Page 185 is going out with a bang as I sit down to write. While the fireworks are plentiful as the nation celebrates Independence Day and the freedoms we love, a greater celebration of freedom was held this morning as I gathered with fellow believers in celebrating the freedom we have in Christ. I greatly value the privilege I have in preaching at the North Wayne Mennonite Church, typically on the first Sunday of each month. This morning I shared a message from Galatians 5:13-26 with verse 13 being the core of what God had me teach. Paul writes about the freedom we have in Christ, but warns that we are not to use that freedom to satisfy our sinful, selfish desires. Rather we are to use the freedom we have in Christ in order to serve others.
This core thought of serving others formed the title and outline of my message, “Freedom to SERVE”. As I unwrapped how we ought to be using our freedom, we found that in Christ I have a freedom to Share, a freedom to Equip, a freedom to Rebuke/Repent, a freedom to Visit, and a freedom to Encourage. God gives us a variety of gifts — in fact, every good and perfect gift comes from God. Most of the time the purpose of those gifts are not just to meet our needs, but so that we have something to share with others. While it can be easy to use our freedoms to accumulate things for ourselves, God wants us to experience a freedom that allows us to freely share.
In a world where we often make every attempt possible to get ahead and find any advantage we can over our “competitors”, God wants us to use our freedom in a way that equips others for the good work He created them to do. When we crucify our selfish desires, we find the freedom to help other improve and get ahead in life — sometimes even ahead of us, at least by the world’s standards. Our freedom in Christ reminds us that each person has a unique life that God has called them to live and as long as we remain faithful to our calling in Christ, we have the freedom to help equip them for their task.
Our freedom to serve also includes a freedom to Rebuke and Repent. If you’re like most people, just reading that previous sentence makes you at least a little uneasy. Not many of us are too thrilled with either of those words, let alone with the actions they imply. Yet part of serving one another includes a freedom to lovingly rebuke a brother or sister who sins against us. The flip side of this part of serving means that we need to fully repent when a brother or sister rebukes us in regard to our sin. When we are in Christ and commit to doing everything in love, rebuking and repenting can be beautiful expressions of our freedom to serve.
One of the important ways we can serve others is often overlooked because it sounds so easy. In our freedom to serve, we have the freedom to visit and are for those who are in need. In the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, God makes it clear that He has an expectation that we will spend time with people as we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, and comfort the hurting. Jesus said that whatever we do, or don’t do, for the least of our brethren, we do, or don’t do, for Him. When we decide not to use our freedoms to serve ourselves, we discover we have the freedom to visit those in need.
The final point we looked at in considering our freedom to serve was the freedom we have to encourage. If you haven’t noticed, life can be very discouraging — especially when we become distracted by the turmoil and evil present in the world. When life isn’t all about us, we have the freedom to encourage those who are down. Jesus warned that life in this world would not be easy and that it would become increasingly difficult as the day of His return approached. His solution for us to overcome the temptations of discouragement was for us to meet together for the purpose of encouraging one another — and to do so all the more as we see the day of His return approaching.
I pray that you and I would value our freedom in Christ in a greater way than we value any personal or national freedom. I pray that we would not use our freedoms to satisfy our selfish desires, but would instead live with a freedom to serve. I pray that we would serve others as we share, equip, repent & rebuke, visit, and encourage.