Today is the final day of New Start 15. I’m so glad you’ve joined us on this focus on God’s call to holiness. Ever since men and women have taken forbidden fruit, we’ve needed fresh beginnings. Free people have a way of falling back into the shackles of captivity.
The church of Galatia was born out of the Holy Spirit’s work through Paul’s proclamation of the gospel (Galatians 3:1-5). Despite early growth and high hopes, they fell prey to false teachers who troubled and unsettled them. They ignored God’s divine plan for their holiness, turning to a different gospel (1:6). Instead of partnership between redeemed people and the holy God, they turned to traditions for a counterfeit sense of spirituality. When holiness is just a facade, it wears away and leaves the truth exposed.
If we looked far back into our family trees, we might find a few Galatians. Like us, they surged forward in spiritual growth. Like us, they fizzled out and fell into their old ways. Once our New Start 15 reading plan runs out and our blog hop comes to a halt, what will become of our pursuit of holiness? If we aren’t proactive, we’ll find ourselves troubled and unsettled like the first century followers of Christ. We won’t stand firm. It’s in our DNA to take a few steps back.
As free sons, our DNA has changed; we’re made for standing firm and fruit bearing. Christ set us free from relying on laws and regulations to be declared righteous. The truth is, reading every passage and every blog post on the New Start 15 tour doesn’t add up to holiness. We’re free from checking off requirements, but we aren’t free from obedience to God’s standards. Today’s passage comes from Galatians 5:13-26, but I want to look at what leads up to those verses.
As free sons of the holy God, we can stand firm. If we substitute our efforts for God’s work of life change, or if we supplement His grace with our obligations, we don’t need Jesus at all. “If you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you,” (Galatians 5:2). The Galatians were self-assured in their stance on circumcision, but today we credit ourselves with the number of Bible studies we take, regularity of Bible verses posted, and political opinions declared against all things “unholy.” Like our Galatians forebearers, we can’t keep the whole law (5:3) and if we try, we’ve fallen from grace (5:4). Free sons stand firm in the God who made them free, not in the tasks that make them significant.
Oh, that we would cling to grace! How arrogant when we fall into thinking our goodness adds to God’s greatness. Even when making progress in holy growth, we can be hindered by our sin (5:7-9). Dear friends, let’s cling to grace, for grace bears sweet fruit! This freedom we’ve been given is not an opportunity for our flesh to overrule God’s Spirit (5:13), but an opportunity to serve and to love. Instead of reaching for forbidden fruit, free sons are meant to bear fruit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)
Are you feeling worn out, struggling to stand firm, and not seeing much fruit? Are you caving in to the expectations of others? That doesn’t count for anything, sweet friend (5:6). What counts in our pursuit of a holy life is faith working through love to those around us. This New Start 15 hasn’t meant anything if it’s not fruit bearing in our relationships with women, spouses, children, parents, co-workers, and neighbors. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit,” (Galatians 5:25). As we keep in step, we will stand firm.
New Start 15 is coming to a close, but the journey of holy living goes on! On Monday Kathy will wrap up for us and offer suggestions or further growth. Our aim is the same as that of the Galatian believers: to live as the free, fruitful sons of our holy Father God before a dark world.