Sermon given on Sunday, September 10, 2017
Opening: Galatians 5:1
5 So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.
Sermon: Galatians 5:4-6, 22-26
5 But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. 6 For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. . . .
. . . 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
Closing: Galatians 5:6b, 10a, 13b & 16a
. . . What is important is faith expressing itself in love.
. . . I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings.
. . . Use your freedom to serve one another in love.
. . . let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.
Reflection: Managing Faith’s Freedom
Do you know what it feels like when you suddenly have a change of plans and you are free from prior obligations? All too often, we get so busy managing our hectic lives, that we are slaves to our calendar. Then, all of the sudden something gets canceled and you are free—at least for the day.
Oddly enough, that unplanned free day causes me problems. In a sense, I am lost. I have no idea how to relax or how to add in a chore needing to be finished that had been put off too long. The sudden release from the obligation causes me to be careless in managing my time.
I cannot help but wonder if that was similar to how the Jewish Galatians felt when suddenly the Old Law of Moses did not apply to their lives. All their lives they were held to the stringent law that the religious leaders administered.
Every little step in their lives was dictated; they were slaves to the law. Paul heard that the old religious traditions were still being required, even of the Gentiles. His letter is scolding the leaders that no longer are the old Jewish laws necessary. As Christians, Jesus Christ freed them from the Old Law and no longer required the Jewish traditions, even of circumcision.
Reading Galatians is difficult for us today. The Old Jewish traditions and laws no longer apply, and the thousands of years since then have distanced us from the legalistic style of religion practiced by the ancient Jewish people. We may not really understand the stress the Jewish Christians were placing on the Gentiles now following Jesus Christ.
Therefore, back to the calendar. Looking at a busy week, the daily chores have to be managed—meals, laundry, cleaning, etc. Yet the calendar shows appointments, meetings and events making for a busy week.
Then suddenly, a meeting is canceled or the doctor’s office calls and asks to reschedule. The calendar abruptly changes and you are free! What happens with that slot of time now?
The sudden opening in one’s schedule can cause one to ‘lollygag,’ so to speak. You know what I mean, waste time. I do not quickly reassign that time to some other task that needs to be done or schedule something else.
The freedom that I sense can lure me into wasting the time I just got back. I can fail to be productive. I can ignore my responsibilities. I become frozen and unable to get anything done.
Paul warned the Galatians that the freedom from the law did not give them the freedom to do whatever they wanted. He warned them of how easy it is to be lured into sin. The list is given in Galatians 5:19-21:
19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
The list is specific, but it also is not the only list of sinful behaviors. We could easily add more. Being a sloth, for instance, could be listed, which means lazy and/or unproductive.
Using every argument Paul could, he repeatedly told the Galatian Christians that faith in God through belief in Jesus Christ releases us from the old law. We are free to live as Christians following the one commandment: love one another. Paul states this in Galatians 5:13-14:
13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
One law supersedes all others. One law provides the direction for all Christians to follow Jesus Christ. And with because we accept that Jesus Christ died for our sins, we receive the Holy Spirit. Paul goes on to tell the Galatians (in 5:22-23) what they receive when they accept Jesus Christ:
22 . . . the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.
Our church may not be struggling with the Old Law of Moses, but we need to make sure that we do follow God’s one law that Jesus Christ taught us. We are not the Pharisees wanting to do things the way we always have done them.
We may think we are beyond those outdated behaviors, but as we review how our church is carrying out God’s great commission, we need ask here Paul’s message to the Galatians. Are we managing the freedom our faith provides? Are we truly following the Holy Spirits guidance?
As a church, our calendar is open right now. We need to listen to Paul’s words to the early churches and find how to follow his advice today. We cannot hold on to the past because change happens. We must listen to the Holy Spirit to love one another as we want to be loved. God will lead us forward if we listen carefully and we learn to manage the freedom from the old ways.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We read Paul’s words to the early churches
And struggle to learn what he tells us today.
Open our ears so we may hear you speak
Through the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.
Open our eyes to see the old ways that may not work
And that only one law never fails: Love one another.
Open our minds to the discover new ways we can serve
With the freedom that comes from loving one another.
Open our hearts to welcome the 21st century Gentiles
Who do not know the old ways and struggle to learn the new.
Open our doors to those who hear the Good News
And want to be in relationship with You and your faithful.
Let Paul speak to us today in ways we can understand
So we may continue to make disciples of Christ
For the transformation of the world. –Amen.