Freedom in Christ

20130704_freedom

Galatians 6:1-16

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

For the past six weeks we have been walking with Paul as he shares his concerns with the people of Galatia. His concerns for the miss-direction they have taken in their journey of faith and their willingness to so easily drop the truth that Paul had shared with them when he first visited. Once again he shares his story with them on how he was on the wrong path and does not start following Jesus until Jesus actually appears to him.

If you recall, the main struggle that Paul is confronting is the fact that the Galatians have started following a different teaching that put an emphasis on the works of the law. the law does have a purpose as it leads and guides us in our lives, however, it is in our faith that we turn to God. Grace comes to us as a free gift. There is nothing required of us and nothing that we must do to receive that grace. Thus Paul’s argument arises against those that believe to be a follower of Christ you must also be circumcised; of course, this goes back to Judaic law. Remember, the Galatians are Gentiles, and would not have followed through on this Jewish practice shortly after they were born.

Paul’s hope is to turn them away from the works of the flesh, which steers people in the wrong direction, and he reminds them of the fruits of the Spirit which should pervade their life. It is in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that they will grow closer to Christ and learn to experience the Christ that is within them. It is in the fruit of the Spirit that we should all be striving. If the Galatians were to follow in these instructions that Paul has set-forth, then they too will truly experience what it means to live into a new creation.

Many of the people that first immigrated to the America’s were looking for something different, escaping from tyranny, and hoping for a new beginning. Isn’t that what we are looking for in a new creation? They sought a freedom that they were not experiencing in their home countries and had the vision to establish that in a new country. Independence Day is our opportunity as Americans to celebrate the freedoms that we have in this country and to recognize those freedoms that we are still working towards. While we are Americans, we also must remember that we are Christians as well and everything that we do should be coming from our lives as Christians. We have already experienced a new creation in Christ through our baptism and it is this that comes first. God does not care what country we are from.

The freedom that we have as Christians exists in our faith and the grace that we receive from God. Remember, nothing is required of us for this to be true. As we conclude our series on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians this morning, we are reminded that we live in the same freedom that he shares with them. The trouble that ensued in Galatia is more times than not the same issue we have in our world today. Those in authority attempting to use their position to control others. This is what happens in Galatia as the teachers that came in after Paul tried to convince them of something other than the true gospel of Jesus Christ that Paul preached.

The freedom that we seek is not always at hand and sometimes we live in opposition to the majority as we follow our Christian faith. For many of us this may be a foreign concept. We did not grow up in struggle and have therefore forgot what it means to be longing for the freedom that comes to us in this country. The same freedom that slaves in America desired. The same freedom that our ancestors longed for when they first immigrated to this land. The same freedom that our ancestors in the bible longed for when they met opposition and struggled against those that persecuted. The same freedom that many people around the world still long for today.

A new creation is everything! It is in Jesus’ death and resurrection that we experience a new creation and it is in this new creation that the grace of God is revealed to all of God’s children. In this new creation the fruit of the Spirit flows for all to absorb and to learn from. By living in the Spirit, we experience the Christ that is within us and should be compelled to share that with our sisters and brothers.

I encouraged you six weeks ago to read all of Galatians to get a deeper sense of Paul’s passion for the people of Galatia. While chapter 6 concludes Paul’s letter and summarizes his preaching, it is not the end. Instead it should be the beginning of conversation for the people of Galatia and us as well. What does it mean to live into our faith and the true gospel of Jesus Christ? I encourage you again to go back and read it and listen to where you hear God calling and speaking into your life.

As you celebrate with friends and family this weekend, give thanks for the freedoms you have in this country. More importantly, remember the freedom that we have in Jesus Christ and celebrate the new creation that he promises and gives. Now as Paul concludes, “may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.” (6:18)

 

Advertisements

To the People of Galatia

Book-of-Galatians

Galatians 1:1-12

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom to be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Beginning this Sunday we are going to start a six week journey with Paul in his letter to the Galatians. Almost half of the New Testament consists of letters that Paul has written to those places that he has either ministered to along his journey or to individuals working to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. They usually contain a salutation and words of thanksgiving for the ministry that is being done at the current time.

Aren’t these words that you would like to hear from someone that brought the faith to you and being affirmed in the things that you are doing? It is nice to be acknowledged for those things that we do correctly and those times that we go above and beyond the expectations. We like to be greeted with kind words and acknowledged by those that we encounter throughout the day. We like to be welcomed with a warm smile and a friendly hello. While Paul usually does not do this in person, his letters usually speak for him.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians seems to start out like any of his other letters. There is one thing missing that I am sure the listeners of the letter as it is read to them are shocked by. They are greeted with a salutation, but where is their word for thanksgiving? Instead, he goes right into his purpose of writing to them and does not hold back. It may even appear that he goes on the defense of the things that he has taught to the Galatians. He backs this up with his credentials and the point that the gospel he originally shared with the Galatians was the same that was revealed to him through Jesus Christ.

So, why does Paul seem to go on the attack right at the outset of his letter? Why is this letter to the Galatians different from all of the other letters that he had written or would write? He is concerned that the people of Christ are following another teaching, different from the good news that was proclaimed to them by Paul when he was with them. The last time he left the Galatians they were probably full of the Spirit and ready to proclaim the same good news that he had shared with them to others in the area. He was probably satisfied to the point that he felt that it was time to carry the good news on to another community and they would be fine as there were probably some leaders that had been lifted up among them. He had spent a great deal of time with them and I am sure he put in a lot of hard work.

Of course, our plans always work out, right? In this case, Paul is shocked to hear that the Galatians have steered away from what Paul preached and were now following the instructions that spoke counter to the Word that Paul shared. He is astonished that they were so quick to step away from his teachings and fall so quickly for someone else that preached a false gospel. In my mind, I am picturing something like the guy that I saw before the Detroit Tiger’s game earlier this week that was walking around with a big cross and megaphone preaching anything but the grace of God that comes to us through Jesus Christ.

Come to think of it, are we really much different from the Galatians? At times we are quick to follow what others say and do without really thinking for ourselves. Perhaps we find ourselves on a different path in life than what God had intended for us and it most likely is not a path that Jesus would have taken. We forget what has been taught to us in the past and we turn to the next best thing, that which is close by. This is what the Galatians have done. They probably got to the point after Paul left that they were not quite sure of themselves and someone else came in bearing another story. A story that did not line up with the story Paul shared, but they felt it was close enough to follow.

At this Paul gets upset. Personally, he does not care what the people think of him, because he is not trying to please them. His calling was to go and proclaim the good news and somewhere along the line, that good news was rearranged.

Doesn’t this sound like a great letter for us to spend six weeks with? Honestly it is. It speaks to the freedom that we have in Christ and the inclusion that the church has the utmost desire for. Grace abounds in the letter to the Galatians and we will unwrap it in the coming weeks. The grace this week comes to us in the fact that even though Paul is upset with the Galatians, he is still willing to teach and share the grace and peace of God as he opens up the letter. Yes he is upset. The grace can be found in the word of God that he continues to share and the hope that he has in Jesus Christ. That hope he now shares with the people in Galatia with a little corrective love.

Yes, we may at times follow a false witness, like the Galatians. However, may we always know that through Jesus Christ we have received the grace of God, which is always present in our lives and ready for us to return at anytime.

As we spend these next six weeks with Paul, may you get to know the people of Galatia through his letter, and be open to the revelation of Jesus Christ in your own life.