Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Galatians 5:13-15 Called to freedom and LOVE!

Are you running ragged because you are carrying a bunch of religious baggage behind you? Is your joy practically depleted? Are you always feeling like you just can’t make it as a Christian? Well, Paul has shown us that the burdens we place on ourselves, or that others place on us need to go! How can we be running in joy, if we are constantly pulled down by the demands of and the guilt over what we haven’t done? Paul pleads with the Galatians and us to live free from these kinds of burdens:

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.  For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. (Galatians 5:13-15 NLT)

Yes, we have been given freedom - but not license. How we walk is more important than our talk. We are to be light in the darkness. People should see Jesus in us. So, our number one priority is to display love. Jesus commanded it. In fact, in John 14:15, 21, and 23, He tied it to obedience, which He said was the mark of a true believer. Then He reiterated the command in John 15:

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.  When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!  This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.  There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command. . . I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.  This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:9-14,17 NLT)

Obedience and good works must flow from love - love of God and love for one another. I have no problem loving God - it’s the “one another” that trips me! Yet, He says my love for Him should prompt my love for the “one anothers” in my life. In fact, if I’m not loving others, I can’t say I’m loving God! Here’s the dilemma! I know you probably struggle with this, too, since Christians are known for “devouring their own?”

Have you experienced that some of the most difficult people in your life are professing Christians? Would anyone call you or me the “difficult” person? I know I can answer a resounding “Yes!” to that one. It’s because my heart is filled with self-interest and pride that are at war with my desire to please God. Laying down my life for another seems like a stretch. You mean I need to die? Yep! I need to set aside MY desires, MY agenda, and put the needs of the “one anothers” first. Hard? On my own it would be impossible!

I’m so grateful that Paul was so transparent about his own struggles with this:

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. (Roman 7:21-25 NLT)

The only answer to this problem is Jesus Christ living in me. Because the Holy Spirit dwells in me, I have access to the same power over sin that raised Christ from the dead. How do we practically live out our lives in the power of the Holy Spirit? Well, the balance of Paul’s letter addresses that. Next time we will see what walking in the Spirit looks like.  

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