David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
About a year ago, I was at the Anoka County Jail…to visit someone…not because I was in jail…hold on. J
And as I was walking up to the jail…I saw something so ironic…it would have made Alanis Morrisette happy.
There was a young man coming out of the jail to smoke with his buddies.
And he was wearing a T-Shirt that said, “Living Young, Wild, and Free”
It was one of those moments that I wanted to take a paparazzi photo, so I could use it in a message someday…but I couldn’t bring myself to stoop that low.
Now I don’t really know that young man’s story…maybe he was about to change his life.
But chances are…that he was like a lot of young people…and I dare say a lot of Americans …and he believed that “Freedom” is found in being able to do “What you want, when you want, and how you want”
Where no one can tell you how to live your own life.
Do whatever makes you happy.
And what really is freedom?
And don’t Christians, with all their rules, seem like the least-free people on earth?
We are going to tackle that, and more today, as we dive back into the book of Galatians.
We are actually continuing a message series that we started in February and also continued this summer.
We’ve been going through the book of Galatians in the Bible, examining it verse-by-verse…and are already, amazingly, 14 messages in…with just 3 more to go after today.
At Renovation, we do a lot of things differently, and one of those is that we often mix it up between topical series like “The Promises of God” and “DiscipleSHIFT” and verse-by-verse series like Galatians…or the Book of Acts.
Most churches are usually either or, but we believe both are really important.
Sometimes a particular topic is really important to talk about.
Like for instance, this February, we are doing a series that maybe I’m looking forward to more than any series we’ve ever done before.
It’s called “Reason to Believe” and it’s going to be on apologetics and looking into the reasons why we can believe the Bible, or the resurrection, and so on.
But that’s a topic. You couldn’t do that if you were going verse by verse.
But it’s also helpful to really dive in and examine particular books.
So we do both.
I want to take just a moment and recap the first 4 chapters of Galatians as so many of you are new, and many of the rest of us just have bad memories J
The author, the Apostle Paul, is writing to the churches in Galatia (which were in what would be modern day South Central Turkey).
Paul started those churches himself (about 15 years after Jesus resurrected), and they got off to a great start, but sometime after Paul left to go start more churches, some new people came to town.
Scholars call them the Judaizers.
And these people started telling the new Christians in Galatia, that if they REALLY wanted to be saved/forgiven/made right in God’s eyes, that they not only needed to believe in Jesus, but they needed to start obeying all the laws from the Jewish Bible (the OT).
They needed to start eating Jewish foods, and celebrating Jewish holidays, and their men would need to be circumcised
They turned forgiveness into a reward to be earned rather than a gift that is given (thus the name of this series)
And Paul writes Galatians to remind the Galatians that salvation is a free gift from God.
We are COMPLETELY forgiven simply by putting our faith in Jesus that he died for us and making Him the Lord of our lives.
We are justified through our faith…not by somehow hitting a magic line of being “good enough”
Such a line doesn’t exist.
And tying to find that line is an unbearable weight and a form of bondage
And that’s where we join Paul today
We’re going to look at 15 verses in chapter 5 today.
Paul makes his summary thesis statement in verse 1…then he takes verses 2-12 to describe a worldview that isn’t freedom…then takes 13-15 to describe an opposite worldview that isn’t freedom either.
And in the midst of that…we discern what real freedom actually is…right in the middle of the 3 views.
So, let’s open up the Bible and dive in.
I’d love for you to follow along today. It’s a great way to dive deeper yourself.
There’s a Bible under every chair. Page 945
Or, check out verses on the YouVersion App. Live. Renovation.
(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.
This is Paul’s main thesis statement for today.
Despite what you may think about Christianity, the greatest freedom you can ever know is in Christ.
And what I want to show today is that you can experience more freedom in Christ than you ever could being an overly religious person that follows every rule to please God OR on the opposite side, a person who’s living it up “young, wild and free”
The greatest freedom is actually the middle position. Following Jesus.
Paul, first is going to breakdown why it makes no sense for the Galatians to find freedom by going back to the position of these new people in town.
By going back to the slavery of trying to earn their way to God through rituals and obedience.
(Galatians 5:2-6) – NIV
2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
See these new people in town were telling the Galatian men, that they could never earn God’s love and forgiveness unless they did basic religious things…like get circumcised.
It’s not all that different than churches today saying unless you come to church this often, get baptized this way, believe what our denomination believes, speak in tongues…whatever…you’re not really saved.
But God doesn’t put parameters like that on his gift of salvation.
It’s a gift.
You don’t give someone a gift at Christmas with a letter that says, “Here’s your gift. Merry Christmas…now please pay me back in 5 easy payments of $19.99.”
God’s forgiveness through Jesus…is a gift.
That you can choose to open through faith.
And that’s why Paul says in verse 6 that circumcision isn’t in and of itself wrong (just like a lot of religious practices), but if you’re doing it to earn God’s favor…than you’re missing the point.
The same is true for us.
“Just like circumcision…if we’re just doing good deeds in hopes of being forgiven…we’ve missed the point.
“Paul’s point is the way that they’re going about it is wrong because any act where we try and bribe God for blessings with our good works, misses the point.
In Galatians, Paul often uses slavery as a metaphor
And he says, to return to interacting with God on a basis where God needs you to accomplish enough good-works …is a return to a slavery.
Where you’re trying to earn your freedom.
But in Galatians 4, he says, if you’re a believer, you’re not a slave…you’re God’s adopted son. Adopted daughter.
Let’s keep reading.
(Galatians 5:7-12) – NIV
7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!
Whoever said the Bible’s just for kids hasn’t read Galatians 5.
Paul’s (hopefully anyway) being sarcastic here.
He’s saying…it seems like these new people in town would be doing less harm if they just castrated themselves rather than turning every one away from Jesus and into themselves through circumcision.
And the larger point Paul is trying to make is this sort of arrangement with God (where you try really hard to be a good boy…or a good little girl)…get to church a lot…try and stop swearing so much and drinking so much….and maybe one day you’ll be good enough for Him to forgive you.
It has nothing to do with freedom.
In fact, it’s the opposite.
It’s like living under a mean master who’s going to whip when you screw up…and only going to give you the day’s meal if you live the day perfectly without messing up.
That’s not freedom. That’s slavery.
And it’s not who God is.
And yet, many of you maybe a lived a chunk of your life thinking that’s who God is.
But it’s not. God’s heart is nothing like that
So what is freedom then?
See, a lot of people tend to skip the middle ground and swing to the opposite end of the spectrum. (Because we love to over-react)
So many people in this country look at Christianity and they say, “What a straightjacket.”
“It’s just a ton of rules and regulations. I want noting to do with that. I’m going to live young, wild, and free”
I see people who forsake their Christian roots actually use this language.
They’ll say, “Once I finally gave up trying to be good enough and do all of those rules…Once I finally just started to live life how I wanted to without anyone else telling me how to live…I felt like…for the first time…I was free.”
It’s a common notion in our culture.
But Paul asserts that it’s a false freedom. An illusionary one.
And the real freedom is actually the middle ground.
(Galatians 5:13-15) – NIV
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.
We are free in Christ.
Meaning…we’re forgiven…set free from the bondage of sin and the curse of death.
We’re free to be loved by God and we don’t have to accomplish all of these rules to earn His love.
YET…yet…Paul writes, “Do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh”
In other words, “Don’t go…well, God’s going to forgive me anyway…so I guess I’ll just have this affair. Or gossip about this person…or get drunk at this party. I’ll be forgiven anyway!”
Real freedom isn’t in indulging in whatever we want either.
OH, but we think it is. Whether a lot of us admit it or not.
18 year olds sometimes feel this as their parents walk back to the car after dropping them off at college.
They think, “Finally, I’m free! No more stupid 11pm curfew. No more parents demanding to see my phone and know my whereabouts at all time. I’M FREE!”
I’m free to do whatever I want…when I want…how I want.
But is that freedom?
Is freedom the ability to do whatever you want to do and determine for yourself what’s right and wrong?
People rarely think it through, but this sort of freedom is a logical fallacy.
Let me explain: One of the things we teach here a lot is that, to be a good thinker, you always have to take things to their logical end.
See, none of us really believe that we all should be free to do what we want when we want how we want.
That’s not the goal of society even if we think it should be our own personal goal for freedom.
If it is, then the child abuser could abuse when he wants and who he wants…and he could rightfully say, “I’m merely acting upon my own personal freedom. I think this is RIGHT.”
When we actually sit and think about it…personal freedom is not the ideal freedom and not actually what society craves.
Our Western society is in bed with this idea though.
But…in bed like a drunk college student who didn’t think it through.
And it isn’t only because we think we deserve the right to determine morality ourselves, but also because we actually think we would feel the most FREE if we were able to do what we want how we want.
I think, deep down inside, even a lot of Christians, in their darkest thoughts, often believe
They’ll think, “I wish it was socially acceptable for me to go sleep around, or punch my boss in the face, or cuss out that idiot driver…then I’d really be ALIVE!”
But is that freedom?
If we could all, “indulge in our flesh” as Paul writes, is that freedom?
It is not.
I’d urge you to try it sometime, but I would be giving you advice that would ruin your life.
The reason that celebrities are the most miserable lot that make for such good TMZ fodder is that they got it “all” (power, money, and sex), and they’re STILL miserable.
And that…is the greatest misery of all.
Here’s what I think few understand: See, you can’t really call it freedom…if it’s only your choices that are free.
It’s not actually freedom if your free choices lead you into bondage.
Here’s another thing I think few understand about true freedom.
True freedom actually consists of constraints.
I read this from Timothy Keller the other week and thought it was brilliant.
Think of a fish.
A fish absorbs oxygen from water, rather than air…it’s only really free to live if it’s RESTRICTED and LIMITED to water.
If we give it more options and put it on the grass, its freedom to move and even live is not enhanced, but destroyed.
The fish dies if we do not honor the reality of its nature. Which we do with constraints.
Sometimes people ask: “Why does God have commands in the Bible? Why does he tell us to live a certain way: Be faithful in marriage, don’t hate, serve those in need, forgive each other?”
“Sounds like a lot of constraints to me”
Okay sure…you call it constraints, I call it the shoreline that keeps the fish in the water.
God’s only helping us, the fish, stay in environment where we can thrive.
Because He wants you to live and to enjoy freedom, he helps us know where to be.
Cuz you can’t enjoy freedom if you’re dead on dry land.
REAL FREEDOM INTRO
So on the one side, you’ve got people saying that freedom is obeying enough religious rules so you’ll be good enough to get a reward from God, and he’ll set you free.
On the other side, you’ve got people saying real freedom is only when you can do what you want, when you want, how you want.
But in the middle, is the gift of Jesus. It’s GRACE. It’s becoming a follower of Jesus.
It’s accepting his free gift of salvation and passionately following after this loving God.
Yet, it’s not that simple to live in the middle.
I wish it was…but it’s not.
It seems simple enough…but like a lot of things, most of us actually feel more comfortable on the extremes
It’s hard to just live in grace.
The #1 comment I’ve gotten while we’ve talked about Galatians has been…You’re talking about God’s unconditional forgiveness a lot…shouldn’t you also be telling people about the rules they should obey?
Deep down, a lot of us feel like… if we just live in Grace, we won’t live to the highest amount of obedience.
This is actually what the Judaizers in Galatia thought too.
They thought, “LISTEN PAUL! If people don’t have rules they must obey to be forgiven…(go to church this often, take this sacrament, never break this sin)…if they’re just free in God’s grace…then they’re going to indulge in sin all the more!
And Pauls’ going to break this down later in chapter 5, that actually, that’s not true.
Because in the grace system, it’s not about trying to please the angry slaver master, and it’s really about falling more in love with this Jesus who saved you…
That LOVE actually brings more life and more freedom and even more obedience and righteousness than RULES ever could!
Let me explain with an illustration I read from John Piper once:
Imagine you’re a parent of a 3-year-old boy. Let’s say you’re playing with Duplos together…but it’s time to wrap up.
Let’s say you say to your son, “Okay, time to wrap up, put the duplos away.”
But your son says, “Will you help me daddy?”
Now, you could yell back, “I will not, you pick them up, and do it right, or you’re going to your room!”
Not much freedom of life for the son there. He’s going to live like a lot of religious people live. In fear of God’s angry hand…hoping to please Him.
Sure, he’s aware of the rules…but chances are greater that he rebels than lives in them.
Or what if instead of saying, “Will you help me daddy,” what if you tell your son to put them away, and he says every toddler’s favorite word: “NO!”
But because your son is really smart, he says, “I will do what I want! You put away the duplos daddy! I’m going to go play in the street where all the cars drive by cuz that’s what I want to do!”
There’s no freedom in that either.
If there was freedom in doing whatever we want, we wouldn’t have so many guidelines for our own children.
Every think of that?
But what if your son says, “Daddy will you help me?”
And you take the MIDDLE GROUND and say, “Sure I will! Let’s see how fast we can do it together!”
He still is doing something the Father asked of Him (I guess you could call that a constraint), but in working with His Father (IN A RELATIONSHIP) he experiences real freedom and real life.
And real freedom is FREEDOM FROM and FREEDOM TO
First of all…It’s freedom FROM DEATH
The greatest aspect of a Christian’s freedom is that if we accept the gift that Jesus Christ died on the cross to take our place…
We were pardoned by Him. Forgiven by Him. Set free.
And even though we should have been condemned to hell, we’ve been set free to go to heaven.
The freedom of Heaven…the freedom of eternity in heaven…trumps all pursuits of freedom on earth.
And one of the main reasons that doing “What I want, when I want, and how I want” is no freedom at all, is because if you’re marching in the depth of your pleasures straight towards the eternal bondage of hell…that’s no freedom at all.
Also, the Bible says, when we get saved, we become a new creation.
And God starts to free us FROM our sin.
The Bible says we’re not a slave to our sins anymore.
It doesn’t mean we become perfect.
But we start to get free from addictions…start to get some level of mastery over the things that have plagued us, and God starts changing us.
It’s a freedom that you could NEVER live in if you’re still seeking God as a reward…or trying to live young, wild and free.
But this real freedom in the middle is not just a freedom FROM, it’s even deeper than that…it’s a freedom TO
It’s a freedom TO actually love one another.
Paul points out in verses 13-14 that when you’re not falling for the fake freedoms, we should be…and we can be…loving one another.
But you aren’t free to do that when we’re on either side.
When you’re trying to be good enough for God…it feels like you’re never good enough…so you become so focused on your self.
When you’re trying to indulge your flesh…it never satisfies…so you also become obsessed with filling yourself.
But when you get the amazing grace of God…that He loves you and forgives you DESPITE who you are and what you’ve done…
It’s the only place where you’re actually start to feel full…start to feel FREE to really love other people
Let me submit one final idea to you.
Love…is actually the most liberating freedom of all.
The greatest freedom is not religion (It’s not doing all the religious sacraments and earning your way)
The greatest freedom is not living young, wild, and free.
The greatest freedom is love.
And the greatest of the great is God’s love.
And deep down…you may even know this. Because love (not freedom of choice) is our greatest desire.
YET…yet…if you want the freedoms of love (fulfillment, security, sense of worth) , interestingly enough, you have to limit your freedom in many ways
You cannot enter a deep relationship…and then just do what you want…when you want…how you want.
If you’re married…good luck with that kind of lifestyle.
To experience love…you give up.
You limit your freedoms.
You say…okay…I’m not going to do just what I feel like doing in my flesh…I’m covenanted together with you.
Or even think of the love we have for our kids (if you have kids)
It’s an AMAZING love.
But think about how much FREEDOM you give UP to be able to experience it.
Freedom to really LIVE LIFE is not the absence of constraints;
Just like the fish…it’s just finding the right ones
And I want to tell you what we understand in our relationships is also true about true freedom and God.
True life, true freedom is in submitting to God.
It’s about being in a love relationship with Him…where we “give up” apparent worldly freedoms, but in reality, actually find a greater joy.
And even God himself…gave up…and sacrified for us.
For He came down off of His glorious throne…and came to US…and even died…in our place…all for our freedom.
So I plead with you this morning…trust this:
The most freedom…the most life…you will ever experience is in following God.
Is living in grace.
It truly is.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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