Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Bethany Bullet - Week of June 26, 2016

Sermon: Freed! Fruit!
Text: Galatians 5:1 & 22

In the next few weeks we will hear a lot about freedom.  As the 4th of July approaches red, white, and blue will start popping up all over.  Bunting in baseball stadiums, decorations on fireworks stands, displays in stores, and clothes on kids will all make us cheer for the red, white and blue.

Its freedom that we celebrate each summer and with fireworks and parades we are reminded of the blessings of liberty we enjoy in our country. 

Galatians chapter 5 is a good text to look at as we move into this season in our country.  From Galatians chapter 5, starting at verse 1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

But let’s not get confused.  Paul is NOT talking about the same kind of freedom we have as citizens of the United States.  This is not a political text, but a theological one. 

The yoke of slavery that we face is that of sin; our detestable acts, done in defiance of a God who desires us to live for him.   This is not just a fight against the tyrannical rule of a foreign power, but a real battle against the enemy of the flesh and the evil one himself who desires us to be slaves to sin and separated from God.

To stand firmly in God’s good graces without having to do anything to merit or earn this blessing—that is freedom indeed!

The Galatians were confused by some who tried to convince them that they needed to do something to be seen as worthy by God.  They continued to be yoked to the ceremonial regulations of the law.

There were some in the Galatian church who considered works done by humans necessary for salvation.  In essence what Paul is saying here is that if you accept the necessity of the law, then the gospel has no meaning. 

But let’s be clear.  You are freed from the yoke of sin, not because of anything you do, but only on account of Christ and what he has done on the cross and through the empty tomb. 

Let’s skip to verse 13, “You, my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.  The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:13-15)

A key term in this section is the Greek work translated as “the sinful nature.”  Literally it means “flesh” and refers to our unregenerate self—what we are by nature in our fallen and sinful state, commonly called our old Adam.

This old Adam is totally selfish and self centered.  Any freedom from restraint is going to be interpreted by him as an opportunity to throw off authority, grab what he can for himself, and indulge his every whim and pleasure. 

In short, the “flesh” is that part of us and our nature that wants to do just as it pleases, without thinking of anybody else.  That is its idea of “freedom.”  Paul warns against this.

To be sure, Christ has fulfilled every demand of the law, and there remains nothing for us to do to earn salvation.  But when we realize that salvation has been earned for us and that everything has come to us as a free gift of God, grace, then we will want to show our appreciation to our gracious God for so great a gift.

Here, God’s law gives us guidance and direction.  Remember the third use of the law from last week?
Continuing on in verse 16, “So I say, live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” (Galatians 5:16-18)

The theological opposite of the “flesh” is seen here in the word translated as the Sprit.  Here we see how we can accomplish giving thanks to God and express our faith in love.

It is the Spirit, the Holy Spirit that enables us to do this.  Our spiritual life is in contrast to our sinful nature.

Paul explains that the Christian’s life will always be a pitched battle.  There is an ongoing conflict between what the rebellious old Adam wants to do contrary to God’s will and the new creation in Christ, guided by the Spirit, wants to do in accordance with God’s will.

Have you experienced this battle?  Have you lived with this tension?  What the two entities want in the

Christian are light-years apart.  The difference is immediately apparent as one observes their activities. 
“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

Paul pulls no punches here, and it would be tempting to say, well this list doesn’t describe me, so I’m OK. 

But this list is not inclusive.  Jesus calls us to be perfect and if you are not, and I know I am not, then I fall into line as one who gives in to acts of the sinful nature. 

But Christ died for these sins, and all of your sins too.  Paul does not say that these sins are unforgiveable, after all in their pagan past, the Galatians had done all of them. 

Your sins are not unforgiveable either.

God’s own son came down from heaven to give his life as a ransom for you. 

Again, we need to dig into the original language to get some perspective.  Paul does not say that those who have done these things are cut off from salvation. 

Literally Paul says, “Those continuing to do things of that sort will not inherit that kingdom of God.”  It is the unrepentant, unregenerate person who has completely turned his or her back on the grace of God that Paul is talking to.

So what is our response to the grace given to us?  To live by the Spirit.

Paul continues, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:22-24)

Notice how the lists are different.  The acts of the sinful nature are things that sinful people can do by themselves.  They need no help.  The good things, on the other hand, are not things that come naturally from us.  They are the “fruit of the Spirit.”  God the Holy Spirit produces them in and through us.

True freedom comes when the sinful nature is crucified and the Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel, gives us His fruit, sanctifies and keeps us together with Christ when we couldn’t do it ourselves and helps us to live by the spirit. 

We are freed to be fruit to others so that they too can experience what it means to live by faith expressing itself in love.  That is true freedom.

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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