Archive for June, 2016
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.. You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want.But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. [NSRV]
Love is KEY
Paul’s “if you only hear one thing I say” phrase piggybacks Jesus answer to the question about the greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Some people don’t love themselves, don’t respect themselves, don’t value their life so are they excused treating others the way they view and treat themselves? No. For all the easy to remember, foundation principles, core sound-bites are an oxymoron. Therefore Paul follow that with an example: If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
A clearer explanation is to:
- Love others first
- Love others the way you would want to be loved
- Love others first, the way you want to be loved and you will Love as God loves.
- Even with this clarification, the advice is given to walk by the Spirit.
Walk By the Spirit.
Admonition: Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
In a culture that prefers shades-of-grey rather than black-and-white, yes-or-no, we have more trouble with Paul’s teaching than we dare admit.
For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.They are in conflict with each other so that you are not to do whatever you want.
Walk where every you want to walk, as slow or fast, jumping or crawling, BUT
stay on the path.
Follow the leader.
Walk by the Spirit.
When what I want is lined up with what God wants there is no problem. But what about when:
I have such a good idea.
Such a simple deviation?
When everyone else is taking that road not taken that diverges into a yellow wood, who wants to follow the Spirit then?
One of Frances’s teacher was giving them instructions on social media, she said, if it would make your grandmother happy AND proud, then it’s probably ok to post your words and pictures.
Paul states: It should be clear, it ought to be obvious, BUT it is difficult to see the obvious when our hearts and minds are set on ourselves, our fears, our brokeness and that of others.
Paul offers himself as a role model on many occasions, but most of us are not too quick to travel the known world to support others, reject family and traditions that were misinformed and misguided, and to be run out of town, ridiculed and imprisoned for our faith and trust in the Spirit.
Therefore: He gives us a sample list:
“And the like”
- sexual and physical immorality
- Impurity –
- debauchery -allegiance to corruption
- selfish ambition
- emotional immorality
- hatred, jealousy, fits of rage
- Community/Social immorality
- and the like.
- This list is not prioritized
- While we might be clear about sexual and emotional immoralities, what about Social immorality? When we step off the path to the “Left”, we are not spiritual progressive. When we step off the path to the “Right”, we are not spiritual conservative.
- The List is not exclusive
- The catch-all is “and the like.”
- There are others, so don’t be legalistic and thing these are our only temptations and points of sin
- The List is NOT a Check List to try either,
- These let us know when we are out of bounds. It is grace that gives us a way back on the path, on the wagon, and in the heart of God. The Spirit will give us power and guidance if we trust and follow.
FRUITS of the Spirit.
- Relationship with God
- Relationship with Others
- “And the like”
Like the obvious OFF-THE-PATH, these are the obvious “On-the-Path” fruits.
- This list is not prioritized
- Those that relate to our relationship with God and Others are equally important.
- The List is not exclusive
- Too many over time have tried to make this an exclusive list, when there are as many ways to be fruitful in the spirit as their are ways to not.
- Don’t be legalistic and thing these are our only points of evidence.
- The List IS a Check List to try,
- It is grace that gives us a way back on the path, on the wagon, and in the heart of God.. The Spirit wil give us power and guidance if we will trust and follow.
So WHAT? Paul’s advice is to “Keep in Step”
In step with the spirit, not our neighbor.
Hiking at Glisson is “point” and “tail” most experienced hikers setting the pace and keeping the group together.
Bookends of protect accountability and ???
Stay on the path Bilbo Baggins.
Luke shared with us that the graduates practices marching out of the tunnel and into their seats at graduation for four hours to make smooth turns the 812 graduates to enter and be seated in less than five minutes, as compared to the 60 faculty entering single file over 8 minutes)
When you get out of step or off the path there is uncertainty.
Freedom comes on the path of the Spirit.
Stepping out is dangerous. Slippery and obviously out of bounds of the spirit and the law
Love us the freedom to be in the heart of God
(MissionInsite: Demographic Report: Baptist and Methodist in a ten mile radius are down 1-2 percent and people who report spiritual but not church are up 2-3 percent.) Who is leading whom, where?
Hear the Good News: God loves us even though we get out of step. God’s spirit is in direct connection with our spirit. Paul’s advice is to trust God, find our purpose and freedom in God. Trust the Spirit and walk in God’s direction.
Still not sure which direction? Join us every Sunday, find a class, study or small group, open your bible, read-study-share-question-grow; ask for direction and support in praying, serving, sharing…
Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore, the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for, in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. [NRSV]
Who knew Gene Roddenberry was as a fan of Galatians?
The Star Trek cultural iconic uniforms that allow for individuals to be known for their role in the community by the color of their uniform not matter their origin, citizenship, nor gender.
What if the clothes Christ places on us, rather than the garments and cultural markers we self-define one another?
- What if those who wore blue were known as healers.
- Teachers, Grower and Designers in Green
- Administrators and Safety persons in Golden Rod
- Builders, Helpers, Support persons in Red
- Orange for those who Harvest and celebrate
- White for those who are wisdom and faith-sharers
- Black for those who comfort and counsel
Known by the clothes of Christ.
- Some would work to discover what Jesus wore and tried to replicate first-century apparel. but that would miss the mark of the text.
- Some would be looking at the blended areas of overlap where roles cross in different situations and contexts.
- Some would not like the color assigned and protest
But think for a moment, what if we wore the gifts, graces, ministries and presence of Christ as we wear our clothes.
It surprises me that the first question that people ask about ‘my/our’ church is about our dress code. Not that we have a formal dress code, most folks would want folks to be ‘in’ the fellowship with us no matter what close they might wear.
But we follow that with a few qualifications, even if we don’t say them aloud:
You don’t have to wear a coat and tie or dress, just be clean and neat.
We live in a time when folks have extremes about clothes, fashion is a billion dollar industry for nearly every price point of our society.
We also have a culture that would rather buy or receive something new than wash and care for the clothes we have. How does this culture connect with our being clothed by Christ.
One Time Use for Christ
- We wear difference clothes for different occasions.
- Jesus Clothes us for eternity.
- We wear something for a season
- Jesus Clothes us for eternity
- We wear something until we wear it out or outgrow it or tired of it.
- Jesus Clothes us for eternity
- We wear something so people will respond to us in a certain way.
- Jesus Clothes us for God’s Work
- We wear something to wear to work
- Jesus empties himself and wants to work through us
- We judge and value by what we wear
- Jesus loves who we are with nothing to show
Walter Wangeren Jr’s Rag Man short story invites us to allow Christ to clothe and mark us for service.
People will misuse this passage from Galatians to say that whatever group society might divide and define us is acceptable, but a closer listen to the whole message of Paul’s letter and his message about Christ defining us.
Look in the Jesus Mirror: Who does Jesus See “in Me?”
Does Jesus see me as Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, tall or short, etc. Jesus sees me as I am, and no matter how the world defines me, Jesus sees me as:
- Worthy of his life
- Worthy of his grace
- Worthy of his ministry
- Worthy of his service
- Worthy of his praise
- Worthy of his devotion
The things that we use to limit and divide, Jesus knows, Jesus is not blind, but Jesus sees in us far more than we might see in ourselves.
Paul’s invitation is to see each other as Christ see us
- see each other as Christ sees
- see the value Christ sees in us
- love the persons Christ sees in us and in one another.
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. [NRSV]
Paul is caught up in a battle of traditions, power, and authority.
Galatia was a region of what is now central Turkey; that was between Greece and Israel. It was divided into four tribal groups that were known for disagreements and a tendency to quarrel. They were known to be mercenaries and slave traders. A rough crowd.
In this context, there was a church of believers who was getting grief from Christian-Jews, who were saying that converts needed to adopt Jewish traditions and adherence to the Law of Moses and then the teachings of Jesus. Namely, they were causing a stir over circumcision. (I have always thought that was a great test of salesmanship)
Paul writes to clarify this and other misinformation concerning what it means to be Christian. It is at this intersection that this passage becomes helpful to us. Think of all the cultural differences across geography and history that separate us from Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus of the Gospels and Jesus of 2016.
What does it mean to be a Christian?
- For some, it means following a strict code of behaviors and affirmations
- For some, it means a Christlike way of thinking in and believing
- For some, it is actions of service and shared fellowship of relationships
- For Paul, he felt the need to clarify that FAITH was more necessary than the LAW. (TRUST over RULES)
What most clearly defines who you are and how you order your life?
There is one of my former church members who is an over-the-top Braves fan. He is known at the ballpark as ‘Chief.’ He wears a headdress of feathers, an Indian/Native American style shirt, and pants and usually marks his face with faceprint for the added touch of authenticity. What sets him further apart is that in the last fifteen years he has only missed ten home games. His level of devotion boards on the obsessive. Chief is all in.
There was a church member from my childhood who always wore red and black clothes. He drove a red and black conversion van. His home was decorated in red and black in every room. He owned a small airplane that was also. Yes, red and black. Every weekend in the fall he attended every home and away football game of his beloved Bulldogs without exception. He is no longer married to the same woman who was my history teacher, but he is still a bulldog fan. Mr. Red and Black is all in.
Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is arguably the fastest man in the world, beginning winning sprint races since the age of 15 to winning three gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, and becoming the first man in Olympic history to win both the 100-meter and 200-meter races in record times. Bolt won his fourth Olympic gold medal in the men’s 100-meter race at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. Bolt ran the race in 9.63 seconds, a new Olympic record, making him the first man in history to set three world records in a single Olympic Games competition. He is the first man to win both the 100 and 200 at consecutive Olympic Games, as well as the first man to ever win back-to-back gold medals in double sprints. His signature bolt pose inspired Cam Newton and fans to dab. Usain Bolt is all in.
Paul offers himself as the ultimate fan of Jesus, who came to know Jesus, not by his devotion to keeping the rules. In fact, his attempt to keep the laws was driving him further away from God. He went from super rule follower to super Trust-Jesus-in-all-things.
FAITH: is it a belief or behavior? (Have the idea or follow the rules) And, is it a good thing or a problem?
“ it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Living “All In.”
Some might say Paul’s down-playing of the LAW was a disregard for the Jewish Traditions and Scriptures. What he found through a life devoted to keeping all the rules was that it lead him to be an enemy of Jesus. It was not until he became temporary blind that he began to see God revealed through Jesus’s life and saving work.
All in is not dressing the part. It is not having the right things. It is not even devoting our selves to life practices to be the greatest.
- IT IS: Trusting Jesus’s Work
- Trusting Jesus’s Teachings and Examples
- Trusting Jesus to show up in our words, thoughts and service.
- Trusting Jesus to be our strength
- Trusting Jesus to guide our living.
- All in Jesus, not all in my keeping the rules or ideas
Our meaning, purpose, and success in life is not having the things and awards and prizes.. it is being connected to our Creator and one another.
Paul is saying. We can Trust God because God loves us.
Rules and customs can’t love us.
Trust the relationship God makes possible through Jesus Christ.
APPLICATION: What does it mean for you/me to be Christian?
Love God because God loves
vs. Earn God’s love because I proved my love.
Think of your relationship, family, and friends:
Would you rather
people did because you told/made them what to do, or
people did for you because they loved you.
Show love because you can love someone,
Rather than because you have to love someone.
Down in My Heart
It is a great reminder of where the core of the Christian life begins.
To be a follower of Jesus Christ might very different than being a Christian
Paul is building a case for the life and Christain community that is ours to emulate.
Let your love be genuine.
I love fresh lemonade verses I love you even when you misbehave.
Strong words: Let’s be clear about evil. Don’t vilify the person, hate the unGodly things, attitudes, look past the words, to the other persons’ heart.
Hold on to Good.
It’s going to be a bumpy ride; not every handle is one you need to hold.
Devotion to God models our love of others.
Start at the beginning, love God first, greatest commandment.
Honor others, first.
Think from the other side first before you post or speak.
Life for God with a Passion
Don’t leave home without a case of Zeal for God.
Don’t be lukewarm or worse.
Keep the Spiritual fires warm while serving the Lord
So, if you are telling, teaching, explaining what it means to be a Christian:
1. Christian living begins in the heart.
Genuine heart hates evil, but holds on to Good, models devotions, respects we are different, but is passionate about living for God.
Attitudes in Action
Facebook and all social media are easy targets to see where people, who may have great hearts for God, but choose to forget or not to listen to their heart.
Here is the test:
- If you find you can share Joyful Hope on Facebook, sign in!
- If you can use it to patiently see the world through others’ perspectives, log on!
- If you can use the media to offer your heart’s passionate prayers? Get social.
- If not, don’t sign in, don’t log on, get to heating up your God’s Spirit in you instead.
2. Christian living filters God’s voice through the world’s voice.
Our Witness in Community
Paul’s list of sharing our witness in a relationship with others.
+? “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.”
Interesting, Paul begins with helping the “Lord’s People” in need.
+ Practice hospitality
Have an open heart and mind that welcomes others.
+ Bless those who persecute you.
Know that not everyone will return kindness and love and grace.
-Do not curse, rather bless
Take the high, Godly, Good Road, don’t blame, bless and grow away from evil.
+ Rejoice with others
Celebrate when the news is good, and Joy is clear
+ Mourn with others
Be open to comfort, even when you are not the one hurting
+ Live in Harmony
Find ways to get along without having to agree with everyone.
– Do not be proud
Remember God loves and saves you, AND everyone else.
– Don’t be conceited, Associate with the poor and wealthy
Be a friend to those who are easy and difficult to live with.
Being a Christian is easy if you rare filling out a survey.
More people are identifying themselves as less Christian these days.
- What does it look like when we say we are Christian but have lost hold of the heart of God?
- What does it feel like when we say we are Christian people but have forgotten or never learned how to find our way home and settle for where we are rather than where we belong?
- What does it sound like when we have our faith all worked out in our head, and heart but other folks don’t see, hear or experience God around us?
Paul reminds the church at Rome and Rock Spring:
Thank goodness we come to the table to start our journey today.
Here is our grace to begin anew and fresh.
Christian living begins in the heart of God
Christian living filters God’s voice through the world’s voice.
Christian living must interact with the community and reflect God at work through us.