Galatians: The Rule (and Domination) of Law

The Rule of Law is the system under which we live in America. We press for law and order. If something doesn’t seem right we want to pass a law or at least a rule to fix the problem. We live daily with thousands of laws and rules and guidelines and procedures – some of which we can live with and some of which cause us great irritation.

When Paul addresses the Galatians he actually calls them foolish for following the law. But specifically he was saying that the law was given to show us our transgressions, but that it was incapable of saving anyone. Salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The Galatians and we, by extension, cannot be good enough to earn our way into heaven. To accept the grace of God as found in the atoning work of Christ and then decide we are going to try to be good enough for God to accept us is nothing more than a slap in the face of God. It’s not just foolish – it’s ungratefully rude.

Jesus said in John 14:15 that if we love Him we will keep His commandments. He did not say that if we keep His commandments we will love Him. We must do the things He wants us to do, but not because it’s some kind of fraternal initiation to get us into heaven, but because we truly love Jesus and want to honor Him in all we do.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, September 18, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Email – fromthebackporchintexas@texassongweaver

The Roll Call of Faith (Part 2)

(This is the second half of the lesson entitled “The Roll Call of Faith.” Part 1 was presented on Sunday morning, July 17, and is available at this site.)

The writer of Hebrews is led by God to remind the Hebrew people of the great heritage of faith that they posses in their ancestral line. Names like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, Sampson, and David highlight the list along with many others. They were all men and women who walked in faith in spite of their human frailties and failures and they all held a place of high regard in Hebrew history. They were faithful (at times imperfectly) to the God Who was perfectly faithful to them.

In the first 2 verses of Hebrews 12, we are transported to an Olympic Games stadium. Those faithful Hebrews mentioned in Chapter 11 are the ones in the stands. They have run their race and now they are cheering for and encouraging those on the field. The Hebrews to whom the epistle was written are taking their places on the field of competition – and, by extension, so are we.

Our “race” is the living of the Christian Life. Our race is well defined. In Hebrews 12:1, the Greek word usually translated “race” or “struggle” is ἀγών – agón. It is the root word from which we get the English words agony and agonize. The race would be more like what we would call an obstacle course. Euripedes indicated that these competitions could be so grueling that they led to the collapse of the strongest of competitors. Furthermore, our Christian Life obstacle course is not a triathlon with 3 segments or a decathlon with 10 segments. The Christian Life is more like a centathlon with a 100 segments and that could be within the first hour of the day.

On the field with us is our coach – Jesus. He is the originator of the race called the Christian Life. He has run the race perfectly and, having successfully finished the race, He is our greatest source of training, instruction, tactics, inspiration, and encouragement. In fact, He fills us with His Spirit so that He runs the race not along side us, but in us – empowering us before, during, and after each segment of the race. We can try to run the race without Him, but we will fare no better than those athletes of old who simply collapsed mid race in agonizing defeat.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (TPT)

1As for us, we have all of these great witnesses who encircle us like clouds. So we must let go of every wound that has pierced us and the sin we so easily fall into. Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us.

2We look away from the natural realm and we focus our attention and expectation onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. His example is this: Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God!

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, July 24, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

The Roll Call of Faith (Part 1)

(This video covers the first half of the lesson entitled “The Roll Call of Faith.” Part 2 will be presented on Sunday morning, July 24.)

The writer of Hebrews is led by God to remind the Hebrew people of the great heritage of faith that they posses in their ancestral line. Names like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, Sampson, and David highlight the list along with many others. They were all men and women who walked in faith in spite of their human frailties and failures and they all held a place of high regard in Hebrew history. They were faithful (at times imperfectly) to the God Who was perfectly faithful to them.

In the first 2 verses of Hebrews 12, we are transported to an Olympic Games stadium. Those faithful Hebrews mentioned in Chapter 11 are the ones in the stands. They have run their race and now they are cheering for and encouraging those on the field. The Hebrews to whom the epistle was written are taking their places on the field of competition – and, by extension, so are we.

Our “race” is the living of the Christian Life. Our race is well defined. In Hebrews 12:1, the Greek word usually translated “race” or “struggle” is ἀγών – agón. It is the root word from which we get the English words agony and agonize. The race would be more like what we would call an obstacle course. Euripedes indicated that these competitions could be so grueling that they led to the collapse of the strongest of competitors. Furthermore, our Christian Life obstacle course is not a triathlon with 3 segments or a decathlon with 10 segments. The Christian Life is more like a centathlon with a 100 segments and that could be within the first hour of the day.

On the field with us is our coach – Jesus. He is the originator of the race called the Christian Life. He has run the race perfectly and, having successfully finished the race, He is our greatest source of training, instruction, tactics, inspiration, and encouragement. In fact, He fills us with His Spirit so that He runs the race not along side us, but in us – empowering us before, during, and after each segment of the race. We can try to run the race without Him, but we will fare no better than those athletes of old who simply collapsed mid race in agonizing defeat.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (TPT)

1As for us, we have all of these great witnesses who encircle us like clouds. So we must let go of every wound that has pierced us and the sin we so easily fall into. Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us.

2We look away from the natural realm and we focus our attention and expectation onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. His example is this: Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God!

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, July 17, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Trusting Christ in Life and Death

Christ is trustworthy in every aspect of life. He gives us power to live and grace to die when the time comes. No where in scripture is this more evident than in the life of Stephen, one of the first seven deacons in the early church. It was said of Stephen that he was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 6:8 offers this description of Stephen: “Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people.” This was a man who knew how to live.

He lived his life boldly in the power of the Spirit who filled him. And he spoke boldly, even in the face of extreme opposition. The evidence of the filling of the Spirit in the members of the early was that they “spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31) When Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, spoke things happened – big things – explosive things – violent things – deadly things. He was stoned to death for his words spoken in the fullness and power of the Spirit.

And that’s when Stephen showed us how to die. In that moment when the storm was raging all around him, he looked up and saw heaven and Jesus ready to receive him. His death just a few moments later was met with peace and the calm assurance that he was releasing his very spirit into the hands of his Master, His Lord, His Savior.

Stephen knew that Jesus could be trusted in life and in death and lived his life boldly as the Spirit filled him and led him. And that same indwelling Holy Spirit gave him grace to die boldly. We are in a life and death situation every day. May we experience the same boldness in living and dying as we go forth “full of faith and the Holy Spirit.”

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, May 1, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Saturday

“Waiting for the other shoe to drop.” You’re dozing off to sleep when you are jolted back to alertness with a reverberating thud coming from the apartment above you. In your grogginess you determine that it was nothing more than a shoe dropping on the floor. You are now fully awake – and you wait anxiously for the other shoe to drop. You don’t let yourself fall asleep because you don’t want to be in that never-never land between sleep and wakefulness when the next boulder falls.

On Saturday, following the crucifixion, the followers of Christ were waiting for the other shoe to drop. They had met Jesus, traveled with Him, listened to His teaching, believed His teaching, and believed in Him. Now their world was filled with silence and solicitude. They were in hiding behind locked doors waiting for the other shoe to drop. Jesus had told them He would rise again, but His death seemed like the final act of the play. What now?

In a sense, our lives parallel those of the earliest disciples of Jesus. We have met Him, traveled with Him, listened to His teaching, believed His teaching, and believed in Him. However, we often come to those times when all we hear is silence – when something has happened in our life that jerks us to full alert and we wait in silence and solicitude for the next blow. We question our faith and our very relationship with the One Who, even in silence, is with us every step of the way. It’s Saturday. Thursday started with a celebration of faith and ended in confusion. Friday began in confusion which devolved into pain and profound sadness. Now it’s Saturday. Silence. Solicitude. What’s next? You dare not say, “Could it get any worse?” because you fear it could.

It’s Saturday, but Sunday will soon be here. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5b) And the truly good news is that, just as Jesus rose on Sunday in victory over death and the grave, He will come again in victory – victory over the long “Saturday” that we call “life.” And, in the meantime, He has given us His Spirit so that in those temporary Saturdays of life – those days when all seems lost – we will not be alone. And that same Spirit guides us through the long Saturday of life on earth. We may not feel Him, but He is here and He is waiting for us to call out to Him from the silence and solicitude. He says, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3) “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15)

“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:15-21)

“These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:25-27)

It’s Saturday, a day of silence and solicitude, but He is with you through all of your Saturdays . . .

and Sunday is coming. Hallelujah!

This World Is Not My Home

When the world is caving in around us and all seems lost, it is easy for us to lose our perspective. We begin to think that life is hopeless. No matter which way we turn we hit a dead end. Just when we seem to get our feet on the ground something comes along to undercut us and leave us writhing in pain or wallowing in self-pity. Our perspective is limited. We see only the problem, only the bleakness of our situation. In his first letter, Peter addresses the situations which can tear us apart and reminds us of where our focus should be. In other words, he brings things into proper perspective for proper living in an improper world.

This letter was written at a time when Christians were held in contempt by both Jews and Romans. And if this wasn’t bad enough, Nero – Emperor of Rome, blamed the Christians for burning down Rome which led to some 250 years of tortuous persecution of Christians all across the Roman Empire. 1 Peter was written in this time when Satan was doing all he could to snuff out the young church. 1 Peter offers excellent, practical advice on how to deal with such persecution but it also goes to the heart of the matter.

The fact is that we, as Christians, are aliens in this world. This world is not our home – heaven is. And since this world is not our home, we shouldn’t expect anyone to treat us as though we are one of them. Jesus said that in this world we would have tribulation. (John 16:33) That’s what we should expect. We have a different way of looking at things – a different perspective. And when we dare to express our perspective, we can expect people to laugh at us, look at us side-eyed, avoid us, ignore us, and treat us like the creepy neighbor who makes you shudder every time you see them. If we aren’t being treated differently, perhaps it is because we look and act so much like the rest of the world that they can’t tell we’re Christians. Ouch!

What we learn from 1 Peter is that our hope is held fast in heaven and our trials here on earth are but momentary interruptions on our way to glory. And those trials and tribulations actually make us stronger for the next trial. We keep looking ahead to Jesus and every step of the way on the bumpy road called life brings us one step closer to an eternity with Him. With that perspective we can endure the junk that Satan throws in our way and do so with joy – even laughing in his face. And it’s all because this world is not our home; we’re just a passing through. As we learn from 1 Peter 1:9 we are filled with joy in this world because we are receiving the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls in the real world.

Next week we will look at 2 Peter 1 as we study the Pursuit of Godliness.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, April 3, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org
Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast
Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Seeing Is Believing – Part 2

Thomas, one of the 12 Disciples, also called Didymus or The Twin, has been saddled with the name “Doubting Thomas” for centuries. Is is a fair moniker? I don’t think so. As we look at the scriptures to see who he was and what he was like, you could make the case that he was always a skeptic. However, you could also use those same passages to show that he was cautious and even bold in his responses to the Lord’s commands. No doubt Thomas was facing what so many of us face from time to time – doubts and questions that cause us to cry out to God with a loud “WHY?”

By looking at the example of Thomas, we can see the times when we are most susceptible to doubt – when we are close to being labeled a doubter. We are more prone to doubt . . .
. . .when something tragic happens in our lives. Thomas had not just lost a friend, a teacher, His Lord – but also his entire worldview had been stripped away.
. . .when cognitive dissonance sets in and we can’t think straight because of internal conflicts. Thomas knew Jesus had died. His friends said He was alive. Those two opposing thoughts created a storm of mental confusion.
. . .when we don’t recognize or when we forget the truth we have been taught when things were calm and peaceful. Thomas had been told by Jesus Himself that He would die. Jesus had also told them that He would rise again, but according to John 20:9 the disciples still didn’t understand what that meant.
. . .when we are afraid. Thomas was in tenuous and even dangerous position. To not experience some fear in his situation would mean that he is less than human.
. . .when we are alone and left only to self talk which can be riddled with fear and anxiety. We don’t know why Thomas wasn’t with the others when Jesus first appeared to them. However, we do know that he was with them a week later and with Jesus as well.

When we prepare for those situations that can cause to question our faith by reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on God’s Word we give tools to the Holy Spirit which He can use to strengthen us. When we spend time with fellow believers discussing the Word, sharing our spiritual victories and defeats we have a place to go when the trials come. Jesus has already warned us that things on this earth will not necessarily go well for those who choose to follow Christ. In fact, he told us that the world hated Him and that the world would hate us too because we are not of this world. (John 15:18-19) We need to prepare our hearts, minds, and spirits now so that we won’t be hiding behind locked doors when the world seems to be crashing in all around us.

Next Sunday we will look at the commission Jesus gave to His disciples to go – not hide.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, February 27, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org
Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast
Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Seeing Is Believing

The disciples were hiding behind locked doors the first day of the resurrection. They were afraid and confused. They were unsure of what would come next -wondering if they were going to be arrested as part of a spiritual house cleaning on the part of the Pharisees. They were emotionally, mentally, and spiritually adrift. Then Jesus entered the room and everything changed. He spoke and brought peace into the room and those frightened little mice were suddenly full of joy. And those same mice became became unstoppable men and women who would spread the message of the Gospel around the world.

In our session Sunday we witnessed the transformation that always comes when Jesus is present. Next week we will continue in this same passage of scripture from John 20 where we will see both the doubt and the confident proclamation of Thomas. Do you ever have doubts concerning your faith? Do you ever have questions you want to ask but don’t because you fear being labeled a “Doubting Thomas” or worse, an unbeliever? That’s where we’re going next week. I hope you’ll join us for “Seeing Is Believing – Part 2.”

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, February 20, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org
Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast
Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas