Galatians 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.
“All these major themes of slavery, freedom and the liberating work of Christ are now summed up in the ringing affirmation of 5:1: It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. That indicative is followed by an imperative, Stand firm, then. This may sound like a dull lesson in grammar, but it is actually central in Pauline ethics. What we must do (the imperative) is always based upon what God has already done (the indicative). Or to put it another way, what God has done gives us the opportunity and power to do what we must do. This indicative-imperative structure is seen here in verse 1 and also in verses 13 and 25. So it provides the structure for the whole chapter: God’s gift of freedom must be defended (v. 1); God’s gift of freedom must not be abused but must be used to serve (v. 13); God’s gift of life by the Spirit must be expressed through the Spirit (v. 25).”
“The yoke of the law is a yoke of slavery, because it places us under the burden of commandments we cannot keep and under curses that we deserve for our disobedience. But God sent his Son to lift this heavy yoke from our shoulders and to take it upon himself … In contrast to the yoke of slavery under the law, his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Mt. 11:30).” [IVP New Testament Commentary Series: Galatians]
Let’s pray for the areas of our lives that we need to stand firm in, that living in freedom, serving others, and walking in the Spirit would be a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. Let’s worship with the song “Living Hope” (click here), declaring the indicatives as we sing.
Romans 13:8-9 (NLT) 8 Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“In 1520 Martin Luther, the great Reformer in Germany, wrote a treatise called “The Freedom of the Christian.” He began it with this paradox:
A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.
Then he explained:
These two theses seem to contradict each other . . . [But] both are Paul’s own statements, who says in 1 Corinthians 9:19, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all,” and in Romans 13:8, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.” Love, by its very nature, is ready to serve and be subject to him who is loved. So Paul’s strategy is love. It’s exactly what he said in Galatians 5:13, “You were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Use your liberty to love by serving … That’s what Paul—and Jesus—mean by love. [Piper, John (1996). “Becoming All Things to All Men to Save Some”]
Let’s begin to love and serve one another in prayer today. As you worship with the song, “Fierce” (click here), pray over three people today who are in your missional group. Pray that God’s fierce love would chase them down and seek them out.
Philippians 3:7-12 (NIV) 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Paul gives us further insight into his freedom–everything is a loss for Christ’s sake. He loses to gain, he loses to participate, he loses to become, ultimately, he loses to win. The way to win is to lose–or the way you win another person to Christ is to lose yourself in Christ. Are there things about us, our character, our personality, our preferences, our choices, our lifestyles that distort or take away from the gospel message we want to share? Then let’s consider it a loss for the sake of Christ, let’s consider everything a loss, because positionally in Christ, this is already our reality; but may it become more of our experiential reality, that we live out what it means that Christ owns us.
Let’s pray today, “God, may I take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” and begin to lose what gets in the way. Pray also for those in your ministry group that we would lose everything to win everyone. Let’s also worship with the song, “My All in All” (click here).
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV) 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
“Several years ago when the Duke University men’s basketball team won back-to-back championships, there was a popular T-shirt on campus. The front read, “You can talk the game, but can you play the game?” On the back, above the school logo, in large letters was printed the slogan, “We can play.” That is the challenge that Paul poses to his readers—and to himself: can we play the game? Rather than just talking about the gospel, we are called to pay the price of sacrifice and discipline in order to play the game rightly and thus to win the prize. The high level of discipline and skill required of competitive athletes provides us with a compelling metaphor that suggests what might be required. That is one reason the Olympic Games remain perpetually fascinating for us: we are captivated by the dedication that these women and men devote to the pursuit of the gold medal. What about our own dedication to the gospel? Is it comparably rigorous, or are we flabby, armchair spectators? The question must be asked. [Hays, Richard B., First Corinthians: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, p. 158]
Response: Let’s pray that we would go from feeling like ‘we should play’ to ‘we can play’. Let’s pray over specific areas of our lives where there can be an increase of dedication, sacrifice, discipline, and skill. And let’s worship along with ‘Let It Be Jesus’ (click here).
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV) 19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
“Paul’s rights, his freedoms, are as nothing; what matters is whether people are being won for God, being saved from the corrupting wickedness around and within them, being rescued from darkness and brought into the light. This statement has sometimes been understood as though it meant that Paul was a mere pragmatist, a spin-doctor, twisting his message this way and that to suit different audiences. That’s not what he’s saying. The message remains constant. It is the messenger who must swallow his pride, who must give up his rights, who must change his freedom into slavery.” [N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians, page 117]
As we worship with the song, “My Hearts is Yours” (click here), let’s pray for greater change in ourselves from the wrong freedoms into right slavery that the people God has brought into our lives would be won for God.
James 4:6-8 (NIV) – But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.
Would you have much love to Christ? Do not allow sin to have any room in your hearts or, if it will abide and you cannot thrust it quite out, let it not have a quiet habitation within you. Disturb sin as much as you can. The more room sin has in your hearts – the less room Christ will have there. Particularly, take heed of inordinate love to the world, and the things of the world, the prevalence of which love will dampen your love to Christ. A subordinate love you may have to people and things in the world – but let no person or thing have your chief love, only Christ. You must have dying affections to perishing things – if you would have a living and strong love to the ever-living Jesus! [Thomas Vincent, The True Christian’s Love to the Unseen Christ]
The hope of loving Christ in incorruption comes from God’s grace. If just ‘grace’ hasn’t seemed enough for you, know that God gives us ‘more grace’ – a never-ending, never-limited, never-lacking supply of grace.
Let us humbly come before the Lord and worship with the song,“Jesus Only You”(click here). Pray for the ‘more grace’ in our lives to turn from love of the world to have a chief love for Christ.
Galatians 2:20 (MSG) – Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.
Would you attain to much love to Christ?
Be much in holy contemplation of Christ
Be much in reading and studying Scriptures
Be much in prayer to God for this love
Get much faith
Labor for much of the Holy Spirit
Get much hatred of sin
Associate yourselves most with those who have most love unto Christ
Be much in the exercise of this love.
Labor for clear evidences of His love unto you
Doubts of Christ’s love cause fears–and fears contract the heart, and therefore, are opposite to love which is the expansion and enlargement of the heart. Perfect love casts out fear; the more love–the less fear; and the more doubts and fears–the less love. Such as doubt much of Christ’s love to them, may love Christ truly–but they cannot love Christ strongly. You will love a less lovely person who loves you–more than a more lovely person who hates you. The love of the person beloved is a most amiable qualification and strong attraction, yes, one of the greatest incentives and inducements unto love. Get, then, a persuasion of the infinite love to you of this infinitely lovely Person.” [Thomas Vincent, The True Christian’s Love to the Unseen Christ]
Prayer: God, we ask for revelation in our hearts and minds of how you love us – clear evidences of your rescue, your calling, your healing, that leaves no doubt or fear. Come over us, meet us with your fierce love.
Romans 5:6-8 (NIV) – You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Thomas Vincent, a Puritan from the1600’s, wrote a book with this subtitle – “A Discourse, Chiefly Tending to Excite and Promote the Decaying Love of Christ in the Hearts of Christians.” Four hundred years have passed, and we are still seeking to excite and promote the love of Christ in our hearts.
“And here consider: the duty of loving Christ; the privilege; the honor; the wisdom; the excellency; the necessity; the usefulness; the delightfulness; and, lastly, consider the ATTAINABLENESS of this love to Christ. Brutes are not capable of this love to Christ – but you are capable. As your minds are capable of knowing Him, so your hearts are capable of loving Him. Others have attained this love, who were as much without it, and as much averse unto it as any of you may be. Here you are capable; hereafter, if you live and die without it, you will be utterly incapable. You have now the means of grace and, as of other graces, so of this grace of love to Christ, in the diligent use of the means, you may attain thereunto. [Thomas Vincent, The True Christian’s Love to the Unseen Christ]
Let’s worship today with the song, “The Cross Forever Speaks” (click here), as we thank God for the attainableness of love to Christ through his salvific work on the cross. And let’s pray for those who are still powerless and ask that this would be just the right time for them to receive Christ’s saving work into their lives.
1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV) – However, as it is written:“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—the things God has prepared for those who love him—
“It is hard for us even to imagine what it will be like to love with a divine and perfect love. In this life we always seem to be loving the wrong things too much and the right things too little. But a day of perfect love is coming (1 Cor. 2:9). Heaven’s perfection will transform our hearts. We will not just love Jesus more; we will love him the most – as much as we possibly can. We will have a superlative, joyful affection for our everlasting Savior.
Our love for Jesus will be sincere. We will not merely pretend to love Jesus, but we will actually love him. Our love for Jesus will be supreme. Our love for Jesus will be ardent. As we gaze upon our Savior’s face, giving him all our praise and worship, our hearts will burn within us in a blaze of pure spiritual affection. Our love for Jesus will be constant.
Sincerity, supremacy, ardency, constancy – such perfection will stay beyond our reach for the rest of our earthly lives. But if we love Jesus at all, we will keep striving for incorruptible affection, wanting to love him more and more.” [Philip Ryken, Loving Jesus More]
As we worship with the song “One Day”(click here) by Matt Redman, let’s pray for the increasing measure of incorruptible affection for the Lord because one day it will perfectly be ours.
Ephesians 6:24 (ESV) – Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.
As Paul concludes Ephesians, he gives a simple benediction wishing grace on the people. In particular, grace on the people who love Jesus with love incorruptible or “with an undying love (NIV)”. If this is a conditional statement of grace, then we find ourselves in trouble as our own love falls short of this. But rather than being a statement of condition, it is a call, a charge, a blessing and encouragement that grace is ours to love Jesus now the way we will love him forever, in incorruption.
There was a praise song we used to sing in the 90’s based on this verse.
Grace, grace to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. Give me an undying love for You, Lord won’t You set my heart aflame, With passion for Your name? Give me an undying love for You, …
We see in the lyrics of this song an asking, a seeking to receive from the Lord this undying love for him. For those of us who remember worshipping on our campuses, on Sundays at UMBC with this song, has not the Lord answered us with such grace to love him with an undying love? Let us ask and seek in prayer today … “Lord, more grace, more love for You.”