By Scott Brown
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Waverly
Focal passage: Galatians 5:13-26
In Galatians 5:13, Paul confronts the misunderstanding many face regarding God’s grace and our freedom in Him. Freedom is not an excuse to continue living in sin, nor is it merely a freedom from the punishment of sin, but our Christian freedom is a freedom from the power of sin over our lives.
John Bunyan understood this well when He was told by the religious leaders, “If you keep preaching free salvation in Jesus based on His performance and not on theirs, Christians are going to do whatever they want.” His response was, “If I keep preaching free salvation in Jesus based on His performance and not on theirs, Christians are going to do whatever He wants.”
Someone can claim to know Christ, love Christ and live for Christ but if grace is little more than a license for their sin and their freedom only frees them to do as they please, do they truly know Jesus?
Paul draws a sharp contrast in this chapter between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. My first few years as a believer I convinced myself I had to become more loving, joyful, peaceful, etc. or else I didn’t love Jesus enough. I was miserable, exhausted and a terrible hypocrite.
While I looked spiritual, I was still chained to my sins and self-righteousness. I had gotten good at playing the part while my heart was still desperately wicked.
It wasn’t until I gave up my efforts and trusted Christ’s power alone that I understood, as Augustine writes, “How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys I once feared to lose … You took them from me and took their place.”
My affections began to change and I slowly became more loving, more joyful and feeling true freedom in Christ as I continued to simply draw nearer to Him. The works of the flesh are what we do in our power, the fruit of the Spirit are what He does in His power as we are sustained by the root, Jesus.
I fear that much of what we call Christianity today is not Christ centered but self-centered. We shop for churches based upon whether they play the music we like, the services are no longer than we like, start when we like and full of the people we like. We treat the gospel as a miracle pill that will help our children be more obedient and help our lives be happier.
Are we so different than the Galatians when we live our daily lives as if Jesus is not big enough to free us from what enslaves, provide our needs, empower our lives, and transform our world? We are slaves to ourselves.
Perhaps the root is that we have forgotten the awesomeness of our God.
“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)
What if we really believed that there is nothing too hard for our God? Wouldn’t that change our homes? Our communities? Our personal struggles? Our worship? Our witnessing? Our world?
I am weak and I can’t seem to do anything right but greater is He in me than anything I face.
Remembering that it’s not about me and my strength but about Him and His strength gives me the freedom I need to serve Him and others. B&R