Prisons In the Church and Wardens In the Pew

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul to the Churches in the region of Galatia. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses eleven through twenty-one of the second chapter. When this particular section of the second chapter of the epistle to the Galatian churches opens, it does so with the apostle Paul speaking of a very specific incident which took place in the city of Antioch. In verses eleven through fifteen of the second chapter the apostle Paul writes concerning a very specific time within his life and ministry when he had to publicly withstand the apostle Peter—not only to his face, but also in the company and presence of all those who were present on this particular occasion. Beginning with the eleventh verse you will find the following words written and recorded by the apostle Paul concerning this occurrence: “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles” (Galatians 2:11-15). Now, upon reading this particular passage in times past, I have to admit that I always viewed the words which the apostle Paul in the final few verses of this chapter as being completely separate from the rest of what is found in the chapter. As I sit here and read the words of the apostle Paul today I am gripped by the fact that the words which we find beginning with verse sixteen and continuing through verse twenty-four are not words which are separate from verses eleven through fifteen, but rather, are the words which the apostle Paul spoke unto Peter before all those who were present on that particular day.

Before I move any further with what is written and recorded in this particular passage of Scripture it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize the tremendous courage the apostle Paul displayed to withstand and confront the apostle Peter face to face before all those who were present on that day. Consider if you will the reality that the apostle Peter was one of the twelve original disciples and apostles who walked with Jesus during the three and a half years He walked upon the earth. It was unto the apostle Peter a special revelation concerning who Jesus the Christ truly was, which flesh and blood did not reveal. It was unto the apostle Peter our Lord declared that upon this rock He would build His church, and the gates of hell should not prevail against it. The apostle Peter not only walked with Christ for three and a half years prior to His death and burial, but the apostle Peter was also present with Jesus atop the mountain where He was transfigured and appeared in His glorified form talking with Moses and Elijah. It was the apostle Peter who was the only one of the twelve disciples who had the courage to get out of the boat in the midst of the storm and based on the invitation of Jesus alone proceeded to walk on the water toward Jesus. It was the apostle Peter who Jesus proclaimed and spoke that Satan had desired to sift him as wheat, but Jesus prayed for him that his faith would fail not. It was the apostle Peter who was present in the upper room when the resurrected Jesus appeared unto the disciples who were present with him. It was the apostle Peter who was present on the mount of Olives when Jesus ascended into heaven and was hidden and concealed by a cloud from their sight. It was the apostle Peter who was not only present in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, but who also rose up on the day of Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem and preached the gospel concerning Jesus Christ to all those who had gathered together because of hearing the mighty works of God being proclaimed in their own tongue. It was the apostle Peter who again preached a powerful sermon after the man outside the Temple of the Lord was healed and raised up from his mat of affliction accompanying Peter and John into the Temple. It was the apostle Peter who was seen at the forefront of the early church in terms of leadership and ministry.

For the apostle Paul to withstand the apostle Peter—not only to his face, but also in front of all those who were present at Antioch—was not a small matter, for the apostle Paul was directly confronting one of the pillars of the early church. When the apostle Paul withstood the apostle Peter to his face what he was in all reality doing was withstanding one of the original disciples of Jesus Christ who walked and talked with Him, and who engaged in full time ministry together with Jesus in the earth. The apostle Peter was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus who was given authority by Jesus to heal the sick, to cast out demons, to raise the dead, and so much more within and upon the earth. It was the apostle Peter who was fastened in stocks and chains in a prison in the city of Jerusalem who was released and set free from his prison cell by an angel from heaven who not only caused his chains to be loosed, but also caused the prison cell to be opened, and led him out of the prison and as far as the gate of the city. It is absolutely unmistakeable that the apostle Peter was at the center and forefront of the activity of the Spirit during the days of the early church after spending three and a half years walking with Jesus as one of His disciples. We dare not and must not forget the tremendous significance of this, for when the apostle withstood the apostle Peter to his face, the apostle Peter was withstanding one of the core and foundational leaders of the early church. What we must recognize and understand is that if the apostle Paul felt compelled to withstand the apostle Peter to his face at Antioch before all those who were present it would have had to be with and for a good reason. The apostle Paul would not have withstood the apostle Peter to his face before all those who were present at Antioch if there was not something within the apostle’s heart and mind that needed to be corrected and addressed.

When I read the words of the apostle Paul in this particular passage of the epistle to the churches of Galatia I can’t help but be confronted with the reality that there are certain times in our lives when we need to be confronted face to face because of our actions, or perhaps even because of our words. As I am sitting here right now I can’t help but be brought face to face with something that is sorely and tremendously lacking within many—if not most—of our churches today in this generation. That which I am speaking of is the reality and concept of church disciples, correction and rebuke. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which our Lord Himself spoke unto the disciples, which are recorded for us in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew. Beginning with the fifteenth verse of the eighteenth chapter we find the following words which our Lord spoke in the company and presence of the disciples when little children were being brought unto Him: “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my. Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:15-20). It is quite obvious from these words that Jesus was revealing the proper way to address and to confront that brother or that sister who has sinned and trespassed against you. When seeking to understand that which we read in the second chapter of the epistle of Paul to the churches in Galatia is it both necessary and imperative that we recognize that there is a proper way to confront that brother or that sister who was or is still caught up in sin and transgression. I am convinced that there has been much damage that has been done within the body of Christ because men and women have attempted to deal with and confront those who perhaps have sinned against them, or those whom they perceive to be caught up in some sin or transgression. There has been a number of wounds that have been caused and created within the body of Christ by those who seek to correct and rebuke a brother or sister, yet they don’t understand the proper way to engage in such an action.

I am convinced that if we are to truly understand what we read in the third chapter of the epistle which Paul wrote to the Galatians concerning his withstanding the apostle Peter to his face, it is necessary that we understand the difference between judgment and condemnation versus correction and rebuke. If I am being honest with myself and honest with you who are attempting to read this right now I would have to say that there have been a number of times when we have judged, condemned and criticized another brother or sister and have improperly labeled it as correction and rebuke. I would dare say there are a number of men and women within the body of Christ who have absolutely no understanding of the difference between correction and rebuke and judgment and condemnation. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which our Lord spoke in his famous Sermon on the Mount—words which are recorded and found in the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew. Beginning with the first verse of the seventh chapter of Matthew’s gospel we find the following words: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall me measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-6). Within this particular passage Jesus clearly sets forth the reality that it is possible that we can judge those around us without first truly and properly judging ourselves. Oh it is absolutely and incredible dangerous for us to proceed to judge another when we haven’t properly judged ourselves. It is incredibly dangerous for us to make any attempt to judge our brother or judge our sister when we haven’t been willing to first examine ourselves and properly judge ourselves. With these words Jesus clearly sets forth the instruction and warning that we dare not judge in order that we ourselves might not be judged. Jesus took it even further and declare that with whatever judgment we judge, we shall be judged. Pause for a moment and consider the reality of what would happen if you were judged to the same degree and measure you judged your brother or sister. What would happen if right now you were judged to the same degree and measure you have been judging your brother or sister in the house of the Lord?

I can’t help but be reminded of our Lord’s words which are recorded for us by the beloved physician Luke in his first treatise to the most excellent Theophilus. Beginning with the twenty-seventh verse of the sixth chapter we read and find the following words written and recorded by Luke: “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smitten thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? For sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? For sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:27-38). It’s absolutely and incredibly interesting that when reading the words which Luke records in this passage of Scripture there appears to be a strong connection between judgment, condemnation, forgiveness, and giving. As I read the words which our Lord spoke on this particular occasion I can’t help but be confronted with the tremendous reality that there is a strong connection between judgment and condemnation, and how very seldom do we truly recognize and understand and even recognize that we are engaging in judgment and condemnation of a brother or sister rather than treating them the way Christ would have us.

I do not believe it is any coincidence that our Lord directly connected judgment and condemnation with giving and forgiving, for if we are honest with ourselves and with the Lord, it is much easier to judge and condemn than it is to forgive and give. In all reality, we find it much harder to give and forgive—especially to one who has deliberately and intentionally wronged us. There are those among us who would much rather judge and condemn rather than give or forgive, for giving and forgiving requires more of us than judgment and condemnation do. Did you know that? Did you know that giving and forgiving require more of you than your judgment and condemnation can and ever will require and ask of you? It takes more discipline, more grace, more maturity, more strength, more courage, more boldness, and even a greater depth of spirituality to give and to forgive than it does to judge and condemn. I can’t help but be reminded of our Lord’s response to the apostle Peter when he ask Him how often he should forgive his brother who sinned and trespassed against him. In the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find the following dialogue between the apostle Peter and Jesus our Lord: “Then came Peter to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22). Over the next several verses Jesus proceeds to tell a parable of a man who owed a great debt and had his debt forgiven him, yet no sooner had he received pardon of the debt he owed than he went out and found someone who owed a smaller debt unto him and had that individual cast into prison until his debt is paid. I must pause here and make a statement that might offend any who would dare read this writing, and that is that more often than not the debt we ourselves owe is far greater and far more significant than the debt which we perceive our brother or sister owes us. How many times have you elevated and exalted that debt which you believe and/or perceive your brother to owe you, and yet you pay absolutely no attention to the great debt you yourself owe? Perhaps this is what makes Jesus’ words concerning judgment so incredibly powerful, for we would seek to point out the speck in the eye of our brother or sister rather than confronting and dealing with the log and plank that is in our own eye. This man was owed a debt much smaller than the debt which he himself owed, and yet he perceived that debt which was owed to him as being of much greater weight and significance than the debt which he owed.

The parable which Jesus spoke unto Peter causes me to think of how possible it is for us to become more judgmental and more critical after we find the debt we owed forgiven and wiped clean than before. It has been stated that Christians are perhaps the most judgmental and criticizing individuals in the earth because they have absolutely no room for giving and forgiving. Is it possible that there are a number of men and women among us within the house of God have had their great debt pardoned by the One who sits upon the throne, and yet they spend the rest of their days focusing on all the minuscule debts which they perceive to be owed unto them. Can I be honest with you and declare that no man owes you anything? There are many of us who only perceive others as owing a debt to us because of our selfishness and our own sense of entitlement. I am convinced that only those who have a higher opinion of themselves than should properly have are those who proceed to believe that those around them somehow owe a debt unto them. It is absolutely no wonder why the apostle Paul wrote and declared that we ought not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought, for it is when we get into the trap of esteeming ourselves as better than others when we perceive others around us somehow owing us. Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many times we keep men and women around us in debt to us—much like credit card companies keep men and women in debt to that which they owe unto them. CREDITORS IN THE PEWS! I am utterly and completely convinced that there are a number of “creditors” in the pews of our churches today—those men and women who keep those around them in bondage and in debt to them. Such men and women are completely unaware of the reality that there is no single man or woman on the face of this planet who owes us anything, and what’s more—there is no man or woman on the face of this planet who owes us a debt the size of the debt we owed to Christ. This man in the parable of Jesus was forgiven such a great debt, and yet he used his pardon and his forgiveness as license to judge another, and to imprison another because of the debt which was somehow owed unto them. Oh, how many of us use the forgiveness and pardon we have freely received from our Lord to not only judge and condemn others, but also to keep those around us in debt and even in prison? The apostle Paul writes of our using grace as a license to sin, and I am convinced that there are those among us who use forgiveness and pardon of the debt we owed unto Jesus as license and grounds to imprison those whom we perceive to owe a debt unto us. What would happen to our churches if we started releasing those around us from the false debts we perceive they somehow owe to us? What would happen if we designated this next Sunday as “Juiblee Sunday”—a Sunday where we released all those who we perceive as somehow owing a debt unto us? I can’t help but be reminded of a passage in the Old Testament which speaks of a specific year among the children of Israel when all debts were pardoned, released and forgiven.

Consider if you will the words which Moses records for us in the fifteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy concerning the release and pardoning of debts which were owed: “At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that leadeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the Lord’s release. Of a foregeinger thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release; save when there shall be no poor among you; for the Lord shall greatly bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it: only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day. For the Lord thy God blesseth thee, as He promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee. If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thous halt not harden thine heart, not shut thine hand from thy poor brother: but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou purest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.. And if thym brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou s halt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou was a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day. And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee; then thou shalt take an aul and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt so likewise. It shall not seem hard unto thee, when thou sendest him away from thee; for he hath been worth a double hired servant to thee, in serving thee six years: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest” (Deuteronomy 15:1-18).

Within this particular passage found in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy we find the Lord instructing the children of Israel to release all debts which were owed unto them in the seventh year, and at the end of every seven years to set free all those who served them for the previous six years. The seventh year was to be a year of release—not only release of debt, but also a year of release for servants who had spent the previous six years serving in the house of another. With that being said, there is another passage found in the Old Testament book of Leviticus which lends even more weight to this concept of release, which must be presented unto you. If you begin reading with and from the eighth verse of the twenty-fifth verse of the Old Testament book of Leviticus you will find the Lord speaking of a specific time every fifty years which was called the Jubile or “the year of Jubilee.” It was at this appointed time when there would be a release unlike any other—a release which had already taken place after seven previous and seven consecutive releases. If every seven years there was to a release and pardoning of all debts, and a release of all servants, than this fiftieth year would have taken place after seven consecutive years of release. What’s more, is that with each successive seventh year of release and pardon it would ultimately lead up to the fiftieth year which would be the ultimate pardon and release among the children of Israel. Consider if you will the words which are recorded for us in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Old Testament book of Leviticus: “And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years. Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. A jubile shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which growth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed. For it is the jubile; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field. In the year of this jubile ye shall return every man unto his possession. And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour’s hand, ye shall not oppress one another: according to the number of years after the jubile thou shalt but of thy neighbour, and according unto the number of years of the fruits he shall sell unto thee: according to the multitude of years thou shalt increase the prices thereof, and according to the fewness of years thou shalt diminish the prince of it: for according to the number of years of the fruits doth he sell unto thee. Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 25:8-17).

I cannot escape this reality and concept of perceiving the debts which we believe our brother or sister owes us. I am utterly and completely convinced that more often than not the debt we perceive our brother or sister owing us is nothing more than our own entitlement and selfishness as we have allowed ourselves to esteem ourselves as better and greater than those around us. The only reason this man in the parable of Jesus sought to retrieve the debt this other man owed him, and had him cast into prison was because he perceived himself to be better and greater than his brother. We play a very dangerous game with God and with our brothers and sisters when we keep them indebted to us with imaginary debts we believe they owe unto us. In the church I am presently a part of in Cambridge, Massachusetts there is a sermon series which is being preached which deals with relationships. There have been a number of sermons and messages which have dealt with relationships and the various aspects of relationships, and when I consider this sermon series, and when I consider this reality and concept of Jubilee I can’t help but be confronted with the reality and concept that the Spirit of the Lord is calling us into a wide open space where we release those debts we perceive our brothers or sisters as being owed to us. Oh, it might very well be that our brother and sister has indeed wronged us, and did indeed transgress and trespass against us, but that doesn’t give us the right to imprison them within our minds and hearts. I am convinced that for every act of unforgiveness there are essentially two prisons which are opened, and two individuals which are thrown in—the individual who refuses to forgive, and the one who cannot be forgiven. On the one hand we imprison ourselves when we choose not to forgive those around us who have wronged us, and on the other hand we imprison those who have wronged us in prisons we have created, and all the while they aren’t even aware that they are being held in prison within our hearts and minds. I can’t help but wonder how many of us are walking around as wardens carefully keeping guard over the prisons we have created to keep those who have wronged us—closely and carefully holding on to the keys which can open up those prison doors. I am utterly and completely convinced that the time for Jubilee has come among us within our midst—a time when we release the debts we perceive others owe us, and release our brothers and sisters from the prisons we have kept them bound in within our hearts and minds. It has always and it will always cost us more to remain in a place of judgment and condemnation, as well as bitterness and unforgiveness than it ever will to allow ourselves to remain in the place of giving and forgiving. The question is whether or not you yourself are willing to give yourself to giving and forgiving, or would rather remain in the place of judgment and condemnation.

When I read and consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the second chapter of the epistle unto the Galatians I can’t help but be reminded of words which he wrote later on in the same epistle concerning that one who was or is presently being overtaken in fault. Beginning with the first verse of the sixth chapter we find and read the following words: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap. Life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:1-10). It is necessary that we understand the words of the apostle Paul in the final chapter of his epistle unto the churches in Galatia, for within this final chapter we are brought face to face with what we read in the second chapter. The apostle Paul writes and speaks of how when Peter was come to Antioch, he withstood him to his face before the brethren because he was to be blamed. Prior to the coming of certain individuals from James in Jerusalem the apostle Peter would eat with the Gentiles. Once these certain individuals came from James, however, the apostle Peter withdrew and separated himself from the Gentiles out of fear of the Jews and those of the circumcision. What’s more, is that Peter’s actions were followed by others in Antioch, and even Barnabas was taken away by what Paul calls “dissimulation.” The apostle Paul recognized the hypocrisy of the apostle Peter, and he confronted and dealt with it quickly, decisively and immediately, for he could not allow it to continue and remain in the church. The apostle Paul recognized the fault which Peter was caught up in, and the apostle Paul quickly confronted and dealt with it. I would dare say that were it not for the actions of the apostle Paul on this occurrence, this hypocrisy could have remained within the church and could have led to a terrible division and schism in the body of Christ. The apostle Peter acted one way before those from Jerusalem came to Antioch, but when those from Jerusalem came to Antioch he changed his behavior and actions for fear of what might be said and thought.

It’s important that we recognize and understand that even though the apostle Peter was to be blamed and was found to be at fault within this particular passage, the apostle Paul spoke the truth in love and corrected what could have turned into something much more dangerous and detrimental to the church of Jesus Christ. What’s more, is that it was on this particular occasion where the apostle Paul reminded the apostle Peter that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul declared unto Peter and in the company of all those which were present that we are justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law, for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. What’s more is that the apostle Paul went on to declare that if we build again those things which we have destroyed, we make ourselves a transgression. This is actually quite astounding and remarkable, for it brings us face to face with the tremendous reality of that which we all face—perhaps more times than we care to admit. The apostle Paul speaks of building again those things which we have destroyed, and I can’t help but ask myself what are those things which I have destroyed. What’s more, is that I can’t hep but ask you what those things are which you have destroyed. What things have you destroyed and eradicated from your life—those things which had absolutely no place in your life? There is a divine mandate within this passage of Scripture to never again rebuild those things which we have destroyed, and to allow them to remain in ruin and ashes. I feel compelled to present and leave you with the words which the Lord spoke concerning the city of Jericho after the children of Israel had overtaken it by the power of God manifested among them in their midst: “And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the Lord, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it” (Joshua 6:26). I would also leave you with the fulfillment of these words which came to pass during the days of Ahab king of Israel: “IN this days did Hiel the Beth-Elite build Jericho: he laid the foundation therefor in Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun” (1 Kings 16:24).

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