Called to Serve Through Love

September 5, 2021 Speaker: Chris Jessee Series: Serve

Topic: Sunday Sermons Passage: Galatians 5:13–15


[13] For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. [14] For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [15] But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. - Galatians 5:13–15

Opening illustration: underpinning - the core, driven into the ground in order to support a foundation

For most of us, we know the phrase ‘underpinning’ as a part of a foundation for a structure. Experientially, we know it as the droning noise we hear on many construction sites here in Florida because of our sugar-sand. My goal is not to drone on and on today on things we’ve heard, even as recently as our Romans series which we ended last week. My goal is to make sure that we as a church, both understand and experience the good God intends us to.

Serving has long been a core value for MLC - it’s an underpinning of our mission to Love, Grow & Share.

I want to be sure that we understand, this is foundational for our calling as individuals, our purpose in gathering, our mission as a church. These are the truths for us to review and pursue. That’s what I mean by the underpinning of our mission - the gifts, the unique way that God is calling us as a church to build his kingdom here, the ways we’ve been gifted or the unique voice we have from experiences all flow out of a heart of SERVING. This is why we felt it important coming out of the extended series on the book of Romans, heading into a shorter series on Genesis, we thought it might be helpful to talk about some of our core values as a church, in particular: Serving.

...This week we’re looking at God’s Word and how it instructs us not to look back along with informing how we’re called to live today. Next Sunday we’ll be in 1 Peter looking at how we’re living today is informed by our understanding of Eternity...

Just so we’ve got some context for the passage we’re dropping into here - I found this to be a helpful summary:

Galatians is a declaration of freedom from the condemnation of sin and from a performance mind-set. Looking to Christ, the culmination of all the promises of the Old Testament, sinners can be freely counted righteous in him. Perhaps nowhere in the Bible is this clearer than in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. - Gospel Translation Bible

Justification (legal) / Adoption (relational restoration)
Justification (legal declaration): How we’re made acceptable, through Christ, before God - by grace, through faith.

Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” GALATIANS 3:11

Adoption (relational calling us near): God makes his people his children

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law . . . so that we might receive adoption as children. GALATIANS 4:4-5

Christian Liberty - Setup from the beginning of Galatians 5…

[1] For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. - Galatians 5:1

Key question that Paul is bringing our attention to, that we need to wrestle with today in our own hearts and minds:
How does justification by faith alone and our adoption into God’s family translate into ACTION in the christian life?

much of the book of Galatians is built on this and leads the church through to how they are to now live.

In our passage today, Paul begins by telling those who are saved, not to go back to what they’ve been saved from.

Don’t Go Back (v.13a)

Let’s begin by making sure we understand what we’ve been called from - some translations use the word ‘flesh’, others may use the phrase ‘sinful nature’

Flesh/sinful nature: this refers to the fallen flesh, the nature we have from Adam which is godless, it’s opposed to God and opposed to godliness. It is the old self, wanting to do its own will - to satisfy its sinful appetites. (these are defined for us later in this chapter through verses Galatians 5:16-24)

This is behind us, in our past, not who we are, we have a new identity, a new nature and Paul’s burden is that we don’t go back to the old ways, the flesh, the sinful nature.

We’re called to freedom… so, use it well!

In other words: we’ve not been saved from a life of selfishness (going our own way, relying on our own efforts, attempting to choose our own path, submitting to our own ‘truth’) to a ‘christian liberties/freedom’ version of being SELFISH... we’ve been saved to be SELFLESS

I once heard Alistair Begg say it this way:

[Christian Freedom] is clearly not the right of Christians to return to that from which Christ paid with his own life to save them.- Alistair Begg

So, if we’re not going back - what should we do? We should live as ones who are giving themselves away...

Go Give Yourself Away (v.13b)

Through love (agape - demonstrated by and received from Christ)

Serve: Serve is in the present imperative. It’s important for us to understand - don’t rely on your own strength! Both love and service are supernatural, God-like love, Christ-like service, can only be produced as fruit enabled by a supernatural Source, the Holy Spirit.

The gospel does free you to live any way you want. But if you truly understand through the gospel who Jesus is and what He has done for you, then you will ask: How can I live for Him? - Keller, Timothy. Galatians For You

While we cannot gain acceptance by keeping the law, we do find acceptance through Jesus. What do we do with that acceptance? Our keeping of the law will be an expression of the love of our hearts for the law-maker and the law-giver.

In other words: the law sends us to Christ for salvation and Christ returns us to the law, not that by keeping it, we are accepted by God, but that it becomes the framework by which we live our lives.

Pharisees, in scripture, are the ones who added to the law - they get caught up in the ways they can add new forms of legalism for their own sense of piety and leveling up in comparison with others.

Hypocrites, in the church today, attempt to use the law as a weapon either by creating hurdles or tearing others down - making it seem like they’ve got the ‘right way to live’ and if you aren’t doing it, you’re not right with God. They know the hundreds of ‘laws’ given in scripture - but, that really pales in comparison with the thousands they’ve created for themselves, their family, etc. and they can’t wait to tell you what they are so you can get on their level.

If we’re being honest, these temptations reside in all of our hearts - the ones who want more law, rigid form, more rules, legalism is like a blanket that comforts you because you feel in control.

Then there are others who want to cast off all constraints because that’s what freedom really means. It’s spiritual anarchy, there’s no ‘mark’ of a true believer, there’s no cost or burden of mind - just live your life because Jesus Paid It all.

In reality, I think we can admit; we’re prone to BOTH.
“Legalistic Anarchists.”

You know what levels the playing field against these temptations in our own heart? What helps the legalistic anarchist calm their hearts and minds?

Loving Service of one another.

Perhaps our propensity to being “legalistic-anarchists” speaks to why we see such polarization in our relationships, the church, politics, families, friendships, the world around us, etc. today… may God empower our witness as loving servants!

Set free from the Law (of sin / death) for the Law (of Love / fulfilled through Christ’s love and extended toward us so we can extend toward others)

Paul knows how to explain the law of God. He condenses all the laws of Moses into one brief sentence. Reason takes offense at the brevity with which Paul treats the Law. Therefore reason looks down upon the doctrine of faith and its truly good works.

To serve one another in love, i.e., to instruct the erring, to comfort the afflicted, to raise the fallen, to help one's neighbor in every possible way, to bear with his infirmities, to endure hardships, toil, ingratitude in the Church and in the world, and on the other hand to obey government, to honor one's parents, to be patient at home - these things are not at all regarded as good works.

The fact is, they are such excellent works that the world cannot possibly estimate them at their true value. - Luther, Commentary on Galatians

V.15 paints a gruesome picture of a lack of love in the life of a believer - violent and consuming. In Romans we learned about creating hurdles for one another or stumbling blocks - here in Galatians we learn about not tearing one another down or devouring each other - this brings us to our point: one way we build one another up is loving service!

Perhaps here’s where we can illustrate this in the church, more specifically Metro Life Church:

Attendance: we’re free to be here or not to be here. That’s true, not just a religious freedom we enjoy in America but a freedom because our salvation is not based on the ‘works’ of attendance in a Sunday service, ministry meeting or community group. That’s true. Our’s is not a works based salvation. But, biblically, there’s more for us. We’re free to not show up but we’re missing something that’s at the core of God’s design and intent for gathering together: Serving one another in love. I’m not talking about simply ‘manning the number of volunteers that the church needs to accomplish a specific goal’. I’m talking about being there for our brothers and sisters who may have - in the days past - been walking through the weight of the world, our being together reminds them -reminds us- not to go back to the world and its so-called freedoms, to endure, to look to Christ - we get to build one another up by catching each other doing right, by praying together, using the gifts, talents and abilities that God has given to each of us - at the core of all of those gifts, talents and abilities are using them to SERVE one another - that’s how we move from Christian Freedoms to the active Christian Life!

Relationships that we experience when we’re gathered: yeah, what about those relationships we experience when we’re together, though? They can get messy, there can be disagreements, we don’t all have the same gifts, talents or abilities - wouldn’t it just be easier to remain with the small circles of people who agree with us - NO! This is where we need to remember that service isn’t just a sacrificial sucking it up to tolerate each other - it’s LOVING service. It’s seeking others' benefit, building up (not tearing down), slowing down enough in our relationships to come to an understanding, running the race that we’re called to… TOGETHER. These relationships all should be shaping and molding us into the image of Christ!

If these two examples (and many others…) can be born out of the 1.5-2 hours we’re together on Sunday mornings - imagine how comprehensive the application of loving service is to the entire 168 hours in a given week!

Just pause for a moment and consider how practical loving service is in the life of the individual, the gathering of the church, the mission we’re called to together;

It sorts us out, it becomes a tool for identifying what’s going on in our hearts (drive, what we’re most passionate about) and minds (our thoughts, experiences or perspectives)

Loving service also acts as the plow that cultivates a lifestyle of grace-filled living. This builds a healthy community for us to experience together.

Thankfully, we have an example that we can look to, outside of ourselves, others, or our circumstances; lifting our eyes from the chaotic schedules, fallen hearts and regular rhythms of glory and garbage of any given week.

WE REMEMBER: sin no longer REIGNS but it REMAINS

Example: Christ!

I want us to understand this today: Looking to Christ as our example is an immensely practical thing to do in order to inform our actions in the christian life…

Look back at verse 14: For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Here, In Galatians 5, Paul is quoting Jesus from Matthew 22. Two chapters back, in Matthew 20, Jesus had a response to his disciples as they were jockeying for position in the Kingdom of God and he reveals something about the reason that he (Christ) had come to earth… he had a single purpose and mission:

[25] But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. [26] It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, [27] and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, [28] even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” - Matthew 20:25–28

You may notice, Jesus subtly quantifies how it is that He measures greatness in v.25-26 as he contrasts His kingdom with the kingdoms of the world… in God’s kingdom greatness is quantified by service not ruling.

Jesus; both transcendent in his Glory, yet immanent in his nearness to us - is our example through selflessly serving, laying down his life - to death - making things right in our relationship with God our Father.

May we now, in receiving this free gift of grace in salvation, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, selflessly pursue -lovingly serving- one another today -and everyday- as we live by Christ’s example.

Let me go back to something we opened with as well - as it relates to our justification and adoption.

We are made righteous before God the Father by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ alone - as Romans 3:22 reminds us.

It is Christ - whose blood seals our adoption papers, that welcomes us into the family of God!

The book of Galatians also vibrantly informs us of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of a believer…

  • Testifies in our hearts that we are God’s children (Gal. 4:6)
  • Leads us (Gal. 5:18, 25)
  • Empowers us to be fruitful (Gal. 5:22–23)

This is where our call to be followers of Jesus, ambassadors for an eternal kingdom, ministers of reconciliation has so many very real contexts for application of service through love: relationships, families, campuses, workplaces - everywhere we are is a mission field and an opportunity to live selflessly.

Perhaps you fall into the trap of serving others as a way of gaining acceptance and that mindset has spilled over into your relationship with God the Father. You’re placing your hopes in ‘doing enough good’ for others that you earn your way into Heaven. Can I tell you that there’s no mount of good works large enough to reach heaven’s glories… there’s only one finished work that we must rely on. Christ’s one act on the cross supercedes any mound of works we try to accumulate - place your hope for rightness of relationship with God the Father in him alone.

For those who are here that have placed there hopes in Christ’s work alone - those who are Chrstians - the finished work of Christ is the starting point for us to live out of the abundance of giving ourselves away selflessly, lovingly serving one another to the Glory of God Alone.

More in Serve

September 12, 2021

Serving with Eternity in Sight