“You Can Bear It” Series #4
TEXT: Gal. 6:12-17; 2 Cor. 11:23-33
INTRO: Americans are "brand" conscious! When people are talking about products they have bought recently one of the first questions that come up are “What brand did you buy?”
We have come to identify many products simply by their "brand" names ... and in some cases even the quality of something by a certain "brand" name! We often judge the level of sophistication of people by what "brands" they own or use!
1. If your car is a “Cadillac” or a “Yugo” it tells others something.
2. If you’re wearing a “Wall Mart” special versus an “Olli Cassini” outfit says something about you!
3. Do you mow your yard with a “K-Mart” tractor or a “John Deere?”
4. Young people are very conscious about the brands of jeans, shirts, shoes etc. It can make a difference on acceptance or harassment in some teen circles!
Whether we know it or not we carry a "brand" of Christianity around ... and the type of brand we carry can make a big difference in our witness!
Ever notice how some items have become synonymous with their brand name ... to “Xerox” means to copy, but it is really just a brand of copiers. Someone may ask you “do you need a “Kleenex?” -- Meaning a tissue of course; but that is really the brand name of a tissue. Someone might ask if you have bought any “Levi’s” lately, but what they really mean is simply jeans. Or you might be asked if you want some “Jell-O” -- although that is actually a brand of gelatin. These product brands have become so associated with the product that they are synonymous with it!
This is true with us too ... we are to bear a "brand" ... the brand is "Christianity" and it is synonymous with Christ! The world therefore expects a certain quality to our life, a certain value system if we proclaim ourselves "Christians," etc. Thus we must be careful to not follow the crowds of this world, but to follow the cross of Jesus!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that we are to bear the brand of the cross in our lives ... a brand that is recognizable to the world that we belong to Christ and not this world!
I. FOLLOWING THE CROWD! Gal. 6:12-13
A. Conformists Gal. 6:12
1. This group of religious leaders was trying to force the new believers to be circumcised, to conform to accepted religious practices of the day ... all for one reason, to avoid being persecuted in their new faith!
a. They wanted to be Christians but not be radical and change too much!
b. They didn't mind being branded a "Christian" but they didn't want to be rejected or persecuted by their old crowd, and living by faith alone!
2. The Judaizers were not prepared to be different from their society, a society which put great emphasis on circumcision.
a. To reject this ritual put yourself at risk in a Jewish society, of being rejected!
b. This meant you would suffer financially, socially, and even relationally.
c. Most of the trade guilds were Jewish; and those relationships worked through the Jewish faith.
3. All this was an attempt to look good outwardly, to conform to accepted practices.
4. The goal of these Judaizers was conformity to their culture, not the cross of Jesus!
a. They had embraced the cross of Christ ... they were believers, but they were burdened down with finding acceptance by the world around them!
b. It was not “bad” things that they were burdened down with, just unnecessary things that didn’t truly matter anymore!
ILLUS: D.L. moody one time made this point in this preaching, he showed up on the platform to preach with a huge, heavy knapsack on his back ... one which was so heavy he could hardly move. As he walked slowly and with difficulty across the platform he asked the congregation, "Do you think I could preach like Jesus wants me to preach with this load on my back?" Then he added, "The things I am carrying around are not what you might think ... it is not alcohol, tobacco, or a pair of dice, I am carrying really fine things; precious things to this world and you and me, clothes and harmless things. Some of you are trying to serve Christ while you carry a lot weights on your back. Jesus said you must be different, 'separated' from the world. You must leave some otherwise harmless things beyond!" In our passions to be like the world, we may succeed so much that we are laden down with heavy weights that affect our identification with Christ and the cross! This is more likely the case with Christians than outright sins! We identify with Christ, and yet try and please the world to escape persecution! – Source Unknown
5. What happens when a product doesn’t match up to its name brand identity?
a. It is usually recalled or replaced!
b. Every company is sensitive about putting out a product that doesn't live up to its name!
c. These brand name companies have only one desire ... to make sure their product measures up to their reputation, not that of someone's reputation!
ILLUS: Some years ago, a Buddhist who had made a very careful study of Christianity, and particularly of Christ, said to a Christian regarding his findings: "your Christ is wonderful, oh, so wonderful; but you Christians, you are not like Him!" Whose brand do we carry?? – Source Unknown
6. How many of us today sacrifice our witness by conforming to world standards so as not to appear too weird or strange?
a. If a brand has enough faulty products on the market, the name brand will eventually be used for ridicule!
b. Years ago in the 1960's products from Japan were ridiculed because of their cheap quality ... Japan mass produced everything so quickly to break into world markets that quality was often lacking, it became a negative statement to refer to something as "made in Japan" ... the brand of the country became a ridiculed device because of its association with cheap products! (By the way, Japan recognized this and changed dramatically to improve quality on their electronics and cars, etc. ... today the idea of something electronic made in Japan is taken in a very positive way!)
c. Has this happened to modern day Christianity ... have we conformed to the world so much that Christianity is ridiculed today?
d. Are there churches and Christians so much like the world that you can't tell the difference?
B. Carnality Gal. 6:13
1. Paul now mentions the fact that those who are trying to make them conform to the Jewish laws to avoid persecution themselves don't even obey those same laws!
a. The Judaizers were playing a common game, the "numbers game!"
b. If they could add up all the converts they had circumcised they could brag and prove how effective they were!
c. They avoided however the fact that they themselves didn't obey the same law that circumcision brought others under!
2. They were more concerned about appearing to be accomplishing something, without having to examine the heart issues!
a. It is not difficult to make someone learn how to appear as a Christian outwardly!
b. But getting others to be "like Christ" is another story!
3. Since circumcision was widely regarded in Jewish society as an important thing, the more believers they could get to be circumcised the more successful these men would appear to the Jewish society around them ... though breaking the laws of Moses was a common experience among them all!
a. Remember, these Judaizers were Jewish men who became believers ... but wanted to keep their old ways intact!
b. This marriage of rituals with righteousness just didn’t work well! (It never does!)
4. We don't need to please the world, but we do need to please the Lord!
5. It is not enough to talk about the cross and believe in it, we must practice the cross of Jesus every day in our society ... ultimately our actions will speak louder than our words!
ILLUS: Major Osipovich was an air force pilot for the former USSR. He was scheduled to give a talk at his children's school about peace, a subject dear to his heart for the future of the world. In order to give this talk during the day however, he had to request a switch from day duty to night duty. This was approved and he found himself on September 1, 1983 flying the skies over the eastern ridge of the Soviet Union ... the night a Korean Air Lines flight numbered KE007 strayed into soviet air space. Through a number of mistakes and poor judgment, he followed orders to shoot down the plane sending 240 passengers to their deaths and creating an international incident that pushed world powers to a stand-off in hostility! Though he was scheduled the next day to talk on peace, his actions diminished his vision and talk! – Source Unknown
II. FOLLOWING THE CROSS Gal. 6:14-11; 2 Cor. 11:23-33
A. Commitment Gal. 6-14-16
1. The focus of a Christian’s life is that of the cross:
a. Meaning death of self!
b. Meaning humility!
c. Meaning forgiving others!
d. Meaning a priority of God's ways over man's ways.
e. Meaning sacrificing our will for God's will on earth, as it is in heaven!
2. Christianity without the cross is a contradiction in terms!
3. Paul would boast about nothing and in nothing except the cross of Jesus Christ!
a. It wasn't how many followers Paul could make that counted; it was how many followers Christ could make that counted!
b. Paul took no personal glory in accomplishments the world might have praised him for ... only those things which directly pointed to the cross of Jesus gave him satisfaction!
4. Circumcision was nothing to Paul ... it was neither good nor bad on its own, and to him it did not matter, but the cross of Jesus did!
a. For instance: Paul refused to have Titus circumcised because of pressure from ungodly leaders to conform to the world standards!
b. Yet Paul had Timothy circumcised to avoid this issue as they traveled on his missions trips ... not to conform to the world, but to avoid this as an issue period.
c. The Judaizers were clearly forcing this issue of conforming to soften their own lives from cultural opposition ... clearly stated in verse Gal. 6:12!
5. Paul's commitment was to the cross ... circumcision either way was meaningless!
6. Our commitment to the cross of Jesus must be absolute if we are to avoid conforming to this world!
ILLUS: A house church in the city under the old Soviet empire had been given a single copy of the gospel of Luke. Since it was rare to get the Word of God in their language, they took this copy and tore it apart by pages, giving several pages out to different ones. The plan was to have each memorize their parts, then trade, and eventually know the whole gospel by heart. On Sundays they would arrive in small numbers scattered over several hours so as not to draw attention to their gathering ... then when everyone was there they would quietly sing, pray, and preach. One Sunday as they sang, the door was pushed opened and in walked two soldiers with automatic weapons at the ready. One shouted, “all right, everybody line up against the wall. If you wish to renounce your commitment to Jesus Christ leave now!” 2 or 3 people slipped out quietly. A few more reluctantly left a few seconds later. Then shouting at them again a soldier said, "this is your last chance, either turn against your faith in Christ, or stay and suffer the consequences!” Another left, and finally in embarrassed silence, 2 more left covering their faces with shame. No one else moved! Parents with small children trembling besides them looked down on their children as if to comfort them ... they fully expected to be shot or imprisoned. After a few moments of silence, the other soldier closed the door and said “keep your hands up … but this time in praise to our lord Jesus Christ my brothers and sisters!" We too are Christians, we had been sent a couple of weeks ago to another house church to arrest the Christians, but instead we were converted. We have learned by experience however, that unless people are willing to die for their faith, they cannot be fully trusted!” This is why they came in as they did! Would we have stayed? – Source Unknown
7. Notice Paul stating "peace and mercy" to the ISRAEL OF GOD! Gal. 6:16
a. A clear cut reference that the uncircumcised Gentiles were just as much a part of Israel as the circumcised Jews!
b. This was a clear cut put down to these Judaizers that wanted to make circumcision a "must" for all believers along with faith in Christ!
8. Paul recognized that it was only the cross of Christ that matters for salvation!
a. As he said in Gal. 6:15b, "what counts is a new creation!"
b. Following the cross is all that counts in the end!
9. The formula of "peace and mercy" can only be experienced by those who are committed to the cross and not conformity to codes!
B. Cost! Gal. 6:17; 2 Cor. 11:23-33
1. "Finally," Paul says, "let no one-cause me trouble!" ... in other words, "don't give me a hard time or give anyone else a hard time trying to force us to conform to what you want!"
a. Paul would not put up with those who will impose their own ideas of spirituality on others ... usually these codes were done with arrogant pride and self-righteousness.
b. Paul had no time for those in the body of Christ who feel the need to push others into their own concepts of what it means to be spiritual!
c. Paul had spent too much time preaching the cross to deal with those who would add their own agendas to being a Christian!
d. Paul was only interested in having believers conform to one thing; the cross of Jesus! And a cross meant death of self; death of "my way."
2. And he had proof to this demand, he himself had the marks in his own body of just such a commitment!
a. Unlike these Judaizers that wanted to be careful not to suffer persecution, Paul had proof of his commitment to the cross ... all over his body, he suffered persecution!
b. Paul would accept rejection and persecution if it meant being faithful to the cross of Christ!
3. Notice Paul's list of "marks" upon his body in 2 Cor. 11:23-33 (read about his being flogged, exposed, beaten, and imprisoned, etc.)
a. Paul was circumcised ... yet he suffered! He suffered not because of circumcision, but because of faith in Christ!
b. Paul bore the brands of true faith!
c. the word “brand” or “marks” here in Greek was “stigma” … he was a marked man to the world … proof of his ownership by Christ was the wounds he bore! He wore the "stigma" of being a true follower of Christ!
d. These marks were like “brands” on cattle, it proved who owned them!
e. Persecution is the hallmark of being a Christian!
(1. The world will not be happy with real Christianity!
(2. We have a message of "sin and righteousness!"
(3. This doesn't always fit the politically correct environment we are living in today ... when nothing is supposed to be a sin anymore!
(4. We may have to bear the mark of being a Christian today!
4. A Christian can take anything the world can dish out ... if our commitment is uncompromising!
a. We may bear the marks from the process; brokenness, rejection, pain, etc.
b. But we must not give in or conform!!!
c. The world can be moved by a true commitment to Christ, they are not moved by watered down Christians, or legalistic ones! Some Christians worry more about someone's drinking alcohol than they do about their own gossiping, anger, etc.
ILLUS: Franklin Graham (Billy Graham's son) went to Rwanda with his organization called "Samaritan's Purse" to offer practical help during the crisis there. The shock of the horrible conditions there were amazing! He and several others noticed a seven or eight year old girl rocking back and forth singing softly while she hugged a blanket! She was singing in French and so they didn't know what she was singing. This little girl had watched her entire family get hacked to death by machetes, she alone lived, now alone rocking back and forth singing something. She just kept singing the same thing over and over again! Finally, he found a rebel soldier nearby smoking a cigarette and so he asked him what the little girl was singing. He listened to her for a little bit and responded, "I don't know ... something about Jesus." They asked him again to listen for everything. Leaning over he listened and then said, "She's singing something like, “Jesus loves me, this I know ...” over and over again!" This little girl, who knew Jesus, now bore the marks of her faith ... but her faith remained nonetheless ... could we say the same? – Source Unknown
5. The cost is there:
a. Conforming to the world now will take the pressure off here and now, but will leave you poor later!
b. Commitment to the cross now will create pressure today, but will leave you with joy later!
6. What tattoo are you wearing? Do you have the brand of Christianity clearly visible to others?
ILLUS: When I (Dennis Marquardt) was a youth pastor in the Washington DC area I filled 8 glasses with all different brands of dark cola ... only one cup had the real Coke Cola in it, the other colas were all odd brands. They all looked the same and fizzed the same. They were unmarked glasses and I asked several teens to come up and sip them and tell me which one was the "real coke cola" ... every teen figured it out and got the right answer by simply tasting them. They knew what the "real thing" was when they tasted it -- in spite of all the colas looking and fizzing alike. This is true with Christians in this world too ... we might not outwardly look very different, but this culture will know the real thing when they taste our brand of Christianity! -- Dennis Marquardt
CONCLUSION: Brands identify ownership! We live in a society that is very "brand" conscious. When the world looks at us, what do they see ... what "brand" of faith? Do they identify us simply as "religious" or as a certain denominations, or of a certain political persuasion ... or are we "branded" as "CHRISTLIKE!" Do we "bear" in our bodies the marks of the cross of Jesus ... which includes sacrifices and service!?