Morning. My name is David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
August is always one of my favorite months of the year at Renovation.
I am personally SO excited for our one service on August 18th at 10am that you’re going to hear more about later today.
I’m really excited for this crazy/intense series we have coming up on the 18th called “Radical Normalcy”
And I’m pumped because today is the day we get to reveal our newest missions trip and the secret country to which we’re going to….but not quite yet…so hold on a little bit.
As a church all summer, we’ve been studying the book of Galatians.
It’s a book written by the Apostle Paul to some Christians that have lost their way.
They’ve started to fall for this false teaching that says: in order for God to accept and forgive them…they have to make sure they’re good enough first.
Attend enough religious services, do enough religious good deeds etc.
And Paul’s writing to remind them that they are forgiven by faith in Jesus alone.
Salvation is a gift…not a reward.
Paul’s been trying to argue this with the Galatians with basically any analogy that he can come up with.
Today, he’s going to use yet another argument from the Old Testament
Let’s walk through it.
We’re going to be on Page 945 or YouVersion
(Galatians 4:21-23) – NIV
21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.
Let me fill you in on Bible story he’s referring to if you don’t know it or if the details are kind of hazy.
As we’ve talked about this summer, God told Abraham that he would have many descendants, and one day through one of his descendants (insert Jesus), the whole world would be blessed
Yet…despite the promise…Abraham for a long time…was still childless.
So in Genesis 16, Abraham and his wife Sarah, decide to take matters into their own hands.
They decide that since God hadn’t given them a child yet, to take Sarah’s maidservant (her slave, Hagar), and make her also one of Abraham’s wives (which was a normal ancient practice), and THEN that way Abraham could have a son
Which he did, and his name was Ishmael.
Ishmael is who Paul is calling the “slave son,” (born of a slave)
He’s the son of human work. The son where Abraham refused to wait on God’s promise and took matter’s into his own hands.
You ever do that??
They determined that they didn’t need God. They would use their own resources to make it happen.
But thankfully God is merciful, and 15 years later, in Genesis 21, Isaac is born to Abraham and Sarah
He is the child of the promise.
Isaac is the child that God promised he would always bring for them. The child of His doing.
Ishmael, the slave child, was them trying to do it on their own
TAKING IT INTO OUR OWN HANDS
Let’s look back to Paul in Galatians now
By the way, he’s about to say, “These things are being taken figuratively
He doesn’t mean that’s it’s figurative in the sense that it wasn’t historical, but in the sense that he’s going to use these historical things to illustrate a theological truth.
(Galatians 4:24-25) – NIV
24 These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar.25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children.
So Paul’s saying that Hagar (the slave woman) is just like Mount Sinai, which is the mountain in Exodus where Moses received the Law (10 commandments etc.)
And just like the people in Jerusalem, they’re all in slavery, because if they’re just trying to follow the law, for the sake of being good enough…it’s not going to work.
If they’re just trying to please God like he’s some slave-driving master…it’s not going to work.
God wants to love them and forgive them and offered Jesus to pay for their sins.
Through faith we can be forgiven. And not only that, have freedom through that promise.
(Galatians 4:26-27) – NIV
26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.27 For it is written: “Be glad, barren woman, you who never bore a child; shout for joy and cry aloud, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.”
Paul’s saying that the Jerusalem that is above, the heavenly city (you can read about this in Revelation 21)…that’s the city that we as Christians have our citizenship in…
We don’t have to rely on tracing our ancestry back to the old Jews…
And in fact, he quotes Isaiah 54 to say, that we, though persecuted now, and though barren like Sarah was at first, will one day increase all over the earth…
While the Jews would not really.
Which is true today.
And then Paul finishes his argument
(Galatians 4:28-31) - NIV
28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” 31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
By the way, this is Paul’s final argument to the Galatians to just “get rid” of those people in town that are trying to bring them back to slavery.
He’s saying, “kick those false teachers out of your church just like Hagar and Ishmael were kicked out by Sarah and Abraham”
You are children of the promise.
Do a maternity test here.
You’re children of Sarah. Of faith. Of promise. Not children of Hagar…not children of slavery…and trying to EARN God’s love.
So what do we do this? And what exactly is Paul saying with all this stuff?
It’s yet another reminder to us that we can’t earn our way to God.
We can’t take his promises of salvation, of heaven, of forgiveness, and say, “You know what…um…I think I’ll handle that myself.”
That’s what Abraham did. God was “taking his time” according to Abraham, so he figured he would just do it himself.
And along came Ishmael.
Interestingly enough, in the Koran, Muslims trace themselves back to Abraham through Ishmael, not Isaac.
And Islam, like so many of the other religions of the world, is a religion founded on the idea that if you work hard enough at being a good person who believes in God, you will be REWARDED for your faith.
Just like their ancestor Ishmael…it’s about doing it yourself.
But as Paul has been saying all summer in Galatians…there’s no “real freedom” in relating to God in the rewards system.
Over and over and over again, he uses different analogies to basically say, “It’s much more like slavery.”
So as we sort of end the section in Galatians where Paul has made all of these different arguments about slavery and freedom, let’s spend some time asking the question: “So what IS real freedom then?”
Real freedom, and I’m indebted to people like John Piper for this definition…Real freedom is when you have no lack of opportunity, no lack of ability, and no lack of desire to prevent you from doing what will make you happiest…50 years from now…or, 1000 years from now.
So, let’s say you want to go skydiving.
And you’re on your way to the airport from which you’re going to take off from and you get a flat tire, so you miss the takeoff
You’re not free to skydive because you’ve lost the opportunity
Or let’s say you make it there, but you know nothing about skydiving and don’t know how to operate a parachute…
You’re not free to do it because you don’t have the ability
Or let’s say you make it, you’ve been trained, and you’re up in the air ready to jump out…but you don’t have the freedom of desire.
This is hugely underestimated when we think about freedom.
Let’s say instead a tremendous fear overtakes you, and you don’t want to jump.
Yet, the fascinating thing about the freedom of desire is that you might be able to go ahead and jump without it, but it might not be a free act.
For example, you might feel so humiliated in front of your instructor (or girlfriend) that the desire to not be humiliated overcomes your desire to not jump.
So you jump.
But your emotional experience of the jump will not be what we would call freedom.
You’re like the 6-year-old girl who’s only saying hi to her parents’ friends to be polite. She doesn’t’ really want to talk to them.
And to me, this definition of freedom makes a fascinating point.
See maybe at this point…after we’ve been hammering home Galatians and “gift vs reward” over and over and over again…it’s starting to intellectually make sense to you.
Jesus died for me, and the only reason I’m forgiven is because of his gracious act of forgiving me through my faith
There’s nothing I can do to earn it.
I think that’s part of the reason God waited so long to give Isaac to Abraham and Sarah.
He intended to fulfill his promise in a way that would remove all ground for boasting.
Isaac was given as an act of grace from God. Sarah gave birth to Him, not through reliance on herself, or a scheme she came up with, but by an act of God fulfilling his promise.
And that’s exactly how our salvation works.
We didn’t do it.
It’s an act of grace from God.
And now…because of that act of God….we’re FREE
I don’t have to be a slave trying to win the master’s approval.
I already have it.
And maybe that’s starting to click.
But that doesn’t mean we know how to live in freedom.
Just like I mentioned last week, lots of times in history, when people groups were freed from slavery, they then had no idea HOW to actually live in freedom.
Lots of times, we immediately want to make our freedom look just like a new form of slavery.
Let me explain what I mean by going back to the skydiving illustration
Lots of times we jump into freedom…we jump into the free fall…but only because we KIND OF want to…but we’re not really living in freedom.
Really, we’re wincing the whole way down.
Or we’re thinking “I can’t believe she made me do this” or “I really wish I was doing something else”
Or you name it. We’re doing everything but enjoying the freedom of the drop…even though we “appear” to be free.
And I think this is such an avid description of so many professing Christ followers
They’re trying to keep to the teachings of Christ, but they don’t really delight in them.
They’re living more like a child of slavery…then the child of the promise.
But they obey them anyway….maybe because of social pressures
Like your spouse wants you to be here…Or this is what a good person does…or what would your friends say…or you might lose your job if you did what you want to do
Or we live in “freedom” because of a fear of hell
Or you appear to live in “Freedom” because you’re trying to impress someone
Maybe some guy you like…or your parents about what a good person you’re becoming.
But see…it’s like wincing on the way down.
You’re just doing it for someone else…or so you look good.
Yes, you did it. You jumped into faith. That’s great.
You’re in the freedom of the skydive.
But you’re not really LIVING in freedom, because you don’t have the fourth part of freedom, the freedom of desire.
You don’t really want it personally.
You can go through the motions of obedience, but the desire of your heart can be fixed somewhere else…
In lust maybe…or success…or another person…or maybe it’s even in sin.
You might be grudgingly going through the motions of being a Christian and secretly admiring those people that go out to the strip clubs…or sleep around…or spend all their money on their boats and houses instead of church.
And by the way, as much as we like to think so, it also isn’t freedom if it’s destructive.
Someone might enjoy the drop the whole way down, but if they didn’t follow the safety instructions about opening a parachute…it’s not really freedom either.
That’s why freedom is doing the things that will make you the happiest 50 years from now.
And yet…50 years from now…a life of wild rebellion NEVER leads to the most happiness.
It’s nothing but a temporary illusion.
Living out this real freedom that God is offering you in his grace must come with an acknowledgement that God wants you to enjoy Him in the path he set up for you.
It’s trusting in HIS Promises…Doing it HIS way…like Isaac…not Ishmael.
Let me pitch it to you this way.
Every once in a while, my neighbors rent one of those bouncy houses for their kid’s birthday party.
You know…the things that they inflate and the kids just jump around in and have a blast.
That’s sort of what life is like with God in his freedom.
So imagine that you were in chains…shackled up in slavery…but God came to you, offered his son Jesus Christ to take your chains instead, and by faith, he set you free.
And he said, “Now enjoy my freedom!”
And he shows you the largest bouncy house you can ever imagine. It’s like miles and miles wide.
And he just says…”Enjoy my life. I’ll be bouncing in there with you.
“And yeah, there are limits here…stay in the bouncy house with me. You’ll have the most joy there jumping w/ me. Trust me. You really will!
But so many of us accept his gift of freedom…but then we don’t actually jump in freedom with Him!!
Some of us DO jump…but we’re just faking our enjoyment…
All the while wishing we were on the outside living out the passions of our flesh.
Many of us take it a step further and say…”Yeah, I don’t like this. I don’t like God telling me where I should and shouldn’t go. I want to be free to play on that cliff just outside the bouncy house”
And we redefine freedom to mean stupidity.
And we wander away from Him…thinking we’re free…but really just about to trip on the edge of a cliff
But we’re not free to live anymore….
Or, many of us go…”Yeah, it’s just weird hanging out with God jumping around…I’d rather kind of do this on my own. It’s too weird to not have God say, ‘I’m proud of you because you did this. I love you because you did this.”
It makes some of you uncomfortable that he JUST loves you and wants to enjoy jumping around with you”
So we leave the bouncy house. Walk back right back into chains of legalism.
And while God’s looking at us from the freedom and joy of the bouncy house where we used to just be like little children jumping with him…
We’re back in chains…juggling balls and doing somersaults…and saying, “Do you like this God? Does this impress you?” Are you proud of me now?”
All the while…He’s going, “I already was proud of you. I already died for you. Stop trying to impress me and earn my love…let’s just enjoy each other!”
If I can make a connection here, I think the reason that so few people in American churches actually serve other people is because we have no idea HOW to live in freedom.
Because when it’s all about me…trying to impress God…trying to earn a reward…we tend to be overly focused on the self.
This is counterintuitive, but it makes sense in relationships
You will actually serve and love your spouse, your girlfriend, etc., the move you just fall in love with them.
Compared to if you just say….”I…must…serve…them…that’s what a good person would do!”
And I oddly enough think one of the reasons we see such an apathy in the American church towards serving each other and people in need is because we’re all just overly focused on ourselves.
Overly focused on trying to impress God with our juggling and card tricks.
Where if we were jumping around, enjoying Him, our love would be that much more overflowing for Him, and for other people in need.
And I want to challenge you do that this morning.
And the trick is not to respond to this because “I should” but because a heart alive in Christ loves serving God’s children.
It’s part of what freedom looks like.
Freedom takes us outside of ourselves and our self-obsession and allows us to find life in being Christ to others.
I truly mean this: Some of the greatest joy you can ever experience is in serving other people…not just in entertaining yourself.
I really mean that.
But you won’t know that until you try it. Until you say…I guess I’ll take a step into the bouncy house. J
I guess I’ll grab God’s hand and start trusting Him.
I’ll start trusting that if I live in his freedom and in his ways…however counterintuitive it seems, I’ll experience even more joy!
And one of those ways is just serving here. Serving on Sunday mornings.
Serving gets us outside of ourselves.
Which is a really important thing for American Christians.
We’ve tricked ourselves into thinking that church is just for us…and our spiritual growth.
And that couldn’t be further from the truth. The church isn’t wal-mart.
So I want to challenge each and every one of you to take the risk of serving. Take the risk of spending time helping others grow in faith.
When you walked in this morning…there were descriptions of many of our ministries here at church.
We have other ministries too that you can grow into…But these are an amazing place to start at Renovation..
In experiencing the joy of freedom in serving others.
Seriously, take me up on this.
I think if you were to sign-up for our “set-up team” or our prayer team or even to greet all of these people who are trying out church as they come in the door…
I think what you’ll find is at first, because you’re human, you’re going to look inward at the self, and say, “Yeah, but I’m busy…I’ve got stuff to do…I don’t need to that right now”
But what you’re going to find in the upside down Kingdom that Jesus created, is you’ll find exponentially more life in putting out Bibles here on Sundays so people can worship and meet God here
In praying for people who come back who are really in need
In helping to teach a preschooler or elementary student who’s learning about God for the 1st time…
It’s an amazing return on joy.
And I encourage you to take that bold step this morning.
Sign-up by simply marking one team on the back of your connection card at the bottom of your bulletin (take that out right now)
Or you can stop by the volunteer fair in the hallway on the way out, and ask more questions of any of the teams.
You can sign-up out there as well
I’m excited for you to take this step forward in freedom
Because focusing on “the self” is not freedom.
Before I step down this morning…I want to take this upside down freedom living (bouncy-house living) one step further.
See we’ve got this SO wrong. We think, the more I focus on myself, the more I take care of me and my needs, the happier I will be.
But the Bible tells us…that isn’t freedom. That isn’t living in Love and sharing love.
And in fact, it’s dead wrong. The formula is the complete opposite.
The more I serve. The MORE I love, the more I will experience joy.
There isn’t a much greater joy than experiencing the love of God flow through you to another person.
And at Renovation, we are passionate about allowing you to experience that not only here…but worldwide as well.
Jesus tells us very plainly at the end of the Gospels, that we are to go and make disciples of ALL nations…not just here.
So our strategy is to reach people for Christ here in Anoka County…in the entire metro through church planting…and worldwide through missions.
So…for the third year in a row, we will be taking a big group of people down to Haiti to help change the world there.
Not only through helping people rebuild houses and churches, and hanging out with and loving the Haitian kids…but also through handing out Bibles and sharing Jesus with people.
It truly is a life-changing trip.
And it’s one of the most well-rounded trips I’ve ever been on.
It’s great no matter what skills you bring (working with hammers or playing with kids)
If you go with us to Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere…a country with an 80% unemployment rate where only 50% of people can even read…and only 1 out of 10 people know Jesus…I promise you…you will never be the same.
It’s such an amazing trip.
Unfortunately, we actually don’t have a video from last year’s trip, but even though it’s a year old…I still want to show you the previous trip’s video
Because it means so much more when we show it to you, and I know SO MANY of you are new within the last year too.
(SHOW PROMO VIDEO)
The trip is actually going to be in February this year, as that brings flight costs down.
Applications/info packets are available in the hallway.
Even if you’re only 10% interested, I encourage you to pick one up and start praying about it.
Also, we’ve been teasing this for a little while now, but we are adding a second missions trip (adult missions trip that is…we already have a youth missions trip as well) this year…to a whole new continent.
You may or may not have guessed this…but in the summer of 2014, we will be going with our friend Sammy Wanyonyi to Rwanda in Africa.
That trip is a little less than a year away, but we are taking applications now because we want to give you enough time to fundraise…
As it does take more money to fly to Africa than Haiti.
We’ll start showing you some pictures here of Rwanda on the screen
(Start showing Rwanda pictures)
The Haiti Trip is about $1,800 total and the Rwanda trip is $4,200.
By the way, over the last two years, 30-40% of the people who’ve gone to Haiti have paid ZERO dollars
Going to Haiti can be cheaper than you driving to Lakeville.
Because they’ve raised the money.
Many others have paid just a few hundred dollars.
And I suspect, there will be people who put the work in, get the word out, and even raise all of their money for Rwanda.
So what will we be doing in Rwanda??
We will be working along side international evangelist Sammy Wanyonyi (who was here in June) and his massive outreach in the capital city of Rwanda…Kigali.
It’s going to be really powerful too as it’s on the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda (which if you’ve seen Hotel Rwanda…that’s a good backdrop)
They start out the week with Sammy preaching in the stadium to something like 20,000 people
And then throughout the week, they are going to be putting on 50 mini-outreaches all throughout the city (for 200-500 people)
And we will be involved in one of those outreaches: Helping get the word out, putting on activities during the day for kids, and sharing the gospel with people we meet.
And then at the end of the week, we’ll help with any details we can as they do a massive outreach for 40-50k people back in the stadium.
If you want to increase your passion for evangelism and reaching people for Christ…this trip will certainly do that!
Admittedly, just like when we went to Haiti the very first time…it’s a bit of an exploratory trip.
I’m sure things won’t be quite as smooth as they will for our now 3rd Haiti trip.
But this is really an amazing opportunity. How often do you get a chance to go to Africa??
But please don’t see this as a vacation either.
It’s not going to be a safari.
We’ll be sharing Jesus in Africa…in another one of the poorest countries in the world.
Both of these trips are an amazing opportunity to live in God’s grace and share it with others.
We exhaust so much of our time and energy just on ourselves.
This is an opportunity to start doing life differently.
So I encourage you to start praying about this.
And in fact, I want you ALL to pray about it in a specific way.
So often when we do missions trips, people say to me, “I really want to go, and I think it would be amazing to go and serve these people…but I haven’t heard a “yes” from God yet.”
I want to tell you that God has already told you to go.
His authoritative Word (The Bible) tells you to take care of the orphan, to serve the poor, and to bring the Gospel to all nations.
You don’t need to wait for a Yes.
It’s like praying, “Should I love my neighbor?” It’s an unnecessary prayer.
You should just pray, “God, is there any reason right now I shouldn’t go this year?”
You know what…I just love being part of this church.
God is doing amazing things through Renovation Church!
We’ve already seen 44 people come to Christ here at Renovation just THIS YEAR in 2013 already!
With our 2 church plants and us, there will be over 500 people in attendance already in churches in the Renovation network
And now…we are reaching people for Christ in different places around the world…
All at just 3.5 years old.
It truly is amazing what God has done.
Let’s pray…as we live out this incredible life in his freedom and grace, that He would do even more through us!
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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