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.