Use Your Freedom To Serve One Another Through Love.
Big Idea: Use your freedom to serve one another through love.
Why? (1) because love fulfills the law (Galatians 5:13-15).
How? (2) by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt is undoubtedly one of the best known of all the U.S. presidents. He is the only president to be elected to the office four times and he led the United States through both The Great Depression and World War II. What you may not know about FDR is his very wealthy parents raised him on a large estate in New York and he had limited contact with the outside world because his mother was always with him and controlled his every move. According to one of my son’s favorite books, Kid Presidents, one day FDR had finally had enough. He was smothered, controlled, and he told his mother that he needed freedom. Sara Roosevelt was distraught, but after talking to her husband James, they decided to grant young FDR one day of freedom; he could go wherever he wanted to go, do whatever he wanted to do, and disregard all typical family rules for one day. Kid Presidents reports that the young FDR was out the door before Sara could finish her instructions, he returned late that night, but to this day no one knows how FDR spent his one day of complete freedom.
Freedom is what our journey through Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches is all about! You can almost summarize the entire letter with the opening sentence of our passage this morning: For you were called to freedom, brothers (Galatians 5:13a). FDR was set free from his mother’s watching eye and incessant rules for one day. What have you been set free from? The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), summarizes our freedom in Christ this way: “Christ has purchased for believers under the gospel freedom from the guilt of sin, from the condemning wrath of God, and from the curse of the moral law. He has also freed them from the evil world we live in, from enslavement to Satan, from the dominion of sin, the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grave, and from everlasting damnation. In Christ believers have free access to God and can obey him, not out of slavish fear, but with a childlike love and a willing mind.” If Christ has set you free you are free indeed.
None of us knows what FDR did with his day of freedom, but through our passage this morning, God will show you what to do with the freedom you’ve been called to in Christ. Galatians 5:13 – For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. That brings us to the big idea of our passage: Use your freedom to serve one another through love. Use your freedom to serve one another in love. We are going to take our passage in two parts, two points. First, we’ll look at why to use your freedom to serve one another through love and second we’ll look at how to use your freedom to serve one another through love. (All one one slide)Big Idea: Use your freedom to serve one another through love. Why? (1) because love fulfills the law (Galatians 5:13-15). How? (2) by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26).
BECAUSE LOVE FULFILLS THE LAW (GALATIANS 5:13-15)
Let’s look again at the key verse in our passage, Galatians 5:13-15 – For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Christ fulfills the covenant that God made with Israel through Moses. This means that the law of Moses has been fulfilled and has passed away. We are no longer under the smothering mother that is law, we are free in Christ (Galatians 3:24-25). However, our lives in the power of the Holy Spirit fulfill what the law always intended: serving one another through love. Use your freedom to serve one another through love, first, because love fulfills the law.
There is a very close connection between the freedom that we have in Christ and serving one another through love. Perhaps an illustration from my own life will help you see the connection between freedom in Christ and love for one another. One of my persistent temptations is to rehearse my conversations, sermons, actions, or even thoughts and dissect them for sin. Once I’ve determined that I’ve sinned, I am tempted to go on a self-centered confession tour until I get enough reassurance from people to feel better. But like scratching a Mosquito bite, the itch for reassurance is only temporarily relieved, and then I’m back to wondering if I’ve repented thoroughly enough to really be forgiven. Human righteousness and human saviors cannot work. It’s going back to slavery. And here is the irony: When I give into the slavery, I end up committing the real sin of not serving others through love. For example, at the end of the evening, Andrea and I love to talk about our days; she loves to talk and I love to listen. However, if during my conversation with Andrea there is actually another conversation going on in my head about a potential sin and I am unengaged with her, I am committing an actual sin: I am neglecting the specific law that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church and the broader law that all Christians are to love their neighbor as themselves. I am neglecting the weightier matter of love by caving in on myself. But here is where the close connection between freedom in Christ and serving one another comes in. When I turn away from introspection and take my many sins straight to Christ and experience again, as the WCF says, “freedom from the guilt of sin, from the condemning wrath of God, and from the curse of the moral law,” then I get free from the second conversation in my head and I am free to be present with Andrea, feel genuine concern for Andrea, and through love serve her in some tangible way, even if that’s just actively listening. In fact, increasing freedom from introspective scrupulosity has opened up probably the best season of marriage Andrea and I have ever had. Here is the point I hope my experience helps you see in your own life: Freedom in Christ and love for others go together like a bride and groom. When you experience the truth of your freedom in Christ, self-concern dies and you experience a resurrection of serving others through love. Use your freedom to serve one another through love because love fulfills what the law always intended.
Let’s begin to take this personally. Two encouragements. First, Ask Christ to set you free? Remember what the WCF says, “Christ has purchased for believers under the gospel freedom from the guilt of sin, from the condemning wrath of God, and from the curse of the moral law. He has also freed them from the evil world we live in, from enslavement to Satan, from the dominion of sin, the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grave, and from everlasting damnation. Christ has purchased freedom, but we get free when we receive him. Today you can experience this freedom by receiving and resting in Christ alone to set you free forever. Ask him to set you free.
Second, if you are free in Christ (a Christian), Serve one another through love? Serving one another through love actually begins with prayer. Let me explain. The words “through love” are so important because elsewhere Paul says that we deliver our bodies up to be burned in service to someone, but don’t love them, then it’s useless (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Serving someone is not the same as loving them and serving them without loving them is useless. Therefore, to serve others through love, first pray. First pray that God, who is love, will make others in this church dear to you. Love is when others are dear to you. So, the first step in serving others through love is to ask the Father to make Citylight Church dear to your heart. The second and simultaneous step is to take practical action in serving one another through love. Citylight, I love seeing you do this. I am so thankful for the countless ways, Citylight Church, that I see you serving one another through love. Look around you for a moment. Is your chair facing me? Do you have a Bible and a connect card? That’s because the set up team got up early and served you through love. Are your kids safe and learning of the glorious gospel in an age appropriate fashion? That’s because the Citylight Kids team is serving you through love. Is a cup of coffee keeping you awake through this sermon? That’s because the hospitality team served you through love. Do you love the congregational singing as much as I do, that’s because the worship and AV teams serve you through love. Is the Holy Spirit encouraging you in the gospel? That’s because the people who came to pre-service prayer served you through love. Through love you’re serving one another. And that’s just one day of the week! During the week, like many of you, my family will go to a dear friend’s house who selflessly opens their home to our Citygroup every week. We’ll eat a meal that someone has prepared and our kids will enjoy childcare that someone has arranged. We’ll open the Bible and a well-prepared leader will take us into its depths and help us pray for one another’s needs. And throughout the week, as one of your pastors, I’ll get to hear stories of meals delivered, financial support shared, encouragement in the faith being given and intentional spiritual good being done, from one to another so that you both become more like Christ. Be encouraged, you’re using your freedom to serve one another through love and if you’re not, you can get in on it. It can all start with your connect card. Use your freedom in Christ to serve one another in love because love fulfills the law. Transition: Now, anyone who has served others through love in fulfillment of the law for any period of time knows how easy it is to grow weary in serving others. How do we stay at it without growing weary or always wanting a break?
KEEP IN STEP WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
As Christians, we believe that there are three persons in one God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are the same in substance, equal in power and glory (New City Catechism). One of the most important passages in the Bible about the Holy Spirit and His role in making us Christians in the first place is Ezekiel 36:26-27 – And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. We became Christians when the Holy Spirit sovereignly gave us new, spiritual life so that we could believe. The theological term for this is regeneration. Additionally, when the Holy Spirit gave you new life, he also wrote God’s law, the law of love on your heart. When I was in graduate school, I developed a taste for coffee. When you became a Christian, you were given a taste for love. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. He gave you new life and now he gives you a taste for loving one another.
And that’s how we can serve one another through love without growing weary, by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit and the new taste that he has given us. Here is another way to think about it. When Andrea and I first moved to Philadelphia in the summer of 2011, I wanted to meet people so I went on an organized bike ride with the road biking group from Cadence Cycling here in Manayunk. I had never been on a tight group ride before and at one point I was hanging a couple yards off the back tire of the guy in front of me. The leader of the ride rode up next to me and told me that if the guy in front of me hit his brakes at this speed we were all going down anyway, so I might as well put my front tire six inches from his back tire and get the benefit of drafting. Despite my fear, I peddled on right up behind him and though it was still really hard work, his momentum pulled me along at a pace I could have never gone on my own. Friends, the Christian life is Holy Spirit drafting. The Holy Spirit is always moving in the direction of love and the Christian life is drafting off of him toward serving one another in love. And as we draft off the Holy Spirit, we experience strength to serve one another through love that we could never have on our own. Look at what our passage says. Galatians 5:22 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love…Galatians 5:25 – If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. The way to serve one another through love without growing weary is by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, drafting off of him.
What does it look like, practically, to draft off of the Holy Spirit? To keep in step with the Spirit? Galatians 5:16 – But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. The Holy Spirit produces the desire to serve one another through love. Our old flesh, as long as we’re in this body and life, produces the desire to disobey God and serve ourselves. The Christian life is a battle between the new desires that the Holy Spirit prompts in us and the old desires that the flesh prompts in us. So, how do we draft off the Holy Spirit? Give in. Give into the inclinations and desires to serve one another through love that the Holy Spirit produces in you. The Holy Spirit probably prompts you to serve one another through love everyday, whether that’s through praying for one another, offering an encouraging word to one another, or meeting a particular need someone has. Walk in step with the Spirit by following his lead, drafting off of him, toward love. Like the biker in front of me, he’ll pull you into acts of service through love you could have never produced in yourself. The Holy Spirit is leading you. He’s constantly prompting you to serve one another through love in ways large and small. When he prompts you, give into it, and draft off of him.
As we draft off of the Holy Spirit into serving one another through love, we’ll find that two wonderful things begin to happen. The first is that slowly but surely, little by little we begin to gratify the desires of the flesh less. The fruit of the flesh begins to die on a dry vine. What is this fruit that begins to die off in our lives? Well, Paul says it’s actually pretty obvious. Galatians 5:19-21 – Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Three important things to notice before we move to the fruit of the Spirit. First, the fruit of the flesh generally pops out in three categories: vertical sins (idolatry and sorcery), sexual sins (sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, and orgies), and social sins (enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, and drunkenness). Second, each fruit of the flesh destroys the true freedom of serving one another through love. They’re selfish vices. Finally, the first three vices mentioned are sexual sins. Each of our sexuality is so precious in the sight of God that we are not to violate it, even in the privacy of our own mind or on our own screen. Paul’s warning is clear and meant to wake us up: those who make a practice of doing such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Therefore, if you see yourself in this vice list, as well all to some extent do, don’t make a practice of it, repent of it. Turn from it to God, treasuring your forgiveness in Christ, turn to a trusted Christian friend to confess to them, and begin yielding to the Holy Spirit instead. When the flesh rises up, don’t indulge it. Don’t express it, even if it feels like the real you, it’s not. Confess it to death. Let it die. That brings us to the second wonderful thing that happens as we begin to draft off the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-24 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. When you walk in step with the Holy Spirit, as you follow the new desires to serve one another through love, wonderful fruit begins to emerge slowly but surely in your life. Now there are two things that I want you to notice about the fruit of the Spirit. First, they are fruit of the Spirit. In other words, this virtue list is not produced in your life through will power. Rather, this fruit emerges in your life as the Holy Spirit produces new desires in you, the Holy Spirit strengthens you to yield to those new desires, and live in accord with them. The Holy Spirit does the producing, we do the moment-by-moment yielding. Secondly, each virtue serves love. Joy in Christ serves the end of loving others out of the overflow. Peace in Christ serves the end of loving others from a place of settled stability. Patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness are all characteristics of love. And without self-control, love will never actually take shape. You were called to freedom. Use your freedom to serve one another by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We don’t know how FDR used his day of freedom. History tells us that he kept that day to himself for the rest of his life and took the secret to his grave. What we do know is that his life went back to the old way the very next day. The new freedom was short-lived. Not your freedom. “Christ has purchased for believers under the gospel freedom from the guilt of sin, from the condemning wrath of God, and from the curse of the moral law. He has also freed them from the evil world we live in, from enslavement to Satan, from the dominion of sin, the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grave, and from everlasting damnation. In Christ believers have free access to God and can obey him, not out of slavish fear, but with a childlike love and a willing mind.” You have been called to freedom, so use it to be free. Use your freedom to serve one another through love because that’s what the law intended and you’ll never run dry because the Holy Spirit is leading you. Draft off him, he never grows weary in love.