Serve One Another In Love (revised)
Called to be Free
Galatians 5:13 (NIV)
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.
In the last discussion on “Caring for One Another”, we looked at how grace was given because of sin. Our fallen condition would have us do some pretty bad things or at least cause us to have questions and doubts as to why the right thing should be done. Instead of being justified by God’s grace and the blood of Christ, we have a tendency to cling to our own ability. We try to justify ourselves through our actions and the works we insist on doing... or not doing. In this passage Paul teaches us to expand our understanding and view of what Christ centered faith really is.
The Power of Choice
We are now free from the grip of sin… not free to do whatever we want. When sin had its hold on us, God was not recognized. We refused to acknowledge the righteous "Will of God.” Because of sin we did whatever our minds told us without limit. Because of Christ, we are now free to exclude the unrestraint of sin. We can choose to have the freedom to change.
Indulging the Sinful Nature
Rejecting Faith or Trusting in Christ
With the freedom from sin comes the choice to continue to indulge the sinful nature or to commit fully in faith and trust of what Christ has done by His work on the cross. We have a habit of sin, one that is well practiced. Belief requires change from that habit and faith in what is now available through the blood of Christ. It’s a question of trust… will we trust in Christ’s ability to supply our every need, or do we insist on taking measures into our own hands like we’ve always done. Refusal of God’s gift of Christ is most evident in our unwillingness to let go of old habits. We exercise our faith by choosing to change from our will and surrendering to the “Will of God.”
Service in Love
Showing Christ to... and Seeking Him in Others
Remember Matt. 25, the least of these… what we do for others we do for Christ. When the “Spirit of Christ” dwells richly within us, it should be seen by those we encounter. Our efforts should focus on making this one thing a reality. Jesus was busy rendering service everywhere He went and He didn’t always wait for a request to be made. Take a look at these three verses from Mark’s gospel...
Mark 1:41 (NIV)
Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing, he said. "Be clean!"
Mark 6:34 (NIV)
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
Mark 8:2 (NIV)
"I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.
When Jesus looked at others He sought to see what was needed by them, and then... served that need. As we look at others using our eyes as He did... we will see what’s needed in their heart’s to ensure that Christ is there firmly. We can then serve those needs and help them establish His presence in their life… in doing so… we give service to Him.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!
Grace and the Law
The Church in Galatia was composed mainly of converts from paganism. When Paul left the area, the churches were led astray from his faith/trust centered teachings. There were individuals who introduced "another gospel" (one which based salvation through the Mosaic Law, or legalism). The Galatians seem to have embraced the teaching of these newcomers, and their different gospel. This epistle is Paul's response to what he sees as their willingness to easily turn away from his teaching concerning faith and grace.
The identity of these "opponents" is disputed but, the majority of modern scholars view them as Jewish Christians (i.e. Judaizers), who taught that in order for pagans to belong to the people of God, they must be subject to some or all of the Jewish Law. Things like circumcision, Sabbath observance, and the Mosaic Covenant were being suggested as necessary in addition to God’s grace and the salvation which comes through Christ. The good news of the gospel was being made ... void. It would also appear that Paul's authority as an apostle was being challenged in light of the proposed “greater authority” of the Jerusalem Church.
As pointed out before, the “Law” imposed restrictions or conditions which made necessary extra steps to find favor with God. It brings about a tendency to induce us to work at pleasing God and establish our own justification. In today’s modern times we can still sometimes allow our understanding to be swayed by much more than the civil and criminal laws imposed by government institutions. God’s standards are being questioned everyday and our minds fall victim to influences which bring about doubt. Consider these topics and you will find the Church lined up on both sides of the controversy.
These are but a few of the things on the list that even the laws are not addressing with ease. All of us have our opinions and we seek justifications that align with the way “WE STAND.” Having grown up in the corrupted systems of the world… we are all, to some extent, influenced by them.
GOD IS NOT OF THIS WORLD…
Therefore He is not influenced by it; or its systems.
When we place our faith in the Will of God, through the example of Christ… “The Living Word”; we are empowered by the “Holy Spirit” to overcome the spiritual dark influences that we face while in the world.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Galatians 4:9 (NIV) But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?
Gal. 5:1 (NIV)
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.
Gal. 5:7-8 (NIV)
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.
Gal. 5:13-15 (NIV)
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.
Gal. 5:16-18 (NIV)
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.
It is through Christ and His Holy Spirit that we are justified… there is no other way. Satan is the enemy of this world and his function... his mission... is to spread enough lies to get us to destroy ourselves through the bad and evil choices we make. His schemes, which come through the world’s systems, seem right. While wrapped up in clever and intelligent packaging - they’re designed to make us think just long enough to say… "maybe if… or what about… and eventually… but I think." By then we ultimately have started to question the truth and turn ever so slightly from God’s righteousness and authority.
Gal. 5:19-21 (NIV)
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.
Look at the news, the situation sketches in your favorite soap, the topics of the talk shows, or the lyrics of today’s music… influences - "Spiritual Influences" - that are coming from the dark systems of the world… pointing us to items found on the list. It was relevant back then in "Early Christianity", and not much has changed now.
Gal 5:22-26 (NIV)
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. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
These items transcend the “Law”, as Paul says; there is no law against them… for what reason would there be? The fruit of the spirit originates from a place far beyond the earthly realm... a "Spiritual Place." After all, the Spirit is given us by Christ for the express purpose of protecting us from the "Evil One", as we are in His service. It will be required of us all if we are to keep His commandment to “Love One Another.” Let us make the effort to continue to “Serve One Another in Love.” That service cannot be found in any law that restricts or imposes restraint. Yes, there will be a need to submit to God’s Will, and we must practice keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. No, it won’t always be easy but anything worth having is worth the effort necessary. I leave you with these words for strength and encouragement…
Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."