Did Jesus Really Descend Into Hell?

by Josh Stone, Pastor of LifeGroups

For those with more questions about Sunday’s Sermon on whether Christ really did descend into hell. Here are my full (and unedited) sermon notes as I prepared for week 6 of the Because We Believe series on Sunday, October 28, 2018. I hope you’ll find them helpful.

Did Jesus really Descend into Hell? Cultural View

  • I’d like you to participate in a quick self-test:
  • Grab your worship Guide and a pen
    • In a moment I’m going to say a word, and I want you to draw when comes to mind. Ready? “Hell”
      • Whatever pops up, draw that in the box in your worship guide. I’ll give you a second.
    • What comes to my mind is a man in a red suit with a pitchfork, horns, and sharp tail
      • Utter darkness, a lake with fire, demons that have people locked up in cages, grotesque depictions of creatures half-human, half animal
      • This week we will be inundated with images of hell and the demonic because of Halloween
    • Almost all of the things that we think of when we think of “hell” have come not from the Bible but from these two men: Dante Aligiehri and Gustave Dore
      • Dante wrote The Inferno in the 14th century as an allegorical tale of Dante being guided by Virgil, the famous Roman orator, through the nine circles of hell
        • The book is powerful, dramatic, grotesque, and was incredibly popular
      • Later, in the 19th century, Gustave Dore created a series of illustrations of The Inferno bound in a book that were a sensation and best seller
        • The Inferno was the Star Wars if its day
      • We are continuing our series on the Apostle’s Creed, and today the section we are looking at is “He Descended into Hell; and on the third day he rose again from the dead”
      • The resurrection is something that is familiar to us, that we preach on regularly. But what about this descended into Hell part? What’s that all about?
      • Today we are going to deep dive into the phrase “He descended into hell.”
        • Before we get started I want to ask this question, “Why do I always get the hard topics!”
          • “Descended into hell! Are you serious?”
        • There are two obstacles you and I face on this topic
          • 1st: There are many misconceptions about the afterlife that this message cannot possibly address
          • 2nd: There are a lot of different views on this section of the Creed
            • We will talk about them but can’t possibly address all our questions about this topic in 35 minutes
            • But, if you have questions about the message today, please email us at rickducan@cvconline.org
          • If you follow along with me today, you will:
            • 1) have a clear understanding of what this phrase means
            • 2) have greater reason trust in Jesus Christ


Did Jesus descend into hell? Yes… sort of.

  • Did Jesus descend into a world of pitchforks and red men and scurrying demons? No.
  • Understood properly, “Did Jesus really descend into hell?” My answer is Yes … sort of.




Text of John

  • John 19:28–30
    • After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
  • John 19:40–42
    • So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.


Did Jesus really Descend into Hell? Four Theological Views

  • In the next few minutes, I want to give you a fly-over of the various views of “He descended into hell”, then I’d like to share with you why one specific view seems to be the most faithful, and has been the view of most Christians for most of history
  • I’m going to list them from the view held by the least Christians throughout time to the one held by the most
  • Don’t try to write all this stuff down. I’ll put my full notes and research online this week. And, Rick Duncan will include a blog post highlighting some differences he and I have on this topic
  • The key passages that the Descent hinges on is Acts 2:27; Rom 10:6-7; Eph 4:8-9; 1 Peter 3:18-20; Hebrews 11, and 12, among others
  • The “Discard” View
    • There are some modern scholars that think this phrase got inadvertently slipped into the Creed later than other articles, or that the decent simply isn’t biblical. So, we should take it out.
    • This is the view held by the fewest Christians but by some scholars that I really appreciate and recommend at our church, like Wayne Grudem takes this position.
  • The “Buried” View
    • This view says that the descent was simply an illustrative way of describing the burial of Jesus in the earth
  • The “Second Chance” View
    • There are some, including some Eastern Orthodox theologians, that believe Jesus went down to the place of the dead to preach the Gospel to those who did not believe before Christ came. For example, those who made fun of Noah when he was building the ark.
    • Jesus really descended into hell in order to give people who had died a second chance to believe in the promise that God would send a Savior.
  • The “Pain on the Cross” View
    • This view says that Jesus experienced “descended into hell” in that he experienced the physical, psychological, and spiritual anguish of hell on the cross
    • The famous reformer John Calvin held this view, Matt Chandler takes this view, and the Heidelberg Catechism, a tool developed in 16th century to teach the faith, says that the descent was “which He suffered in His soul on the cross and before.”
    • Hell = pain on the cross


Theological Views Assessed

  • Before I present to you the most common view, and the view that I believe, let’s assess the above views briefly
  • The “Discard” View
    • Scholars contend that this view doesn’t take in consideration a number of biblical passages and thousands of years of theological analysis
    • Suggesting that, after 2000 years, a specific theologian has come to a position different from the early church but biblically correct seems presumptuous to many, including myself
  • The “Buried” View
    • Though it is true that Jesus was buried, the Creed mentions Jesus’ burial in the previous phrase. It would seem odd to just restate what was already mentioned directly before.
  • The “Second Chance” View
    • This view seems to go against the clear teaching of a number of biblical passages, especially Heb 9:27 which says, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that face judgement.”
    • Also, it inadvertently teaches that everyone goes to heaven when they die, which is clearly not taught in Scripture
  • The “Pain on the Cross” View
    • This view is certainly legitimate, but this doesn’t seem to make most sense for at least two reasons.
      • First, it disrupts the chronological order of the Creed.
        • If the descent is the agony on the cross, wouldn’t the Descent be positioned after crucifixion rather than after burial?
        • Meaning, wouldn’t it read “Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, He descended to hell, dead, and buried.; the third day He rose again from the dead;
      • Second, it doesn’t address the verses that seem to point to something other than merely the agony of the cross
        • No one disregards Christ’s agony on the cross, but it seems that the descent is more than merely agony on the cross
      • It includes, but is not limited to, the agony on the cross
    • I am not saying that all these views are stupid or have no credibility, but I believe they are not the view most in line with Scripture


The “Place of the Dead” View

  • The majority view throughout the history of the faith is the “Place of the Dead” view
    • This view was held by the early church fathers and the majority of Christians today
  • This is the view that, upon Jesus’ death, Jesus actually died and went to the place of the dead, the same place that Moses and David went, which we confusingly call hell
  • The problem is, we don’t have a biblical view of what the word “hell” is talking about
    • Our minds go to Dante rather than Scripture
  • In order to understand the Descent, we need to understand a little bit about the languages that the Bible and the Creed was written in
  • The Apostles’ Creed was written first in Latin.
    • The word we translate “hell” is the word Inferna
    • The New Testament was written in Greek, and Inferna is the Latin translation of the Greek word Hades.
      • In the New Testament, there are two Greek words that have traditionally been translated at hell: Hades and Gehenna
        • Gehenna is the name of a trash dump outside the city of Jerusalem. This name is used as a place of punishment and torment.
        • Hades is different because is refers back to an Old Testament concept
      • The word Hades is from the Hebrew word Sheol.
      • שְׁאוֹל -> ᾅδης -> Inferna -> Hell
    • What is Sheol?
      • In the Old Testament, Sheol is a general term for the place where dead people go
        • It is described often in allegorical terms as a shadowy existence not of punishment necessarily but of waiting
          • The Old Testament describes that all people, both good and bad, go to Sheol, the place of the dead.
        • Psalm 88:3
          • “For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol.”
        • Jacob, after he heard of the death of Joseph, said
          • Genesis 37:35 “I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.”
        • David, in Psalm 19 says he will go to Sheol
        • Sheol is simply the place of the dead
      • So, did Jesus descend into hell? Or, better question, “Did Jesus descend into the place of the dead?”
      • When Jesus died on the cross, Jesus went to the place of the dead. He legitimately died.
      • That means he experienced death, and he took on death in our place in order to remove the eternal consequences of death
        • Jesus fully experienced death, just like David and Moses, and at the call of “It is finished!” Jesus went to the place of the dead
        • Jesus gave up his spirit, his body was limp, and he descended into the place of the dead.


Devil and Disciples

  • The belief that the dead just go to the place of the dead explains the responses and the thought processes of both the Disciples and the Devil
    • The disciples watched Jesus’ agony on the cross, hoping and praying that God would do something to get Jesus off that cross because, if Jesus died, he was gone
      • Thus when Jesus cried, “It is finished”, the disciples thought, “It’s all over, all hope is lost. Jesus is gone. This Messiah thing is finished.”
    • The Devil worked in every way possible to get Jesus to the cross.
      • If he could kill Jesus, then Jesus would be gone.
      • Tempting Judas, Pontius Pilate, hardening the hearts of the guards.
      • When Jesus said, “It is finished” the Devil thought, “I won. I got rid of him. I killed the Son of God. I am the Almighty.”
    • They were both wrong



  • John 20:19–21
    • On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
  • Jesus’ death paid for sins, but if that is the end of the story, then death wins.
    • If Jesus died and went to the place of the dead and stayed dead, then death, sin, and the Devil win.
      • The cross would have been the crowning achievement of Satan.
    • But Jesus didn’t stay dead
  • He rose again, emptying Death and Hades of its possessions and power
    • That is why Jesus says:
      • Revelation 1:17–18
        • “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”
      • Matthew 16:18
        • “I will build my church, and the gates of hell (Hades) shall not prevail against it.”
      • I don’t know how long Jesus was in Hades or about the thief on the cross where Jesus said “today” he would be with him in paradise
        • I don’t know how long Jesus was in Hades, but it was long enough to get the keys and rip off the gates
      • In Jesus’ death, he pays for the penalty of sin, and, in his resurrection, he destroys the power of sin


So, What? Jesus Knows What Death is Like

  • “Josh, this is an interesting theological concept, but why is it important for my life?”
  • This concept is vitally important to every single person, whether you are a Christian or not, for two reasons:
  • Every person’s greatest fear and greatest enemy is death. And we will all face it.
    • It doesn’t matter how much kale you eat, how many health shakes you drink, how many miles you run, how many essential oils you put on in the morning
    • You are in a slow process of dying
  • If you are here with your spouse, grab your spouse’s hand. Give him or her a little squeeze.
    • If you are here with a friend, give them person a fist bump or a head nod
  • Married couples, say you have the best marriage in the world, stuff that fairytales are made of, the best you can possibly hope for in this life is to one day weep over you spouse’s coffin, or for them to weep over yours
    • Children, you will bury your parents, or you will break their hearts by dying before them
    • You will die. Death is your enemy. You are in the process of dying right now.
  • Jesus has defeated death by death.
  • So, you can go to him with your fears, your questions, your anxieties about death, because he has been there and he knows what it’s like
  • You can go to him, because Jesus knows what it is like
  • You can go to Jesus for everything
    • Have you been abandoned? Jesus knows what it’s like
    • Are you physically suffering? Jesus knows what it’s like
    • Are you grieving the loss of a loved one? Jesus knows what it’s like
    • Are you realizing that you will soon die? Jesus knows what it’s like
    • Before the end of the year, one of our pastors will officiate one of your funerals. Jesus has already been there, He has been through death, and he knows what it’s like. And he will be there with you every step of the way.
  • No one knows what it’s like to die but Jesus! You can trust him.


Illustration: Birth

  • In my position I spend a lot of time with young families and couples expecting their first child
    • My wife Deborah has had two children naturally. I was present for both of the births.
    • One tip I give expecting fathers about the labor is this: “Do not give your wife any labor advice. You don’t know what you are talking about.”
      • Fellas, I don’t care how many books you’ve read or buddies you’ve talked to, you do not know what labor is like
    • That is why it is comforting to a woman to have women in the labor room who have had children herself.
      • She knows what it is like
    • Jesus Christ knows what it’s like to go the grave. You can trust him with everything, even your death.


Heaven is Opened Up

  • This part of the Creed is so important because:
  • 1) Jesus knows what it’s like
  • 2) Heaven is open for sinners like you and me
    • In Jesus’ triumphant descent to the dead, then his resurrection, he, as Ephesians 4:8 says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives and he gave gifts to men”. Jesus brought the dead saints of old to heaven to be with Christ
  • Because Christ died and went to the place of the dead, you don’t have to.
    • If you put your faith in Jesus Christ, the moment you die Jesus ushers you into his presence
      • That is why the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5 that “being absent with the body is present with the Lord.”
    • We don’t have to fear death anymore, because Jesus has defeated death for our sake
    • He took the punishment of death so that we could have the prize of life


Gospel Call

  • If Jesus was willing to go to death to bring you to him, there’s nowhere he’s not willing to go to get you
    • Do you feel far from Jesus today?
      • “Because this Lion, that is, Christ, of the tribe of Judah, descended victoriously to hell, snatching us from the mouth of the hostile lion. Thus He hunts us to save us, he captures us to release us, he leads us captive to restore us liberated to our native land.” – Ceasarius of Arles[1]
    • Trust Jesus today














Below is a list of my notes from my research. They are not exhaustive because many of them I read in my commentaries and books. But, here is a good starting off point for being a Self-Feeder






Thomas Aquinas

  • Accordingly in order to take upon Himself most perfectly the punishment due to sinners, Christ not only suffered death, but also His soul descended … He, however, descended for a different cause than did the fathers; for they did so out of necessity and were of necessity taken there and detained, but Christ descended there of His own power and free will… The others were there as captives, but Christ was freely there.”


  • Intro
  • Jesus’ death paid for our sins
  • He descended into hell
    • John passages
      • For that which He has not assumed He has not healed
    • Jesus’ resurrection promises us new life
    • And on the third day he rose again from the dead
      • 1 Cor 15
    • Holy Spirit is down payment
    • Labor illustration


Descent good news:

1) Jesus knows what it’s like

2) Jesus has purchased heaven for us



Questions for Creative:

  • Adam illustration
  • Intro Video
  • Les Miserables
  • Heather Capone
  • Creative: Jesus can be trusted with every experience
    • Extended time of worship



  • Only Jesus knows what it’s like to die
  • Only Jesus was willing to go there freely
  • Death removes sin. Resurrection promises new life


Why did he descend into hell? In order that he might take on all of humanity and remove death’s final power over us.

  • Taking on death

Why did he rise again? In order that he might defeat death and show his power and victory over sin.

  • Promises us new life


HS is a guarantee:

2 Corinthians 1:21–22


And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (ESV)




My view of “he descended into hell”

  • Jesus descended into hell in order that 1) he may take on all of humanity’s consequences due to sin
  • Jesus died as all people died. When he died, he did not go to be with the Father. Rather, he experienced death and in rising from the death, he made a final death blow to death. Death could not hold him. Thus, he experienced the spiritual death and the physical death that is both representative of hell. Thus, he experienced hell (physical and spiritual separation from God) in order to purchase our eternal life


My Eschatology

  • Before Christ’s death, those that died went to Sheol, the shadowy place of the dead. This is both saved and unsaved alike. After Jesus death, those that were saved were ushered into heaven to be with God. Now, those that depart and are saved go to heaven, an incomplete but good resting place with God (i.e. not apart from God as in Sheol and not in judgement as in hell/Gehenna)



Gregory of Nazianzen; 4th century

To Cledonius the Priest Against Apollinarius


If anyone has put his trust in Him as a Man without a human mind, he is really bereft of mind, and quite unworthy of salvation.  For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved.



From JND Kelly’s Commentary on the Apostle’s Creed:  https://www.amazon.com/Early-Christian-Creeds-J-N-D-Kelly/dp/0826492169/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1540842434&sr=8-1-fkmr1&keywords=jnd+kelly+creed


Important Information:

  • Apostle’s Creed simply extrapolation of the Old Roman Creed, which dates from early third century as a way to affirm conversion in baptism, provide devotional material, and teach the core of the Christian faith as more and more pagans are entering into the faith
  • “descended to hell” is a later addition to the ORC
  • “The belief that Christ spent the interval between his expiry on the cross and his resurrection in the underworld was a commonplace of Christian teaching from the earliest times.” Re Ignatius, Polycarp, Ireneaus, Tertullian, and others
    • Also, Rom 10:7, Acts 2:27-31, 1 Peter 3:19 and 4:6, Col 1:18
  • “It was no more than the natural corollary of Judaeo-Christian ideas about the condition of the soul after death. To say that Jesus Christ had died, or that He had been buried, was equivalent to saying that he had passed to Sheol.”
  • The Descent was coming to be viewed as the occasion of the redemption, not just of the patrarchs of old, but of mankind in general.


From JI Packer:

The English is misleading, for “hell” has changed its sense since the English form of the Creed was fixed. Originally, “hell” meant the place of the departed as such, corresponding to the Greek Hades and the Hebrew Sheol. That is what it means here, where the Creed echoes Peter’s statement that Psalm 16:10, “thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades” (so RSV: AV has “hell”), was a prophecy fulfilled when Jesus rose (see Acts 2:27–31). But since the seventeenth century, “hell” has been used to signify only the state of final retribution for the godless, for which the New Testament name is Gehenna.


Grudem has an extensive post that is pretty helpful:



Aquinas’ commentary on Apostle’s Creed: https://dhspriory.org/thomas/english/Creed.htm#5

  • Therefore, before the coming of Christ all men, even the holy fathers after their death, descended into the underworld. Accordingly in order to take upon Himself most perfectly the punishment due to sinners, Christ not only suffered death, but also His soul descended to the underworld. He, however, descended for a different cause than did the fathers; for they did so out of necessity and were of necessity taken there and detained, but Christ descended there of His own power and free will: “I am counted among them that go down to the pit; I am become as a man without help, free among the dead” [Ps 87:5–Vulgate]. The others were there as captives, but Christ was freely there.



  • Because this Lion, that is, Christ, of the tribe of Judah, descended victoriously to hell, snatching us from the mouth of the hostile lion. Thus He hunts us to save us, he captures us to release us, he leads us captive to restore us liberated to our native land. – St Ceasarius


He descended into hell:

  • A few options:
    • First: he literally went to what we think of as hell and either preached or set captives free or whatever
    • Second: He descended into Hades/Sheol, which is the place of death. “He went down to the place of the dead.”
      • Or, he, simply, could mean “buried, i.e. he descended into hell”
    • Third: He experienced hell in the condemnation of the cross
    • Fourth: This article in the creed should be removed


My take: probably a mix of all three

  • Jesus died as all people died. When he died, he did not go to be with the Father. Rather, he experienced death and in rising from the death, he made a final death blow to death. Death could not hold him. Thus, he experienced the spiritual death and the physical death that is both representative of hell. Thus, he experienced hell (physical and spiritual separation from God) in order to purchase our eternal life




  • In the early church, there was a phrase used to talk about the importance of Jesus being fully God and fully man
    • The phrase was, “For that which He has not assumed He has not healed”
  • That means that whatever Jesus assumed, or took on, he healed.
  • If Jesus didn’t die, and if Jesus didn’t experience all of what it means to be human – including human death – then he doesn’t really know what it’s like
  • Thomas Aquinas (13th century)
    • Accordingly in order to take upon Himself most perfectly the punishment due to sinners, Christ not only suffered death, but also His soul descended … He, however, descended for a different cause than did the fathers; for they did so out of necessity and were of necessity taken there and detained, but Christ descended there of His own power and free will… The others were there as captives, but Christ was freely there.”
  • But he went to that place, hell, so that we do not have to


Explanation of Sheol From Evangelical Dictionary of Evangelical Theology :



Also, Good article on Sheol from The Oxford Compantion of the Bible: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-oxford-companion-to-the-bible-9780195046458?cc=us&lang=en&


Good blog posts on a traditionalist position:





John Piper does not believe in the Descent:



Here is a Scholarl Article by John Yates on why he believes in the Descent:




I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit;

born of the virgin Mary; Suffered under Pontius Pilate;

was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended to hell; the third day

He rose again from the dead;

He ascended to heaven and sits on the

right hand of the Father Almighty, From whence He shall come to

judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, The holy catholic church,

the communion of saints, The forgiveness of sins, The resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting. Amen.



[1] Sermon 119

God as Father

by Chad Allen, Lead Pastor of Cuyahoga Valley Church

Last weekend I taught about God as our Father and us as His children.  There are times when we may doubt our salvation or identity as God’s child, or performance and works thinking will flood our minds or heart, or we slip back into letting our sense of worth and value be determined by our successes and failures in this life rather than what God has said is true of those who have come to faith in Christ.

When that happens , it is very helpful to read, meditate and even pray back Scriptures that affirm that those who are in Christ are truly children God. The title and status of being God’s child and rests not on our character and faithfulness, but on Gods.

If this has been something you have been wrestling with or want to learn more on, I recommend these verses to read, reflect on a pray through:

To drill down even more on this topic of Assurance, I highly recommend reviewing Week 1 (pages 1-18) in our Living New book on Amazon or download the Chapter 1 for free..


Parenting Through Galatians

by Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church Founding Pastor

Conscientious parents often fill up their shelves with great books on how to parent well. That’s not a bad idea. But we know that the best book on parenting is the Bible. When you explore the Bible, however, you will find only a few passages of scripture that deal directly with the topic of parenting. That doesn’t mean that we can’t make application from other sections of the Bible.
I want us, in this blog post, to read through a bit of Galatians 3 and make an application to parenting. As we work our way through the text,  I hope you will see how you can make application of other sections of scripture to your heart as a parent. Let’s start with Galatians 3:2.
2 Let me ask you [parents] only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?
3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? [Are you seeking to perfect your child by the flesh – by demanding obedience, by threats and coercion, by your rules that force change from the outside in?]
5 Does He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Galatians 3:2-3, 5 
Do you want a miracle in the life of your son or daughter? Parent them in the Spirit and not in the flesh. Live your own life by grace through faith and not by rules, rituals, and regulations.
10 For all [parents] who rely on works of the law [to parent his or her child] are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
Nobody can keep all the rules. The best child can’t keep all the rules. So, if you set up a system that subtly communicates that your approval of your child is based on their keeping the family rules, then you are creating a “no-win“ situation for both you and for them.
You have to ask yourself, “What am I trying to produce? Am I trying to produce someone who makes me look good to my mom and dad or my brothers and sisters? Or am I trying to equip someone to follow Jesus? Am I trying to produce someone who will be a success in the eyes of the world? Or am I trying to raise someone who will be pleasing to Christ because they know how to trust and love Him? Am I trying to produce someone who will turn out to be a self-righteous little Pharisee? Or am I trying to encourage someone to be able to humbly walk with their God?
11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law [by keeping the household rules], for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
What we want is for our children to be truly righteous. And the only way they can be truly righteous is not by a “do more, try harder“ life. The only way your child can be righteous is by grace through faith in Jesus.
21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God?
Are family rules a bad idea? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. If a family rule could bring life to child, then that child would be right with God through self-effort. There would be no need for Christ, then.
We just need to understand that the family rules have no power to give life to a child’s heart. Instead, the rules serve to expose the rebellion that’s in a child’s heart so that the child will run to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and for an ability to live the kind of life that he or she knows they have to be living.
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law [the do’s and don’ts of the family rules], imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.
24 So then, the law [the family rulebook] was our guardian [showing us right from wrong] until Christ came [until Christ enters into the heart of your child], in order that we might be justified by faith.
Your family rules are there to show your children their need for Christ so that they might be made right with God through their faith in Jesus.
25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian
Your kids after coming to faith in Christ have an internal guidance system. The family rules no longer dominate or dictate everything].
26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
Your child can be a beloved children of God, alive, and well, and led by the Spirit to keep the rules not from the outside in but from the inside out – not because he or she has to but because he or she wants to.
You can parent in the flesh. Or you can parent in the Spirit. Which do you choose? The choice is obvious, right?
If you are going to parent in the Spirit then you have to stay in step with the Spirit. “A Spirit-led parent will have a fruit filled-home,” says Chad Allen.
  • What other section of scripture do you think you could use in a similar way to help you as a parent?
  • Would you take your time to work through a text, write down your thoughts, and apply the truths to your life as a parent?

Parenting 216 – A Scenario

Please read through this scenario to help you prepare for this weekend’s message. You might want to read it as a family. You’ll find a few questions at the end to use for reflection and conversation.

Zach grew up in a broken home. His dad and his mom fought a lot. Zach’s dad slowly began to check out until one day, he left—for good. He came to an occasional ball game and sent birthday cards with a check inside. But he never really made an emotional investment in his son. Zach never fully felt loved, accepted, or valued.

He tried to find those things in all the wrong places as he grew up. He worked hard to impress his coaches, his teachers, and, of course, the girls.

When he graduated from high school, he went o to an in-state college. He was committed to working and paying his way through school.

But two months after he arrived at the university, one of his high school girlfriends called to let him know that she was pregnant. He came home that very weekend and pressured her to have an abortion saying that they just didn’t have the maturity or the money to take care of a child. Plus, their whole lives were ahead of them.

Back on the campus, the guilt of what he had done began to drag him down into a depression. He started missing class. He started drinking every night. He hit on every girl who would give him even the slightest bit of interest. His grades plummeted. He didn’t even go back for his second semester. Having gone back to his hometown, he held a series of jobs—none with any real future. His drinking grew worse. Once, he was arrested for disorderly conduct after a bar fight. He started experimenting with drugs. He had a series of one-night stands. His life was a mess.

He met a girl that he liked. Megan. She was the most beautiful, kind, and sweet girl he’d ever met. She was a follower of Jesus. So, she politely told him that she really couldn’t date him because he wasn’t committed to Christ.

Zach remembered a coach in high school who also talked a lot about Jesus. He met the coach for breakfast. The coach told him why Megan could not even entertain the idea of having a relationship with Zach.

Then the coach asked, “So, how are things going?” And Zach began to talk about all that was broken in his life. That’s when the coach shared about the grace of God offered through Jesus. Zach learned that Christ loved him so much that He died on the cross to forgive him for the abortion, the bad grades, the wasted time, the partying, the one-night stands, the fights, the drunkenness, the drug use, and the bitterness and anger. Zach learned that Jesus would give him the acceptance, the love, and the sense of worth that he had been looking for all his life.

The coach gave Zach a Bible and told him to read the gospel of John. One night, alone in his room, Zach picked up the Bible and began to read. He came to John 3 where Jesus said, “You must be born again.” He wondered, “What does this mean?” He called his coach. On the phone, the coach led Zach to receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Zach immediately felt a grace and a love and a freedom like he’d never felt his whole life.

Zach started attending church. Of course, he went to the church that the beautiful, kind, and sweet young woman attended. Megan kept her distance for a while, waiting to see if this commitment to Christ was real. It was. Zach was baptized, helped out in the children’s ministry, rarely missed a service, and went on several mission trips. He was hungry to grow spiritually. After about a year, the girl said “yes” to a date. In another year’s time, they were engaged. Six months later, they were married.

Children came a few years later. Two boys and a girl. Zach was committed to not being an absentee father like his dad was. He was also committed to making sure that his children didn’t make the same mistakes that he had made. He wanted to keep them safe from partying, drinking, drugging, fighting, and premarital sex. So, family rules were established. Any violation was quickly punished—followed, of course, by an embrace and an “I-love-you.” Missing church was not an option. Family devotions were routine. Volunteering was a must. Memorizing the family rules and key Bible verses were a focus. When the kids grew older, a strict curfew was enforced.

At first, Megan loved all of this. All Zach could think about was how to make family life better. But Zach wasn’t really happy. Zach’s voice would rise when the kids misbehaved. His anger too often raged. The kids began to act out. Megan spent many lonely nights staring at the ceiling, listening to Zach’s quiet snore, and wondering, “Why does serving Jesus have to be so hard? What happened to my sweet family? Where are my kids going to end up? How can I get my husband back?”

  • What happened to Zach?
  • Why is he angry?
  • How did this family get where they are?
  • How do you think these kids end up?
  • How can things be changed for the better?

Self-Assessment: Fruit of the Spirit

by Chad Allen, Cuyahoga Valley Church Lead Pastor

Now, I know what you are thinking, because I have thought it many times myself… I look at that list and think, yah.. patience… not rocking it there, or Self-control… what’s that?  IF God has given us this fruit of the Spirit how come it seems like I have some of them but not all of them?

Again, think fruit, think organic, think growth.  we are all developing.

All the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit are in you, some are just more developed than others.  When it comes to parenting, maybe you have a great love for your kids, but the patience is still growing.  Maybe self-control is strong, but gentleness is still developing.  We are not perfect, we are not fully mature in our faith, we still have areas that God is improving and refining, or to use a bigger theological word, sanctifying.

But we can be highly encouraged and motivated by realizing that if we are cooperate with what God is doing in us, then we will truly see that a Spirit led parent will have a fruit filled home

Let’s take a closer look at what God has given us in Christ through the Spirit. And even have a small self-inspection moment.

LOVE (agapē) – not merely affectionate feelings, but a self-denying and self-sacrificing act of the will to freely give of oneself to another

QuestionAm I growing in my love for others without being motivated by the hope that I will receive something in return, but to just love others freely like Christ loves me freely?

JOY  – a deep and lasting supernatural delight, rooted in the Lord and His purposes, present in both good and bad circumstances.

Question – Am I experiencing a regular joy in my life that is dependent on God rather than things going my way?

PEACE – (eirēnē from Hebrew Shalom) – An inward calmness and well-being even in the midst of difficulties knowing that God is in control and I can rest in Him.

Question –  Am I growing in a sense of peace in my life, even when I’m experiencing a little or massive hardships?

PATIENCE – (makrothumia) makros (long) thumos (temper) longsuffering, to put up with, holding back our temper even when provoked.

Question – Am I experiencing a greater ability to tolerate life’s irritations and inconveniences without lashing out?

KINDNESS  – a compassionate and considerate attitude towards others and wanting to help them and meet their needs

Question – Am I noticing the needs of others and drawn to compassionately meet them?

GOODNESS  – a character of holiness that God is working into your life leading to a greater love for what is good and right

Question – Am I experiencing growth in doing what is good. for me and for others, for the glory of God?

FAITHFULNESS  – one who is reliable, trustworthy and has integrity

Question – Am I experiencing growth in integrity as others around me are experiencing a greater trust in my words and actions?

GENTLENESS  – controlled strength, meekness but not weakness, strength wrapped in tenderness.

Question – Am I increasing in gentleness and tenderness in my words and actions as I interact with others?

SELF-CONTROL – keeping selfish and sinful desires and urges under control

Question – Am I experiencing less control by my sinful desires and more control of the Holy Spirit in my life?


Angels of God: Praying for our missionaries and church planters 

By Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church Founding Pastor

Several years ago I received a framed commendation from our missionary partners in Ghana, West Africa. It was, I felt, very undeserved and way, way, way over the top. It’s, frankly, a little embarrassing. But I’m going to share it anyway because I think it illustrates a truth in our Bible passage from this past weekend – how people should view those who bring to them the good news of Jesus Christ.

Nzema Baptist Association of the Ghana Baptist Convention

Citation: Reverend Rick Duncan

You are God’s shepherd who has not limited your works to a confined area but spread your word to our community.

Reverend, your support has actually been felt to the skeleton of the Nzema Baptist Association. Without you, we would still be wading through the storm.

The Nzema Baptist Association appreciates and acknowledges your continuous support and concern for the upkeep and growth of the new association.

Rick, kudos from all Nzemas. Never relent on your support and good works and Jehovah God will triple all that you might have lost.

May God continue to strengthen and bless you!!


I do appreciate this, but this is way, way, way over the top. It’s overly effusive language. There are others at Cuyahoga Valley Church who deserve this type of recognition from our partners in Africa much, much more than I do.

But what I want us to see is that when you bring the gospel to people, there is a tangible appreciation that they will have for your efforts.

And that’s what we see in Galatians 2:8-20. A group of people in Galatia, a region of modern-day Turkey, saw Paul, the missionary/church planter who came to them as an angel of God.

Though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. Galatians 2:14

I am pretty sure that he never received a fancy gold-framed certificate like I did. But they received Paul as an angel of God – a messenger of God, like he was Jesus Himself.

Being seen as an angel by the people you were sent to reach is, I think, a pretty good goal for every missionary and church planter.

In fact, I think it’s absolutely legitimate for us to pray that every missionary and every church planter that we support at CVC will be seen by the people they were sent to reach as angels of God.

It struck me as I was reading Galatians 2:14 that in this year when we are emphasizing prayer, we might learn to pray for our missionaries and church planters much more faithfully and much more biblically.

I want to give you a little background as to why Paul even came to Galatia in the first place. Before Paul ever went to Galatia to share Christ and start churches, he was sent by his home church in Antioch.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. Acts 13:2-3

We see here how important it is for missionary work to be initiated by and supported with prayer and fasting.

Pastor John Piper said about this passage, “This moment of prayer and fasting resulted in a missions movement that would make Christianity the dominant religion of the Roman Empire within two-and-a-half centuries and would yield 1.3 billion adherents of the Christian religion today with a Christian witness in virtually every country of the world.”

David Platt commented, “The synergy between the call of the Spirit and the prayerful response of the church resulted in a supernatural spread of the gospel that continues to this day.”

We dare not underestimate and we cannot overestimate the importance of prayer to the advancement of the gospel of Jesus through our missionaries a church planters.

Today, I want us to focus on learning how to pray for those who point us to Christ – especially missionaries and church planters. That’s what Paul was to the Galatians. He was a missionary to them. And he planted churches there. So, we can learn some things from his life and mission that will help us pray more effectively for all missionaries and church planters.

We don’t want to pray generic prayers. “Lord, bless our missionaries“ is an example of a generic prayer.

Instead, let’s learn to pray 7 specific prayers for specific missionaries and planters we know, love, and support. We want them to be received by God’s people as “angels of God.”

Angels of God: Praying for our missionaries and church planters

  1. Pray for gospel clarity. Galatians 4:8-10

Although cross-cultural communication is difficult, pray that missionaries and planters would make the gospel clear. Pray that they would communicate that it is Jesus plus nothing that saves. Pray that they would make sure that people can understand the justification comes by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone.

  1. Prayer for fruitful labor. Galatians 4:11

Missionaries and church planters don’t keep office hours, don’t have supervisors who are present, and can be tempted to become discouraged, unaccountable, and apathetic. Pray that our missionaries and planters will labor, will work hard. Pray that missionaries would, like farmers, plow, plant, water, and weed to see fruit in their ministries as they seek to make disciples among the nations.

  1. Prayer for cultural relevance. Galatians 4:12

Pray that their ministry approach would be flexible and adaptable in everything except when it comes to the truth of the gospel. Pray for the missionaries and planters to be aware of cultural differences and to embrace them whenever possible. Pray for a minimum of faux pas and offenses. Pray for ways to bridge the cultural divide and make solid connections with the people they’ve been called to reach.

  1. Prayer for opportunistic ministry. Galatians 4:13-14

Pray that our missionaries and planters would look for opportunities in hardship, that problems would become possibilities. And pray that God will keep the missionaries and planters in the condition of health that will best glorify Him.

  1. Prayer for courageous truth-telling. Galatians 4:15-16

Pray that our missionaries and planters would speak the Word with boldness and that supernatural power would accompany its proclamation. Pray for them to speak the truth with courage, soaked with love and grace. Pray that the fear of man would never interfere with pleasing God by proclaiming His truth with passion and clarity.

  1. Pray for spiritual parenthood. Galatians 4:17-19

Pray that our missionaries and church planters would become parents in the faith to many people – that those they’re seeking to reach would come to faith in Christ and trace their spiritual heritage directly back to our missionaries and church planters.

  1. Prayer for Christ-like maturity. Galatians 4:19-20

Pray that our missionaries and church planters would see true Christian maturity take place in the lives of those people that they reach. Pray that the people they reach would have Christ formed in them. Pray that the people, including the missionaries and planters themselves, would live the Christ life and love with Christ’s love as they die to self and live in Jesus.


There we have it! Seven prayers that will help us pray for your planters and missionaries to be “angels of God” to the people they’ve been sent to reach.

We want to pray more effectively for missionaries and what God is doing around the world, but the truth is we often forget or have no plan for what to pray. What can we do?


  • Cut, paste, print, and stick this list in your Bible to remind you to pray.
  • Write this out in your planner or prayer journal.
  • Pray this way for missions as a couple or as a family together.
  • Says there are seven prayers, focus on one of these according to a day of the week.
  • Hang up a world map in a prominent place in your home with this list framed of the wall next to it.
  • Put out a globe in a prominent place in your home with this list framed on a table next to it.
  • Pray for our missionaries and planters by name. (Reach out to www.cvcmissions.org to get a complete listing.)
  • What if we changed the way we prayed? What if we began to ask God to make our missionaries and church planters “angels of God“ to the very people that they’re seeking to reach?
  • Consider using these prayers for our missionaries and planters each day for the next 30 days. Ask God to prompt you.

Becoming a Lifelong Learner – Part 5

by Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church Founding Pastor 

We’ve been learning from how Peter responded to Paul’s confrontation recorded in Galatians 2:11-14. He heard, heeded, and helped the one who confronted him. How did he do that? God had given him a gift. Humility.

The key to being a lifelong learner: humility!

It takes a humble man to respond well to a challenge, especially if that man is as strong a leader as Peter.

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. I Peter 5:5 (NASB)

It’s hard to say, “You are right and I am wrong.  Thank you for challenging me, for correcting me.”  But the first test of a truly great man is his humility.  Someone said, “The beginning of greatness is to be little; the increase of greatness is to be less; and the perfection of greatness is to be nothing.”

Fools think they know what is best, but a sensible person listens to advice.
Proverbs 12:15 (CEV)

Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear. Proverbs 25:12 (NIV)

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. Proverbs 9:9 (ESV)

Now, how did Peter finish after being confronted by Paul?  Did he finish well?  Consider the facts:

  • Late in his life, Peter sat down with a young believer named Mark and told stories about his life with Jesus.  Mark wrote it down in the book that now carries his name.
  • Later in his life, Peter sat down and wrote a letter to strengthen suffering believers scattered throughout the present-day Turkey. It’s the book we call I Peter.
  • He wrote a second book to remind believers to grow in the grace and knowledge or the Lord Jesus.  We call this book II Peter.
  • In F.B. Meyer’s book, The Life of Peter, we learn that the last 16 or 17 years of his life Peter traveled with his devoted wife from place to place with such remarkable success that there was a widespread turning to God from idols.

Was he a lifelong learner?  The impact of his life says he was.  But what about Peter’s tendency to cave into the crowd – to wilt under pressure?

We first hear of Peter’s death in a letter from an early church leader, Clement.  He mentions the suffering and martyrdom of Peter in Rome.  The Romans were notorious for saying, “Deny that Christ is Lord and you will live.  Confess that Christ is Lord and you will die.”  Peter didn’t wilt this time.  He didn’t deny Christ.  He won!  He finished strong by dying for his faith in Jesus.

An early church historian named Eusebius wrote: “Peter appears to have preached through Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia, to the Jews that were scattered abroad; who also, finally coming to Rome, was crucified with his head downward, having requested of himself to suffer in this way.”

How long are you going to listen to the same critique over and over before you realize that God is working to get your attention?  It is God who is seeking to make you like Jesus through the observations of the people around you.  Your spouse has been confronting you about an area in your life for years, but you won’t listen.  Your kids have been challenging you.  Your friends have been pointing out blind spots.  Your business associates often say the same things.

It’s time to hear, to heed, and to help your godly critic. And the only way to do that is to become more and more humble.

A point to ponder: When I am humble, I can keep changing… for the better.

A verse to remember: Take good counsel and accept correction–that’s the way to live wisely and well.  Proverbs 19:20 (MSG)

A question to consider: What lessons has God been seeking to teach you through others that you have been too proud to learn?

Becoming a Lifelong Learner – Part 4

by Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church Founding Pastor 

Over the last several days, we’ve seen from the encounter between Paul and Peter in Galatians 2:11-14 that Peter was a lifelong learner because he made some great decisions.

Decision #1 – I will hear my godly critics

Decision #2 – I will heed my godly critics

And today….. Decision #3 –  I will help my godly critics.

Peter was publicly challenged by Paul.  How will he respond?  To get an idea of Peter’s response to Paul, you have to read what Peter wrote down.  Would he say, “That jerk, Paul, embarrassed me in front of a whole church?”  Nope! Here’s what he later wrote about Paul.

Our dear brother Paul… wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. II Peter 3:15 (NIV)

You know what this does?  It is a stamp of approval on the 13 books that Paul wrote!  He’s saying, “Just in case you want to know what I think about Paul’s life and ministry, consider this.  He’s my dear brother!  What he’s written is from God.  It’s good stuff.  Read it and be wise!”

Peter is building up Paul.  He’s making him look good.  He’s giving Paul further credibility.  At the end of his life Peter looks to Paul not as a rival but as a dear brother.  He’s applying the truth in Proverbs 22.

Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise… Proverbs 22:17 (NIV)

Do you tend to try to bring down a critic in the eyes of others?  Or do you tend to lift him up in the eyes of others?  Do you seek to open up other doors for ministry for your critics?  Do you say, “Thanks. You helped me. Now I want to help you help others?”

To help me become a lifelong learner:

  1. I will hear my godly critics.
  2.  I will heed my godly critics.
  3. I will help my godly critics.


Becoming a Lifelong Learner – Part 3

by Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church Founding Pastor

We’ve been learning how Peter learned from a confrontation by Paul recorded in Galatians 2:11-14.

Decision #1 – I will hear my godly critics.

Decision #2 – I will heed my godly critics.

It would have been easy for Peter to hear but not heed this criticism from Paul.  Peter had a long list of reasons why Paul ought to follow Peter’s lead, not Peter following Paul’s.

  • “Hey, Paul, I’m one of the twelve who walked with Jesus for 3 years.
  • “Jesus changed my name from Simon to Peter because He said I was a Rock.
  • “I walked on the water.
  • “I was in the inner circle of three.
  • “I saw Jesus transfigured.
  • “I saw the Risen Lord.
  • “I was told by Jesus to tend His sheep.
  • “I preached a message on Pentecost and 3,000 became followers of Jesus.
  • “I healed a lame man at the Temple.
  • “I gave another message and 5,000 believed.
  • “And don’t forget, for 15 days after your conversion, you sat at my feet learning about Jesus.
  • “So, you know what, Paul, you need to do what I say.  I don’t need to do what you say.”

That could have been his attitude.  But it wasn’t.  He had read verses like Proverbs 8:33.

Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.
Proverbs 8:33 (NASB)

Some people are intimidated by leadership conflict.  They expect everybody to always agree – especially with them!  They think that problems are bad things.  Conflict, though, is a good thing when handled correctly.  And the bigger the problem is, the more strategic the solution will be.  Some Bible teachers would say that this confrontation between Peter and Paul did more to keep open the door of the gospel to the Gentiles than anything else – including Peter’s vision.

The conflict was a short one.  But it appears that it led to an ever-deepening love and respect from Peter to Paul.  God can take an unpleasant incident and turn it into a life-changing lesson.

It is better to heed a wise man’s rebuke than to listen to the song of fools. Ecclesiastes7:5 (NIV)

Whose advice ought you pay attention to?  Whose counsel do you need to heed?  Whose instruction do you have to take note of?

Some of us have been hearing the same criticism over and over and we won’t take note.  Proverbs says, “A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond all remedy.”

To help me become a lifelong learner, #1) I will hear my godly critics and #2) I will heed my godly critics.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at Decision #3.


Becoming a Lifelong Learner – Part 2

by Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church Founding Pastor

We’ve been learning from the confrontation between Paul and Peter recorded in Galatians 2:11-14. Peter is an example of a follower of Jesus who was a lifelong learner – a man who finished well. How did he do it? And how can we? Decision #1…

Decision #1 – I will hear my godly critics.

Do you listen to what the people around you are saying about you? Or are you on the defensive?  Are you curious about how people are perceiving you?

A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel. Proverbs 1:5 (NASB)

When do we need godly criticism?  Peter being confronted by Paul teaches us at least three occasions we need to be challenged. We need godly criticism when we fear people more than we follow principles. Galatians 2:12

Most of us have a tendency to be people-pleasers.  We want to fit in.  But that can be dangerous to your spiritual health.

12   For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.
Galatians 2:12

Peter feared this group.  Caving into the crowd was the key to Peter’s downfall.  He caved into the crowd when a little servant girl challenged him around a fire on the night Jesus was betrayed.  He caved in here, too.

He was afraid.  Afraid of what?  Of being thought less of, of losing influence? I don’t know, but clearly not fear of God, but fear of men.  Or maybe Peter was afraid of losing face with the legalists – the rule and regulation people – in Jerusalem. He might have lost his standing as the leader.  We aren’t told why he was afraid of the people.  And in a moment of weakness he cut off the fellowship with his non-Jewish brothers and sisters.  And when he did it as the leader, so did Barnabas and all the other Jews.

Do you know the antidote to being a people-pleaser?  Want to please God more!  Some of us deny our true selves – and deny the truth – because we are afraid of what others will think or say.  Do you want to stop fearing people?  Fear God more!

 We need godly criticism when we play a part more than we live the life. 

Hang around the church long enough and you’ll learn how to act the part.  You smile at the right times, sing at the right times, say the right things, go along to get along.  What do I have to do with this particular group of Christians to fit in?

Peter had it figured out in Antioch.  He played the part and it influenced others to play the part, too.

13   The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.
Galatians 2:13

“The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy.”  It means they, too, acted insincerely.  Even one of Paul’s closest friends, Barnabas, was carried away by their insincerity.

Peter knew it was right to hang out with the non-Jewish believers.  But he didn’t.  So, Peter and Barnabas and the others were being two-faced.  They were saying one thing with their actions while believing another thing in their heart.

What they believed, they had stopped doing.  They played a part. In this case, Peter is pretending to be outwardly holy.  “Hey, look at me.  I don’t eat non-kosher foods!  Aren’t I a holy guy?”   But before these Jewish believers showed up, he was chowing down on some pork at the rib-cook-off in Antioch.

Do you act one way when you are with a certain group of people and act another way when you are not?  Get clear before God about the way you are supposed to live your life, then live it!  Be holy, yes!  But be real about it!

The number one reason people say they don’t go to church?  It’s full of hypocrites!  Don’t give people reason not to show up.

We need godly criticism when we enforce rules more than we enjoy relationship.  

Sometimes, it’s easy for us be fall into the trap of liking rules more than loving people.  Some of us are wired that way.  We get uncomfortable when the rules get stretched.  That happened to Peter here.  And he was called on it.

14   But when I saw that they were not straightforward about) the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?
Galatians 2:14

I can imagine Peter saying, “Compel?  What do you mean compel? I haven’t said that the Gentiles have to live like Jews.”  And I can hear Paul’s response, “Peter, your actions speak louder than your words.”

Peter has been in trouble before in Jerusalem.  Acts 11:2 says, “So when Peter went up to Jerusalem the circumcision party criticized him, saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’” Peter told them about his vision and the coming of the Spirit and said, “If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”

This was a life-changing experience for Peter.  He saw that not only did non-Jews not have to keep the Old Testiment laws in order to have the same spiritual blessings as Christian Jews, but he also saw that he, as a Jew, was free from those same laws.  The condition for enjoying all the benefits of being a believer is a real, live faith in Jesus Christ.  That’s all.

Therefore, when Peter ate with Gentile believers in Antioch he was in sync with the gospel. He was standing fast infreedom, honoring the all-sufficiency of Christ.  But when he stopped eating with the Gentiles, he was keeping rules and violating relationships.  We call it legalism.

Don’t break God’s rules, of course.  But be careful that you don’t add to His rules.  Religious people have a tendency to do that.  It makes them feel superior.  They like feeling superior.  Why?  Because they don’t love people.  They love their rules more.

I hope and pray that God will keep on sending godly critics to you and to me.  We must be called away from people-pleasing, hypocrisy, and legalism.  I hope and pray that we will listen!

Listen and be wise. Keep your heart on the right course.
Proverbs 23:19 (NLT)

To help me become a lifelong learner, I will hear my godly critics. That’s decision #1. Tomorrow… decision #2.