Galatians 5:22-26 NIV 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
We follow the Spirit’s lead. We no longer abide by the flesh, but we live by the Spirit. This is how we can at last live a genuinely free life. To keep in step with the Spirit is to benefit in the fruit of the Spirit: love, true happiness, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – all of which is for the benefit of the other person. The fruit of the Spirit is contra to the notion of I’ll-do-what-I-want freedom as it is explicitly outward facing for another. When we appropriate and implement what Christ won on the cross, we begin to see the value proposition of God’s freedom. This is the new way to be human, living in a new freedom, a “freedom for” fulfilled by God’s freely given love.
May the Spirit’s cry in our hearts be “I don’t have to, but I want to” as we sing “Labor of Love” by Pastor Jason Park (click here).
Prayer: Lord, we want to be yoked to you and live freely in the gospel of love. May life beget life to all those around us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Acts 16:22-28 NIV 22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
Paul and Silas were unjustly incarcerated (an act of “violence”) and in an opportunity to be “free” of their carceral reality, they chose to stay. In doing so, they exercised God’s freedom and held themselves to God’s “law” of love. In this mutual obligation of love, they actually save the jailer from his own violent end.
Let’s sing “Peace Be Still” by Hope Darst (click here).
Prayer: Lord, may we become servants to one another, through this law of love first demonstrated by Jesus. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Galatians 5:1, 13-15 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. 13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
Paul is warning that this freedom we have in Christ cannot be used as opportunity for the flesh. The “flesh” means the opposite of love: the “fleshly” behavior is the infighting between one another.
In his poem Comment 1, the poet Gil Scott-Heron wrote a searing critique of freedom and how its seemingly noble pursuit had only resulted in violence to himself and to his community. In one memorable stanza, Heron called such a freedom, “free-doom.”
The story of Christianity is the story of the God who has everything and lacks nothing, graciously laying his life down for those (us) who have nothing and lack everything. In this, our triune God who exists in freedom, invites us into his freedom – true freedom. It is a covenantal proposition: relational and responsible, and is maintained by God’s character. God’s freedom calls us to holiness and love, even if it means to be a “slave.” The world’s freedom ultimately leads to violence which leads to death. God’s freedom leads to life, true happiness and joy.
Let’s sing “Battle Belongs” by Phil Wickham (click here).
Prayer: Lord, may your church be united in holiness as we live in the true freedom of love. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Romans 6:15-18 NIV 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
In this freedom, Apostle Paul is saying, we have to live according to a new pattern that is now shaped by the cross. But, the problem he was seeing was not unlike the post-Exodus Israel. As NT Wright puts it, you can take Israel out of Egypt but it’s much harder to take Egypt out of Israel. As soon as Israel crossed the Red Sea, they grumbled because they didn’t have enough to eat and drink. That set a pattern for the next forty years where God’s people gladly swapped freedom for food. The point of freedom is not to go back to Egypt again. “You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery,” Paul says, “to slide back into fear; you’ve received the spirit of sonship” (Romans 8).
Let’s declare our freedom as sons and daughters as we sing, “No Longer Slaves” by Bethel Music (click here).
Prayer: We thank you God for setting us free from sin and now we can live in a new pattern of righteousness. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Psalm 119:41-48 NLT 41 Lord, give me your unfailing love, the salvation that you promised me. 42 Then I can answer those who taunt me, for I trust in your word. 43 Do not snatch your word of truth from me, for your regulations are my only hope. 44 I will keep on obeying your instructions forever and ever. 45 I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments. 46 I will speak to kings about your laws, and I will not be ashamed. 47 How I delight in your commands! How I love them! 48 I honor and love your commands. I meditate on your decrees.
Galatians 5:16 NIV 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Christian love is radically different, and so is Christian freedom. The gospel sets us free to love, to live to God’s glory, to operate according to the gospel’s “law,” to be wise stewards of his creation and wise agents of his new creation. Galatians 5:16 is the point where Apostle Paul resonates with the remarkable promise in Psalm 119: “I will walk in freedom for I have devoted myself to your commandments.”
As we walk by the Spirit, let’s worship together by singing, “Love Like This” by Lauren Daigle (click here).
Prayer: Lord, we walk in freedom as we trust in your word and your unfailing love. In Jesus’ name, amen.