February 11, 2007 Series: Galatians
Topic: Gospel Passage: Galatians 5:1–5:1
Jesus is a safe name to talk about as long as you don't tell people what he taught. I'm not talking about the golden rule, I'm talking about what he really taught-you know, that we suck, that we're sons and daughters of the devil, that hell is waiting with a ton of vacancies just waiting to be filled (even more than heaven), and that he is the only way to God, the only truth and the source of life, that he willingly died so I didn't have to (because I couldn't afford the debt I owed), that he rose from the dead, and that he is coming back again to kick some tail.
But, as long as you don't bring up those things...people generally like Jesus. Do you ever notice how many people won't talk poorly about Jesus, yet they will about Christians? I mean, if the Bible says that our purpose in life is to be like Jesus, then people should at least talk nicely about us. Of course, the people of Jesus' day hated him, but everyone afterward seem to admire him for being a great teacher of some sort. Although I know that Jesus told us people would hate his followers because they hated him, in all truth, my guess is that there are a ton of Christians providing a really crappy example of what its like to be like Jesus-so that's why they don't like us. That's probably one of many reasons why you don't see a ton of people flocking to churches on Sunday mornings. That's why you might be hesitant to share with your neighbor or coworker or even family member-you know what they think because you know what they've seen and heard about Christians. It's unfortunate where some people get their opinions about Christians...
Some people get their opinions from TV-good old TBN-with old man Crouch and Pink Hair
- Some from the Christian leader who decides to jump into politics and make some bold claims about how "Christians" should vote.
- Some people get their opinions from the most current Christian leader who falls flat on his face because secretly he was a hypocrite.
- Some people create their opinions based off that weekend Christian neighbor of there's who was a saint on Sunday but the devil during the week.
- Some create their opinions about Christianity and church from their parents, who used religion as a stick to beat them into submission because that is what Jesus would do.
- Very few people actually get it from Jesus...and from what the Bible says...
So, there are a lot of things that Christianity has become defined as, and as I have talked to different people, I have learned one thing that it IS NOT understood as, one thing that all of those TV shows, individuals and churches have in common, is that for some reason, people do not see that the gospel of Jesus Christ is FREEING. They see religion. They see control. They see or feel oppression. The concept of being set free is, in many ways, the last thing that comes to mind for non-believers-and perhaps even a lot of believers. Regardless of the truth, regardless of what the Bible teaches, regardless of what Jesus' himself taught, for some reason, Christianity is viewed as something restraining. The church is viewed as the great moralistic prison that people actually choose to enroll in. At what point did it go from being "good news" that fired us up from the bottom of our souls to a tradition of men whose wet and wooden "gospel" wouldn't light if you wanted to! (Do you remember elementary school?) In other words, at what point did I stop being a child and become this boring adult or considers everyone else's opinions before the only ONE that really matters?
And, I'm trying to understand at what point it went awry? At what point did we allow people to hi-jack the truth gospel and replace it with slavery? This week, I really had to ask myself a question-DO I FEEL FREE? Is my belief in Jesus Christ actually something that frees me or is it something that, if I'm honest, I feel imprisoned by. Honestly, part of the process of God calling me to plant this church was a call for me to understand the gospel for the first time. See, my whole life, the church had been place as more important than the gospel. When I shared Jesus with people, I really wasn't sharing Jesus at all-I wasn't sharing any sense of freedom-I was sharing a way of life, a set of behaviors, a measuring stick by which they could prove they were a good person. That's probably why I didn't share Jesus with too many people-or really talk about him.
As God freed me from the prison I had really put myself into, as he showed me how I can live freely before him, not following him because I HAVE TO, but enjoying him because I WANT TO. I found myself desiring a place where others could feel the same thing. My question now is... Is our church a place that proclaims freedom in Jesus? Is it a place that calls people to give their burdens to Jesus or are we just calling a people to give their money to church? Are we preaching like the Judaizers in Galatians?
Paul here, in Galatians 5.1, gives us a powerful statement of truth. Many consider this verse the key to the entire epistle AND if the entire letter is about GOSPEL, then it is in fact the key to our entire faith in many ways. I'm not talking about the facts of our faith:
- the fact that I am a helpless depraved person powerless to be right w/ a demanding God
- the fact that Jesus the God-man came to earth,
- the fact that he lived a perfect life
- the fact that he willingly went to the cross
- that fact that he died for no guilt of his own but mine and yours
- the fact that through his death and resurrection 3 days later, he made a way
- The fact that he is coming again.
I am talking about the implications of those facts-how we actually live out our response to these facts and what we tell others, what we see, what they see! Having children has taught me how much behavior means more than words. How your behavior will reveal very quickly what you believe regardless of what you say, and they see that. The implicatios of these facts is what Paul will hit right now...Freedom.
That is what has been lost. Many fear freedom, anxious that people will take the removal of restraints as a license to sin. I might be concerned if the freedom did not come with TRANFORMATION. In Christ, we are changed. In Christ we are not hapless animals driven by our instinct and carnal desires. He makes us alive. He gives us His own Spirit to help us live free us from our default-WILD KINGDOM mode. God does not take the LAW AWAY and say just live freely, do whatever, I don't care if your righteous. He frees because we have been changed into righteous persons.
See, Paul's enemies sound awfully familiar to Christians I run in to. "The doctrine of grace and liberty is dangerous!" Paul's enemies argued. "Why, if Christians are free from the Law, they will live wicked lives! We need the Law to control them...errr...to help them!" People have argued down through the centuries, and still argue to today about what the church needs to proclaim. And, instead of the gospel, the freedom of the gospel, they preach the law. They, in fact, preach slavery....AND THE PEOPLE ARE NOT FOOLED! Little do they realize that GRACE, not law, is the greatest teacher and "controller" in the world:
11 For hï»¿the grace of God iï»¿has appeared, bringing salvation jï»¿for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and kï»¿worldly passions, and lï»¿to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in mï»¿the present age, [i]
I am convinced, most people out side the church do not see or hear that. They don't see freedom, or hear freedom, when that is what the GOOD NEWS of the GOSPEL IS. Who wants to hear good news that says, "BEHOLD, YOU MUST BE PERFECT, BUT YOU HAVE NO POWER TO DO SO! BEHOLD, AS LONG AS YOU LIVE WITHOUT HAVING ONE BAD THOUGHT...YOU WILL LIVE FOREVER! The world does not hear freedom and I am convinced that many in the church do not feel free. I can't control how nonbelievers look at me, but I can in some way control what they see. So today, I want to speak to those outside the church to try and show you the freedom of a life in Jesus. For those who think your Christians, I challenge you to read your Bible and stop living in fear for the approval of men.
___________________________________________________________READ GALATIONS 5.1
"SET US FREE" - Am I enslaved?
I teach a parable written by Plato about a cave. [story] How do you proclaim freedom to a captive that doesn't know he is captive? No one believes you; some of them want to kill you. No one will believe they are set free if they don't understand that they are enslaved.
It is difficult to convince someone that they are enslaved, especially those whose lives seem like they are going fine. What do I mean by slavery? I mean that your life is GOVERNED, CONTROLLED by something. You are in its service whether it be a person or a thing. We all have ONE thing controlling us-it is your master. Whose your master? We all have one thing guiding our decisions, giving us meaning, one thing in which we set our hope, whether it is our money, our family, our happiness, a relationship, success in our job etc. You are a slave to it because in it, just like a master, we find everything we need to put meaning into our lives. One conversation with nearly anyone will reveal their thing fairly quickly. Who is your master? Romans 1 says its either creation or the creator.
In other words, I'm here to tell you that you are not free. I'm not saying that you're NOT HAPPY-many people have learned to convince themselves that they are. How would you even convince someone of that? You're not happy. Yes I am. No you're not. There are a lot of SLAVES that are happy because THEY DON'T KNOW ANY DIFFERENT! They accept what they have because it is all they know and have ever known! I think of:
- Bilbo in the Hobbit when he realized how vast middle earth was
- Neo in the Matrix
- Luke Skywalker making water on the moisture farm
I can show you a ton of people who think they have a wonderful marriage because they have never experienced a GOOD ONE. It is like a fish tank. You take wild fish out of the ocean, and eventually they will forget that they were made for the OCEAN! So, I'm sure you're a happy slave. I'm positive you don't need Christ to be happy. I also think you don't know what the hell you're talking about but it will take more than my words to convince you otherwise just like Paul the murdered on the road to Damascus.
WHAT HAVE WE BEEN FREED FROM?
CHRIST SET US FREE FROM LAW TO GRACE:
You can stop working. You have been freed from unsuccessfully striving to achieve your own righteousness. You can stop striving to earn favor with God. You can stop working hard to have God accept you. You have freedom from the law that set a standard you could not meet. The most it could do, and quite effectively, was show how in need of a savior you are.
There were many in the first century who saw the way of salvation as keeping the commandments of God. This was commonly urged among the Jews, and some of the first Christians seem to have taken up the idea from them. After all, it seems so obvious: if we lead good lives, we will be all right with God. The problem is that the law is too high of a standard. It requires perfection.Christ did not die for the way of the law, he died so that we might live by faith. We are to accept, without deserving, believe without earning, the free gift of grace.
We cannot put our justification in front of our sanctification. Meaning, our acceptability to God is not based on what we do, but only what we accept. Our sanctification is, in fact, based on our justification. Being a good person is about God completing his work within you and not you working hard to complete it yourself!
Ephesians 2.8-9 says, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast.
In other words, it is all about God. That is the greatest freedom there is. God does not expect me to jump and reach him knowing he is too high. He comes to me. He makes a way through Jesus and he gives me the faith to believe the foolishness of the story. But you don't hear that in churches. You might hear about the free gift of Jesus, but that is not what you really see! What you see is a bunch of people in a Christian club telling you to do XYZ so that you can be acceptable to God. Stop smoking. Stop drinking. Stop dressing like that. Stop using those words. Stop seeing those movies. Stop playing those games. Stop talking with those people. All you hear is LAW LAW LAW LAW. Where is the freedom of grace! Why do churches feel like they have the responsibility to change people when God hasn't given them the power to do so!
We are free from work...we need only believe.
9 And the jailerï»¿2 called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he uï»¿fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, vï»¿what must I do to be wï»¿saved?" 31 And they said, xï»¿ "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you yï»¿and your household."[ii]
CHRIST SET US FREE FROM SLAVERY to SIN
The Bible is quite clear, as is the world around is, left to themselves, people cannot defeat sin. And this is a fact of life of which the modern world affords ample proof. We may earnestly desire to do good, but evil is too powerful for us. We cannot do the good we wish to do. And, minus a few Dr. Evil's here and there, we do wish to do good. But we can't.
It is not that we do the worst we possibly could, but we don't know what is right. Our natural desires are in fact to do what that which is not God's. The Bible describes us as men of flesh, natural men, even dead men who are controlled by the powers of this world. Our hearts and our minds are veiled. Our lives are governed by one of three things...all of them sin.
Of course, if you don't believe me, then just stop sinning. That's what you'll hear in most churches. It will be something like, "well, stop sinning and Jesus will love you." I'm here to tell you that you can't. You can't stop sinning. You are evil. You are selfish. You are a sinner. If you don't know Jesus, you can't stop sinning. Decide to believe Jesus and he'll help you stop sinning. For those who do know him, you are free too. In Christ, you are new. You are transformed. That old self is dead and buried and now you are alive to live freely for God.
Deliverance is somewhat a negative concept, though a positive result is clearly implied. Freedom is more than deliverance from something bad or evil. You now walk in the power of the Spirit and produce fruit like a tree reborn! You OBEY, not out of some sort of religious obligation, not out of penance because you feel bad for all the crap you did, you obey because you delight in the law of God in one's inmost self. The person who is truly free no longer acts from constraint but serves his God willingly, with cheerfulness of heart. We are slaves to righteousness...governed by righteousness...
But oï»¿thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the pï»¿standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, qï»¿having been set free from sin, rï»¿have become slaves of righteousness. [v]
CHRIS SET US FREE FROM THE APPROVAL OF MEN
Our world is all about the approval of men. We act, speak, even think in terms that are most innocuous, most tolerant. Will this offend? Will I hurt someone's feelings here? I should probably do this because it's what expected? There is personal image. I have to look a certain way in order to be accepted. I have to speak a certain way in order to be accepted. I have to get a certain level of education-it is hard to be approved in this world.
It's even harder in the church. My gosh, I can understand how people do not sense FREEDOM in anything we preach---it often looks like a bunch of prison guards keeping everyone one in line at the local jail! That is religion. Religion, as opposed to genuine faith, is built on the approval of men and the compare game. We live our lives governed not by thoughts and opinions of all the eyes that we know are watching us. We do not act ourselves for fear that people will think us less righteous or unholy. What does this look like? It looks like a church full of people who are more worried about ‘appearances' than they are about being themselves. It's a group of fake people who put on a beauty pageant every Sunday or any other Christian gathering, to prove who is more righteous.
There is no freedom in that. There is no freedom to be your true self. Because of your preoccupation with the approval of men, we do not say what we think, we do not express doubts, and we are in now way "REAL" with one another. As a result, we learn an entirely new culture, a church culture, where we create a "safe language" and "safe behaviors" where we can identify those who are in the club and those who are not. Forget what the Bible might say about all of this, we want people to think much of us because its all about looking good, clean, and healthy.
Christ died so that we would find our value you in him. We are freed from having to impress anyone. We live for an audience and approval of one. If we believe in Jesus, we are fully approved. Not sort-of-approved, not conditionally approved, but approved and welcomed into the family. It is from God, not man, that we take our identity.
God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law (FREE), so that we might receive adoption as sons.
CHRIST SET US FREE FROM LIVING IN FEAR to LIVING IN JOY
"It was for FREEDOM, that God set us free." We are to live a life of freedom. A life of liberty is not al life of licentiousness but it is also not life of self-imposed deprivation. A life of legalism saps life from you...unless you make really good legalisms!
True liberty, is a life of freedom where "looking good" is not the primary influencer of thought and motivator of action. Being freed from a life governed by the slavery of moralism is not a life that is not moral. It is a lifestyle covered in the acceptance of God and led by the spirit of Christ versus one dominated by men's approval and man-made tradition. It is a life that has a clear understanding of what sin is but also what righteousness is.
It becomes a life of joy because:
We do not fear missing the mark by perfectly obeying: We accept that fact that we cannot live a perfect life but Jesus did for us. We accept the fact that we have missed the mark but Jesus has imputed his righteousness to us. We do not fear that our salvation, and really God's love for us, is predicated on our perfect obedience therefore we do not get prideful when we obey or despair when we fail to.
It becomes a life of joy because:
We do not fear rejection: Our father loves us and cannot lose us.
It becomes a life of joy because:
We do not fear suffering: We recognize that suffering must have a larger purpose, that we often cannot understand. We see our savior suffering, without complaint, for something not deserved or his fault. He teaches us to see God's hand even in suffering. We do not embrace suffering, but we do not avoid it.
It becomes a life of joy because:
We do not fear death or judgment: We see that Jesus overcame and conquered death. Therefore, death no longer has a sting for us. We know that with our death we are freed from this natural world to see Jesus. We also know that when we stand before God, he sees Jesus, just as he does this very moment!
It becomes a life of joy because:
We do not fear culture: We do not fear the world, in fact, we understand it. We understand what sin has done to the world and now approach it with gospel eyes. We do not flee from it, rather, we immerse ourselves in it and preach the gospel into all corners of it. We take back those things that have been perverted and through them glorify God!
We live a life of joy because Jesus has taken away all the fear. To be freed from fear is an amazing thing. Without Jesus, lives must be governed by fear.
- Am I good enough?
- Am I strong enough?
- Am I acceptable? Do people like me?
- I'm scared to hurt? Who is there?
- What happens when I die?
- How can I be safe in this world?
We have to fight for this freedom. It is too easy to fall into law and self-righteousness where are working for the approval of man and the acceptance of God. God has already accepted us and we don't need the approval of men.
One of my deepest fears is that this church will become a hollow building that looks religious but is not centered on the gospel. If it is not centered on the gospel then we cannot preach freedom but we must be preaching slavery. Christ did not open the prison doors so that we would step into a new but different prison.
DO NOT SUBMIT TO A YOKE OF SLAVERY
The gospel is about freedom. Christianity is about freedom. Up to this point, Paul has used two comparisons to show his readers what the Law is really like:
- a schoolmaster or guardian (Gal. 3:24; 4:2),
- a bondwoman (Gal. 4:22ff).
- Now he compares it to a yoke of slavery. You will recall that Peter used this same image at the famous Conference in Jerusalem (see Acts 15:10). The yoke of slavery is the yoke of religion.
The yoke of religion is hard, and the burdens heavy. There is no freedom there. Unfortunately, this is what is preached to most people through many churches and Christians today. They want people to BE GOOD so that JESUS WILL LOVE THEM, when in fact, Jesus himself tells us that we can't be good no matter how much we try.
But he has made a way. As he tell us that we are enslaved to sin, men, and fear, he asks us to let him carry him. [STORY]
Christ's yoke is "easy" and His burden is "light." That word easy in the Greek means "kind, gracious." The yoke of Christ frees us to fulfill His will, to become everything we were meant to be AND, since he is GOD, is the best and most wonderful thing we could be---There is not better.
- If you don't know Jesus, you are wearing the yoke of sin (Lam. 1:14);
- If you are a religious legalist, you're wearing the yoke of bondage (Gal. 5:1);
- But the true follower of Jesus, the one who depends on God's grace wears the liberating yoke of Christ.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.