Morning everyone! Thanks for the opportunity to be up here once again.

Tell me, have any of you been following the story of the Tinder Swindler – there’s a doccie on Netflix on this guy right now – it’s been all over the news this past week as well. This con man – pretending to be someone who he is not – preying on the most vulnerable women he can find and swindling them out of money. Not sure if you saw it. Pretty depressing, people of so easily confused and misled and duped into something that looks like the real thing – for these poor ladies it looked like love and interest from a mysterious male suitor, but it unfortunately was all a lie. A very expensive lie.

The one lady phoned into the radio she had been done in for 1,3 million rand by this scammer. And the DJ was questioning her, basically implying “how could you be so easily misled” and she said, “you know, it was just a little by little, being led along the wrong path bit by bit” – and she wanted so badly to believe that it was all true. That this guy was being genuine.

I couldn’t help but think about what we as were looking at a week ago and we started in Galatians 1 – Paul has this need to defend himself, to prove almost that he is who he says he is. His apostleship needed a defense, his message was under attack too, we said there was this group within the new fledgling church that was causing trouble and confusion and leading people astray – and Paul writes this circular letter to the churches in the Galatian area, to push back hard against this, and as he sets it all off, he spend a lot of his time establishing his credentials, reminding his readers of his past – the conversion that took place on the Damascus road – who he used to be as Saul compared to who he is now as Paul.

Let’s read together the first 10 verses of chapter 2 – this morning is we pick up the story:

2 Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. 4 This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

6 As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. 7 On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised,[a] just as Peter had been to the circumcised.[b] 8 For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. 9 James, Cephas[c] and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along

So last week, we said a few things – that Paul was indeed an apostle – He was sent out by God – he was reprimanding the churches for being pulled away from the one true Gospel – and we also noted that he did an interesting thing when he was called by God to serve – he went straight into the mission field, as it were. It had to be clear that he was sent out by God, and From God, not by and from a man. In a weird sense he wanted to demonstrate independence – to show to others that it had truly been God speaking to him – delivering this Gospel to him.

Now we read, fourteen years later – that’s a very long time – he goes back to Jerusalem. That is a long season of dedicated ministry – he takes Barnabas and Titus and he goes back to Jerusalem, of course Jerusalem being the capital if you were – where all the real big players are.

Why does he go – he goes in response to revelation – God tells him to go –

"I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain."

Interesting, after these many years of independence - now he wants to go back and check his notes with the church leaders. Make sure they’re on the same page.

So now you ask yourself – why after 14 long years did he want to do that? Was he doubting himself – did he think he had it wrong? Or maybe forgotten it? No, that can’t be it – Paul is very strong on his worldview and his theology – he is very consistent through all of his writing - it is actually the opposite – he is not worried about His message –he was concerned about THEIR message - that his work was being undone by these false teachers.

Galatians 2:4: 4 This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.

Slaves to what – slaves to the law – taking the church back to ritual and dead ceremony.

And how’s this – he goes before the wise teachers and elders in Jerusalem – and he says – well first he says he doesn’t think that much of these so-called Giants -  whatever they were makes no difference to me, as God does not show favouritism – nice. I like it. We are all equals before Christ.

They added nothing to my message says Paul – in other words – He had it right.

On the contrary – not only did they not add anything to his message – the pillars themselves recognised him as a minister – they recognised that he had a special task of ministering to the Gentiles. Which, like we said last week – probably meant that he was especially sensitive to this group being called to subscribe to Jewish custom. No – the Gospel the Good news is for all.

So he is a made man – recognised, authorised, approved by some of the original apostles, Thumbs up. Certified! So you see the dual thing happening – he at first went to great lengths to show his independence from man.

And now, almost the proof of that is his going to the apostles in Jerusalem and verifying the message – showing how unified the Gospel is.

Makes me think of that stat that compares the works of Shakespeare that have been lost to history, or dramatically altered over last 400 or so years compared to the writings in the bible, which have been extremely consistent in relation. The Gospel is supernaturally powered, and I say that not to be all weird about it – but that is why this sort of verification and consistency should maybe not be a surprise. Not from a man or by a man.

They confirm him, agree with him, tell him to continue his ministry to the gentiles, and then there is this sneaky verse.

All they asked, was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

That verse struck me – a real side entry – a sneaky little Richie Mccaw that hits you out of nowhere.

We were talking about the Gospel – we were talking about being saved by grace through faith – theological arguments about works and salvations and divine revelation, apostleship and titles.

But – the elder apostles say to Paul, like Colombo hey - just one more thing – Remember the poor.

Now if that caught you off guard, like it caught me off guard, you will have forgotten, just like me – that so much of Paul's ministry is marked by this type of consideration. Romans, Corinthians – you have Paul and his fellow workers receiving gifts, delivering gifts, giving thanks for gifts – reminding his readers to set aside offerings for the poor.

You have maybe, like me forgotten that the fact that the early church was incredibly poor – in Acts the church is instructed to sell their possessions and put everything into the communal pot – this is not the rich comfortable church we live in today – this is the church that, when hearing that Jesus instructed his believers to sell their material possessions, they actually did that. Imagine that!

So he is reminded to remember the poor - specifically the poor saints back in Jerusalem – and his later writings how him doing just that.

We know from history, does this early church, in the face of tremendous economic hardship (I read there was severe famine at that time as well) – did the church collapse? Implode? Or did God supply their needs? Was He faithful?

You tell me.

Verse 11 is where things really start to get spicy.

But before that - Let me ask you a question - when last did you guys pick a fight – when last did you guys willingly enter into a confrontation. Even more to the point - when last did you enter into a confrontation with someone more senior than you? When last did you go to your boss at work and say – hey, you guys are doing things wrong here?

Paul picks a fight here. He tells the story of his opposition to Cephas – Cephas is Peter hey, it’s just a different translation of his name – he is the same Peter back in the Gospels the same rock on which Christ will build his church – is a big player in the new church. And Paul takes him on and takes him down.  When Cephas came, I opposed him to his face.

Easy to write about a guy behind his back, but Paul wants you to know that he stood up to him face to face. He already made it clear that he doesn’t think these leaders are anything special as God shows no favourites, good stuff, but the sheer guts to stand in opposition to Peter. The bravery, put it differently – the CONVICTION OF HIS MESSAGE – to stand up for it.

The verses explain, just as we mentioned the Judaisiers have been leading people astray – Peter has seemingly been misled as well.

Peter you are not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel. Sometimes a rebuke is required, it seems – a reminder.

Galatians 2:15-16 15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[d] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

No one is justified through the law – not the Pharisees at the time – not the gentiles who were being convinced by this upstart group to follow custom, not Paul, not even the mighty Peter, personal close friend of Christ.

All are justified by faith in Christ alone.

Verse 19 – through the Law I died to the Law – Paul has been there and done that – as Zealous as he was and as hard as he tried to satisfy the law – he is able to now see that he would never have been able to do it. There is none righteous - All fall short, Paul will write to the Romans. And he includes himself.

Like last week, we’ve spent a bit of time on Paul, Paul Paul Paul  but the story is not about Paul. As much as Paul has been writing about himself, about his past, his present, his ministry, he would want us to know this I imagine – I am only here by the Grace of God – the old me is gone, and now I live for Christ.

Galatians 2:19-21 19  “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”[e]

I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

How could Paul escape from such a hectic past, how was he able to put all of that behind him – well it is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me. That’s the mindset, that’s the identity he really claims – not a puffed-up position of self-importance as the Apostle Paul.

The old man is gone – that’s not who I am anymore. Christ lives in me.

How was he able to enter into so many years of ministry – to follow God’s calling, remember so independently in the face of all these barriers and challenges and opposition – well it’s no longer I that live, but it is Christ who lives in me.

And how was he able to find the guts and bravery to call out even Cephas – Peter himself – Well its I longer live, but Christ lives in me. It’s all for him. My comfort and my needs and desires are second now – The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and give himself for me.

So in in a sense – he gave himself for me – Paul would say now he gives himself for Christ.

It’s a lot easier to sing a song than to live out the words –

When I survey the Wondrous cross on which the prince of Glory died – My richest gain, I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride

I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

Oh the wonderful cross, bids me come and die and find that I may truly live.

I don’t want to die – but the old man must die – and be left behind.

He (God) must increase we (our old selves) must decrease says John 3

Verse 20 says I live by faith in the Son of God. Side note – Just for you Neville – A few translations have "I live by faith of the son of God".

Faith in the son of God vs faith OF the son of God – an interesting thought – if Paul is dead, he is indeed sustained by the Faith of God.

And in any case, what Christian would deny that it is the faithfulness of a loving God that sustains us, that gives us life. It is all Him. It is not dependent on us – not from a man, not by a man.

Easy to sing, even pretty easy to say up here - but hard to live. I wish I had a cool example of me doing something amazing like Paul did to Peter, I wish I could relate some witness.

The best I can do is to honour one of the brothers here who, I thought exemplified this attitude recently – I never got the chance to speak to him privately, so now I’ll embarrass him publicly.

So a quick story to close – last year, when Colleen passed- we had the funeral here – we had a service right here in this hall - many of you were present, and it has really stuck with me since that morning. There were various speakers, and of course there was naturally a lot of memories being shared, and really heartfelt tributes and eulogies. (Guys we need to continue to pray for the family hey). The one gentleman spoke and he spoke really nicely and said his part, but it was clear in his speaking, that, all this, Church stuff, thoughts of heaven and hell and the afterlife wasn’t really his thing. Jesus really didn’t mean all that much to him. And I can kind of respect that, he was just being honest, it’s understandable, and I’m sure that there were many in the room that day who felt and still do feel the same way.

But the next speaker just happened to be Mr Anton Janari over here, who in his gentle way, moseyed up to the microphone with a warm smile on his face – he had been asked to deliver a message – and my immediate thought was, here we go now, what message was this man about to bring?

Does he play it safe, say something maybe a bit more gentle and pleasing to the ear, something warm and palatable to all – that’s certainly what I would have felt pressured to do. (Chicken noise)

Of course not. Anton delivered the gospel that morning. He made sure that as we sat in that hall – we knew exactly what the bible says, about what Jesus came here to do. That He is real, that He is alive, He is for all of us - that this stuff is more than just old bible stories and fairytales, that Colleen believed in a risen Saviour and that she is with him RIGHT NOW. Boom! At the time I was like this – I’m just being honest – as I heard him lay out the true gospel, I was tense – in my own head – sjoe, isn’t this a bit strong? Is this the time and place?

And only after could I really appreciate what was happening here. It was very much the time and very much the place. For someone to stand and present the truth. For the personal comfort and pride and self to be put behind and for Christ to come forward and be known. Unashamed. Not sure who mans the Medway Account on Facebook but they got the timing perfect this week – This verse came up – maybe you saw it - "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the Power of God that brings salvations to everyone who believes." Romans 1:16

Everyone - Whether you are Cephas, Paul, whether you are a lowly poor sinful gentile.

Paul would say Yes and Amen. When you speak, speak as if Christ is speaking, when you act, do what Christ would do – I see those WWJD bracelets are making a comeback in the Payne family.

OK, I’m done - The Gospel message was revealed to Paul in its truth – how did he respond – did he sit on it. Did he fight it. Did he ignore it. No – He obeyed immediately.

He recognised its calling especially to the Gentiles who were so easily excluded. He exhorted others to follow likewise - the Churches in Galatia – but we would obviously look at the words and say, us too – to live it out.

To put the old, sinful self behind in the past, and live by faith for the one who loves us and gave himself for us.