July~August 2013

Post date: Jun 26, 2013 5:5:51 PM

I’m writing this article in June. It’s been breezy lately, as it often is here in June. The trees really move around in the wind after they have all of their summer leaves. Young trees often need stakes for support. This is especially true in windy Ellensburg. If you plant a little tree and don’t tie it to a solid metal or wood support, it will probably just break off in the wind. So young trees need a solid support to help them grow straight and strong—at first. But you also cannot leave that support there too long. As the tree keeps growing and if the rope is too short then it hobbles the tree and limits the tree’s growth and potential. As I understand it, a certain amount of bending in the wind is good for a tree. It helps the sap flow and the tree to grow stronger.

God’s law is like the stake: the supporting pole. God’s Spirit is the life giving sap flowing in the tree. When we are young in the faith, we need God’s law to support us, to hold us firm. We need that stake to keep us from getting blown over by life. But after a while, as we mature in faith, we realize that the law is not really what our relationship with God is all about. Our relationship with God is really about God’s love for us in Jesus. Our relationship with God is really about living in the Spirit: being guided by God’s Holy Spirit and joyfully producing the fruits of the Spirit in our lives and in our encounters with other people. The list of rules, after a while if we come to believe that that’s really all it’s about: that list of rules will hobble and shorten our own growth in God’s Spirit.

We have been reading through Galatians on Sundays during June. The Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Galatians is often called the Magna Carta of Christian liberty or Christian freedom. Paul has preached the pure grace of God in Galatia (Turkey, today). He has been teaching that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. But then some legalists came to Galatia after Paul and were trying to add requirements to the gospel. The legalists were saying you have to follow the letter of the law as well as trust in Jesus. Paul says, “No way! Do not fall back into that narrow minded slavery to purity laws. Do not fall back into that narrow minded thinking that you can earn your way with God by making all the right moves and doing all the right things just so and performing certain rituals perfectly.

No, don’t go back there. You have been set free from the impossible task of trying to earn your own salvation. Christ Jesus has set you free by freely giving his life for you. Don’t fall back into thinking like a slave. “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Gal 5:1).” Paul certainly knew all about God’s law, since he was a Jewish lawyer. He says God’s law is good and certainly has its place in our lives, but the law does not save us. Only Jesus saves us. And the law does not lead to joyful life in the Spirit, either. Paul urges the Galatians—Paul urges us, to live by the Spirit and not by the law or by the flesh.

Now, we never discard God’s law. Some folks in Paul’s day got the wrong idea about that as well. They thought that life in the Spirit meant throwing away the law and doing whatever they darn well pleased—even if it was hurtful toward their neighbors. Paul says, “No, that’s not right either.” God’s law is always good support for our lives and there are times when we need it close to grab onto and support us. Furthermore, the law always shows us our sin; the impossibility of our saving ourselves and our great need for our Savior Jesus. But God has much more in mind for us than life according to the law. God has much greater potential in mind for us his children: namely-life lived by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the life giving sap flowing in our veins that produces the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22).

Thank God for the salvation given us through the love of Jesus Christ. And let us live joyfully by the Holy Spirit as we love our neighbor as ourselves.

Serving Jesus together with you,

Pastor Dennis