We’re wrapping up a series entitled Rooted and throughout this series we’ve been asking the question; What would it be like if you had an amazing, out of the box, are you kidding me, kind of faith? The kind of faith that no matter what happened you trusted God.
Well, when you read the narrative of scripture, what you see is this amazing story of God trying to build into people that kind of faith. And this faith is built on trust because when there is trust, the relationship thrives but when trust is absent . . . not so much.
So, what we’ve been doing is looking at those things God designed to create deep roots of trust in Him
Here’s a quick recap . . .
We talked about the root of stillness. That Sometimes it seems like we are in the middle of a great storm. Our lives can feel so chaotic, like everything is crashing down on top of us and the storm is screaming at us and we’re not sure how we are going get through this one and we feel so alone.
But we reminded ourselves that in Jesus, you are not alone; you have been and will forever be held in the loving hand of God -a God who sometimes calms the storms and a God who sometimes gives us strength to grow through the storms. But you must root yourself in stillness and trust God to quiet the voice of the storm so that you can hear his voice more clearly.
We talked about the root of application. You can’t just show up to church and listen to the sermon and take notes. Somehow thinking that attendance and note taking is what makes the difference.
If you don’t apply it, you’re like the one who has rooted their entire life on a foundation that will not survive a storm. It may look perfect for a few days, weeks, months, or years but eventually something is going to come along and undermine it.
We talked about the root of personal ministry. That there are times when somebody presented an opportunity; something that would benefit others . . . and after that conversation, you just couldn’t get it off your mind and you felt this internal nudge to get involved.
At the same time, there was something else inside of you saying, “I don’t feel equipped to do that. I’m not prepared right now. I just don’t have enough time. I’m more than willing to pray that God will send somebody who is equipped and has time but I’m not that person.”
But God uses those things outside your comfort zone, your skill set, or your experience to grow deeper roots of trust in him so that you leave that experience saying, “Wow, that was totally God. I couldn’t have done that on my own.”
We talked about the root of private disciplines. Those things you’re supposed to do but you really don’t like to do them. But we learned that as people who are in relationship with God, there are practices, or disciplines, that will help create deep roots of trust and intimacy with God.
And we talked about the root of community. We talked a bit about how trees in the forest of the same species are connected by the roots, which grow together like a network.
Their root tips have highly sensitive brain-like structures that can distinguish whether the root that it encounters in the soil is its own root, the root of another species, or the roots of its own species.
If it encounters its own kind, and recognizes that it is not healthy, there is a flow from healthy trees to sick trees so that they will have an equal measure of food and energy available to get healthy.
In the same way, we need to be in community with one another. You need others around you when life gets difficult and you need to present and available to rally around those in our faith community who are in difficult circumstances.
But the challenge you and I have when we talk about roots is that sometimes, these roots become our focus. They become our priority. They become the main thing. And we get entangled by them and rather than deepening our faith and trust in God, they ultimately become a source of bondage.
I don’t know what faith tradition you grew up in but in mine we had “offering envelopes”. And the church would mail you a stack of them on your birthday . . . worse than getting socks and underwear.
On these envelopes was a checklist of things you were expected to do throughout the week. Each Sunday, you would bring your envelope and turn it in to your Sunday school teacher. And if you couldn’t check off all the boxes, all you had to do was fib a little bit. Sure, that created a layer of guilt, but it seemed to me that the guilt outweighed the feeling of condemnation if I didn’t have them checked.
What the church would do is gather the statistics each year and send them to headquarters to let them know that they are doing a great job.
So, what was designed, I guess, to remind you of the practices that will help you build deeper roots of faith in God became a tool to build the practice of fibbing so that I would look good and the church would look good.
When Jesus came on the scene, he came to bring freedom and his message was so radically different, that thousands of people followed him, and he said to them, “If you abide in my word and my word abides in you then you will be my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
And I just imagine that If I’m there, I would be like, “Right on, Jesus!” “Amen!”
But then I would walk away and be like, “free from what?” I don’t even know what I need to be free from; I mean I’m not a slave, my life is pretty good . . . so what do I need to be free from?
But that’s the funny thing about bondage, sometimes we can be so bound that you don’t even know that you’re bound.
And I wonder, what are the things that we need to be freed from? It’s probably different for each of us. The allure of temptation, materialism, pride, greed, lust, gossip, addictions, fear, despair, hopelessness, purposelessness, envy, strife, contention, heart of revenge. The list could go on.
It’s interesting . . . when you look at the list of things that bind us; everything really just boils down to one thing, not trusting God enough. I think that’s because we’re afraid to take the risk of letting go of those things because, in some way . . . over time, they have defined us.
As we look at our text this evening, Paul is telling us that God doesn’t just free you from something, but also frees you to something.
Let us hear his word . . . READ Galatians 6:11-18
Before we jump in . . . let’s put this into context because . . . context is everything.
Paul had planted this church in Galatia based on the gospel of grace; that you can be in relationship with God through faith in Jesus and what he has done, and the church was flourishing.
After he left, these religious dudes came in and they said, “Hey look, this guy is just making it easy for you. He says it’s just about grace but that’s just entry level Christianity. If you want to be accepted by God, then you also have to follow the law and the sign that you are following the law is circumcision.”
Well, of course, the Galatians want to be accepted by God, so they start getting circumcised. And before you know it, they begin following all these rules and rituals. And eventually, they became the focus. They became the main thing. In the process, they become increasingly judgmental, narrow and divisive.
And eventually they begin to lose the joy and love they had for Jesus and for each other.
And when Paul gets wind of this, he takes a passionate stance for this church that he loves, and he says, “Don’t you see what’s happening, In Christ you were set free but now you have become bound and enslaved by ritualism . . . and it’s tearing you apart.”
And for 5 chapters he’s been reminding them of the gospel . . . that you are saved by grace through faith in Jesus and there’s nothing else you need to do.
Now typically, when Paul wrote letters he used a scribe. In fact, it is assumed that most of this letter would have been dictated but as he comes to the end, he takes the stylus out of the hand of his scribe and he writes it himself.
In effect, what he’s saying “If you haven’t been listening . . . if you tuned out long ago . . . it’s time to listen now. And to make sure that you don’t miss this, I’m using really large letters!”
So, he tells them, “You need to know that these religious dudes that have convinced you that there is something you need to do for God to love you and accept you; well, they don’t have your best interest in mind. They don’t really care about you . . . they only care about themselves”
You see, these religious guys were trying to avoid persecution. By embracing and preaching Christ alone for salvation was to get on the bad side of those Jews who believed that the Christian movement was infecting the purity of the Jewish faith.
In fact, if you remember before he met Jesus, Paul was one of those zealous Jews that despised the Christian movement and he took it upon himself to persecute and kill Christians.
So, these religious guys are trying to convince the zealous Jews that although they had converted to Christianity, they were not so different from them . . . And the idea was, “Let’s accept Christ but let’s keep part of our tradition so that we can avoid being persecuted.”
And what they would do is send statistics back to Jerusalem. They would write letters saying, “we’ve been up here in Galatia and we’ve been very effective . . . we’ve been circumcising people left and right. Isn’t that great?”
And Paul is telling the church in Galatia, “These guys don’t have your best interest in mind . . . their only motive is to pad their resume . . . they are using you to make themselves look good!”
But then Paul offers a radical, counter cultural message. He says, “There is only one thing in which a Christian should boast and that is the cross of Christ.”
That would have been an astonishing thing for the people to hear.
The Latin word “crux” was considered so vulgar that it was not used in proper company. Instead the Romans came up with a phrase when talking about crucifixion . . . “hang him on the unlucky tree.”
But it was this very thing that people wouldn’t even mention, that Paul pointed to as an absolute necessity for salvation.
And Paul’s opponents found the cross to be an embarrassment. Who wants to be identified with someone who was crucified? It’s too bloody. It’s too graphic. It’s too incriminating and it leaves no room for self-righteousness and boasting.
Now, they couldn’t deny the crucifixion; it was a public event witnessed by many. But they could de-emphasize it. They could add some human works to the mix . . . let’s say . . . circumcision.
The religious guys were saying to the church in Galatia, “Sure, Jesus died on the cross but it’s the law that is going to save you . . . so ignore the cross but line up to mutilate yourself so we can put more notches in our belt”
But what Paul is quick to point out is that these people don’t even keep the law themselves.
The law is summed up in two commands . . . “Love the lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Paul is saying, “Don’t you see what they are doing, they’re beating you guys up and tearing you apart by telling you that you have to follow these rules and rituals in order to be loved and accepted by God. And they aren’t even following the law themselves. They don’t love you as much as they love themselves. They’re self-righteous hypocrites who only want to use you as their trophies, so they can boast.”
And then he goes on to say, this freedom Jesus talked about has nothing to do with following rules, keeping rituals, going to church, looking good for people . . . none of that ultimately matters. What matters is becoming a new creation!
You see, when God frees us from something, he then frees us to something . . . and that is to become a new creation.
When you accept Jesus, the Holy Spirit enters your life and you become a new creation, you get a clean slate and your entire life undergoes a steady transformation.
Spiritual growth isn’t about doing more things . . . it’s about understanding more and more about what Christ accomplished for us at the cross and applying that to our lives.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us and he went to the cross and upon that cross, he said “It is finished” and with that the work was done, we were set free and the chains of bondage were released for all who believe, and we became new creations.
These roots we’ve been talking about over the past few weeks; stillness, application, personal ministry, private disciplines, and community, they are not the main thing, they are simply designed to help us nourish our faith, and grow in trust in what Jesus has accomplished for us.
Jesus came to set us free . . . so let us live in that freedom as new creations in Christ.