Daily Bible Readings
Monday, August 24. Read Galatians 5:1. 1) What did Christ do for us? 2) What did Paul say we should do as a result? 3) How do you think we often continue to live in what Paul called slavery?
Tuesday, August 25. Read Romans 6:12-19. 1) Why is “slavery” such an appropriate word to describe our relationship to sin? 2) Why is grace an important word when talking about (spiritual) slavery? 3) Paul says that slavery is not an option, but the person or thing to which we live in slavery is an option. Make a list of things to which we might be enslaved?
Wednesday, August 26. Read Colossians 2:20-23. 1) What was the net affect of choosing Jesus as Lord? 2) Why do you think that we humans often choose to go back to enslavement to our previous objects of worship?
Thursday, August 27. Read Romans 8:18-37. 1) A popular view about the end times is that the earth will be destroyed, and all God’s people will be taken “up” to heaven. What impression do you get from 8:18-22? 2) What predominant thought should define God’s people? See 8:24. 3) What view does a disciple of Jesus have about even bad things that happen to us? See verse 28.
Friday, August 28. Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-13. 1) What does Paul mean when he says “all things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial?” Can you give a good example? 2) What lesson is Paul trying to get us to understand regarding freedom and our use of our freedoms? 3) What do you think is the average attitude toward freedoms today?
Saturday, August 29. Read Ephesians 2:11-22. This is Sunday’s sermon text.
Prayer for the Week:
Dear Father, You created us to be free not enslaved. We know that our enslavement actually comes from our desire to do what we want to do rather than what is godly to do. Please send your Spirit into our hearts and prick our consciences when we are tempted to listen to the wrong voice. In Jesus’ name I pray this. Amen.
Hymn of the Week:
Grace! ‘Tis a Charming Sound
by Philip Doddridge, 1755
Grace has a thrilling sound
To each believer’s ear;
That peace with God through Christ is found
Is news I gladly hear.
Grace first inscribed my name
In God’s eternal book,
And grace has brought me to the Lamb,
Who all my sorrows took.
Grace led my wand’ring feet
To tread the heav’nly road,
And grace supplies each hour
I meet While pressing on to God.
Grace taught my soul to pray
And made my eyes o’erflow;
His grace has kept me to this day
And will not let me go.
Grace all our work shall crown
Through everlasting days;
The heav’nly home God gives his own
Shall echo with our praise.
Devotional Article of the Week:
Flying High with Freedom!
We have been set free, so let’s not give up our freedom?
by Phil Ware
Freedom has always been purchased at a high cost. For years, I listened to a dear friend and Elder share his experiences of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge during the July 4th holiday. He spoke of the terror. He reminded us of the blood-stained water. He talked about surviving the biting cold of a brutal winter. He spoke of the weariness, worry, and despair as ammunition and food ran low right at Christmas. He reminisced about the hard nights sleeping on the cold hard ground so far from home.
For us as Christians, we must use every opportunity to reawaken our hearts to the high price paid for our spiritual freedom. Jesus’ coming, his life, and his death all testify to God’s incredible and sacrificial love to redeem us. At great cost, Jesus purchased us from law-keeping, sin, and death. So we shouldn’t be surprised by the apostle Paul’s biting words, sharp toned warnings, and urgent pleadings in his letter to the Galatians to hold on to their freedom.
Paul spoke specifically of two great dangerous temptations back toward slavery for Jesus’ followers:
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 (Galatians 5:1, 13 NRSV).
The first of these temptations is to use law-keeping as the basis for our personal sense of righteousness. This process is sometimes called legalism. This practice is not to be confused with Christian obedience, which arises out of our sense of love and appreciation for the salvation given us by grace.
Law-keeping becomes our way of identifying ourselves as better, more saved, more holy, and more righteous than others. We choose the laws that are most important to keep and define our righteousness by those laws. The problem with law-keeping, Paul told the Galatians, is that if you break any law, then you are a lawbreaker and guilty of all the law. While the Mosaic Law was good and holy because it pointed to the character God was seeking in our lives, the law could only help us see how we failed to measure up to God’s holiness.
We needed a Savior to pay for our sin. We needed the Holy Spirit to empower us to a new way of life. This new way of life is the way of the Spirit — not the written code — and is built on the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:1 and 2 Corinthians 3:1-18). To go back to trying to justify ourselves by keeping the Law, any law, is to fall from grace and abandon the justification that comes only through the sacrifice of Christ (Galatians 5:4). Paul went ballistic with those who were trying to make law keeping the basis of their Christian faith in the book of Galatians.
The second form of slavery is to say that we are saved by grace and then get caught up again in immoral and unrighteous living because we know that grace will cover that sin. If the first form of slavery is called legalism, the second is called license. Jude warned about such teaching and such people (Jude 1:4). While doing what our desires lead us to do can feel like freedom at first, it is actually another form of slavery.
Jesus warned that if we sin, then we become a slave to that sin (John 8:34). The Lord came to liberate from sin — not just our past sin, but from a life of sin in the here and now. We must not think we can go on recklessly sinning and nonchalantly depending on grace to cover our sin (Romans 6:1-2). In fact, when the Spirit is at work in us, the power of sin is broken (Romans 6:11-14) and the fruit of God’s character comes to life in us (Galatians 5:22-26). To go back to our old sin, Peter warns, is like a dog returning to its own vomit (2 Peter 2:22).
For me, one way to understand the differences between grace, license, and legalism is to look at a kite. A kite may decide it wants to be free — not bound by a string, but free to go anywhere the wind takes it. After all, isn’t this true freedom? The problem is a kite can’t sail or soar without the string that ties it to the kite master. Instead, it is at the mercy of the wind. Blown in whatever direction any ill wind wants to take it. It will not rise to the skies. It will be bounced along the ground and torn by all sorts of obstacles until it is destroyed or shoved under a mound of wind-blown debris.
At the same time, legalism can be understood as trying to fly a kite without the aid of the wind. We can try all we want to make the kite fly and soar. However, any flight is temporary. We are not strong enough and fast enough to keep our kite in flight by our own efforts. Sure, the kite is tethered and controlled. Yet without the wind, it cannot soar, dart, and dance as it was designed to do in the wind.
When all is right in the world of kites, the true Kite Master lets the kite rise on the power of the wind. It soars, dips, sways, rises, dances, darts, and dives with great elegance and freedom. It is kept from danger and disaster by the true Kite Master’s careful influence, guidance, and care. The kite is then free to be all it’s supposed to be powered by the wind and guided by the true Kite Master’s loving control.
If we understand the wind in this analogy to be the Spirit of God, the ill wind to be the desires of our flesh, the true Kite Master to be our Father in Heaven, and the string to be the link to the righteous will of God, then we get a glimpse of what God has made us to be by his grace.
The freedom we have in Jesus was purchased at a high price. That freedom is not just from the past life of sin that enslaved us. It is also the freedom to use us for a life of righteousness that displays the character and compassion of God. Let’s not give up our spiritual freedom for any reason. Let’s let God’s Spirit help us soar in the freedom of his grace while our lives display our Father’s character and compassion.