Summary: Christians are free, but we are not freed for self-indulgence, but for service.
Galatians 5:1, 13-26 Freedom and Fruit
There are specific times in our lives when we experience an expansive sense of freedom. One of the times that I specifically remember is when I received my drivers license. Suddenly I was free. I was no longer limited to walking or riding my bike. I had access to a car, and I could travel. Another time, for me, was moving into the dorm my freshman year of college, and watching my parents drive back home. The idea of no parental guidance and no "house rules" was almost mind boggling.
For the past several weeks, as we have studied Paul's letter to the Galatians, we have been talking about being free. The gospel of Jesus Christ with its message of God's grace and love breaks the chains of the law and enables us to be free as children of God. In today's text, Paul addresses the issues of what we are to do with our freedom.
Paul's first words of advice to the Christians at Galatia is to stand firm. This freedom, which was won as the extravagant cost of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, can easily be lost. It isn't that it is taken away from us, rather we decide not to live in its reality. Anytime the Galatians yielded to the temptation of submitting themselves to the law and the expectations of the circumcision party, they gave up their freedom.
We stand firm in our freedom by keeping our eyes focused on Jesus and what he has given us in his life, death, and resurrection. This takes discipline--and discipline is not the opposite of freedom. Discipline is often the path of freedom. Living free, we intentionally cultivate and nourish our relationship with Jesus. We practice the ancient spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditation, Bible study, fellowship, worship and service.
Being spiritually free is like being physically free. We discipline ourselves by choosing carefully what we eat and engaging in regular, vigorous physical exercise in order to be health and to enjoy the freedom that health provides. We discipline ourselves to keep our eyes on Jesus so that we can experience true freedom--the freedom that only the cross of Christ can provide.
OPPORTUNITY FOR LOVE
We can use our freedom in a self-indulgent manner. After all we don't need to do anything. A new life in Christ is a gift from God. But a self-indulgent lifestyle soon leads to slavery. All of God's gifts are good when used in moderation, but when we abuse them excessively by become of prison. Money, power, food, sex, and bling can all enslave us.
Paul exhorts his readers to use their freedom for others. Since they do not need to spend time pleasing others, or justifying themselves before God, they can use this time to love and to serve.
Martin Luther said it this way, "The Christian is lord of all subject to none, and the Christian is servant of all subject to all.
We no longer keep the letter of the law in an attempt to be justified. Instead we keep the spirit of the law in order to share the blessings, grace and love that we have received. We turn the negative of the Ten Commandments--Thou shalt not--into the positive--"Love The Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself." The possibilities of using our freedom to love God and our neighbors are endless!
FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
Paul continues his exhortation to the Galatians by pointing out the fruit of the different lifestyle choices that are ours. We can bear the fruit of self-indulgent decadence, or we can bear the fruit of the Spirit. The path that we choose and the life we live produces the fruit of our lives.
As we live in love for others, the fruit of the spirit grows in our lives. Our focus is on others and not on the fruit. Living free is not a self-improvement program where we add patience to our characteristic of joy. Living free is allowing the Spirit to transform our lives and produce the fruit of the Spirit, while we live in love of God and in service of others.
The fruit of the Spirit that is produced in our lives is not meant to be a part of our personal resume. They are not so that we look good. The fruit of the Spirit is for the benefit of others--so that they may experience the love and grace of God.
We have been given a precious gift in the gift of freedom. Paul exhorts us and the Spirit invites us to use that freedom to the glory of God.