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. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
–Galatians 5: 13-14
As the new year begins, let me remind you of the amazing gift of grace that has been given to you. As a believer in Jesus, you have been set free from slavery to sin. Before you were saved you were a slave to sin. That means that even if you wanted to resist, ultimately sin had the final word and power over you to obey its desires.
But by God’s grace you were not left in that state. God rescued you, freeing you from slavery to sin. As Paul writes in Galatians 5:13, “you were called to freedom,” and that through faith in Jesus Christ. Similarly, in Galatians 5:1 Paul writes, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Freedom in Christ means a new life with new desires, new decisions, and new behaviors. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul shares the good news that, “if anyone is in Christ, he/she is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” In Christ you are forgiven, you are free from the power of sin, and you are given the Holy Spirit to transform you to be more like Jesus. Will you still struggle with sin? Yes, but it is no longer your master, you are a child of God and you are free.
What is the character of the new life of freedom? Paul writes in Galatians 5:13, “do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Freedom in Christ is marked by love and service, and an entirely new motivation. In his sermon series on Galatians, John Piper says this:
Works of the flesh are motivated by a desire to fill our emptiness. But love is very different—it is motivated by the joy of sharing our fullness, ‘Love does not seek its own’ (1 Corinthians 13:5). When we love, we are not enslaved to use things or people to fill our emptiness. Love is the overflow of our fullness. Therefore, love is the only behavior that we can do in freedom. When God frees us from guilt and fear and greed and fills us with his all-satisfying presence, the only motive left is the joy of sharing our fullness. When God fills the emptiness of our heart with forgiveness and help and guidance and hope, he frees us from the bondage to accumulate things and manipulate people.
Finally, Paul says in verse 14 that the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “ you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Therefore, as we have been set free from slavery to sin through faith in Christ, let us fulfill the law of love and serve others out of the joyful overflow of gratitude and fullness graciously given to us through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Thank you, Jesus, that You have called us to freedom. Please forgive us for the ways we have used our freedom to indulge in the flesh. In particular, I ask forgiveness for _________________. Please fill us afresh this day with Your Holy Spirit and give us strength and joy to obey Your calling to love and serve others with hearts of gratitude. Open our eyes to see the opportunities in front of us to love and serve others today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Ministry Fellow, Christian Union Vita (Cornell University)
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