The Supernatural Transformation by The Gospel

The Supernatural Transformation by The Gospel

Fantastic job of singing there. That was a great song of repose. July 20, 1944, a group of German officers attempted to kill Adolf Hitler and seized control of the government. You might have seen this dramatically portrayed in the recent movie that Tom Cruise starred in Valkyrie. He was played in that movie by a man named Claus von Stauffenberg.

Born to the German nobility that was eventually abolished after World War One. But von Stauffenberg loved his country. He was a patriot through and through. In 1943, like many, he was sent to Africa and he was leading a tank column. One day, driving in his jeep, an R.A.F. plane from the British Air Force strafed him. He was dramatically injured, lost his left eye, and his right hand was eventually sent back to Europe to recover.

And there, as he was considering the war and all that had happened, some members of the resistance approached him and asked him to consider joining their cause. He, like others, had become disillusioned with the war and all that Germany had come to represent. Then they knew that the war was lost. Germany was doomed. But it was something even more.

Eventually, von Stauffenberg would become the leader of the failed attempt on Hitler’s life. But let me ask you this morning, what would lead a soldier, a patriot, in the eyes of Germans, to become a traitor, not just to resign, that they were going to lose or committed commission, but to become a traitor? And the answer, of course, is that that he had eventually seen the light.

He saw what the German Republic had become. He saw it for what it was. There was evil. And he knew that he had to do something about it. And we’re going to see a similar dynamic this morning as we continue our year long theme of growing in faithfulness. We want to be a church that’s growing, and this year we’re focusing on growing in faithfulness.

So if you were here last week, we started our series as we study in the book of Galatians, what it looks like to faithfully follow the true gospel. And what we saw ultimately is that the gospel is about the glory of God. And I hope that, as you’ve been thinking about the gospel this week and your own life, the good news of Jesus death, burial and resurrection, that you would see that this is really all about God’s glory, making him look good because he himself is amazing.

We saw that this glorious message, it was from God. It was presented by men, but it wasn’t from men. And it’s dangerous for us to alter that message in any way because it is a timeless message. And we ended our time saying that the gospel, it will separate you might separate you from coworkers, it might separate you from family members, neighbors, whomever.

But there will always be in the gospel a level of separation. What we’re going to see this morning is that there is a supernatural transformation that comes by the way of the gospel. Just like our former German soldier who attempted to bring down Hitler. There was something in the life of Paul that led to a radical transformation that would change him forever.

If you have your Bibles, I would invite you to follow along with me as I continue in Galatians chapter one, beginning in verse 11. This is the Word of the Lord. For I would have, you know, brothers that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. Friday night receive it from any man or as I taught it, but I received it through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

For you have heard of my former life in Judaism. I persecuted the Church of God violently and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people. So extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But that’s always a great part of the gospel story. But when he who had set me apart before I was born and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his son to me in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles.

So I didn’t immediately consult with anyone, nor did I go to Jerusalem and to those who were apostles before me. But I went to Arabia and returned to Damascus. Then, after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, who was also known as Peter, and remained with him 15 days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.

What I’m writing to you before God, I do not lie that I went into the regions of Syria and Sicilia. I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that were in Christ. They only were hearing it said Here you used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. What was the result?

And the glorified God? Because of me, we’re looking at the supernatural transformation of the gospel. The Gospel. First and foremost, it leads to a radically transformed life. Paul opens up our time here. You. You’ve heard of my former life. Now, I know it would be hard for some of us to understand that the author of most of the books of the New Testament, he wasn’t always the paragon of Christian living.

What happened was, if you’re unfamiliar with the story, Paul was on his way to kill some Christians, and the chapter acts at Chapter nine of the Book of Acts records that he had a powerful encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. And it’s fascinating for so many reasons, But one of them is that that Paul is one of the last people to see with his own eyes and have an experience like this with the risen Lord, which is why he would say elsewhere that he was the apostle born out of season.

Others had been commissioned at a much earlier time. Before his conversion, Paul was and this is important for us to understand. He was quite the Jew. He was not playing at doing this. He was living this life. He was not a casual Jew. In fact, elsewhere, when he’s arguing about the gospel and helping people understand the means of salvation, he would go on to list his credentials.

If you were in in the old faith, he’d say, though, this, I have reason for confidence in the flesh, meaning his own way to earn salvation. If anyone thinks that they have reason for confidence, I, Paul, would say, I got more. See, I was circumcised on the eighth day, which the law required of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin Hebrew, of Hebrews, as to the law of Pharisee, the conservative right sect as to zeal, a persecutor of the church, as to the righteousness under the law.

What did others see? They saw blame less. And so for Paul, the Christians were a despised group to the Jews that had begun to follow Jesus of Nazareth. They were traitors to the cause. I know sometimes it’s hard for us to fathom this, but. But Paul hated Christians. Of course, the irony is now that we know this, that he would go from enemy of the Gospel to its great ally.

That happened with him. And I want us to see for those who are Christians, who are in Christ, that we all started off as an enemy of God. Paul went on in verse 13 to describe how he persecuted the church and violently tried to destroy it. It is breathtaking to see the honesty and the clarity which Paul brings to his own past.

He doesn’t shy away from it for a moment. Many of us, if we’re just being honest, when we’ve done something bad, when we’ve done something evil, we want to keep it away from our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We don’t want them to find out what it is that we had done in the past. That is not how Paul did it.

Paul was honest. The fact he was using his own testimony that he was a persecutor and tried to destroy the early church. And if you kind of go back in your mind, if you could, back to pre converted, Paul, there was a reason that he took up such a zealous attempt to destroy the church. The sanctions of holy violence and even death for those who flagrantly violated the covenant community.

That’s rooted in the Old Testament prototypes of Phineas, Joshua and Elijah. No doubt Paul saw himself as standing in the tradition of these zealous leaders and his campaign of violence against the Christians who in his mind were contravening the purpose of God by subverting his holy law. The point being, though, I’m trying to get in our mind here for a moment that Paul was transformed by the gospel, but he started originally as an enemy of that gospel, and so did we.

We, Paul would say later we were all enemies of the cross. Paul started off as Christ enemies, and so did we. We don’t like to use that word enemy. Like, I imagine that if you and I spent some time talking and you told me about individuals that you have a problem with a beef with you, that you have friction and struggle with, you probably would not describe that individual as your enemy.

And yet Paul’s trying to draw our attention to that very point. He started off as an enemy. And so we all. The implications for us are pretty clear that if we started off as an enemy of God, if God was able to draw Paul for being an enemy to something else, that if he did that with you, then I think the implication is really clear that anyone can go from being an enemy of God to being a son of God.

Theologian Frank Thielmann puts it this way because the conversion of any believer is entirely an act of God’s free and powerful grace. And we’ll look at that more in a moment. God’s choice of who to include among his people, it’s often surprising. Who would have guessed that God would choose the great enemy and persecutor of the early church himself, a zealous nationalist for his own people to become one of the early churches most effective preachers of the Gospel to all people.

We should never assume that anyone is beyond the reach of God’s grace, and we should humbly welcome everyone whom His Grace reaches and brings into and bring them into the full fellowship of his people. Let us remember here this morning, as we’ve witnessed baptisms, as we’ve partaken of the Lord’s table together, that we all are proof that anyone can be saved, that at one point all of us were enemies and that as we look at the world around us, as we see individuals who have not yet come to salvation, that we wouldn’t judge them or look down at them, say things like, Well, I would never have done X, Y, and Z or

what they’re doing is so awful that they’re beyond God’s grace, because before God’s effectual call, like Paul, we were all advancing on the destructive path. Paul actually highlights in his own history the path that he was taking. I was advancing in Judaism beyond my own age and among my people zealous was I for the traditions of my father.

It’s important for us just to understand for a moment how unlikely it would have been in those very moments for Paul to have been converted, meaning as he viewed the Christians as this evil, abhorrent sect and deviation from Judaism. He’s trying to highlight that that is unlikely he would have been converted. It’s kind of like if you’ve ever tried to discuss your faith with a Mormon or someone who is convinced that that you guys, you really believe the same thing.

But there’s just some shallow differences. If you ever tried talking to a Mormon and explaining the true gospel by faith, alone in Christ alone, it’s actually really hard for them to understand what’s going on. You talk to a Hindu or a Buddhist, and you guys are about as different as it comes. It’s actually in some ways a little bit easier to share the gospel with those people.

But converting someone who’s so close, but yet so far, that’s actually really challenging. The point that Paul is making and the point that we should see is that he was on a destructive path and so were we talked about in the text here, The traditions of our father, John MacArthur, puts it this way. These are commonly known as the Halacha.

It’s a collection of Torah, which is the first five books interpretations, and they became like a fence around God’s revealed law. And that fence grew so big that it eventually hid God’s word from view. Over a period of several hundred years, it expanded it into a mammoth accumulation of religious, moral, legal, practical and ceremonial regulations that just defied comprehension, much less compliance.

It contained such a vast amount of minutia that even the most learned rabbinical scholars couldn’t master it by interpretation or behavior. Yet the more complex and burdensome it became, the more zealously Jewish, legalistic, revered and propagated it. Meaning, it wasn’t like some of the traditions that we might have around here. Like we had this new tradition that after the first quarterly business meeting, we’re going to go for some soup and some chili.

That’s a great tradition. That’s not the tradition that’d be the loudest. And then I get all day. That’s not like the traditions that Paul was talking about here. These were traditions. These were interpretations that that were meant to earn favor with God and to demonstrate our holiness and righteousness. We even see that today, sadly, in the Jewish religion.

I’ll never forget a couple of years ago, I read this article on NPR that talked about a fishing line that encircles all of Manhattan so that Jews on the Sabbath can move about because if they can just run a fishing line around the whole borough, then we can move around. The point being and highlighting to us, as we should see this morning, the foolishness, the silliness, but also the destructiveness of any other way that is against the gospel.

Paul was on this destructive path. He was trying to earn his favor with God. He was an enemy of God. And eventually he had a powerful encounter with the risen Savior. So for us this morning, as we partook of communion, I hope that we would remember we were on a destructive path. We were enemies of God. And therefore that should create an each and every one of us, a heart of humility, a heart of compassion for those who are lost.

We wouldn’t look down our nose at these people, but we would want to reach them with the gospel of Jesus Christ and what we see from Paul’s life, and we even see it from our own life, is that everyone’s journey on the gospel path, It is most certainly different. Now, I’m not going to actually read verses 17 through 21 to recount you with his history again.

Scholars have spilled a lot of ink debating these passages and how they fit into early church history. We’re not going to do that. Rather, what I’m just trying to draw to our attention is that the Paul’s journey, it was different. And everybody in this room, if we had time, we could hear how different all of our stories were as well.

For example, you may have come to Christ like we heard from some of the people who were baptized today at a young age. Praise the Lord for that. I think young people can come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have to be so careful not to pressure. We don’t want it to be the wrong pressure that leads someone to salvation.

Wanted to be the right godly influence. Or you might have come to Christ later. It might have been dramatic. It might not have been. But the point of Paul’s story, the point that I’m trying to remind all of us, is that we’re all on a different journey to the gospel. But that journey, it started at the foundation of the world.

It started at the foundation of the world. Right. Paul writes. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, election calling, I understand for some these might be hard pills to swallow. But the truth is, you cannot outrun what the scriptures clearly teach. John Calvin, in one of his commentaries, who was a 16th century theologian, who probably right after Martin Luther, has changed the face of Protestant Christianity more than anyone else.

He wrote this of Paul’s conversion described in this passage. Paul was appointed to the Apostolic Office before he was even aware of his own existence. It’s powerful to think about here for a moment. Before Paul was born, before even you and I were ever born, before the foundations of the world were even laid. God had set him apart.

And if you’re in Christ, he set you apart. So what should our response be? Again, you’re probably picking up a theme here. Our response should be humility and worship. But there’s also there’s also a level of confidence that comes that the Paul was set aside before the foundation of the world. Notice these words from Timothy George for a moment it in a wider context of biblical revelation.

The doctrine of election is no cause for either presumption that is pride or laziness. We don’t need to go to the nations. It’s neither the steeple from which you view all of human landscape nor the pillow to sleep on. And what is it? It’s rather a stronghold in the times of temptation and trials and a confession of praise to God for His grace and to His glory.

The point being that in times of failure, the times when we’re up to our eyeballs in sin, this can be something that we lean back on and find comfort in. In my experience of doing biblical counseling, Satan loves to when people are up to their eyeballs in sin, he loves to get them to question Are you really saved?

You got really save you Look at your life. Remember, beloved, if that’s where you’re at and you hear those calls from Satan today. But if you do have fruit of repentance that you were called before the foundations of the world, now there’s going to be fruit. No doubt about that. We need to look for fruit in your life and to be growing.

We see Paul’s life was transformed. But it is a great assurance, just like what we saw here today earlier, for those persons who were baptized. It’s a great assurance. And then today, right after this service, when we meet together as a corporate body and vote to bring those individuals into our membership formally, it is a great assurance and reminder of what happened before the foundation of the world that God called them.

So we can rejoice as we see that unilaterally salvation is a work of God. We see Paul write it this way. He called me. He called me by his grace. We need to see and be reminded of ourselves that that salvation is entirely a work of God. I think Jesus explained it so clearly when he was talking with Nicodemus in John Chapter three, when he said, Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

And so let’s get a little Pastor Steve led us in a show of hands earlier. Let’s get a little show of hands this morning. Who chose to be born? Who chose to be born? Of course, none of us. None of us chose to be born. It was a decision that was 100% the choice of our parents. And the same is true of salvation.

You did not choose to be saved. God chose you. It is unilaterally his work. You responded to that work. You responded to the spirit moving. And your response is to grow progressive sanctification. It’s a synergistic work. You and God, as he provides you the strength. But salvation was unilaterally his work. Now, I’m not saying that you have to fully understand all of that, but I think God is perfectly fine with there being some tensions in the Bible that as we just try to get our brain around, he’s totally okay to allow us to have a little bit of tension that is okay.

And I actually think that’s what Paul is trying to highlight in the earliest verses that we read. I do have, you know, brothers that the gospel preached by me. It wasn’t man’s gospel. I didn’t receive it from any man, nor was I taught it. I received it through a revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. What is highlighting there is that converting a zealot like Him that could have only been done by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now hear me say that I don’t think that the church should know how to defend and evangelize. I think we need apologetics. Apologetics literally means to defend. That’s what the word means, which is why an apology isn’t always the greatest thing. The Scriptures talk about seeking forgiveness for not trying to defend. We need you not to defend the faith.

But that’s not ultimately what will win someone over to the faith. It is ultimately a work of God. What is our response in all of that? Then, as we see someone that we long to be saved? Our job? Well, first, our job is to pray. But what we see from Paul’s life is that his salvation proves ultimately God’s providence over all of life since God was revealed to reveal He was pleased to reveal His Son to me in order that I might.

There’s a purpose here, in order that I might preach among the Gentiles. Paul understands very clearly why he was saved. He was to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, to you and to me. I suspect many of you are Gentiles, not Jewish, by birth and ethnicity. Salvation was always meant to go to the Gentiles.

We see it as early as the Abrahamic Covenant, where God says He will, through Abraham, bless the nations. But the sad history of God’s people is that they’ve not always wanted to bring the Gospel to who they didn’t like. Do you remember the story of Jonah? For a moment, it got God had given Jonah the message to bring salvation to Nineveh.

And Jonah was so angry that God was going to save him that he said, I’d rather die. As they were throwing him over the board of the ship, the soldiers said. Therefore, they called out to the Lord, Lord, let not us perish for this man’s life. They knew exactly what was going to happen. He was going to die.

Do not put us innocent blood. Jonah would have rather died and see the Gentiles saved. And so my point that I’m trying to highlight here, Paul recognizes that God called him for a purpose to bring that message to the nations. Timothy George, again in his commentary, said it this way God revealed Christ in Paul, God revealed Christ in Paul in order to reveal Him.

That is Christ through Paul. The purpose that saved Paul was that he would bring this message to the world. I think the application there is pretty clear for all of us then why did God save Paul? To bring the message to the nations? Why did God save you? Well, in part so that you would bring the message to the nations.

And so I’d ask you to pause and consider here this morning, What are you doing to be a part of that great commission? God called you for a purpose. Are you living out that purpose? And there’s so many ways that you could practically do. Let me just give you one for a moment. Easter is coming up. There might be people in your life, friends, neighbors, coworkers, family, whomever that God has placed in your life who doesn’t yet know Christ as Lord and Savior.

He put you there for a reason. You could invite them to Easter services where they’ll hear the Gospel proclaimed, If you’re a Christian here today. Paul’s life proves God’s providence over all life that he’s saved him for a reason, and that if he could save Paul an enemy, someone who was on the path to destruction, that he could truly save anyone.

He wants. Lastly, then, from our text, we see that the changing of lives, the changing of lives, it is contagious. They only were hearing it said he used to persecute us is now preaching the faith that he once tried to destroy. And that result was they glorified God because of me. See word. Word had spread far and wide.

Paul had been converted. It was it was simply unfathomable that that enemy who used to try to violently destroy the church had been saved. It doesn’t mean that you need to have a story like Paul, but it does mean that you are living out the gospel and that is live in light of your identity, that your life should be contagious.

People should notice. They should see that there is something different about the way that you live and who you are and as they see your life that is different, that they glorify God because of you. Let’s pray. Our Father, we come before you today and we offer you great things. We recognize that for those of us who were in Christ, we were like Paul, We were your enemy.

We were on the path of destruction, and yet you saved us. You called us from before the foundations of the world, and you saved us for a reason, for a purpose that we might make known to the nations who you are and how great you are. And so I pray, Father, that you would help us and in humility, see that that we didn’t do anything to save ourselves.

But it was only by your effectual call that we have been redeemed and that we would be passionate, that we would be energized, poised for reaching those that you have placed in our lives for the cause of Christ, and that our lives way that we live, that it would be contagious and that people would glorify you because of how we have been transformed.

We asked this in your son’s most precious and Holy name the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

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