Today’s reading: Galatians 4-6.
“If I’m saved by faith, am I free to live as I please?”
Imagine that there was a celestial bus that carried the saved to heaven. What kind of ticket would be necessary to get on that bus? Paul argued in Galatians 3 that only justification by faith, and not keeping the law, would provide that ticket. But what happens once a person punches that faith ticket and gets on the bus? How then shall we live? Paul addressed these questions in Galatians 5.
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Galatians 5:13-16
Spiritual expression of love rather than sinful desire. Paul said the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love. For those on the celestial bus it’s not faith or works but faith that works – specifically acting in love towards others. Our freedom should not be used to gratify our sinful desires.
Spiritual intent rather than sinful indulgence. We are to walk by the Spirit, not the flesh. Though these two natures war in us, we aim to keep step with the Spirit. In doing so we are free from the old law and instead follow the law of Christ whose commandment is to love others as ourselves.
Spiritual fruit rather than sinful acts. When we walk by the Spirit we bear spiritual fruit: love, joy, peace (describing our relationship with God); patience, kindness, goodness (our relationship with others); and faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (describing our own character). If ongoing sinful acts describe our lifestyle instead, Paul says we will not inherit the kingdom, for “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”
The person who belongs to Christ has a new heart with new desires that lead to a lifestyle of love. If there is no evidence of this change in a person’s life, and if instead their life is characterized by ongoing sinful desires which lead to ungodly actions, then it is very likely that they have not entered the kingdom of God.
When all guilt and fear and greed have been removed by the assurances of God’s forgiveness and love and power, what force will move us out of our contented living rooms to take upon ourselves the inconveniences and suffering that love requires? What will propel you to greet strangers when you feel shy, to go to an enemy and plead for reconciliation when you feel indignant, to tithe when you’ve never tried it before, to speak to your colleagues about Christ, to invite new neighbors to a Bible study, to cross cultures with the gospel, to admit you’re a homosexual and want help, to create a new ministry for alcoholics in the area, to give an evening to drive a van, or a morning to pray for renewal? None of these costly acts of love just happens. They are propelled from the heart by a new appetite—the appetite for the thrill of experiencing God’s power in your life. Faith loves to rely on God and see him work miracles in us. Therefore, faith pushes us into the current where God’s power flows most freely—the current of love. Faith produces love because in acts of love we feel the power of God conquering our sin, and conquering Satan, and transforming the world. – John Piper
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