Galatians 5:4-63 (MSG)
I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.
If I am reading this correctly, freedom in Christ is faith expressed in love. Sorry to jump right to the point, but this is like an arrow through my heart today. Sometimes by simply reading a different translation of the exact same thing you’ve been reading makes it jump right off the page. Or there are other times when our heart is softened by something that makes the Word of God able to penetrate a little deeper than before. I want to be free in Christ. I already am. I must be careful not to sacrifice my freedom to regain control. The moment I take charge of my life again – sin restricts my freedom in that area. But what I am reading today more vividly than before is that faith is expressed in love not religiosity. I am not religious. Or am I? I want to live in love with Jesus Christ. I am free to do so because of the Power of His Blood and the fact that He paid for my sins and overcame death all in that day. Like everyone else, I have good intentions. I fail just like everyone else, too.
How can religion cut us off from Christ? It can’t so get up and go to church. Just kidding…well maybe not. When we allow ANYTHING to take a primary place other than Christ in our life, our freedom is surrendered to that thing. Even when it is with good intentions like religious effort. We want a satisfying relationship with the Holy Spirit to connect to the Son but go about it all the wrong way. There is no condemnation in Christ. Grace is for our mistakes. Mercy comes each day because God knows that we will need it so use it. But if we could just wrap our head around the fact that every moment and every breath of life is about faith expressed in love it would change how we live, how we love and how we experience God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It would create a boundless and limitless relationship with the Lord allowing His Kingdom to penetrate our life in a way never thought possible before. This is freedom. This is what we are after. Stress-free, fearless living inside the Presence of God in the vast potential presented when Jesus died on the Cross and set us free.
Galatians 5:7-9 (MSG)
You were running superbly! Who cut in on you, deflecting you from the true course of obedience? This detour doesn’t come from the One who called you into the race in the first place. And please don’t toss this off as insignificant. It only takes a minute amount of yeast, you know, to permeate an entire loaf of bread.
Oh please don’t get your feelings hurt today. It is not that kind of story. This is not about messing up but moving closer to Jesus Christ so that you will experience the freedom that He died for you to have. There is the perception that people mellow with maturity. With age, I find that many of the major things in my life have now fallen to minor status. Those things that consumed me each day as necessities and priorities are now nothing more than goals and aspirations. Three of my children were born in my mid-twenties while the other two were born in my mid-thirties. My older children are constantly telling me and the two girls have different I am now than I was then. Of course some is exaggerated, but they are telling the truth. When people mature with age, it is hopeful that they do so with knowledge, understanding and wisdom that put life into a proper perspective. Mix in a good trial or bout with hardship and the façade of the “perfect” life burns away to reveal what is left. God takes that and makes something beautiful because we discover that there is more to life than this and welcome His Presence into our world. The enemy cannot take our freedom from us. We can give it to Him though unless we learn through godly wisdom what is right and true.
I Corinthians 13:10-12 (MSG)
Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled. When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good. We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
We tend to read and study the Word of God in bits and pieces. We read it out of context. Creating an even more incomplete picture of Christ then we already have. We do not see things clearly right now because we “see” with our eyes the world in which we live but we see Heaven through our heart. We must build a perceivable image of what His Kingdom is and what it looks like to satisfy our need to see. The more of God’s Word that we know the more evident that it becomes that this whole idea of Christianity and becoming a believer is all about love. We must open our minds to “see” the Love of God demonstrated in Jesus Christ and how He expects us to love Him. These verses are tucked neatly after God defines love in vivid clarity. Now it is up to us to learn what this love is and live in the freedom it allows.
When my children were little they would get mad and of course immediately say, “I am not your friend anymore!” I would immediately respond, “That’s okay. I have lots of friends. God did not call me to be your friend, but your mom. I love you!” God loves us as His Children. We are free to live in His Love like His Children or to live at odds with His Love. God’s Love for us is as consistent as a mother or father’s love for their children. It doesn’t matter what they say or do or become – we love them just the same. We love them when we don’t like what they are doing. We wait for them to mature. We hope they will make good choices. We pray for them. We long for their call or text. This is God’s Love for us as a waiting parent not a rising dictator.
“When you love something set it free. If it comes back to you, it is yours. If it doesn’t, it never was!” These words ring so true today. Love sets us free. If love returns, it belongs to us. If it doesn’t it never was. God does this every single day. He offers the sacrifice of His Son as a means of escape from the bondage and slavery of sin. We decide if we love God enough to step out in freedom and back into His Love.
Romans 6:15-18 (MSG)
So, since we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!
Today I am free. It is up to me to protect my freedom by walking in the Love of God through Christ Jesus and led by the Holy Spirit. Men and women died to protect my freedom as an American. I maintain my freedom by respecting the laws set forth by this country and obeying them. Otherwise, I forfeit my freedom and will be imprisoned. Loving God produces respect for His Ways, His Word and His Will. It makes me want to remain free. Today, I will eat good food, spend time with my family, and maybe take a dip in the pool. It is what I want to do. There is nothing wrong with that or any other activity under the sun that we choose on this Fourth of July. Our life is possible because God loves us even those who do not love Him back. I am free to live and love today because who the Son sets free is free indeed.
We are free to live in the freedom of God. The way of God preserves our rights as free people. It is not about what we do or don’t do but all about our love for Him. God doesn’t want our time if it doesn’t include our heart. He doesn’t care what we do if love isn’t involved. Love is what allows us to be free and stay free each day in each moment of our life. It is all about love. Faith expressed in love binds us to Christ for forever which is where I want to be. Today, I am free to love God and love others through that love. Now that is something to celebrate!
Psalm 118:21-25 (MSG)
Thank you for responding to me; you’ve truly become my salvation! The stone the masons discarded as flawed is now the capstone! This is God’s work. We rub our eyes—we can hardly believe it! This is the very day God acted—let’s celebrate and be festive! Salvation now, God. Salvation now! Oh yes, God—a free and full life!