Lectionary Sermon for Third Sunday after Pentecost

Galatians 5:1, 13-25   Road to Freedom

Freedom, freedom is a very important word to us in this country and for many people throughout the world.  But what exactly does the word freedom mean?  The dictionary defines freedom as the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.

But can we act, speak, or think with hindrance or restraint?  We certainly cannot act as we want if what we what to do is prohibited by law.  Neither can we speak whatever we want if our speech endangers, libels, or threatens someone else. 

That leaves the power to think as we want without hindrance or restraint.  Are we really free to think as we want without hindrance or restraint?  Not according to Scripture.

First, in Ephesians, we are told, “So I’m telling you this, and I insist on it in the Lord: you shouldn’t live your life like the Gentiles anymore. They base their lives on pointless thinking, and they are in the dark in their reasoning. They are disconnected from God’s life because of their ignorance and their closed hearts. (Eph. 4:17-18 CEB)

In 2 Corinthians, Scripture tells us, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of those who don’t have faith so they couldn’t see the light of the gospel that reveals Christ’s glory. Christ is the image of God.” (2 Cor. 4:4 CEB) And then Romans, “As it is written, There is no righteous person, not even one. There is no one who understands. There is no one who looks for God.” (Rom. 3:10-11 CEB)

And in Hebrews, “Watch out, brothers and sisters, so that none of you have an evil, unfaithful heart that abandons the living God. Instead, encourage each other every day, as long as it’s called “today,” so that none of you become insensitive to God because of sin’s deception.” (Heb. 3:12-13 CEB)

This lectionary passage today tells us that freedom, true freedom, comes from Jesus.  Jesus does not give freedom as a cheap gift. Jesus has set us free for the possibility of freedom, the freedom to use our minds for the purpose of our creation.  We are spiritual beings.  We have a soul given to us by the breath of God.  It is an eternal soul, however, it is also a soul enslaved to sin and is predisposed to selfishness.

Jesus in teaching those who believed in him said, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teaching. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They responded, “We are Abraham’s children; we’ve never been anyone’s slaves. How can you say that we will be set free?” Jesus answered, “I assure you that everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (Jn. 8:31-34 CEB)

Jesus gave his life on the cross in order to give us the opportunity to be free from sin’s dominance.

Jesus did this because of love.  Love does not control.  So even though Jesus gives us the opportunity to be free, we don’t have to accept it.  In fact, we can waste this wonderful opportunity, this gift of grace, this freedom to which we are called, and go in the opposite direction. 

This is why Paul gives us this warning in Galatians.  Look again at verse 13.  We can use our freedom wrongly.  We can indulge in choices that can once again make us slaves to sin.  How can we know this is happening?  Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit gives us a list in verses 19-21, but do not make the mistake of thinking this list is exhaustive.  This list is but an example. 

The real test lies in what is controlling our desires, our motivations.  Why do we do the things we do?  If the source is what the translation I am using calls our selfish desires, we are in trouble.  Many versions of the Bible call this “the flesh or desires of the flesh”.  No matter what the translation, it is engaging in immoral behavior.  It is engaging, desiring, and supporting what God says is wrong.

I have a serious question for you.  Why does God redeem us, rescue us, set us free from the penalty of sin yet leave us in this world knowing we could again reject the love we are offered, the grace we are given?  Why, because we have a purpose.  Our purpose is, “but serve each other through love.

All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal. 5:13-14 CEB)

Look at verse 15.  How often are we seeing this happen in our world?  The violence, the hatred, the manipulations, the deceptions, the lies.  This is where the flesh will lead us.  This is not freedom.  This is fear, slavery to fear.  This is the great deception that causes so much pain, suffering, and grief.

So, what is the answer?  What must we do?  We must “be guided by the Spirit”. (Gal. 5:16 CEB) And what does “guided by the Spirit” mean? 

Jesus told us, The Companion, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you. (Jn. 14:26 CEB)

The word companion is a translation of the word paraclete. It is a word meaning “one called alongside to help, one who is called on to provide guidance or encouragement”. 

The Holy Spirit gives us the insight, the understanding, and the ability to look at our lives in the light of God’s word.  So to be guided by the Spirit we must be faithful to the teaching of Jesus. 

The Holy Spirit brings us awareness of sin.  The Spirit troubles our conscience.  To ignore the Spirit damages our faith.  We are warned that, “Some people have ruined their faith because they refused to listen to their conscience.” (1 Tim. 1:19 CEB)

To be led by the Spirit we should, “always pursue the good for each other and everyone else. Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Don’t suppress the Spirit. (1 Thess. 5:15-19 CEB)

A person was walking down the street when they noticed a worker struggling with a large box on the back of a truck.  The person went over and said, “Let me help you.”  So both the person and the worker struggled together with the box.  After about 15 minutes the person said to the worker, “This box is just too heavy to get off this truck.”  “Get it off”, cried the worker, “I was trying to get it on!”

Too many times, too many people are pushing against us while God is trying to pull us toward.  This is not the road to freedom but imprisons us in our own ignorance.  Be guided by the Spirit, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn. 8:32 CEB)

In verses 22 and 23, we are given a guide.  If we want to know if we are being guided by the Spirit, we need to sit down and use this list to see how we are doing. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. (Gal. 5:22-23 CEB)

Freedom consists in not doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.  John Paul II

If we are doing what we ought, then these are the actions, attitudes, and attentions that we can see in our lives.  If not, then we really need to ask ourselves why.  If not, we need to be praying for something to change.  As Jesus said, “”Either consider the tree good and its fruit good, or consider the tree rotten and its fruit rotten. A tree is known by its fruit.” (Matt. 12:33 CEB)

This is the way of freedom.  This is the way of life.  This is our only hope.  The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Lord’s Spirit is, there is freedom. (2 Cor. 3:17 CEB) Amen.