13 May 2016

FIRMLY PLANTED BY GRACE PART 2


Gal 5:13-15

We are living in a culture that is yelling from the rooftop “We want freedom and more liberties” A culture that is demanding more personal rights and freedoms, just as the Israelites did from years past. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25

Whether it is what sex I want to be this week.
What washroom I’m allowed to us.
Who has the right to bake a cake or sell flowers?
Who has the right to take one’s life?

Those are just a few of the issues that plague under the freedom of rights act! But the freedom that Paul talking about is none of those things! It’s a supernatural rest and security the believer finds in Christ alone. If you are a true child of God you are FREE! I want you to think about this as we continue in this letter. Always understand and embrace the joy that grace is God giving us precisely what we don't deserve, and what we could not earn through the Law.

What does He give us? He gives us forgiveness from past, present and future sins. He graciously restores our broken lives back into His sovereign arms as adopted children. He gives us real peace, rest and future rest with Him in Heaven. He gives us inexpressible love that overflows and it’s unending for all eternity. He gives us Himself as Father, Friend, and Lord of our lives from the bondage of sin and death and the burden of condemnation. God liberates us with His grace though His Son rooted in the gospel! Warren Wiersbe said this "The Christian is a free man. He is free from the guilt of sin because he has experienced God’s forgiveness. He is free from the penalty of sin because Christ died for him on the cross. And he is, through the Spirit, free from the power of sin in his daily life."

What does that look like?

Romans 5:2 describe that amazing reality as “this grace in which we stand”. God moved His people from Law to grace, and now the Galatians wanted to move from grace back to Law. But God has called us to stand and walk in the freedom of grace (vs.1, 13)! As one writer said “Is that the freedom you celebrate above all others? As Canadians don’t you find it little ironic that we live in “The True North strong and free!” and “the land of the free”, like our brothers and sisters South of us. When in fact, most of our population isn’t free at all? Most people remain slaves of sin. Most people are still depending on their performance, still trying to be and believing themselves to be 'good enough'. But we all fall short of and turn from God's good and perfect and holy commands. That's why grace is so liberating! But I want us to understand! With freedom there comes great reward but also great responsibility. I think John Piper sums up what I’m trying to say with this statement “One of the most jarring sentences in the Bible goes like this: "If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3). It jars us because Jesus said, "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13); and he taught that one of the ways to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us and bless those who persecute us is to give freely of our possessions (Lk. 6:27-30).”

With freedom there comes great reward (eternal life) but this freedom comes with a new set of challenges and responsibilities. The challenge is this! There are two things Paul wants us to avoid about Christian freedom. Legalism trying to win or earn God’s favor by works for salvation and righteousness. License misapplying the doctrine of grace as a license to freely sin or do as you please. See with every promise you find (claim) in the Christian life, there is always something to forsake or to avoid. See! To some people to be free from the law meant that there was nothing standing in the way of self-indulgence and a free rein in sin. They understood the law to be the ONLY restraining power of sin in the lives of individuals and the world. But as Paul explains it shows us the freedom we have from the Law (That’s a promise to claim) but it doesn’t do away with holy conduct in one’s Christian life (an example to follow). When it comes to reading scripture and applying this truth to my daily Christian life, I always need to ask myself a series of questions. Questions that I have on my office wall beside my desk.
It’s an acronym Called SPEC ….ask yourself if there is a …….

Sin to forsake?
Promise to claim?
Example to follow?
Command to obey?
Stumbling block to avoid?

This portion of Paul’s letter points us to those simple questions. (read above)

Sin to Forsake (v13)

"Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh." This is bad for you and me by the way. It’s dangerous to fill the desires of the flesh. We are NEVER to use His liberty as an opportunity for the flesh,” “Flesh” does not refer to physical but to the sinful inclination of fallen mankind, its earthbound and still imprisoned in unredeemed humanness. Though we are not in the flesh through the “new birth” but the flesh is still in us. Sadly, under the blank of grace some professing Christians claim they are….. Free to get drunk on occasion.
Free to watch anything and everything. (Whether its sinful or not)
Free to enjoy worldly amusements and pleasures they once found enjoyable.
Free to feed their minds on smut in book form or magazine.
Free to live a lifestyle of unrestraint and rules.

But the Apostle Peter said this “not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” 1 Peter 2:16. I love what John MacArthur said in his commentary “Whatever Christian freedom is, it is clearly not the right of believers to return to that from which Christ paid with His own life to save them.” Paul had to confront this exact error when he wrote to the believers in Rome. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? [2] By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! [16] Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey...” Romans 6:1-2, 15, 16) And you might know that's not true, but we are still tempted by that thought. When our flesh, when the world, when our Enemy, seeks to entice us to do wrong, we might think to ourselves, “Well, I know it's not right, but I can always ask for God's
forgiveness afterwards. After all, I am standing in grace.” That's using grace as a doorstop when an opportunity for the flesh comes knocking. As Paul drives home in Romans 6, if we persist in that kind of thinking, we have to question whether or not we truly are free from the slavery of sin. In a nut shell “examine if your truly are born again at all.” Don’t make your liberty from the law a base of operations from which to serve sin. Liberty was not to be used as a spring-board from which to take off with the intention of sinning….so forsake the flesh and its desires.

Promise to claim (v13)

Paul say’s you were called to freedom” “Calling” is God’s divine intervention and grace in which He called you to Himself, though the Holy Spirit by the finishing work of the gospel. And based on that divine calling God has given the child of God a command. “Free to serve” is the very heart of the gospel and godly living. Now that you free from and not bonded by the Law, use this liberty to serve Christ and others with joy and ability that He gives freely to each and every one of us. Tell others of this wonderful freedom that we have because this world that screams for personal rights and freedoms are still slaves to this present world system. Through His calling God’s supernatural work in saving us we are to make known to this world His glory and not sit on the fence, but to serve and make Him known around the globe. As David Platt said “When you are tempted to coast through the Christian life—remember why God has left you here.” To tell our neighbor, co-worker, peers in school and our family’s there is a freedom, a promise to those who put their faith in trust in Christ alone.  Again remember what Paul said earlier? “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal 2:20. Claim that promise and share it with others.

Example to follow (Gal 4:12)

Though we don’t necessarily see that here in this portion, it is found in the context of this conversation Paul has with the Galatian believers. “Become as I am” means to follow suit or a blueprint to build after. We have and are surrounded by so many wonder examples of faithful children of God in the scriptures. “Therefore (referring to chapter 11), since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Heb 12:1-2. 

The example to follow like…

Abel
Enoch
Noah
Abraham
Sarah
Isaac
Jacob
Joseph
Moses
Rahab
Gideon, Samson, the prophets
David, Samuel 
…the Apostles…and the ultimate example Christ Jesus Himself.

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:2. God wants us to make right choices which honor and obey His authority over our lives. God loves us and wants nothing more than to see you walking in holiness by His grace. God wants nothing more than our obedience to His commands and He has left us examples of the faith, not to be like them personally, but to be like Christ! This is what I am supposed to live like under my new identity, walking in holiness and desiring the things that God desires. As Paul said “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2. Why live as a living sacrifice? Because holiness looks like the renewal of God’s image in us. So church family! Will you be the hands of Jesus? Will you be the feet of Jesus? Will you be Jesus to a world that is seeking liberty and freedom in the flesh? Let me ask you! Who in your life has best demonstrated a servant’s heart toward you? What can we learn from those who have served us so that we might “serve wholeheartedly as if we were serving the Lord?” Eph. 6:7. Live by example; proclaim this wonderful news, follow after godly examples so the world will see Jesus.

Command to obey (v14)

"Through love be servants of one another." This is good and it demonstrates an inward transformation of the heart. Your outward expression of this freedom should be demonstrated by the transforming work of the heart that God the Spirit does in the life of a new creation in Christ. "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself." “Serve” is the Greek word “Douleo” which means “to be a slave to” What Paul is saying is! “To serve one another in love is to be a slave to one another.” Yielding our selfish desires and wants to serve one another out of love. Serving one another is foundation evidence of a transformed life. Be attentive to the needs of others. When we serve one another, it is all about others – their needs, desires and preferences.  It’s not about us.  It’s all about them. As Paul wrote “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,” Phil 2:3-5 . Doing things without an alter motives. Doing things without seeking the praises of men or winning favor with men. And most of all trying win favor with God. Don’t get me wrong, He is well pleased when our hearts are  motived by His love to serve others. What does that look like? In the late 1800’s, a large group of European pastors came to one of D. L. Moody’s Bible conferences in Massachusetts. As was their custom, the European guests put their shoes outside the dorm rooms at night to be cleaned by the hall servants. Of course, this was America. No hall servants, no clean shoes. Determined not to embarrass his brothers, Moody first tried to enlist help from some ministerial students, but he was met with silence or pious excuses. Eventually, Moody gathered the shoes and cleaned and polished them in his room by himself. Moody was a man with a servant’s heart. It’s a genuine heart to please a holy God and love one another……and sometimes that means getting dirty (a wonderful way to serve). Sometimes like these students we make excuses not serve. 

Christians are the greatest excuse makers when it comes to not serving “I don’t get along with that person” “I’m too busy to help” I only like to serve if I can lead or run the show”. Many in the church want to be served but don’t want to serve. Paul has something to say to those people. A command to obey "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Be willing to perform tedious, mundane tasks. Our deep desire to serve will cause us to delight in even routine and commonplace jobs, tasks that might otherwise be considered outside of our scope of interest or responsibility. Serve others cheerfully.  We are often hesitant to serve others, so stop hesitating and be “eager” to serve as Peter said 1 Peter 5:2. Serving “wholeheartedly” as Paul said in Eph. 6:7. Serving with gladness” as Psalm 100:2 says Serve the LORD with gladness! The command for us to obey is serve one another out of love for the glory of the gospel.

Stumbling block to avoid (v15)

Paul says in (15) a warning statement "If you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another." The main point of the text is, "through love be servants of one another." If you do this, you fulfill the whole law; if you don't, you destroy yourselves. As Paul says “watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” And he uses two very strong words here “bite and devour” to make his point. “Bite and devour” is an imagery of a wild animals savagely attacking and killing one another. This is a graphic picture what happens spiritually when believers do not love and serve one another. When you think of this biting and devouring what person comes to mind? Satan “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8. 

Let me ask you! Are you more prone to devour or serve with a heart of adoration towards God’s goodness in your life? Are you helping or destroying others for the sake of pride or being right all the time? A loveless attitude towards one another is utterly destructive and according to Paul you will end up “consuming” one another. Consume means to utterly destroy one another to which there is nothing left to destroy.

Is how you want to live your Christian life?
Is this honoring to Christ and His precious gospel?
Is this what he saved you for to do with the remaining time on this earth?

No! So stop it and live your life by lovingly serve one another…no matter the cost or the outcome. You do it because you love them and ultimately you love God and His gospel. The grace of God does not set us free for a care-FREE life, but a care-FILLED life. Serve one another. The key word being “Love”  Understand…… Liberty + love = service to others.

Liberty- love = license to slavery and sin

Sin to forsake? Opportunities of the flesh.
Promise to claim? Called to Gospel freedom
Example to follow? Paul and those who walked before us.
Command to obey? Love one another unconditionally

Stumbling block to avoid? Killing one another spiritually

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