Sunday 26th June 2016
Galatians Chapter 5 verses 1 and 13 – 25
with Maggie Cogan – Reader

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin- words that maybe familiar to some of us –when we use to listen to; Listen with mother on the Home Service. Anybody under the age of 55 probably won’t have a clue what I am talking about – I’ll explain later over a cup of tea

Actually– are we too comfortable?
Is our Christian life too comfortable?

How do we tell if we have become too comfortable in our Christian life— and in our faith as a whole

I read recently about some signs that show if our Christian life and faith has become too comfortable – and I would like to share them with you –

1. We do not attend church with a high level of expectancy. In fact the only thing we expect with any certainty— is that the preacher will eventually finish the final hymn will be sung and we will be able to go home having had a cup of tea or coffee – a piece of cake and a really good chat.

2. We no longer seem to be concerned about the spiritual condition of neighbours, family members or indeed our friends.

3. We haven’t had a spiritual conversation with a non-Christian in a long time. In fact some of our friends don’t even know we go to church.

4. The Bible seems a bit like a history book. We treat God’s word as something we can pick the nice bits about God’s love and forgiveness and ignore everything about sin or things that make us feel uncomfortable
5. As long as we get our parking spot, sit in our seat, and hear the music we like, everything’s absolutely fine.

6. Our prayers don’t seem to be making it past the door. We just transmit and we don’t even listen for God’s answer because we would like an immediate one.

7. It sometimes doesn’t even dawn on us that God could do something incredible and amazing and radical in our lives at any moment today.

The signs of comfortable Christianity
How many of those that I read are present in our lives?
Have we become too comfortable?
Is it time to leave our comfort zone and get uncomfortable?
Is it time for us to stop being the person we are comfortable being and become the person God has called us to be?

Paul’s letter to the Galatians is one of the most- angry texts in the whole Bible.
He is writing to people who are drifting off the path to a modified Gospel and is passionately guiding them back to the true Gospel of faith in Christ alone that he had established them in.

By today’s passage in chapter 5 he has said his harshest words and is mellowing towards encouragement and offering a more constructive message.

The first verse of chapter five captures the heart of what he wants to say at this point:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

The Bible and the Gospel have a particular vision of what freedom consists of.
Freedom is being released from the power and consequences of sin—- and all that oppresses us.
Freedom is that mode of being where we are released to be what we are meant to be and able to choose for the right.
Freedom is being able to relate to God and people without shame or fear and live in hope.

If it is not then there is good news because that is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ offers for those who receive Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
Through the cross of Jesus God deals with the causes of all our various captivities
Through the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus God took upon himself all the shackles of whatever denies us freedom- all the way to death itself.
Through faith those who place their trust and hope in Jesus and his victory are set free from the power of sin in their lives.

That is what Paul was confronted with on the road to Damascus when he realised that the Christ he heard really was Jesus. The Son of God had risen from the grave, victorious over death. Paul was struggling to be holy over sin through keeping the Law and failing. In his war against unrighteousness he was a prisoner and not free. That changed when he accepted Christ. So freedom through Christ and Christ alone– became very precious and important for Paul—- and he was passionate about it.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Faith in Jesus brings us to freedom so stand firmly in that freedom.
That is his message and plea.
But why does he need to say this?
Surely free people would never jeopardize their freedom?
Surely people who have been set free by God’s beautiful grace in his own son crucified and had risen—– would hold that precious and dear?
Surely free people would only use their freedoms wisely and well?

In today’s passage Paul points out two things that people do to erode and reduce their precious freedom over the power and consequences of sin and he gives encouragement to live out the hard won freedom for what it was intended.

The first one is this. Coming to rely on props and substitutes instead of wholly on Christ –
In the church at Galatia false teaching was convincing some people that they needed to do something extra to what God had done in Christ. An uncertainty was created that eroded their faith so they were open to suggestions. Paul was furious about this.

In broad terms there is a tendency to seek religious props which in Paul’s words become ‘yokes of slavery’. There seems to be a basic human expectation that to get something from God we have to somehow earn it. The cost of appeasing that sort of weak faith in God is a loss of freedom bringing back insecurity

For freedom Christ has set us free; therefore we must stand firm, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.Stand Firm. Resist any attempt to seduce us into securing freedom in any way but through Christ himself.Since that first generation of Church Christianity has been vulnerable to this. We need to stand firm in faith in God’s grace through Christ.

The second challenge to freedom given through Christ arises from misunderstanding its purpose and then squandering it.The purpose of God’s freedom for us as set out in this passage from Galatians 5. In Christ we are free to:
Love and become slaves to one another. (v.13)
Live by the Spirit (v.16 & 25)

We are set free to stand in a place where we have the freedom to choose these things.

Freedom is something very precious.
God wants us to enjoy that but without discipline we are likely to lose it.

Maintaining freedom requires the discipline of wise choices.
Foolish choices will come at cost of lost freedom.
In v.16 Paul tells how to maintain and grow spiritual freedom
Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Focus on serving others through love and freedom will grow.
God has set us free from sin–Jesus set us free from the consequence of our sin, and in that Freedom we are meant to serve God and love each other.
I would like to suggest something for the coming week.
Let’s assume that the holidays have begun and we are in the seasons of freedom.

They are times when we are set free from many of life’s regular demands and things we have to do.
My question is- what are we going to do with that freedom?
Will that be a time when we take a holiday from God?
Will that be a time when protecting our freedom means being blind to the needs of others?
Will that be a time when we just have to indulge ourselves?
Or could it be a time to enjoy holy-days and seek to use our freedom to show love to others?
The call to walk in the Spirit and not the Flesh comes with the freedom— God gives us through faith in Christ.

Allow the Spirit to help us discern between our feelings and His prompting.
Live every day guided by the Holy Spirit.
Christ has truly set us free. Now we must make sure that we stay free – let the Holy Spirit guide our lives today and for evermore.

Amen