Welcome to ReCreate Ministry. Our mission is making and growing authentic followers of Christ. Do you remember your high school graduation? I don’t necessarily mean walking across the stage wearing your cap and gown. I’m talking about the feeling of being finished with school. You spend 13 years learning all you can, working hard to make good grades, and still trying to maintain some kind of life, and then it’s over. I always looked forward to getting out of school for the summer, but graduation was completely different. I was not always a good student, and in high school, the last thing on my mind was studying for a test or doing homework. The truth is, I was more interested in being done with school so I could pursue what I really wanted to do with my life, which was being the next Eddie Van Halen. I remember the feeling of freedom when that last day of school came, and I was finally done with it all. Now, of course, we all look back at those days as great memories, but when we were in the moment, all we wanted was to be done and to be free.
This week, we are starting a new series called Set Free. In this series, we’re going to be going through the book of Galatians. Before we dig in to the message, I wanted to give a little bit of background on Galatians. The book of Galatians was written by a man named Paul. Paul had previously been a Pharisee named Saul who persecuted the church, and even had Christians arrested and killed, but he had an encounter with Jesus (Acts 9, if you want to read more about it). After this encounter with Jesus, he became Paul, and he began preaching everywhere he could about who Jesus was and what he had done. Paul wrote this letter to all the churches in Galatia, which he helped establish during his missionary journey to the region, which we will talk about in a moment. Galatia was a region in modern-day Turkey, and people in the region were mostly Celtic, originating from the British Isles (especially Ireland) who migrated to the area because of conflict with the Romans in their homeland. At the time of the New Testament, Galatia had also become a Roman province.
The main theme of the book of Galatians is that we are saved by grace and must live by grace, not by law, for no one can keep the law. Paul wrote this book to help the people of Galatia against the influence of false teachers, who were teaching that, to be saved, the Gentiles had to keep the Mosaic Law in addition to believing in Christ. Over the next five weeks, we will go through several things that Paul talks about to help us remember that grace is enough, and that we are not saved by works, nor by anything that we do. This is not a series where we go verse by verse, or chapter by chapter, but we will touch on some of the highlights from the book of Galatians, and discuss what it means to live by grace instead of by the law.
This week, we are starting out the series by looking at Paul’s missionary journey to Galatia, and the establishment of the churches there that the book of Galatians is written to. Acts 13:1 – 3 (NIV) says “In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch), and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” The first place they stopped was a place called Cyprus, where they met a sorcerer who opposed them, and was then blinded by God. After that, the proconsul came to believe in Jesus. Their next stop was Antioch, and we pick up there. Acts 13:32 – 39 (NIV) says “We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers, he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: ‘You are my Son; today I have become your father.’ The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’ So it is stated elsewhere: ‘You will not let your Holy One see decay.’ For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay. Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.” The first truth is this:
Galatians 5:1 (NLT) says “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” The religious leaders in Galatia were trying to add rules to Christianity. What they were essentially trying to do is make Christianity a religion, when it is not in fact a religion. Having a relationship with Jesus is all that is required. Now, that does not mean that we are to continue living in sin, and everything will be okay. What it means is that we are free from our sin because of Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection.
So, what are we to do with that freedom? A.W. Tozer said “In almost everything that touches our everyday life on earth, God is pleased when we’re pleased. He wills that we be as free as birds to soar and sing our master’s praise without anxiety.” In other words, we are to use our freedom to help others understand that the same freedom we enjoy can also be theirs. Galatians 1:21 – 24 (NIV) says “Later I went to Syria and Cicilia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they praised God because of me.” This brings me to the next truth we find in Paul’s message.
Think of a time when you received really good news. Maybe it was a promotion, the announcement of an engagement, or that you were expecting a baby. Those are all exciting things, and they are all things that cause great joy not only for yourself, but for others in your life. Now, imagine if you took that same enthusiasm, and applied it to talking to people about the freedom you have found in Christ. Can you imagine the life change that would happen? 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NLT) says “For the Lord is the spirit, and wherever the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” My friends Shane & Shane wrote a song called Liberty that is based on this verse and Galatians 5:1.
I love the way The Message paraphrases Galatians 5:1. It says “Christ has set us free to live a free live. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” We have freedom from slavery to our sinful desires and to the Jewish law. But, as all freedom does, it came at a great price. In order for us to enjoy ultimate freedom, someone had to set us free, and that someone was Jesus. Because Christ, through His death and resurrection, has given us true freedom, we are to stay free. Jesus has set us free from legalistic formulas, from God’s judgment upon sin, from all mad-made rules, and from the subjective experiences of fear and guilt. We are to live it out, practice it, rejoice in it, and share it with others. To turn back to the law and try to earn what Christ has freely given makes His sacrifice meaningless. Martin Luther once said “Either sin is with you, lying on your shoulders, or it is lying on Christ, the Lamb of God. Now if it is lying on your back, you are lost; but if it resting on Christ, you are free, and you will be saved. Now choose what you want.”
Acts 14:8 – 20 (NIV) says “In Lystra, there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed, and called out, ‘Stand up on your feet!’ At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have come down to us in human form!’ Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: ‘Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony. He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.’ Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.” The third truth we find in this message is this:
Have you ever heard the expression “freedom isn’t free?” For those of us who live in America, we take for granted that we are not actually persecuted for our faith the way many in other parts of the world are. In China, Christians are arrested because of their faith in Christ. In the Middle East and India, many Christians are killed for theirs. The same is true in many parts of the world. You may be made fun of for your faith, or you may lose your job because of it, but it is not likely that you will be physically harmed for being a follower of Christ. Paul was willing to put his life on the line for the sake of the gospel. He cared more about making Jesus known than he did his own life.
Galatians 2:4 (NLT) says “Even that question came up only because of some so-called believers there – false ones, really – who were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us and force us to follow their Jewish regulations.” Paul calls the Judaizers “so-called Christians,” or false ones. They were most likely Pharisees, and they had come to spy on the believers in Galatia. They said that a Gentile had to be circumcised to be considered a follower of Christ. Paul rejected this because he knew that this was a perversion of the gospel. He knew that both Jews and Gentiles were welcomed into the church by faith in Christ alone, and he will spend the entire book of Galatians reminding the people there that they are not bound to the law, but that they are free in Christ. This reminder is as true for us today as it was for the people in Galatia then. Let’s thank God for that.
We thank You that You have set us free through Your Son. Lord, we know that there is nothing that we could do to deserve Your grace, but that You give it freely, and we thank You for that. Father, help us to always remember that Your grace is enough, and that there’s nothing we need to add to that. Father, today we pray for the state of affairs in our country, especially in New York. Lord, our hearts are broken over the decision of lawmakers there to disregard the sanctity of life, yet Your Word calls us to love even the most evil people in our world, and to pray for them, so today, we lift up those men and women to You. Father, please break their hearts for the wrongs they have done, and help them to know that there is forgiveness, and to seek that forgiveness out. Father, most of all, we thank You for Jesus, and it’s in His Name we pray.
Next week, we will continue our series in Galatians by talking about being set free by grace. If you would like to know more about how you can experience this freedom, or you would just like to know what it means to have a relationship with Jesus, please reach out to us. We would love to talk to you about becoming a follower of Christ, and the freedom that comes with that. Have a blessed week!!!!!