The Proper Use of Christian Freedom (Galatians Sermon 17 of 26)
April 27, 2014 | Andy Davis
Christian Freedom, Works of the Flesh
Pastor Andy Davis preaches a verse-by-verse expository sermon on Galatians 5:13-15 exploring how Christians can responsibly use their freedom.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
Isn't that marvelous? That a week after Easter we still get to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Amen. It's not over when Easter is over, we get to do this every week. We get to celebrate Jesus' resurrection victory. He who was dead, he who was in the tomb, on the third day God raised him from the dead, and He was seen by many witnesses and they proclaimed in Jesus, the Gospel of forgiveness of sins and we have believed that Gospel. And it's my privilege today and I've just been marveling at God's grace to me to get to do this week after week, to get to stand in front of you and proclaim in Jesus the forgiveness of sins. And how awesome is that, that I get to stand in front of you and proclaim to you that if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, all your sins are forgiven, and that you are free.
Now the Apostle Paul got to do that with the Galatians, he got to go to that town, and he got to preach in that region and preach the Gospel. Many of them that heard Paul believed and by the Holy Spirit they repented, and they became followers of Jesus Christ. But after Paul left, some false teachers came in with the false Gospel. And they sought to draw them away from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ and to follow a different Gospel which is no Gospel at all. It was a poisonous mixture of repentance and faith in Christ plus obedience to the laws of Moses, and the doorway into that life of bondage, that life of slavery under the law of Moses was circumcision. And so they were saying, “unless you are circumcised and unless you keep the law of Moses you cannot be saved.” And that makes Jesus recede and get smaller and smaller. And so Paul wrote this incredible epistle of freedom to correct that false doctrine and to heal them from the poison that Satan had tried to inject into their spiritual veins, so that they would know the freedom they have in Christ and that they would celebrate it.
Now, I've been marveling about the truths of this chapter, Galatians 5, a very deep and rich and full chapter. And my mind went to a moment in church history when Martin Luther, the German monk that God was using to bring about reformation and reclamation of the true Gospel in Germany from medieval Catholicism, and from all the false doctrine that had flowed for centuries in Europe, false understanding of the Gospel. God used him for reformation. He wrote a treatise in 1520, entitled The Freedom of a Christian. And he began by asserting two seemingly contradictory ideas, thesis. Number one, listen to this, “A Christian is a perfectly free Lord of all, subject to none.” Number two, “A Christian is a perfectly dutiful slave of all, subject to all.” Now he supported that from one text, 1 Corinthians 9:19. There the Apostle Paul talking about his proclamation ministry and his strategies, he goes from place to place speaking about Jews and Gentiles. He had a certain strategy, he says this in 1 Corinthians 9:19, "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all."
Well, that's his supporting text for that seemingly contradictory argument he's trying to make. I think you can get those ideas right out of our text today and out of Galatians 5. How is it that we as Christians are perfectly free Lords of all, subject to none? Well, that has to do, dear friends, with the mystery, the glory of justification. When it comes to our salvation from sin, there is no one between you and God. You have Jesus as your mediator and no one else can stand between you and God. You need no other mediator, you don't need any authorities coming in there. You don't need any help from the Pope or from Councils or from priests or any of these things or authority figures that come in, you just need Christ. He alone, the God man is the mediator between you and our Holy God. And by Christ alone can you be freed from your bondage, your true bondage and that is bondage to sin. Jesus said in John 8, "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. But if the son sets you free you'll be free indeed."
How many of you could testify like Jessica did earlier? "I am free indeed through Jesus. And I didn't need anyone to come minister that to me that was Jesus. He alone is my mediator between me and God." Are you free, have you been set free? Are you right now as you're listening to me, right now, free from all condemnation, free from all sin? Are you free from Satan's kingdom? Are you free from sin's bondage? Are you free from fear of death? Are you free from all condemnation? Jessica talked about Roman's 8:1. Are you set free now from all condemnation? If you're a Christian you can say, yes! Yes! Yes, a thousand! I'm set free! And that wasn't anything that was mediated to me by some legalistic authority figure coming in and telling me what's what with the law. So I'm free from all of that. Set free forever from these things.
Paul was adamant about that. He actually in some moments in this letter sounds angry about these human authority figures, these legalists that are coming to kind of wrap chains of bondage around the people that he'd seen the gospel set free. And so he argues like a free man in Galatians 1:10, he says, "Am I now trying to win the approval of man or of God? Or am I trying to please man or God. If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." So he says, "I'm perfectly free Lord of all and I'm not subject to any human being." But now, Paul in our text is saying, "Okay, what are we going to do with that freedom?" And what he's saying in our text today is, "You're going to become a slave to everyone you meet." Huh? Scratch your head, question mark. How can that be? How can we be free from every human authority, where no one can come and tell me that I'm not forgiven, no one can get between me and God. And yet here I am, called to become a slave to everyone. That we are to be in a beautiful Christ-like service to others in love.
07:02 S1: It says right there, "Serve one another in love." Putting it even stronger, "Enslave yourselves to other people in love." Because the entire law is summed up in a single command, love your neighbor as yourself. So we come now to understanding the true boundaries of Christian freedom. How do we understand Christian freedom? Most people, when they start to understand the gospel of freedom are tempted to understand it selfishly, tempted to understand it through the flesh. As I said a couple of weeks ago, people, Americans, we tend to think of freedom in terms of the ability to do anything you want to do anytime you want to do it, with no repercussions. A complete severing of any shackles and chains and boundaries, and requirements that could restrict your ability to do whatever you want to do. If you want to go there, you go there, if you want to eat this, you eat it, if you want to jump off a cliff and soar like a bird you can do it. If you want to have this possession, you can have it. If you want to say these words, you can say them. No boundaries, no rules, no restrictions, no regrets.
I. Called to Soaring Freedom… to Please God (verse 13)
Is that what freedom is? Is that what we're to do now with our gospel freedom? The Bible has a lot to say about freedom. Galatians 5 is a centerpiece. We've already been told in Galatians 5:1, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. But today, Paul is going to instruct us on what is the proper use of that freedom, what are the boundary lines around that freedom. So look at verse 13 again, we are called to soaring freedom, but that freedom is to please God. Look at verse 13, "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather serve one another in love."
So as I said a couple of weeks ago, just picture freedom in this way, the ability to run, or fly, or swim in whatever area God created that creature to run or swim or fly in. The freedom of an eagle to soar on the thermals, the freedom of a gazelle to run across the tundra, the freedom of dolphins to leap and play in the sea. And the freedom of Christians to delight in God's will for you. That's the essence of Christian freedom. That's what it is. If we are now set free by the gospel, we are set free by the spirit to delight in God's revealed will for you. That's a different kind of definition than what I was citing earlier. Vastly different definition of freedom than that in the minds of people committed to a form of libertarianism. They're marching in the streets with fist in the air, chanting for their rights. Demanding legislation to support and protect their rights, chanting slogans with fists in the air. Those people define freedom as the right to do anything that makes them happy as they define it.
"The freedom of an eagle to soar on the thermals, the freedom of a gazelle to run across the tundra, the freedom of dolphins to leap and play in the sea. And the freedom of Christians to delight in God's will for you."
Many times, the rights that they're seeking to defend so vigorously are things the Bible calls evil. Their idea of freedom is self-defined. It's linked to their pleasures, it's linked to their flesh, like in the days of Judges. For it says in Judges 21:25, "In those days, there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in his own eyes." So that's how people define freedom in our age. It's self-defined. But I think Christian freedom is the power to delight in and to do God's will for you. And that's going to be defined as Paul does in this text by his law. In other words, he is going to bring us back having been set free from the law in one sense, he's going to now bring us back to the law in another sense. We are set free from the law in its power to condemn us and send us to hell. We are set free from the law in its ability to assault and to bind our conscience and to accuse us of wrongdoing. We're set from the minutia of the law and its ability to define a godly life for you in very detailed prescriptions about what you can and can't eat, what you can and can't wear, where you must go three times a year to assemble for worship and all that, set free for those things. Set free from the requirements to circumcise your boy babies on the eighth day, set free from those things.
But that doesn't mean we're done with the law, not at all. Actually, now brought back to the law to understand it. That we are now free to run in the path of God's commands because he has set our hearts free. Psalm 119:32, to delight in what God wills for us. So now we come again to facing, as we have often times in the studying Galatians, the twin dangers of legalism on one side and license on the other. And for the rest of Galatians 5, he's going to be working, I think, primarily on the issue of license. Most of the book has been on the issue of legalism and he has dealt very plainly with that. We are not justified by works of the law but by simple faith in Christ. And so he is against legalism, in verse one he said, "It's for freedom that Christ has set us free, stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." He's talking there about the Judaizers and their enslaving legalistic doctrine. But then in verse 13, he's against license. He says in verse 13, "You my brothers were called to be free but do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh."
Tim Keller put it this way, "Don't lose gospel freedom," verse 1, "And don't abuse gospel freedom," verse 13. John MacArthur put it this way talking about legalism and license, he said this, "Someone has pictured legalism and license as two parallel streams that run between heaven and earth. The stream of legalism is clear sparkling and pure because God's law is pure and holy, but its waters run so deep and furiously that no one can enter that stream without being drowned or smashed on the rocks of its unrelenting demands. On the other hand, the stream of license, by contrast, is relatively quiet, still, and shallow, and crossing it seems easy and attractive but its waters are so contaminated with poisons and pollutants that to try to cross it is also certain death. Both streams therefore are uncrossable, both are deadly. One because of impossible moral and spiritual demands, the other because of moral and spiritual filth. But spanning those two deadly streams is the bridge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The only passage there is from earth to heaven, these two streams lead to death because they are man's ways but the Gospel leads to life because it is God's way."
So those are the dangers and I find that image helpful. All right? We have these opposite dangers both of them will destroy our soul, both of them expressions, really, of the flesh, two different expressions of the flesh, but the Gospel calls us to freedom. And we are free. You are free if you're a Christian, and if you're not, I just want to plead with you trust in Christ crucified and resurrected. Put your faith in Jesus the Son of God, he died in the place of sinners to give them a gift of righteousness. Don't leave this place in the invisible spiritual chains that you carried when you walked in here, chains of guilt, condemnation, and fear of death and judgment, but be immediately freed by putting your faith in Christ.
Jesus said, "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin" John 8:34. Romans 6:20 says, "We were slaves of sin." We were also slaves to Satan, it says in Ephesians 2, "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live. When you follow the ways of this world and of the ruler of the Kingdom of the air, that's Satan, the Spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of the flesh and following its desires and thoughts, and like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath..." and because of that we were under the wrath and curse of God. Romans 2:5 says, "Because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant hearts, you're storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath when His righteous judgement will be revealed."
So we had unseen chains binding us to continue to live like that, the chains of the flesh which were internal lusts and drives that bound us and kept us from living to please God. The chains of Satan's power, unseen influences, unseen clever temptations and flaming arrows that guaranteed that we were going to continue in bondage to him. And the chains of addiction and habits and lusts and the world's influence. This chain, Romans 7:15, "I do not understand what I do, for what I do I do not want to do. And the good I want to do, I do not do." So these invisible chains are now broken in Christ. We are completely free from all compulsion to sin, Amen, hallelujah! You are free from sin by Christ.
Now, Christian freedom is a mysterious mix of already and not yet. We are completely free from sin's authority to command, free from sin's ability to condemn, but we're not free from sin's presence in our flesh. In the indwelling sin, that's there and driving us still to do evil things. Now, sin doesn't have any power to command us, Satan doesn't have any power to command us, says in Roman 6:14, "Sin shall not be your master because you're not under law but under grace." Romans 6:18 says, "You've been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness," but because of the ongoing power of the flesh, we are commanded to live up to our freedom. We have to fight to do it. We have to fight to not be burdened by a yoke of bondage, either in legalism or license. We are called to be free and this is an upward call living more and more like Jesus Christ, serving God and others. Living a more and more joyous powerful heavenly life, living as free from sin as you were at one time, free from righteousness. You used to live free from righteousness. Righteousness seemed to have no claim on you when you were lost. It says in Roman 6:20, "When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness." Now everything has changed, and we are to live as free from sin.
"We have to fight to not be burdened by a yoke of bondage, either in legalism or license. We are called to be free and this is an upward call living more and more like Jesus Christ, serving God and others."
Free like Jesus. Amen? The freest man that ever lived, completely free. Think about the freedom of Jesus. I like this. In John 14, Jesus getting his disciples ready for the events of that night, He's going to be arrested. He's going to be bound up like a criminal. He's going to be condemned and He's going to die on the cross. But I assert, He's a free man all the way through that whole thing, absolutely free. And it's interesting what he says before He's arrested in John 14:30-31, he says to his disciples, "I will not speak with you much longer for the prince of this world is coming." Now don't think of the Roman authorities or Annas, or Caiaphas. Think of Satan. "Satan is coming for me. The Prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me." Think about that. "But the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me to do." Do you see that? "Satan has no hold on me, no compulsion on me. He has no power over me. He has no ability to accuse me. I've never sinned and he knows it. He cannot accuse me of any wrongdoing. He has no claim on me, whatsoever. But the reason I'm going to die is I want the world to see what obedience looks like. I want to go to the cross and obey completely everything my Father has told me to do." It's completely free, all the time, at every moment.
And so He offers to you that same freedom. "If the son sets you free, you will be free indeed." You'll be as free as I am. It says in Romans 8:2, through Christ Jesus, "the law of the spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death." 2 Corinthians 3:17, it says, "Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." So we are free in Jesus and we're called on to live as free people, but in order to do that, we have to understand what this freedom doesn't mean and what it does mean.
II. Christian Freedom Does Not Indulge the Flesh (verse 13)
First of all, Christian freedom does not indulge the flesh. Look at verse 13, "You my brothers were called to be free but do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh" or as different translation says, "an opportunity for the flesh." So the first thing you need to know is know that you're free, truly free, free from sin, then don't sin! Don't use this new freedom you have as an opportunity to indulge the flesh. Now, first of all, this is the very thing Paul's opponents were saying that his doctrine was open to, that he's an Antinomian. He's saying the law doesn't mean anything anymore. You don't need to be circumcised. It doesn't matter how you live. Jesus has come to set you free. He's saying, "This is not what we're teaching." He says in Romans 3:8, "Why not say as we are being slanderously reported as saying and that some claim that we say. Let us do evil that good may result." They had got the doctrine wrong. Wherever the true Gospel appears and starts to preach this kind of freedom, immediately people start saying, "Well, then if that's true, you can sin as much as you want and still go to heaven." Ever heard people say that? If that's true that you're forgiven for all your sins, past present and future in an instant by faith, then what's going to stop people from being wicked and immoral? They haven't understood the Gospel. They haven't understood this freedom that Paul is talking about here. Jesus came to save us from sin completely like the angel said to Joseph, "You will give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins."
So what does it mean now? It says, "You, my brothers were called to be free but do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh." What do we mean by flesh? We have to face this now full on. Try to understand this word. The Greek word flesh is "sarx." Sometimes that word has to do with just animal flesh, like the flesh of a bull or a goat, something like that, or flesh and bone. Jesus had flesh in His resurrection body. He said, "A spirit doesn't have flesh and bones, as you see I have." So it's the physical stuff you can touch, the stuff of the body. But usually in the New Testament, it has to do with a drive toward sin and an innate drive that we have toward rebellion and sin. The NIV doesn't just translate it into “flesh,” but in those cases every time it says “sinful nature.” It's the drive of our minds and bodies toward habitual rebellion against God.
Now for years, we trained our minds and bodies by yielding to temptations. We are habitual. All of us, all people build up habits. It's why athletes practice free throws over and over and over, so that just have the muscle memory. They don't even think about it. They just do it. So we were with sin. We just had trained ourselves for years in sin. It's habitual rebellion. So there's an inner drive of self-worship, making the most of myself, thinking about ourselves all the time. I don't know if you remember a few years ago, the yellow pages. Do you guys even remember the yellow pages? Some of you do. All right. The rest of you, over the last few years, you see them at the bottom or at the end of peoples’ driveways, getting soaked with rain. Have you seen that?
I felt sorry for the people that did all the ads, and the delivery, and all that, all those people. But I didn't feel sorry enough to bring it in the house. But they had these clever ads about different things or advertisements in the yellow page. Now really funny, there are a lot of funny ones. But I like this one. A room full of really eccentric Hollywood-type people wearing interesting clothes and all that. And they're just going around just doing all this boasting and just talking in this kind of way. Boasting about themselves and all this sort of stuff. And finally this one woman with this elaborate outfit and all that she says, "Well enough about me. Let's talk about you. What do you think about my hat?"
And then the word was vanity cases. I don't know if I even know what a vanity case is but it's just a bunch of egotists that are out there… But that's us. A relentless drive to me-ism. What's making me happy? What makes me feel good? That's the essence of the flesh. And it drives normal bodily desires beyond boundaries that God set up. Eating becomes gluttony. Drinking wine becomes drunkenness. Marital relations becomes adultery and fornication and other sins, sexual sins. So that's the flesh, it drives beyond boundaries. Possession becomes materialism, that kind of thing. Good gifts get abused by the flesh.
Now, how could our freedom then be an opportunity for the flesh? Well the word “opportunity” here, often you could picture it as a base of operations. Think about World War II, think about D-Day Normandy. Okay, June 6, 1944. On June 7, 1944, this beachhead was expanded, the hard one the blood-soaked beach there was used as a base of operations for the Allies to begin their reconquest of France and of all of Europe. And so man and materials and arms and food and supplies were just pouring in now. Pouring in on this beachhead. Well, that's the picture here, don't use this freedom as a beachhead for the flesh to serve its lust. That's what he's saying here. Don't do this.
And this happens when Christians think this way, "It really doesn't matter how I live now that I'm forgiven. It doesn't matter how I live now that I'm definitely going to heaven. I'll be forgiven no matter what I do, I'll go to heaven no matter what. Once saved, always saved. Right? Isn't that what the pastor said? So I can live however I want and I can do whatever I want without being too worried about what will happen after I die." Now this kind of doctrine has been around since the beginning of the church. In 2 Peter chapter 2, Peter the apostle is writing against false teachers but not the legalist type, the license type. It says of them, "They promise their disciples freedom while they themselves are slaves of depravity, for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him." And it says of them, "With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning. They're experts in greed and accursed brood." So they're teaching this. They're openly, in 2 Peter 2, teaching that because of Christ, it doesn't matter what you do with your body, you're still going to heaven. Well that's not true. It's a lie from the pit of hell. It matters very much whether you're fighting for holiness. Very much.
If you are a Christian, you will fight the flesh. Absolutely. That's what's being taught. Now, in our day, you have forms of, kind of, cotton candy Christianity. You see it easily in the media. You can see it on networks and other things. You can see preachers getting up there avoiding controversial topics, saying things that everyone likes, things that everyone can agree on, staying positive, want to be positive. Don't want to be talk about difficult topics, like pornography or other wickedness and sins in our culture. We don't want to discuss these things. We want to stay positive.
Well, in Luke 6:26 it says, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you for that's how they spoke about the false prophets." But what would cause everyone to speak well about a teacher? Well, if he always stays positive people would be tempted to speak positive things about him all the time. False teachers. We have to be willing to address the hard issues of facing issues of holiness and issues of sin and controversial topics and standing in there and speaking words of righteousness into the lives of those who are completely forgiven for sin. And that's the very thing I want to do here. How do we live this out? There's so much worldliness today. So much indulgence of worldly input, from internet, movies, and books and magazines. And Christians go trolling through the sewer system of our culture to try to find some pleasure. And it's deadly dangerous to our souls.
And we're thinking, "You know, God will forgive me, God will protect me. It doesn't matter what I look at on the internet." Well, it does matter. "If your right eye cause you to sin," Jesus said, "gauge it out and throw it away. It's better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell." Why would he link lust to hell? Because that's what we're talking about here, the deadly dangerous sin. Well, how does the New Testament refute this? Well, Peter refutes it in one verse. 1 Peter 2:16, "Live as free men but do not use your freedom as a cover up for evil. Live as servants of God." So freedom shouldn't be a cloak for evil. Not at all, any more than in Galatians here, it should not be a base of operations for evil. That's not what freedom was meant for, to live however you want. Paul then spends three chapters refuting it in Roman 6-8. Remember, he says at the end of Romans five, "Where sin abounds," what? "grace abounds all the more." If that's not one of the sweetest verses in the bible I don't know what is. Amen. Hallelujah!
I have likened that verse before to this. This is the image I have. I can't shake it, it's just in my head. I need a new one because as a preacher you need new images. But this is the one I have. Grace is like the Pacific Ocean and sin is like a fire. And someone's fire is like a match and someone's like a torch and someone is like a beach bonfire and someone's sin is like the Twin Towers on September 11th. But if you take that match and you put it in the Pacific Ocean it goes out. And you take that torch and you put it in the Pacific Ocean it goes out. And you take that bonfire, you put it in the Pacific Ocean it goes out. You even take the World Trade Center, you put it in the Pacific Ocean, it goes out. God's Grace is greater than all of our sins. And that's an awesome thing, but the next thing he says in Romans 6 is, "What then, shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase, may it never be." So as part of my job as a pastor and discipler is to make you say that with more and more vehemence, even violence, as you go on in your Christian life.
"Shall I go on sinning so that grace may increase, may it never be," that you would be violent about temptations. That you'll be angry about the poison it's trying to bring in your life and say, "I've gotta fight this, it's deadly evil." So Romans 6:11, I've got to count myself dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. "What then shall we," verse 15, "shall we sin because we're not under law but under grace? By no means. You are the servant to the one you actually submit yourself to and obey, whether it's sin which leads to death or to obedience which leads to righteousness and into eternal life."
Then he says, as Jessica said earlier, in Romans 8:1-4, "Therefore, there's now no condemnation," well, for anybody? No, for a specific category of people. Who? Who is there no condemnation for? Well, "There's therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," comma not period comma, "because through Christ Jesus the law of the spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do and that it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending His son in the likeness of the flesh, and so we condemn sin in the flesh in order that," listen to this, "the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live by the flesh but by the spirit."
So if you're living by the flesh, there's condemnation for you because you're not a Christian. That's the logic of Romans 8. It is, read it right through. If you're living by the spirit there's no condemnation for you. And then he says the culmination for me is there Romans 8:13-14. "If you indulge or live according to the flesh, you will die, [that means go to hell] But if by the spirit, you put to death the misdeeds of the body you'll live, [that means go to heaven] Because those who are led by the spirit of God, those are the children of God." You see, it's clear isn't it? Every Christian is at war and that's where we're going in Galatians five, just look at the next verse and verse 16 at the end. There's a war between the spirit and the flesh. We'll talk about it God willing, very soon.
So let me just immediately stop and apply this. How are you using your freedom? Just assess your own life right now. Do you think I'm forgiven and will be cleansed by grace while you look at internet pornography; is that going on for you? Do you think it doesn't matter what books I read, it doesn't matter what novels I read, what romantic novels or different things, it doesn't matter what magazines I look at? It doesn't make any impact on me what movies I watch. I'm not under law. Do you bristle when pastors, like me, meddle in matters of personal lifestyle, thinking that such preaching is really legalistic? Do you think I can skip my quiet time so I can skip church regularly because I don't want to be legalistic in the Christian life, are you thinking like that? Do you think to have a regular time of intercessory prayer or Bible reading is legalistic, that you're going to be disciplined about that? Do you think that for FBC to emphasize the absolute need for personal holiness and the internal journey is legalistic? Do you use your freedom as a cover up for evil? Do you live as though all that matters is that grace is greater than all our sins or is there more truth besides that?
III. Christian Freedom Serves Others in Love (verse 13)
Now, not only are we not to indulge the flesh, we are to serve others in love. Look at verse 13 and following. "You my brothers were called to be free but do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather serve one another in love." As I've said, Christian freedom is the power to do what is right. To delight in what is right and to do it. That means not only pleasing God, but serving others. To stop being fanatically committed to yourself. Look around you, look around to the body of Christ, look around to the people around you and serve them in love, that's what it says. Christian freedom means serving others in love.
"Now, not only are we not to indulge the flesh, we are to serve others in love. "
Do you realize that what I've been saying is that you folks, you genuine Christians are infinitely rich? All of your needs are met. You're free from Satan and sin and death and hell? You're free to Christ, and to serve him and you're free to inherit the new heaven and the new earth, the home righteousness. You are wealthy. All your needs are met. So get busy serving others. You don't need anything, you see. That's how it works. Think about Jesus; you remember the night before he was crucified in John 13. He looked around and noticed a bunch of dirty feet, remember that story? And, I think, it's so interesting how in John 13, how John sets up the foot washing. He says, "Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from the world and having loved his own, he loved them to the end," to the fullest extent then it says, "Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into His hands and that He had come from God and was going back to God." He knew all that.
Well, you can know similar things about yourself. All right? So, "He got up from the supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, tied it around himself, poured water in a basin, began to wash His disciples' feet drying them with the towel." So I think you Christians should do the same thinking, "I know that I'm a child of God. I know all my sins are forgiven, all my needs are going to be met, everything I need for life is going to be provided for me, I'm going to heaven when I die, that's all secure, what do I do now? Serve others in love, serve."
So Jesus taught this, "You know that," in Matthew 20, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lorded over them and their high officials exercise authority over them not so with you, instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be your slave, just as the son of man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many." So just stop for a moment and apply this point. By the power of the spirit, do you understand that we are enabled to forget about ourselves and live for others? Do you understand that? How is your life of service going? How's it going? What's going on in your life? Are you serving others in love? Are you using your freedom to live for other people? Is there a regular pattern of laying down your life in cheerful service to the needs of others? Are you visiting the sick? Are you evangelizing the lost? Are you caring for the elderly? Are you sacrificing for the poor? Are you counseling discouraged people or troubled people? Are you discipling people, building them up in their faith? Are you doing these things?
Young people, let me speak to the young people, are you using that strength and energy that you have, and I admire it more with every passing year it's awesome. Are you using that strength and energy and freedom that you have to serve those that have less strength and energy than you have? Are you using it to help the elderly? Using it help people that are struggling because they can't take care of their houses as much now, maybe a widow? Are you using your time and energy to serve others?
Rich people, okay, please don't anyone slink down at this moment, all you rich people, alright, are you using your money to advance the gospel? Are you using your money for the relief of the poor? Are you using your money to support some of those young and energetic people who want to set themselves apart for ministry and just need money to do it?
Homeowners, is there a regular pattern of hospitality in your life? Can I just stop and say for a moment, I just want to say thank you to all of you that are hosting home fellowships. I want to just say thank you and I would urge all of you that are attending home fellowships but are not hosting home fellowships, to thank your host families tonight. It's a lot of work. They labor for you to serve you. I just want to say thank you. Let me just say big picture, I have never been in a church like FBC that has so much of a heart of self sacrificial service, this is a great church in that regard. I find, I have been blessed for 16 years by the generosity and the prayers, notes of encouragement, ways that you all have loved on me and my family more than I can count. I'm just saying, I'm asking and urging you in the Lord to do so more and more. Let's serve one another in love. I already see this up and running at FBC, let's do it more and more, Amen. And if you're not involved, be involved, serve one another in love.
Paul says in verse 14, Christian freedom fulfills law, "the whole law is fulfilled in this one word, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" The whole law fulfilled in this one word, that's a mystery. Jesus gave us two commandments, right? First and greatest commandment is love the lord your God with all your hearts soul mind and strength. Second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. Everything hangs on these two, this is the second table of the law, the human aspect. This moral law is still binding on us Christians. Do you know that? We're set free from the law’s condemning power but now we are empowered to love God and to love our neighbor and that fulfills the law. We must obey the law by the power of the spirit. Now, God's law is excellent, isn't it? It's the best possible way to live and that's what I'm saying to you, you want to live the best life? Live the law. Not to forgive you for your sins, not to earn God's smile or favor but because this is the best way you can possibly live.
I like this, Psalm 119:97, "Oh, how I love your law, I meditate on it all day long." Well, Psalm 19, "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statues of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and all together righteous. They are more precious than gold, even than much pure gold, they're sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb." so the law gives us these commandments, you shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal or bear false witness. Paul says in Romans 13, "Love doesn't harm your neighbor, so love is the fulfillment of the law." But we know it goes beyond just not just harming, we are serving one another in love. It's a whole different kind of life.
Finally, Christian freedom does not destroy others, look at verse 15, he says "If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you'll be destroyed by each other." This is really grievous. After Paul left, this beautiful little Christian community, fell apart because of these false teachers. Legalism came in and made them mean. Legalism came in and made them mean. They started judging each other, and being judged, resenting being judged but then feeling superior to others, that's just what the legalism does. It makes communities mean. But it's a problem for everybody. This is human nature. Have you ever heard the expression, "It's a dog-eat-dog world out there?" It's like acting like beasts and that's what this verse says, "If you keep on biting and devouring, ripping flesh, you're going to be destroyed by each other."
Well, when the flesh takes over, what happens in a marriage? This. When the flesh takes over in a parent-child relationship, what happens in that relationship? This happens. If false doctrine, either legalism or license, comes into a church, what starts to happen? This. I've seen it with my own eyes. Those of you who've been here my whole 16 years, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Biting, devouring, acting like animals and it's wickedness.
So Christian freedom is the anecdote to this, Amen. Treat each other not like dog eating dog, but we treat each other like brothers and sisters in Christ who are delighted to spend eternity with each other. That's what the Spirit does. Friends, we've been set free. We've been set free from sin, we're not going to use that freedom to indulge the flesh. We're rather going to serve each other in an increasing pattern of self-sacrifice to one another and we're going to stop acting like animals. We're going to act like holy people who are delighted to be on a journey to heaven together. Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank you for the things we've learned today, so much to know and Father I pray that you would teach us the Law now not as a way to justify ourselves from our sins but as a beautiful, the most perfect way to live. Teach us to love one another and serve one another. And Father, I pray that you would be working in the hearts of lost people, unregenerate people within the sound of my voice. Bring them to salvation through Faith in Christ. In your name, I pray. Amen.