Free to Love

Free in Christ! 

Free to Love

Sunday, May 15, 2022

 

Welcome: Anybody ever get angry or hurt by someone close to them and think, “I’ll show you, I’m going to give you the silent treatment, the old cold shoulder. That’ll teach ya. No more love for you. No more Mr. or Mrs. Nice Guy/Gal. Take that!”

I bet many of us have thought or done something like this over the course of our lives with our spouses for sure- maybe you had to sleep on the couch or opted to sleep on the couch. 😊 Maybe with parents or parents with kids. For sure with siblings right? 

So very mature of us right? 

Oh we get under one another’s skin, don’t we? We say and do things to each other and then that person takes offense or gets their feelings hurt and the battle is on. Then it’s about getting revenge or getting the other person back in some way to let them know our disapproval of what they did, or maybe even let them hurt as we did. Right? We give them a taste of their own medicine. 

While it might feel good at the moment, to think we are getting the upper hand and taking back control of a situation or a relationship, we have to ask, who is the winner when we do that? Is there a winner when our thoughts and hearts are motivated to one-up the other, to get them back, or even inflict some hurt on them? In our time of silence, how do we really feel? You might say well I feel fine because I just don’t think about it, I just don’t deal with that irritating behavior. We say that, we even justify that in our thoughts so we can extend the silent treatment out longer to really make them pay. 

But… how do we really feel? Is there joy when we shut someone out? Is there peace? Is there laughter, bonding, connecting, and sharing that we love to do so much with others that we need with others?

No…. so what do we really gain when we give in to these desires? 

The upper hand. What does that really establish for you? 

A sense of pride because you are showing you won’t tolerate being disrespected? So being alone in your pride is better? 

Being right? How many relationships are lasting when one person is consumed with being right all the time?  That is a sure-fire way to end up alone or in a broken relationship. 

Bitter in your offense. Well, that sounds like a great place to be.  More bitterness, please! 

We read Jesus came and that we would have life abundant in Him, not to live in bitterness and offense for what others do to us. 

I know I am tossing this about casually this morning, poking fun at what many of us tend to do in our human nature but we need to step out of ourselves from time to time and see how ridiculous our actions are and how far they take us from achieving what we truly want. How far they distance us from receiving the blessings of God.

How many of you here today desire to have broken, distant and disengaged relationships? How many have that on their bucket list of something to achieve in their lifetime-how many dysfunctional relationships can I create? 

Huh, not a one. 

How many of you desire to have close, connected, loving relationships abounding in your lifetime? Of all kinds? 

Exactly. We are made for a relationship with God first and with one another. 

The only path that leads to this outcome is love. Choosing to love others as God loves us. 

This is part of our maturing as Christians and as human beings is to reflect often on our thoughts and behaviors and ask ourselves with the Holy Spirit to give us guidance, are my thoughts and behaviors leading me towards the life I desire? Or are they creating barriers to living life abundant in Christ and with others? 

If we don’t ask this question and honestly listen for the answer, then we just continue to respond according to what our flesh feels in any given moment. Our flesh feeds on sin-it’s in us. So we have to know if we let our flesh dictate our thoughts and our responses-it will not choose love. It will choose self-pride, offense, anger, and even hate. 

BUT there is good news!! As we receive Christ as our Savior and the Holy Spirit lives in us, we are told by God that we are free from the power of sin over our lives! Sin has no more dominion-meaning it can’t dictate how we react and behave. We have a choice now! We have the power of the Living God inside of us through the Holy Spirit to guide us into life and peace. To fill our thoughts with loving, pure thoughts. To show us how to respond with love and grace to others. 

The Apostle Paul was teaching this freedom to the early church in Galatia. Earlier in this same chapter, he is teaching about the freedom we have from the law because we live under a covenant of grace in Christ Jesus. At this time, some Christians were trying to make new Christians get circumcised which was the Jewish custom given to Abraham, as a sign they were set apart for God. This was no longer needed after Christ came because one is saved by grace through our faith in Jesus. It’s our faith that we stand in and live by, not the law any longer. Paul was saying if you go back to living under this law of having to be circumcised then you are making yourself responsible to uphold every other law, and that is an impossible feat for us humans. We can’t do it for the very example I shared above. We in our sinful nature will choose pride, anger, bitterness, jealousy, and hate time and time again, which then would mean we are not upholding the law. So Paul says don’t do that. You are free in Christ! 

But then he continues on to say, don’t use that freedom, that grace extended to you, to indulge yourself and the desires your flesh has. Let’s pick it up there and look at the gift of freedom we have in Christ, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, as well as to freely love others the same. Being free to love one another is truly a gift from God.                                              

                                                 Galatians 5: 13-18, 22-23 NIV                                                            

 13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

  • Freedom Motivates Us to Love            

We have incredible freedom in Christ. It’s sad that far too many Christians do not know about the true freedom we really have, or how to walk in that freedom. This is why we are doing this series to bring awareness of how vast this freedom is in every aspect of our lives and to show or remind us how to walk in that freedom daily. 

With our freedom comes privilege and with privilege comes responsibility and a call to live honorably to this gift we have been given. 

It’s like a parent that works tirelessly to build a better life for his or her children so they have greater opportunities and freedoms than the parent did. But in having those privileges comes the responsibility to do good with the freedoms they have been given. It is not to be squandered away living a lifestyle of partying and being reckless. It is not to simply indulge self with every pleasurable thing one can be entertained with. It’s to use that privilege and freedom to share, bless and care for those with less privilege, less freedom, and to love the world. This makes all that hard work and effort so worthwhile for the parent to see their children doing great things to better the world around them. 

You know there is not a shortage of money in this world; it’s a matter of what we do with what we have been entrusted with. Do we steward it well and use it in ways to share God’s love and hope in our world, or do we use it to satisfy our every whim and build our own kingdoms? When we freely love others, that love will compel us to be good stewards and freely share with those in need. 

We are free in Christ and what we’ll be talking about today is being free to love one another-truly love one another as we’re called to do. 

When we are free in Christ and filled with His Presence, love is what will flow from us. It’s who He is and love will be the overflow, as God designed.                                                   

Galatians 5:13     13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.   

Maybe we like to pick and choose who we will love-our family-yes, our good friends-yes, a sweet elderly neighbor-sure, those who are most like us-yes-that’s easy. 

But God calls us to love everyone-and that means everyone. 

People who are not like you at all, people who are broken and sick-desperately needy and consuming of your time and patience, those who are belligerent, those who are selfish, those who are ungrateful, the know it all, the bossy, even those in the opposite political party! 

What about when God sends strangers to our church-searching for hope, searching for acceptance and belonging, searching for a friend. Do we make time to pour out His love upon them? Or are we too busy with what we need to do following service? If we don’t make time to extend genuine love for those God sends our way, how will they come to experience the love of God? God will send the harvest as we are ready workers willing to share His love freely and fully. We have seen this and it’s beautiful to watch love in action.   

Leviticus 19:34 34 The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.

Any one of us can have times we pick and choose when and to whom we’ll extend love but God makes it very clear we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. All those mentioned above are our neighbors. 

God shared with me, We need to practice stepping into the uncomfortable to bring comfort to another. 

Look at Jesus’ example of His godly love in action-what being motivated to love looks like. 

33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

Matthew 25: 35-36   35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

There is no greater fulfillment than to love another freely without expectation and just pour out the love of God on them-not for anything they did to deserve it, but just because we have it and can share it. It’s awesome. 

  • Releases Us from the Bind to Sinful Responses  

In Galatians Paul is teaching us the importance of learning to walk by the Spirit so we do not gratify the desires of the flesh. Our flesh will desire to do what is sinful because our flesh is rebellious towards God. Our flesh will determine who is worthy of our love, our time, our generosity, and who isn’t. Our flesh will say it’s ok, you don’t have time for that you are busy with more important things. Our flesh will get offended with others who disagree with us, with the bully, with the bossy one, with the knowledge and our flesh will say- we can just avoid that person- he or she doesn’t deserve my kindness or friendship. 

The Spirit will convict us and say, is that how God treats you? Or does God love you all the time no matter how you show up? 

God spoke to my heart and said “remember you are under no obligation to your sinful nature, sin has no more dominion over you. You are free Child to cast aside those sinful responses that judge, condemn, and disparage others. That is not for you.”

Ephesians 4: 31-32 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

In those moments you feel those emotions rising up in you, do you hear a whisper from the Holy Spirit saying, “Maybe you could try compassion and seek to understand this person more-maybe there is more under the surface you don’t know yet that is driving their behavior?  Maybe a gentle response or a kind word might soften that hard exterior. Maybe they have their own insecurities and fears so they put on this front so people don’t see they are barely holding it together. Maybe they have been deeply hurt by someone so they guard their heart and don’t let others in to avoid that pain and disappointment again.  Let go of your hurt and offense and extend My love instead. Love covers a multitude of sins.” 

 

When we let the Spirit be our guide, we will always respond with love and always be in alignment with God’s law. The Spirit will never contradict what is good and pure.  If we respond in love, we don’t have to be concerned about sinning against someone. 

                                                                                 

Romans 13:10 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.                                                

Galatians 5:18 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.      

 

This is the beauty of freedom in Christ! We are free from standing in offense, anger, or jealousy. We are free to reject those responses as they rise up because they only make us feel bad too and do nothing to promote God’s kingdom. We are free to choose peace instead!  When we let the Spirit lead us, we can trust we are acting under a spirit of grace and it will never be wrong. 

                                                                 

  • Manifests Peace and Unity    

Coming back to the examples I shared in the beginning- when we allow our human nature-our flesh as the Bible calls it- to control us- our reactions are focused on self and what we want or what we think we deserve.  Operating from a focus on self, is never going to lead to peace and unity. It just won’t. It creates division, chaos, discord, and every man/woman for him/herself. This is not of God. This was never of God. 

When we surrender to the Holy Spirit’s leading in love, we will always, always respond and move towards peace and unity. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Isn’t peace and unity what we all desire deep down. We may want our opinions heard and acted on, we may want some things different-but in our hearts- we’re all seeking peace and life is good when there is unity. This is God’s design. This is of God. 

The only way to do this is love. This means we have to be willing to love one another to create a culture of loving-kindness. 

                                                                               

James 3:17 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.                                                                                    

 

Ephesians 4: 2-3 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.   

You and I can’t do this on our own-not well-not with any lasting effect. We have to draw from the Holy Spirit that binds us together in peace.                                                          

 

Colossians 3:14 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.    

We can do this more freely when we know we are fully loved by God and nothing can ever take His love away from us, and that He is for us. When we truly get this, we can find a new willingness to love others around us, no matter how they respond because we are so full of the love of God, that the excess has to pour out of us. Our happiness and satisfaction then are not coming from how others treat us but are fulfilled through the love of God in us.                                                                                                                                       

 

Conclusion:  In Christ, we can freely love others as God freely loves us. We are not bound to the shackles of our human reasoning as to who is worthy of our love. We choose to love one another with God’s love that is in us. This is the fruit of the Spirit at work in us. Against such things, there is no law.  

Let our church be known for love inside and outside these walls. When others see you, and interact with you-may they see the love of Christ flowing from you. 

Let’s pray:  Lord God we thank You for the gift of Your love freely given to us. We don’t do anything to earn it; You Lord are love and give Your love to all freely and fully. What an amazing gift and truth to know we are fully loved by You O God and nothing can separate us from Your love. You call us to love one another as ourselves, to love our neighbors and to love others as You have loved us Jesus. We can’t do this in our own ability and You know that. Help us Father to surrender to Your Spirit inside of us that is full of Your love, and let choose to be led by Your Spirit instead of our human responses. Help us to be filled up with Your love as we gaze upon You, meditate upon Your goodness and kindness, and then let there be an outpouring of Your love God to others around us. Today we choose to freely love others because that is where we walk in life abundant and peace abounding. In Your name Jesus we pray. Amen. 

 

Final Blessing: Romans 15: 5-6 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Comments

  1. Pastor Kerri,

    Thank you for such a powerful, common sense, full of God sermon!! My sister attends and has found her church. I see why!

    • We are so glad this messaged blessed you Ruth! May God bless you and continue to increase your understanding of His awesome love for you and the freedom we have in Him! Please join us in person or online anytime! You are welcome here!

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