Going Deeper 6-27-19

The second reading for Pentecost 3...
Galatians 5:1, 13-25  For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. ... For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.  For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.  Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.  Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

What did Paul have in mind when he warned of submitting "again to a yoke of slavery"?  There are two correct answers.

One thing Paul was warning against was what we might call "cheap grace."  I describe cheap grace as having this mentality: "Hey, God likes to forgive and I like to sin.  That's why we get along so well."  People with this mindset figure that since God's grace is unlimited, they might as well continue to "gratify the desires of the flesh" and not get too concerned about obedience and living in the way of Jesus.  Paul's warning is quite straightforward: "those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."  Using Scripture to interpret Scripture, we understand that while we will never reach perfection on this side of the grave, children of God are to continue to war against the sin that remains.

The other type of slavery Paul warns about might be even more prominent and more dangerous, and that is the tendency to submit again to the "yoke" of the Law.  This brings us to the other extreme, where we come to see that obedience is how we cover our sin and earn salvation.  This is where discipleship gives way to religion... to simply fulfilling a certain set of duties and performing as many good works as we can in order to earn-- or at least maintain-- our salvation and our status as children of God.

A key phrase for understanding this vitally important teaching is "the fruit of the Spirit."  We bear fruit organically, not mechanically.  Qualities such as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" grow in our lives as we experience God's undeserved, unearned forgiveness, mercy, and grace.  Led and fueled by the Spirit we seek to participate in an ongoing process of transformation as in freedom we come to see ourselves as "disciples"-- as children of God being mentored by the perfect child of God, our Savior, Lord, and friend Jesus the Christ. 

We are freed from the yoke of slavery to sin and slavery to the law.  Now we take upon ourselves the yoke of Jesus, both hearing and heeding His invitation: "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."  

Together we seek to live more and more fully in the way of Jesus, bearing in our lives the precious fruit of the Spirit.

With You in Him,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church
Wellington, Colorado

"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."