Pentecost 6, 2016
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
“Freedom in Christ.”
Grace, Mercy and Peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1) As Americans you would think that we would understand liberty better than anyone else. We are the "land of the free and the home of the brave!" In just over a week we will celebrate our nation’s independence with fireworks and parades. On the other hand Luther taught us about the bondage of the will to sin over and over again in this life because we are sinners. On our own we are slaves to our own sinfulness. And yet Luther reminds us of our freedom in Christ. But do we Christians live as free people, do we act like free people, do we look like free people?
I’m sure that none of us like to hear about what we have done wrong. I know that I resent the fact of being caught doing the wrong thing. Many times it seems that we aren’t sorry for doing something wrong...rather we are sorry for getting caught. We like to think of ourselves being free to do whatever we like whenever we want. We often abuse our liberty in Christ. We neglect others that need our help, comfort and support. We neglect our faith by skipping worship, prayer, and devotions. I even find myself at times questioning why I go to Church on vacation…but am thankful at the nourishment I receive from hearing God’s Word when I do go and being able to sit with my family and take communion with my wife. We don’t want to hear it…but we are truly poor miserable sinners that give up our freedom in Christ for the bondage of sin.
“For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Galatians 5:13-18)
A mother, on leaving home to go downtown, told her little son, “Johnny, while I am gone, don’t get into the jam.” “No, Mother, I won’t,” he promised. When she returned, the mother noticed jam between Johnny’s fingers and in the corners of his mouth. “Didn’t I tell you not to get into the jam, Johnny?” “Yes, mother, you did.” “Johnny, didn’t I tell you that when Satan tempts you, you should tell him to get behind you?” “Yes…but when he got there, he pushed me right on in.” Aren't we the same as little Johnny? Don't we give in...and blame Satan or others?
We all hear the Lord’s Word that is spoken to each of us. We hear His call to help and serve. In all sorts of ways we hear our Lord but we fail to listen. When we fail we blame others. We blame the devil for making us sin. We blame God for putting us into the wrong situations. We accuse God by questioning why he would put us in a situation that he knows we will fail. Yet it is God that promises to be with us always no matter where you are. It is God that promises to give you the strength to overcome all your anxieties, fears, and temptations. It is God that always gives us the words to say to others. It is you and me that push Him away so that we can fall into temptation and sin. The truth is that we are in a constant Spiritual battle with the world and our flesh until we die.
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)
Oh the number of sins mentioned here. We hate to hear these things; we hate to be accused of these things, we hate to be convicted of these sins. And yet there are so many more sins that could be included here that aren’t. We know the sins we commit better than anyone around us but it is God that knows them all; it is God that mourns each time we sin and push him away. None of us are innocent for we all sin and fall short of the glory of God.
Often we feel the guilt of our sin and promise God not to do it again; especially when we get caught. This is the last time, we say. I’ll know not to do it the next time I’m tempted. We feel bad for doing these things, we ask God for forgiveness and beg for His grace, we promise our Lord so many times…and only a few moments later sin again. Why is it that we just can’t seem to stop? The end is so near, I can see it, I can almost touch it…but we just can’t make it. We feel like failures. We feel alone.
But we aren't alone. The Holy Spirit reminds us of our Savior’s love. God gives us His Word to lift us up out of the muck and mire of this world. Each week we are able to come to the Lord’s house and receive His forgiveness. Not only do we receive forgiveness but our Lord strengthens us with His word, His body, and His blood. Through Christ we are able to do great and wonderful things.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) By God’s grace we are not just sinners but saints as Christians. As Christians it seems that we never see the joyous outcome of our own actions. Yet you and I are free as Christians. It is in the fruit of the Spirit that we see our freedom shine so brightly: when we show our love to others by helping them, when we have joy and peace, when we have patience with others and ourselves; when we show kindness and goodness by our thoughts and actions to others…when we do these things we then show our faithfulness to our Lord. The Holy Spirit shows us so many bright spots in our lives. These acts are beacons to others to see; we are witnesses not only to unbelievers but to each other as well.
Self-sacrifice is one of many qualities that shows Jesus to be more than a great teacher, more than a religious leader; it shows the love of the Redeemer of all people. Self-sacrifice: for Paul, getting up out of the dust of Damascus road meant giving up prestige, honor, career, and even life. For Luther it meant giving up safety and the quiet life of a monk. For William Carey, the inspired cobbler of London, it meant more of the scorching sun of India instead of a chair at Oxford University. For Livingstone it meant leaving his bones in some forgotten kraal in Africa. For Chalmers it meant a bloody end on the coast of New Guinea. Are you willing to step behind that glorious army who bore in their bodies Jesus mark of self-sacrifice?
We do not do good works to earn anything. We do not do good works to show off or to gain popularity. We do good works out of faith and love. Good works are marks of the Christian. Good works are fruit of the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that drives us to serve and yes it is the Holy Spirit that must drag us to serve also. Jesus has died for you, me, and all people in this world. It is Jesus that gives us the strength to go out and proclaim His love to all people. It is Jesus that leads us to serve others. It is Jesus that won your salvation on the cross and it is Jesus that carries us to eternal salvation in heaven when we stumble and fall. We are free...to serve and to love all people in Christ. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.