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Summary: The first of a four part series entitled, ‘Four Resolutions for 2008’

For this sermon series there is a temporary change in the public reading of scripture. I am appreciative of our worship leaders who read the main sermon text each week. (Even when they have those hard to pronounce Old Testament words in them!)

(Slide 1) The reason for this change is that we are going to spend this month looking at four chapters that contain what I am calling ‘Four resolutions for 2008’ and I believe that reading the scripture as part of the sermon will be more effective for this series. But prior to doing that, and we will be examining Galatians chapter 5 this morning, there are some interesting things about New Year’s Resolutions that I share:

At USA.gov are listed 13 popular New Year’s Resolutions with informational links to each one. They are, in the order listed on the website:

• Lose Weight

• Pay Off Debt

• Save Money

• Get a Better Job

• Get Fit

• Eat Right

• Get a Better Education

• Drink Less Alcohol

• Quit Smoking Now

• Reduce Stress Overall

• Reduce Stress at Work

• Take a Trip

• Volunteer to Help Others

Notice how many deal with overcoming a habit such as smoking or something do with personal growth and development such as getting a better (or more) education and reducing stress.

Over at the website, about.com, there was a top ten list that included many of the same things as the usa.gov site but also added, ‘spend more time with family,’ ‘enjoy life more,’ and ‘get organized.’ Again, there are some very important resolutions listed here.

But what about a New Year’s resolution dealing with spiritual growth? What about growth in our relationship with Christ? What about seeking God’s power in our life to change us and the habits which cause us problems? What about true repentance and faith?

At Christianity Today.com an article appeared this past week that really moved me. It was entitled, ‘Young, Restless, and Ready for Revival’ and it is a documenting of college age students who are seeking to be pure and holy in their life and that thousands, at both Christian and state schools, are responding to the call for ‘personal holiness.’ How many of us, have ‘personal holiness’ at the top of our New Year’s resolution list?

With these thoughts in mind, let us hear Galatians chapter 5:

‘So Christ has really set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

‘Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ cannot help you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey all of the regulations in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.

But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive everything promised to us who are right with God through faith. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, it makes no difference to God whether we are circumcised or not circumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.

You were getting along so well. Who has interfered with you to hold you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. But it takes only one wrong person among you to infect all the others—a little yeast spreads quickly through the whole batch of dough! I am trusting the Lord to bring you back to believing as I do about these things. God will judge that person, whoever it is, who has been troubling and confusing you.

Dear brothers and sisters, if I were still preaching that you must be circumcised—as some say I do—why would the Jews persecute me? The fact that I am still being persecuted proves that I am still preaching salvation through the cross of Christ alone. I only wish that those troublemakers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves.

For you have been called to live in freedom—not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if instead of showing love among yourselves you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.

So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict. But when you are directed by the Holy Spirit, you are no longer subject to the law.

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