Faith, Freedom and Love

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Faith, Freedom and Love 

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday 1st March, 2020

Right now – in this volatile world in which we live –  I’m extremely grateful, as I’m sure you are too, that my faith and my life are firmly and securely grounded in Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.  It really does my heart good to know that my life is not ultimately left to the peril of this world, or the kingdom of this world.

And it’s important – actually it’s vital – that every one of us find that peace and trust in God, regardless of whatever else is going on around us.

I’m grateful for every one of you.  The church is God’s plan for us to be able to stand wth one another – strengthen and support one another – build one another up…   And to build a place in relationship together where truth, righteousness and justice are celebrated, and the presence of God flows like a river and a mighty stream in and through us – His church – His Bride.

If you’ve listened to my last few messages, you’ll have the framework for why I’m saying those things.

We need to always be remembering who we are and what we have in Christ.  That’s the good news.  It’s not only good – it’s fantastic news.

The media on the other hand, is in a frenzy right now about lots of things.  There’s an imminent global pandemic.  Hasn’t that kept the media busy?  The stock market is in freefall.  I’ve seen the word “crash” mentioned a few times.  There is major fear about the climate changing.  Although my childhood memories of seriously hot summer days and nights in Lismore are pretty vivid.  

So many people have opinions…. And there’s plenty of bad news to get them going…

But through it all, my faith is rising.  Because all of this stuff just points me straight back to the Word of God and the prophetic declarations about what we should be looking for in the days just before Jesus returns.

Jesus in coming back!  That’s exciting!  And the world is ripe for it to happen.

But that’s not my message for this morning.  It just reinforces what I’ve been speaking about over the past several weeks:  keeping our hearts right in the midst of the trials, guarding our hearts, loving one another with a pure heart, serving one another – especially those of the household of faith…. 

But also reaching out to our world and revealing Christ to others, bringing justice and righteousness to those who are seen as the least in our community…. Us Christians being revealed to our world as ones who are disciples of Jesus Christ – because of how much we love one another!

The church has an opportunity in these days in which we live, to seize the moment – to be Christ’s hands, His heart, His voice, His love, His compassion, His life, His hope…. To carry the supernatural power of God – His Anointing into an otherwise very natural, carnal and deteriorating society.

I have read some crazy stuff in the news lately – I can’t even bring myself to share it – but it’s all stuff that only a few years ago, we would have refused to believe could be a thing – issues around gender – identity – sexuality – stuff that just does your head in.  If that’s the hope of a new world, pity help us…. The world has gone mad!

Well, enough of that!  Let’s lift our eyes above…  Let’s get ourselves washed in the truth and the revelation of the Word.  Let’s build an atmosphere of faith and of life more abundant.

I want to take us back to Galatians 5 again, where we were last week.  

Gal 5:1 begins by saying:    “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”

The liberty Paul is talking about here is the freedom we have to live for Christ.  The yoke of bondage is the religious pull towards trying to gain acceptance and approval through keeping the law.

The Jews particularly had a tough time realigning themselves to freedom from the law.  They’d lived under the law all of their lives.  Many of them came to salvation through the revelation of Jesus Christ and His free gift of love and grace – but then they would draw back to the law again for their ongoing acceptance and approval.

The Galatians were still wanting to fulfil the law of circumcision to be acceptable to God – but Paul says – circumcision or uncircumcision means nothing.  Be free!  

And he says – stand fast in this freedom.   To stand fast means to stand firm – but it also means to persevere and to persist – to continually remain standing.  There’s a sense that this is an ongoing position that we need to take.  Stand and keep on standing.  

Christ has set us free from bondage of every kind – but we have to keep standing in it – and when we fall, we pick ourselves up and persevere with standing again.  We are in a marathon in this race of life and faith.  We are to keep running until we get to the end.

So this sets the scene for my main scripture verse for today.  It comes at the end of Gal 5:6,  “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”

In other words – your own fleshly and natural efforts to make yourself right with God are meaningless.  In fact Paul goes on to say that if you put yourself under one part of the law, you automatically put yourself under the whole law.

I want to draw out the truth of the statement that the only thing that really means anything is faith working through love.

The Jews had their own foundation – the law…. rigid, legalistic, religious, often based on fear…. They needed to be set free from that yoke of bondage to really experience and know Jesus Christ and His love for them.  Many still need to find that freedom today – and they are!  Jewish people are coming to Christ every day.

But what about us?  I know that we can slip over into religious ways as well.  But I would like to suggest that the fear we are facing – and the bondage we come under – has a lot to do with the pressures, stresses and influences of the world in which we live.  Our freedom in Christ comes under a battering from things like fear of economic and financial pressure, threats to our health, all the hype over global climate change, discrimination and persecution from left wing activists… and then there’s the personal and relational issues we are faced with as well.  

Our yoke of bondage is also driven by fear, unbelief and our natural mindedness.

But here’s the thing – whether we’re Jewish converts or Gentile converts, the basis of our life in Christ has to be faith working through love.

We cannot afford to get entangled with those issues that cause us to be bound.

Do you know what the meaning of entangled is?

It’s to have within, to hold in; to be held, entangled, to be held ensnared; to be engaged with, set one’s self against, hold a grudge against someone.

Where does all this actually happen?  In our heart.  The place of love.

The place of bondage is ultimately the heart.  We let things get entangled on the inside – we hold things within – we engage with things that are really in opposition to what we truly believe and who we truly are.

The heart is also where we believe.. it’s the foundation place of faith.

Romans 10:9 New King James Version (NKJV)

“9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Proverbs 3:5 New King James Version (NKJV)

“5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

And lean not on your own understanding;”

My own understanding of all that’s happening in the world around me right now is pretty dismal.  But I’m not leaning on that.  The Word of God tells me – don’t lean on what your natural mind understands.

It doesn’t say – ignore it – or pretend it’s not happening.  We’re not called to live in denial.

But God says, don’t lean in that direction.  Lean towards Me and towards faith in My promises.  Lean into your place of rest and peace with Me.

To lean into something means to trust in it.  To be supported by it.

By faith, I am trusting in God’s Word.  The Word is my support – my stronghold, my Sword of truth.  And it has proven itself worthy of trust because it clearly speaks into every situation that we face in these times.  It helps me to see.  It is an immovable, unchanging foundation that I can stand securely on.

It actually sets me free because I’m not becoming entangled with where the world is at.  I’m leaning firmly into Jesus.  He is my Rock.

I know I’m speaking in the first person a lot this morning as I share my own foundation.  But I’m expecting that as I speak out about me – you are also there shouting out – yes, that’s me as well.  We’re in this together!  My voice this morning is simply an echo of your voice.  Your heart!

So where does love then, fit with faith?

Well to start with, the love Paul is talking about is not our own.

The kind of love that faith works through has got to be Divine love – God’s love.  

We will feel frustrated and even condemned when we rely on ourselves in ministry.  And I’m particularly thinking here about our call to minister in miracles and healing – setting others free from any form of bondage or oppression – releasing the supernatural power of God.

When we don’t see things happening, we can start to believe that we aren’t loving others enough.  Or that we haven’t worked up enough faith.  Because it says – faith works through love!

But whose love is it?  

Faith itself is God’s gift to us – and so is His love.

Ephesians 2:8 New King James Version (NKJV)

“8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,”

And this:

Galatians 3:5 The Passion Translation (TPT)

“5 Let me ask you again: What does the lavish supply of the Holy Spirit in your life, and the miracles of God’s tremendous power, have to do with you keeping religious laws? The Holy Spirit is poured out upon us through the revelation and power of faith, not by keeping the law!”

We could say that not only is it not by keeping the law – but also not by our own works – or our own striving – our own self effort.   Thats what the law required.  

But miraculous power comes through the Holy Spirit – by faith!  And when you have God’s gift of faith, you don’t need a lot.  All you need is faith the size of a mustard seed.

And love?  Well if you want to know anything about love – you go to John.

He quotes Jesus as saying:

John 15:5-9 New King James Version (NKJV)

“5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.”

We have to live as extensions of the vine – Jesus.  Our faith, our love, our fruitfulness… everything is the outworking of our connection to Jesus.  We will have all that we desire so long as we are drawing from the vine and abiding in the love of Jesus.

So our fruitfulness in all things, including miracles and healing, is not about us – but about our closeness in relationship with Jesus.  He heals through us!  He works miracles through us.  He loves people through us!

1 Corinthians 13:2 New King James Version (NKJV)

“2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

The Passion Translation highlights an interesting point:

1 Corinthians 13:2 The Passion Translation (TPT)

2 And if I were to have the gift of prophecy with a profound understanding of God’s hidden secrets, and if I possessed unending supernatural knowledge, and if I had the greatest gift of faith that could move mountains, but have never learned to love, then I am nothing.

“But have never learned to love…”  There’s only one place that we learn to love – and that’s in the secret place of abiding in Jesus.

Most of us, if not all of us, have learned to love by being part of our own family.  We learned to love growing up as kids.  I had great parents – they loved me very much – but as an adult, I can identify some unhealthy patterns in our family dynamics.  It’s not about blaming anyone – but it’s healthy to understand that what we experienced as love might not have been completely whole.

But in Jesus – you learn what love really is. 

We learn about love in that incredible place of “glory” that John describes in John 17 – and I won’t read it all now – but Jesus prays for us that we would enter in to the same place of glory that He shares with the Father.  That we would be one with the Father and the Son – that the Father’s love would be manifest and expressed through us – the same love that the Father has for His Son flowing through us.

That’s the key to our fruitfulness!  That’s the key to our faith working through love!  

And I just want to finish as Galatians 5 also finishes. 

Galatians 5:22-23 The Passion Translation (TPT)

“22–23 But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions:

joy that overflows,

peace that subdues,

patience that endures,

kindness in action,

a life full of virtue,

faith that prevails,

gentleness of heart, and

strength of spirit.

Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless.”

I believe God is calling us up to walk in divine love – not natural love – not works based acceptance and approval – not religious activity – but true freedom to live in Christ.

It’s a call to stand fast in liberty – that means continuing to stand fast even in the face of opposition – even when bondage wants to try and yoke itself to us in some subtle way.

Freedom is living, God given faith, working through God given love.

Its time to lean into the Word – lean into Jesus – lean into faith…. And to lean away from what we see with our natural eyes.  

All these qualities I just mentioned – joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc….  They are meant to be expressed in and through us in a limitless supply.

Never set the law above these qualities of love.  Never set self centred and self empowered works above them.

It is for freedom that we have been set free.  Theres a revelation to be had in this if we give ourselves to it.

Lets take up the challenge to really learn how to love.  

 

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