Through faith, we love

I haven’t written much about YKC lately. It’s changed a lot since the last time I wrote. The group dwindled while I was in Korea and it dwindled more while Andrew was in Japan. But now we have a handful of kids coming out consistently every week. God has blessed me with encouraging signs in many ways, through the changes I’ve seen in our members as well as through victories in my Sunday preparations.

Justin joins Andrew and me for praise now, singing with me, and it has been an encouragement, not just to me and Andrew, but to my parents as well. It isn’t just that too, I can tell in his prayers that he has grown a lot. Praise has been very good these past few weeks. Just today, our call to worship Scripture reading was Psalm 136, the one that repeats the line “For his steadfast love endures forever.” Of course, I think of the song Forever by Chris Tomlin when I read this. But one of our songs today, Lord, Let Your Glory Fall, actually uses the same psalm in the chorus: “You are good, You are good, and your love endures.” It was crazy…I had no idea the two would match up today.

David and Daniel are still crazy and ADD during service, but at least now it doesn’t distract me. It’s actually kind of fun being an older brother to them along with Andrew. They’re getting better little by little.

It has helped a lot writing out my manuscripts word for word. Though it takes much longer Saturday night/Sunday morning, they make the service much less tiring and I have less opportunity to be distracted. Today, the Spirit gave me the words to say, and I didn’t pause much or fumble with my words. It was truly all God. I want to share what I taught today. Normally I’m very bad with coming up with examples, but somehow I came up with a few for today and it seemed like it engaged the kids and helped them to understand the message better. Thank You Lord.

Please continue praying for Living Exodus Ministry and Ye Kwang Presbyterian Church.

August 30, 2009
Galatians 5:1-15

The two bookends of this passage is the idea of freedom. In verse 1, Paul says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Christ has made us free from bondage to the law. We are to run away from the law as a means of salvation. But in verse 13, Paul says this: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” We are to use our freedom to serve others, not to serve ourselves. But in verse 14 he brings the law back into the picture: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” This is strange. Paul tells the Galatians that Christ has set them free from the law, but then he says later that they should use this freedom to fulfill the law, which is summarized in the commandment: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

We’ve already learned over and over what Paul has to say about the law. Law = slavery. Gospel = freedom. Law ≠ Gospel. He has more to say on it in today’s passage, but we’ll focus more on what we should do with the freedom that the gospel gives us. Verses 2-4 are easy to understand in the context of everything that has already come before. (Read 5:2-4). Verses 7-12 Paul answers the accusations of the Judaizers and other enemies. Yes, he reassures them, the rumors are wrong. The rumor was that Paul used to teach circumcision but then changed his teaching to accommodate the Gentiles. Before we move on to the meat of what I want to teach you today, I want you guys to take a look at verse 12 and tell me if you find anything funny. No? The humor has been lost in translation.

Paul is challenging the Judaizers to take their view of the gospel to the extreme. He’s telling them, okay, you guys think that cutting off a little piece of skin is going to save you. If cutting a little piece off is going to bring such good salvation, then why not go all the way and cut the whole thing off? The Greek says literally cut themselves off, meaning castrate themselves. I wonder how Paul would have phrased that in English if he wrote that today. What kind of words would he have used? Obviously the Judaizers and false teachers made him really angry. Haha, just something to think about.

With that said, we’re going to turn back to our original question. Why does Paul tell us to “go back” to the law after we’ve been set free from it? I hope you guys know that Paul’s instructions here are imperatives. Remember? Most of what Paul said before were statements of fact: A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, you are children of promise. What are “the imperatives” in today’s passage? The imperatives here are in verse 1—“stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”—and in verse 13—“Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Love is the fulfillment of the law

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: love your neighbor as yourself. The apostle James also wrote something very similar in chapter 2, verse 8 of his epistle: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.” All the law and commandments of God can be summarized in two commandments: love God and love people. In loving people we are also loving God who created them. The one who keeps this commandment can be justified by the law, because it sums up the entire law. So have any of you kept this commandment and never screwed up? Didn’t think so. Only Jesus truly loved his neighbor as himself. In fact, Jesus loved others even more than he loved himself. Jesus died for impatient people. Jesus died for selfish people. Jesus died for lazy, irresponsible people. Jesus died for rebellious people. Jesus even died for legalists like the Judaizers so they might look not to themselves but to the cross for salvation. Jesus died for coldhearted sinners like you and me.

James 2:10 says this: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” Whether you steal someone’s identity or rob someone at gunpoint or trespass on private property or kill someone—it doesn’t matter what crime it is—you are a criminal. If you keep all other laws but violate one, you are still a criminal. It won’t matter to God when you stand before Him on judgment day and tell him that you kept 99% of all his commandments. You try telling a judge that yes, you ran someone over with your car on purpose but that he should let you go because you never broke any other laws. It doesn’t work like that. And if it doesn’t work in our human criminal justice system, then how much less will it work in the presence of an absolutely holy and just God? It won’t. Loving your neighbor as yourself consists of so many different things that it is impossible to keep the commandment your whole life.

But Jesus did, and because of him, we have freedom from the law. We are declared righteous in God’s sight even though we really aren’t. The Judge has let us go by punishing another in our place, for declaring his own Son the criminal for our sins.

The reason this is so important for us to know is that when we read Paul’s exhortation (another word for imperative) to use our freedom to love one another and serve one another, we should always remember that doing these good things is not what saves us. We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone. True faith always manifests itself through love. Verse 6: For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. If you peek down to next week’s passage, you’ll see that the very first fruit of the Holy Spirit in verse 22 is what? Love.

Application: Being more loving people through faith. But what is faith?

So we know from verse 6 that faith and love go hand in hand. If we really want to fulfill the royal law by loving our neighbor as ourselves, we need faith. How does faith make us more loving people? And what is faith? These are the questions we will answer next.

Verse 5: For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. This verse tells us about sanctification. We are already declared righteous but we are not yet actually righteous. Romans 3:21-22 says “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” The Bible has both the already and the not yet: righteousness has come in the form of Jesus Christ but we are still waiting for the “hope of righteousness.”

It is through the Spirit that we wait for the “hope of righteousness.” It is through the Spirit that we become more loving, more like Christ. Our salvation is secure in Christ and our final destination is sure, but our road there is going to be filled with struggles and temptations and failures. Our faith is the way that the Spirit will work in us. Faith is the bridge that allows the Spirit to work powerfully and relentlessly in our lives. If we skip down a bit further to verse 18, we read this: But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Being led by the Spirit is the opposite of being under the law. And if faith is the way that the Spirit works in us, then faith is also opposite of being under the law. Faith is looking not to ourselves for salvation but to Jesus. That’s all it is.

Faith for Christians is not blind. Faith is not subjective and touchy-feely. If you tell your fat friend “I have faith that you will run this mile in 4 minutes,” that is not faith. That is stupidity. Saying “I have faith” to your friend before he runs those 4 laps means nothing if he hasn’t trained and been able to get close to 4 minutes in practice. Real faith has an object and real faith is not blind. The Christian’s faith is based on the objective fact that Jesus was born, Jesus lived, Jesus died and was raised again, having fulfilled all the law and the commandments. If this is not true, just like if our friend can’t even run 1 lap without collapsing, then our faith is not real faith. It’s stupidity. There are many people today who go to church and call themselves Christians because they think that it will help their kids stay out of trouble or will save their marriages or will help them have less stress, not because they believe that Jesus Christ lived and died and rose again and defeated sin and death. That’s not faith. It’s stupidity. 1 Cor 15:19: “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

Remember Galatians 2:20? “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. The live I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” We don’t look to some imaginary life-force or positive energy from the universe in order to become better people.  We don’t even look to our own self-determination and willpower to change ourselves. We look to Christ, who lives in us, and the Spirit, who dwells in us. Looking to Christ for life and salvation is faith. Faith is trusting in the work of Christ.

Faith is what allows the Spirit to work in us so that we can fight against our instinct to love ourselves more than others, to love idols rather than God. So how do we get more faith? How do we increase our faith? Romans 10:17: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Listen to God’s Word. This is so important. This is why you must come to church every week. This is why you must read the Bible every day. This is why you must spend time with other believers who can share with you what they’ve learned from the Bible. The Bible is the only way you will get more faith to trust in God. The promises in here are for you. God gave us these promises so that we could have more faith in Him and in Jesus. So read and meditate on this book!

The lessons we have learned today: We started with the statement of fact: you are free in Christ from bondage to the law. Now we are to go and fulfill that same law by loving and serving others. Faith is the way that the Spirit will work in our hearts to produce love in our hearts. And faith comes through reading, listening to, and meditating on God’s Word and all of God’s promises.

If you made it down here, then I just want to add that Lincoln Brewster’s version of Salvation is Here is pretty awesome. Gangster on guitar. The Youtube link is a little different from the album version, which can be found on Imeem (free registration required). Absolutely INSANE bridge solo.

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