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April 26, 2020

Sermon Galatians 1:8  . .“Paul said:  ‘Let him be accursed’”

“Paul said:  ‘Let him be accursed’”

Galatians 1:8

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Born in April of 1948, Frank William Abagnale is the most famous con-man in the world.  In fact, he’s so famous, Hollywood even made a movie about him back in 2002.  Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Abagnale, and Tom Hanks as FBI agent Joseph Shea, it’s called, Catch Me if You Can.

It all started when he was only fifteen years old.  That’s when his father gave him a gasoline credit card and a truck to drive to his part-time job.  But apparently his job wasn’t paying quite enough, so he set up a scheme to “buy” things for his truck, like tires, batteries, gas, and oil, and whatever else he might need.  Then he asked the workers to give him cash instead.  Over time, his father was on the hook for, in today’s money, just shy of $30,000.  Not bad for a fifteen-year-old!

But he didn’t stop there--not Frank!  After writing numerous personal checks on his already overdrawn bank account and tricking other bank customers into depositing money into his account, he bought a security guard disguise from a local costume shop, and stood beside a money drop box with a sign that read, “Out of service.  Place deposits with security guard on duty.”  Later, even he admitted just how ridiculous it was.  He said, “How can a drop box be out of service?”

Then when that wasn’t so much fun anymore, he decided to become a pilot.  So he called Pan Am World Airways, told them he had just lost his uniform in the laundry at a hotel, and asked if they could please send him another one.  Then he forged a license from the FAA.  Though Pan Am isn’t completely certain, they’re pretty sure that he, between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, flew more than a million miles, on two hundred and fifty flights, to twenty-six different countries!  One time, the real pilots even let him fly the plane at thirty thousand feet, taking the lives of one hundred and forty people into his hands.

But when he was afraid he’d get caught, he decided to become a doctor, or more specifically, a hospital’s chief resident pediatrician.  Then when he realized he wouldn’t know what to do in a real life-and-death emergency, he forged a Harvard University law transcript, and became an attorney instead.

Ironically enough, eight months later, when he was twenty-one, the law finally caught up with him.  When French police arrested him, twelve other countries(!) said they wanted him.  And after serving time in various prisons, he’s gone on to work as a speaker and consultant for a number of banks and corporations.  He’s even worked for the FBI.

We don’t like counterfeits.  Whether it’s clothes or shoes, electronics or medications, coins or dollar bills, they cost countries and companies close to $2 trillion dollars a year.

The apostle Paul didn’t like counterfeits either.  In fact, it’s a reason he wrote this letter to the Galatians.  Please turn in your Bible to page 1235.  Galatians chapter 1, beginning at verse 1:  “Paul, an apostle--not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead--and all the brothers who are with me, to the churches of Galatia:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever.  Amen” (Galatians 1:1-5).

Over a period of some twelve years, the apostle Paul wrote thirteen epistles, thirteen letters, to both pastors and churches.  But while he sent some to specific churches, like Romans and Corinthians and Colossians, this letter to the Galatians is different.  It’s not for just one church.  Instead, he sent it to a group of churches in Galatia, with names like Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.  It’s likely that, after one church had the privilege of reading it, they simply passed it along to the next.

And what a beautiful book it is, for it’s here that we find words like these, in chapter 1:  “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.”  Chapter 2:  “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  Chapter 3:  “The righteous shall live by faith.”  And chapter 6:  “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

And notice that Paul doesn’t begin this letter like any of his other letters.  While he wrote to the Romans:  “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world” and to the Corinthians:  “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,” and to the Philippians:  “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,” his letter to the Galatians begins with this--verse 6:  “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel--not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

No “I give thanks to my God,” and no “My every prayer is filled with joy.”  Instead, he wrote, “I am astonished!”

So what was the problem?  We’re not completely sure, but we have a pretty good guess.  Apparently, just as soon as Paul had preached to them, others came and preached to them too.  But instead of telling of the gospel of the grace of God, they preached the works of man, that what Christ did wasn’t enough.  That’s why he said in verse 6:  “I am astonished!”

Even more, he went on.  Look at verse 8:  “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again:  If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9).

This isn’t the first time the Bible warns us of con-men and counterfeits.  Exodus chapter 20(:3) says beware of false gods.  Matthew chapter 7(:15) says beware of false prophets.  Matthew 24:24 says false Christs.  II Corinthians 11:13 says false apostles and false brothers (11:26).  II Peter 2:1-2 says false teachers.  And Revelation 12 says Satan who deceives the whole world.

Born in April of 1946, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda was not your typical minister.  De Jesus, or “Daddy,” as his thousands of followers called him, didn’t simply pray to God.  He said he was God.  “The spirit that is in me is the same spirit that was in Jesus of Nazareth,” he would say.

He grew up poor in Puerto Rico, and served several stints in prison for petty crimes.  Once a heroin addict, he said he learned, in 1973, after a pair of angels had come to visit him, that he was Jesus reincarnate.

He said, “The prophets--they spoke about me.  It took me time to learn that, but I am what they were expecting, what they have been expecting for two thousand years.”

And His teachings were, let’s say, interesting.  For one thing, he said there was no devil and no sin, and those who followed him could do no wrong in God’s eyes.  And he said that if they, just like him, would become “fully enlightened and living with an immortal body,” they could walk through walls and through fire and not get burned.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out so well for Jose De Jesus.  Not only did his wife leave him after he threatened her with death-angels, he died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of sixty-seven.

What do Shirley MacLaine, Linda Evans, and Sharon Gless have in common?  Not only are they actresses, they say they talk to “spirits beyond the grave.”  Linda Evans, for example, chats regularly with a two thousand year-old spirit named Mafu who delivers pearls of wisdom through the lips of a Los Angeles housewife.  Sharon Gless, co-star of Cagney and Lacey, thanked Lazarus, her spirit guide, at the Academy Awards, for all the help he had given her.  

Then there’s Shirley MacLaine.  Let’s just say she believes she was once the brother of a thirty-five thousand year-old warrior named Ramtha.

But not every “gospel” is so far “out there.”  Think of the “Therapeutic gospel,” that says sin robs us of our fullness and the church’s purpose is to help us find happiness, or the “Social-club gospel,” that says salvation is all about finding friendship and fellowship at a church, or the “Activist gospel,” that says to transform our culture, we should rally behind some political cause, or the “Mystic gospel,” that offers an emotional experience with God, or the “Prosperity gospel,” that says that if we would only trust Him, God will bless us with more health and wealth than we could possibly imagine.

Yet Paul wrote to the Galatians:  “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

So what is the gospel?  It doesn’t center on our feelings or on our experience.  Instead, it’s based on the fact, rooted in history, that Jesus Christ came into our world, fully God and fully Man.  He alone obeyed God’s will and God’s law perfectly, dying in our place, to pay for our sins.  Then on Easter Day, He rose from the dead, then ascended into heaven.  And someday, He’ll come back to judge not only the living, but also the dead.

And why did He do all this?  Because He loved us, and because He knew we would have no hope unless He came to save us.  And as we admit that there is nothing good in us, that there’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation, that we are utterly and completely helpless to save ourselves, that we cannot live without what only Jesus can supply, then trusting in Him alone as Lord and Savior, resting on Him for complete salvation, renouncing all self-trust, admitting our sinfulness, and confessing our need, He will save us from our sins.

And those who rest on Him and Him alone are saved forever--forgiven of all their sins, born again, made a member of His family, and declared righteous by His blood.

It’s never Jesus plus anything.  It’s Christ and Christ alone.

As Paul once wrote to the Romans:  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God.”

 

We thank You, Jesus, for taking us as we were, and making us Your own.  Help us to always and only rest on You alone, for Your sake.  Amen

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