How Do You Use Your Freedom?
Pastor Stephanie Humpa
“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)
The apostle Paul wrote the book of Galatians to a group of people who were struggling to understand the freedom that they had been given apart from living under the law. Living under the law meant knowing exactly what was expected of you even if you could never live up to it. The law could be summed up by what you do on the outside with little emphasis on what is going on in your heart.
Christ came to fulfill the law and through that as believers we have freedom from living under the law. How you use your freedom says a lot about the state of your heart. Paul urges us to not use our freedom to indulge our sinful desires but to use our freedom to serve on another in love. Paul tells us that the entire law can be summed up in living out one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Loving your neighbor as yourself takes care of a lot of the rules on how to live according to the law. You don’t lie to your neighbor when you love them as much as your love yourself. You don’t steal from them or take advantage of them when you love them as much as you love yourself. When we live this way we quickly see that love is much more than a feeling, or just a word, it is something that requires daily action.
The Rules Have Changed Forever
Pastor Joshua Humpa
For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. (Galatians 5:6)
There's moments in time that change things forever. A trip to the moon. 9/11. Gutenberg’s printing press. The Renaissance. After these actions and responses took place, nothing was ever the same. We could never go back to how things used to be. Once Jesus arrived, our relationship with God was changed forever and we could never go back.
The relationship between God and people was largely dictated by a list of rules. Obey the laws, your relationship with God was mostly admirable. Break the law and jump through all the hoops to restore the relationship. Strictly speaking, it was impossible to honor the law consistently. We were doomed to fail. So when Jesus came and offered a new path towards a relationship with God, it changed things forever.
In Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, chapter 5 is dealing with something we all struggle with - change. For the history of the Jewish life, circumcision was a major factor in demonstrating a commitment and obedience towards God. Now, with Jesus’ new way of doing things, Paul argued that circumcision wasn’t necessary anymore. As you can imagine, this was extremely difficult for faithful Jews since childhood to wrap their minds around.
At the end of verse 6, Paul explains the new rules thanks to Jesus. Instead of following the strict letter of the law, the new rules were faith expressed through love. A completely new way of living life as a follower of God. But what does, “faith expressing itself in love” look like? It means the new rules are to love God and love other people the same way you would want them to love you. No more circumcision required, no strict laws, rather a better, truer relationship with God thanks to Jesus.
When It Becomes Your Faith
Think of it this way. If a father dies and leaves an inheritance for his young children, those children are not much better off than slaves until they grow up, even though they actually own everything their father had. They have to obey their guardians until they reach whatever age their father set. And that’s the way it was with us before Christ came. We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles of this world. But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father. ”Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.
(Galatians 4: 1-7)
Recently the 5th grade class of students where passed onto me from Pastor Josh. They had been under his leadership for the past 12 years, and are now moving from the AMAZING children's program up to youth as 6th graders! Their world within the church has now changed, as they attend the Sunday morning experience with adults, and the Wednesday night programming with students much older than they. These mighty 6th graders now get to start making decisions of how they will begin to own their faith, as they are no longer under the blanket of their parents.
In the early part of this passage, Paul writes about if a father dies and leaves his inheritance to his children, that they are no different than slaves, with no responsibility. At this critical age, the choice to pursue God, and forge their own relationship with Him is imperative. They have to grow up. They have to get to a point in their lives of comprehension in order to take ownership of what they have in Christ. This is the same within their personal faith. We raise our children to know who God is, and how He sent His son to die for us. But when does the true love of Christ enter a child's heart personally, and how can we tell that they own their own faith?
The majority of kids live under their parents faith, especially in the early stages of life.. It's what we as adults show and tell them. We bring them to church, remind them to read their Bible, and to pray, trusting they will one day move forward into a personal relationship with Christ. I get the privilege to be with students either at Winter Retreat, Summer Camp, or Youth Convention, and get to see the real transformation in their lives when the decision to accept Christ is made. It's that moment when you see the ugly cry, snot coming out of the nose, and their eyes open wide from a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit. I cherish these moments when they own their faith. It's not to say that kids don't have this at younger ages, but it seems that faith comes alive in the middle and high school years when the responsibility changes from the child being reminded to be in that devotional state of mind, and walking into their bedroom to see them on their knees in prayer without us reminding them.
We all get to receive the inheritance of our Abba father. It's my privilege to witness them taking full ownership of it! I want to encourage those of you that have the awesome opportunity to minister to children to model your faith, be present for their questions, and encourage them forward as they step into the role God has called them to, and as they discover and become who God has created them to be!
Pastor Tanto Husain
Verse of the day
So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
( Ecclesiastes 2:17 )
This last Sunday at Oak Creek Assembly of God we kicked off a new series titled “More.” We looked at Ecclesiastes chapter 2 and how King Solomon, the richest man to have ever lived, was displeased when he considered all of his achievements. Basically, Solomon failed to find fulfillment in all of his pursuits. He fell prey to the deception of more is better. However, the more he had he learned that it was all meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Instead of finding satisfaction and fulfillment in human activity under the sun, he found only grief.
Solomon’s ambitions are a reflection of human nature. More money, power, influence, and fame are ambitions of most. The king wanted to be served and have many slaves but a greater King would come after him. This King would actually come into the world as a Slave of slaves. He showed us that true greatness in His kingdom is found in servanthood (Mark 10:43-45).
Today, let us strive to serve like Jesus whose kingdom lasts forever and no longer strive to build a kingdom like Solomon’s. Let’s work to serve more.
Live Out Your Salvation
This letter is from Paul, an apostle. I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead. All the brothers and sisters here join me in sending this letter to the churches of Galatia. May God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.
(Galatians 1: 1-5)
How many times within your walk you’ve had someone come up to you and call you out with the way you’ve been living your life. You call yourself a “christian” but your walk isn’t your walk and your talk isn’t your talk. The ways of the world have pulled you in a way that wouldn’t be pleasing to the Lord.
In this letter from Paul, he is calling out the people of Galatia church. Paul doesn’t speak to them from a place in which he was told to by a leader, but by the authority Christ gave him within. The Holy Spirit used him to show this early church of the direction they were headed and to correct their salvation.
When we get saved, it needs to be everything. The surrendering of our life isn’t an ala carte choice. It needs to be all or nothing. It’s only by Christ's grace that we are saved, but we look at how we can have one foot in the world and one foot with God. God is not a God of feel goods. He’s our God of grace, mercy and sacrifice. Christ paid that penalty when we didn’t deserve it. So then why when we make that choice to follow Jesus do we pick how we want to live our life for him?
The choice of being a follower of Jesus Christ is the biggest and most important decision our our lives. It’s a life and death decision. We should be rejoicing in what he has done within us! I found this song on YouTube and I love to play it over and over at times. It reminds me why “I Got Saved!”
A Tough Message
Pastor Tanto Husain
2 Corinthians 12:11-21
Verse of the day
This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.
(2 Corinthians 13: 10)
The Apostle Paul was writing the Corinthian Christians some very difficult things by letter so that they could absorb it, pray about it, and deal with it, before he arrived to see them personally. He didn’t want to use his authority to tear them down but sent the letter before his arrival so they could make necessary changes.
Many times, God deals with us and delivers a tough message to us through our leaders. It hurts to hear about our own sin. But God needs to hurt us at times to keep us from continuing to hurt ourselves even more. It wasn’t Paul’s desire to hurt the Corinthians but his God-given ministry is about edification and building people up.
It is much easier to build when everything that doesn’t belong is cleared away. Tearing down is essential for growth and spiritual maturity. What is in your life that needs to be dealt with? What needs to be tore down? Will you allow God to build you up through the ministry of your spiritual leaders?
Responding To Slander
2 CORINTHIANS 12:11-21
Verse of the day
“O God, have mercy on me, for people are hounding me. My foes attack me all day long. I am constantly hounded by those who slander me, and many are boldly attacking me. But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?”
Of all the Biblical principles that I very much agree with… but in my human nature strongly dislike… you would find the top of the list occupied by God’s command to turn the other cheek when someone wrongs us. I have a very strong sense of justice in me, which can be a good thing, and can also create unrealistic expectations of others, and leave an open door to resentment in myself. This is even stronger in me when someone wrongs or speaks ill of someone that I care about, and I find myself fighting giving that resentment a foothold. In the deepest part of my soul, I know that God is in control, but in the moment it becomes so hard to let go and let God fight my battles.
David’s encouragement here in the face of his literal enemy the Philistines is a great example of the right way to handle someone wronging us. He immediately goes to God and tells him about his concerns. Then, as soon as he gives them, he immediately shifts his tone to reliance on God. He airs his hurt and grievances, and then gives them to God. “But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you…. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?” That is such a Godly example of how to respond to the slander and attacks of others.
It is so natural for me, and I think in general for all of us, to want to fight for what’s right. We feel that we can actually do something about the injustice done to us or to those we love, and want to fight back against what has happened. However that is not what God shows us over and over again is the right response. If we can truly surrender those feelings to God, he will always fight our battle. I have never surrendered a situation to God, and been unsatisfied with the results. I would rather have God’s will covering my life than my own sense of justice… even if it means I have to turn the other cheek.
Pastor Armin Colón
2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Verse of the day
Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
(Isaiah 8:12-13, ESV)
The greatest invasion of World War II was launched when 5,000 ships departed England for the Normandy coast in June 6, 1944. It is said that one of the captains chose the opportunity to lecture his crew on fear. He explained with confidence "Fear is a very healthy thing." Upon hearing him, a sailor yelled in reply "Captain, you're looking at the healthiest sailor in the United States Navy."
Our text today finds Isaiah, and the people of Judah, in an extremely volatile and dangerous situation. The combined armies of Israel and Syria had destroyed much of Judah. They besieged Jerusalem. However, Isaiah had prophesied that these armies would not succeed in conquering Judah. The ones who truly posed a threat were their allies, the Assyrians, who would eventually attack them and do much damage. These were difficult and dangerous times.
How do you think Isaiah and the people of Judah felt? It would’ve been understandable if their hearts and minds focused on conspiracies and threats. Yet, God encouraged them to fear Him, not their circumstances. They were not at the mercy of opposing armies. They were in the hands of a good and mighty God.
We also live in an age of uncertainty, conspiracies, and threats. This instills fear in our souls. “Fear is the byproduct of our ability to accumulate knowledge and project it to the future” (Andy Stanley). Fear is the result of our processing reality based on both our knowledge and ability. This is why God is encouraging us, in our text today, to fear Him. “The remarkable thing about fearing God, is that, when you fear God, you fear nothing else; whereas, if you do not fear God, you fear everything else” (Oswald Chambers).
How do you fear God?
1. Remember who He is. He is good and there is nothing impossible for Him.
2. Project it into the future. Because God is good, he is seeking my best interest. Because there is nothing impossible for God, He will make a way (even if I don’t know how).
Allow your confidence in Jesus to overwhelm your fear.
When we see God…
Pastor Jon Brooks