s not slowing down.
This Jesus guy shouts out again, “I will die in your place. I’ll push you out of the way. I can miraculously free you from what feels like an impossible situation.”
You keep looking at him…at the truck…at him…
He just keeps talking. He’s speaking to your heart now…
“I promise. I love you so much. I love you so much. I love you so much I want to push you out of the way and die for you. Please. I love you so much. Please…let me take your place.
You’ll never do this on your own. It’s not enough. Justice must come.
But let me take it for you. Let me die for you…Trust me and follow me. Please!
And that is the offer that sits before you this morning. (SWITCH BACK TO NORMAL LIGHTING)
We simply can not make it on our own or with our good deeds or religious ceremonies.
Only through faith in Jesus…the who had no sin…but took our sin…and died in our place…can we be saved.
Will you let Him save you?
IN fact, I want to give you that opportunity this morning.
Maybe you’ve even heard me give this opportunity before…but today…you want to actually really believe it…and truly want to start a relationship with the SAVIOR…and follow Him. For the 1st time.
In fact, let’s all bow our heads and close our eyes…as I want this to be a special moment between you and God.
If you want to believe in Jesus as your savior…and TRULY be forgiven and made right with God…you want to follow Him now…if that’s you…in just a moment…I want you to raise your hand up to God.
We’ll all have our eyes closed (no one’s looking), so this is just between you & God
But I believe today, it’s import. for you to raise your hand up to Him…as a symbol to say, “You died for me…for ME…I believe. I’ll follow now”
So wherever you are, all across this room right now. If you’d like to become a follower of Christ, and accept his gift of forgiveness, you’d like to let him push you out of the way…and save your life…raise your hand wherever you are.
If you’re hand is raised, would you pray this prayer with me?
It’s not a magic prayer…but just a prayer to tell God where you’re at…again, the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.
So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me
IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.
So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.
EVERYONE repeat after me with these new believers.
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life. Amen
AMEN!! Let’s just clap and praise God.
Let me thank Him and PRAY.
If you gave your life to Christ today, I need you to do just 1 thing for me
Right after the service today, I want you to go to either the back of the room or to the right of the hallway table on your way out…for just a moment.
In the back, and in the hallway, there are signs that say “FOLLOW-UP”
There will be some incredibly nice people there (they have lanyards on) who want to give you some extremely helpful tools to help you get started in your faith
Won’t take you very long. But absolutely go back there.
Let me just pray & thank God!
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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