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Believe and Confess

Posted by James Keller on 08/14/16 @ 12:46 AM

10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:10 (ESV)

For years the culture in America said there were two things that were to be kept private: politics and faith.  These were things we were not supposed to talk about.  We were supposed to keep our views private.  If we did talk about them, we were not supposed to argue about them.  We were not supposed to try to push our viewpoint onto others.

The 2016 presidential election has certainly brought politics out of the private realm and into the public.   It seems that wherever I go, I am asked who I will vote for.  I also get to hear the opinions people have about the candidates.  I don’t ask them to tell me; they just really want to tell me.

Our memory verse for this week says that faith starts in our hearts.  For with the heart one believes and is justified.  To be justified means that God declares us “not guilty.”  Because of Jesus’ work on the cross for our sins, we are forgiven.  Our sin debt has been paid for.  God declares us not guilty of sin because the penalty has been paid.  God does the work, not us.  God also is the one who gives us the faith to accept Jesus’ work of justification for us.  This is a private matter between us and God. 

But faith is never really private.  It starts privately between the individual and God, but faith is lived out publicly.  If your faith does not affect the way you live, you really don’t have faith.  How do you know if you are saved? and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  Faith leads to action, to confession.  You ae either confessing your faith by how you live or using your words to tell others about Jesus.  Really the two go together.  You confess your faith in Jesus by living more like Jesus, and you also tell others about Jesus.

Your faith can’t be kept private.  It will move you to action and speaking.  My neighbors all know that I am a pastor.  They found this out by watching our house.  They asked me why we have so many people always coming to our house.  I tell them that we are holding Bible study.  They ask me what my job is.  I tell them I am a pastor.  Now when I talk to them, our conversations naturally flow toward faith.  I am not usually the one to move the talk that way; they are.  They want to share with me what they believe.  Then they pause and wait for me to either reaffirm them or tell them what God says in the Bible.  They are not ready to come to church yet.  But each time I try to invite them to church or to a special event we are having.  Inviting them to join us for worship at Camp Lutherhaven and spend the day at the lake on Labor Day Sunday is promising.  It doesn’t really sound like church, and the prospect of swimming, boating, and fishing is alluring.

How are you doing when it comes to believing in your heart and confessing with your mouth?  One simple thing you can do is start your day off with this prayer: Dear Jesus, who do you want me to share my faith with today?  Help me to live and confess my faith and love for you.  Amen.

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Miserable Sinner

Posted by James Keller on 08/05/16 @ 10:54 PM

Romans 7:24-25 (GW) 24  What a miserable person I am! Who will rescue me from my dying body? 25  I thank God that our Lord Jesus Christ rescues me!

A few years ago I was talking to a student at Concordia Lutheran High School.  We were talking about some of the teachers that he had and that I had had when I was a student there years before.  I was telling him some of the things I had done as a student.  He looked at me and asked, “Why is it that all the trouble makers grow up to be pastors?”  I answered, “Because we understand God’s grace and forgiveness better than most.”

Being a pastor in the town I grew up in has its advantages.  But it also has its disadvantages.  One is that I am always meeting someone who knew me growing up.  I meet old Sunday School teachers, librarians, and bus drivers of mine.  When I meet them I have to shake their hands and say, “I am really sorry. I hope you can forgive me.  I have changed, I hope!”

When I think back on some of my exploits, I am really quite ashamed.  How could I have been so naughty?  The truth is, even as a pastor, I am not free from sin.  I still say things that are not very “pastory.”  I still do things I shouldn’t.  I still have to ask for forgiveness.  But the difference is that I don’t trust in myself anymore.  I trust in Jesus who forgives me.  I understand that there really is nothing good in me.  I understand that I deserve hell.  But I throw myself on God’s mercy. 

I am forgiven, not because I deserve it or earn it.  I am forgiven because Jesus loves me.  Jesus loves me enough to take my sin upon Himself.  He loves me enough to suffer the pangs of hell for me so I don’t have to.  He loves me enough to pay the penalty for my sins.  He loves me enough to die for me.  He loves me enough to defeat death and the grave for me.  In other words, Jesus loves me enough to rescue me from myself.  Jesus also loves you that much.  He loves you enough to take your sins upon Himself.  He loves you enough to suffer the pangs of hell for you.  He loves you enough to pay the penalty for your sins.  He loves you enough to die for you.  He loves you enough to defeat death and the grave for you.  In other words, Jesus loves you enough to rescue you from yourself!

You and I are poor miserable sinners.  But the Good News is that we are loved unconditionally by the God who saves us!  Because of this great love God has for me, I now want to serve Him and share this good news with others.  Won’t you join me in telling others about His love?

 Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

 

The Line in the Sand

Posted by James Keller on 07/31/16 @ 8:15 AM

Proverbs 14:16 (GW) 16  A wise person is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is careless and overconfident.  

 When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we pray these words, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Here we call sin trespassing.  The Bible has many words that describe sin.  Trespassing is one of those words.  To trespass means to go into an area where we don’t belong.  I like to think of it as a line of sin drawn in the sand.  As long as you stay on this side of the line, you are fine.  But the moment you cross the line of sin, you have trespassed; you have sinned.

Proverbs 14:16 tells us that a wise person stays as far away from the line in the sand as he can.  But a fool plays as near to the line as he can.  The result: a wise person keeps from trespassing, but a fool finds himself on the wrong side of the line.

 Last week was our Day Camp program at Camp Lutherhaven.  We partner with the camp to hold this program.  High School youth from all over come to camp for this servant event.  We bus up 50+ Burmese children to partner up with the youth.  The youth act as their buddies for the week.  The youth take them all over camp.  They give these children a camp experience except for the overnight stay.  These teenagers also show the love of Jesus to these Burmese children, most of whom do not come from a Christian home.

The very first day we arrived we started to buddy up the high school youth and the children we brought.  We told all the children to stay together.  We told them to get to know their buddies by playing with them as we waited for the last van to arrive.  Suddenly I heard one of the teenage buddies calling after his Burmese buddy.  This Burmese boy was running up the hill, ignoring his buddy. The buddy ran after him.  I also ran up the hill. I caught up with them just as the buddy told this Burmese boy, “You need to stay with the group, ok?”  However, the Burmese boy was determined to head off on his own.  He was pulling against the buddy’s arm trying to get away.

I stepped in and said, “I have a car here that can take you home if you don’t obey the rules.”  He looked at me, then looked at his buddy.  “That’s right,” said the buddy.  The boy took his buddy’s hand and walked back to the group. He had crossed the line.  He was trespassing.  But his buddy brought him back.

I am happy to report that he didn’t get sent home.  His buddy was able to be with him the whole week. His buddy brought him back away from the line many times that week. 

 Jesus is like that buddy.  Jesus sees us dancing by the line of sin in the sand.  He calls us to move away from the line.  When we dance over the line, He comes to find us and to bring us back to where it is safe.  He also pays the ultimate price for our trespassing.  A fool tries to break free of His nail scarred hand and run away.  But a wise person holds His hand tightly and walks away without looking back at the line in the sand.

 Christ’s slave,

 

Pastor jim

Submit first, Then Defeat!

Posted by James Keller on 07/24/16 @ 12:50 AM

James 4:7 (ESV) Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

May people know our memory verse for this last week.  But most people only remember the last part of the verse.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  The problem, of course, is that the devil is not afraid of you.  You and I are not powerful enough to resist the devil on our own.  In fact, when we try to resist on your own, we may have some success, but it is only the devil setting us up for a greater fall.

We forget the first part of this verse which is that we must first submit ourselves to God.  What does that mean?  It means that we need to place ourselves totally under the authority of God.  Only when we rely on God fully in all areas of our lives will we be able to resist the devil.  The devil will flee from us because it is not us who are standing before him but rather Christ who is living in us and through us.

When we fail to submit to God fully, we try to do things on our own.  That is when we are most vulnerable to the devil and his attacks.

 This past week I was sitting at a playground.  A car pulled up across the street from me.  In the front was a mother talking on her cell phone.  In the back of the car was a toddler.  The toddler looked out the window and saw the children playing in the playground.  He wanted to join them.  In fact, that is why his mother brought him to the playground.

He couldn’t wait for his mother to get out of the car, so he opened his door and got out.  He began to walk across the street.  That is when I saw the car coming toward him.  He was unaware of the danger.  He thought he could walk across the street on his own.  He was not submitting to his mother. 

When we think we can do something on our own without submitting to God first, we are like the toddler.  We may think that we are safe to act on our own.  But the devil is like a speeding car that comes out of nowhere.  His intent is to always kill us.  He will not slow down or stop.  In fact, he will probably run us over and then back over us again!

Even the simplest action should be done while submitting to God.  The devil is always looking for an opportunity to attack us. 

What would your life look like if you submitted every part of it to God?  It may be scary to think about doing that, but think for a moment what God could do with your life.  How would you be living differently if you did?

 One way to start submitting each aspect of your life to God is to start each action with prayer.  It doesn’t have to be a long prayer.  It could be just this simple prayer: “Jesus, show me what you want me to do about this.”  It will seem strange at first, but as time goes on, you will get better at praying this prayer and listening to what God answers!

 Christ’s slave,

 

Pastor jim

 P.S.  The car saw the little boy and slowed to a stop as I jumped up, yelled, “Car” and scooped the toddler out of harm’s way.  I kissed the child on the forehead and set him down in the park.  He ran off to play. Thank You, Jesus!

 

Kingdom versus Domain

Posted by James Keller on 07/16/16 @ 9:52 PM

Colossians 1:13-14 (ESV) 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

 When I was a seminary student, two classmates and I started a worship service at a retirement center.  The residents were quite old.  Many of them had been members of churches but had stopped attending years ago.  These people were waiting for God yet afraid to meet him.  Why were they afraid?  Because they were carrying around years of guilt.  They knew they were not good enough to enter heaven.  They knew they didn’t deserve God’s mercy.  They were burdened with guilt.  They were living in the domain of darkness.  But each week we would start the service out with a time of public confession of sins.  Then when one of us would announce the forgiveness of sins, one could actually see the people sit up straighter in their chairs as if a great burden had been lifted from their shoulders – because it had!  The weight of their sin was removed.  They were being delivered from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son.  This transfer took place because of grace – God’s undeserved love for them as found only in Christ.  Suddenly they were no longer afraid of meeting God but eager to be with their Savior!

Each week we can experience the same thing at New Life.  Each week we hear how much God loves us, not based on what we do or will do, but based on God’s love for us.  The burden is lifted.  We no longer need to live in the domain of darkness.  We can actually live in the kingdom of his beloved son as His children!

 While I helped to lead this worship service at the retirement center, many staff and family members commented on the change in the residents.  They could visibly see a difference in how they lived out their final years. 

 That is still true today.  Linda Merino once told me that before she knew Larry was a follower of Jesus, she was afraid of him.  She knew something was different about him. 

 Before Timothy publicly declared his faith in Jesus, friends and family members commented on how he was different.

 Think how different a person’s life is when he comes from a dark room into a well-lit room.  He may blink a bit at the brightness.  But he is eager to look around and see what he has been missing. 

 When people come to faith in Jesus, it is like moving from darkness into light.  It is like being blind but now being able to see. 

 Are people seeing the difference Jesus makes in your life?  Are you still living as if you were under the domain of darkness? 

 If you are having a difficult time living in the kingdom of his beloved Son rather than the domain of darkness, try these simple steps:

1)      Ask Jesus to deliver you from the darkness into his kingdom.

2)      Start your day out with a time of prayer and Bible reading. It doesn’t have to be long.  Remember, marathon runners don’t start out running 26 miles.  They build themselves up to it.

3)      Remind yourself throughout the day that you are no longer under the domain of darkness but that you are a child of the kingdom!

  Christ’s slave,

           Pastor jim

We Will Serve the Lord

Posted by James Keller on 07/07/16 @ 7:03 PM

Joshua 24:15b (ESV) But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

 The visitors were on their way home from a trip to Washington, DC, and New York.  They stopped at house to say “Hello” before heading home to Kentucky.  These former refugees were now US citizens and private business owners.  They had been initially resettled in Fort Wayne.  They were among the first Burmese that we had struck up a friendship with over 17 years ago.  They had been instrumental in New Life starting a Burmese worship service.  Yet they remained Buddhist.

 One of the first questions they asked us was, “How are Grandma and Grandpa?”  Grandpa is also known as “Apo” in the Burmese community.  Apo means grandpa in Burmese.  Many Burmese children learned to call him Apo over the years.  Grandma is grandma to so many Burmese children and non-Burmese children.  Apo and Grandma pray for their “grandchildren,” they welcome them into their house; they feed them; they care for them; they love them.

 How is it possible for a small town farming couple to love on such a diverse group of people?  On August 11, 1963, Dick and Lois stood in a country church exchanging promises to be faithful to each other until death should part them.  They chose as the text for their marriage sermon Joshua 24:15.  They wanted to make their house and their family to be God’s house and family.  They have spent their lives in service to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  When children were born to them, they brought these children to church.  They brought these children to the baptismal font and set them apart for Jesus.  They taught their children early on about the goodness of God.  They taught them about God’s love, forgiveness and purpose in their lives.

 They have served Jesus faithfully over the years, sometimes very noticeably but more often in the background.  Grandma served as a nurse in different assisted living situations.  She would often pray with her patients, bringing God’s comfort to those who were dying.  Apo served as an elder in three different churches!

 They came to New Life on a one year loan from another church.  Their role was to help their daughter wrangle her growing family during the worship services while their son-in-law preached.  They caught the vision of New Life: Serving the Least, the Last, the Lost with Christ’s love to grow Christ’s kingdom.  They stayed on past their one year.  They served in the background.  Apo drove the New Life van to pick up Burmese children for various events.  It was there behind the wheel of the van as he greeted each child in the name of Jesus that he was given the name “Apo.”  Grandma can be found in the Fellowship Hall between services.  She greets everyone with a cup of noodles, some crackers, peanut butter and pitcher of cold water.

 Do you want to see what Joshua 24:15b looks like in someone’s life?  Look at Grandma and Apo.  But they are not the only ones at our church living this way.  New Life is blessed to have many Grandmas and Grandpas, aunts and uncles, big brothers and sisters who are all serving the Lord.  Some serve in upfront ways, but many serve quietly behind the scenes.  But all are striving to dedicate their house, their church, and their lives to serving the Lord. 

 What is keeping you from not only saying the words of Joshua 24:15b but also living them?  Try these simple steps today:

 1) Memorize Joshua 24:15b.  Say these words each day when you get out of bed.  Begin your day thinking, “How do you want me to serve you today, Lord?”

 2) Look for ways to serve Jesus at New Life.  If you need help finding your place to serve, talk to Pastor Dave or me.  Or better yet seek out a grandma and grandpa at New Life and ask to join them in serving Jesus.   

 Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

Walk by the Spirit

Posted by James Keller on 07/02/16 @ 11:55 PM

Galatians 5:16 (ESV) 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

 There is no such thing as a “Lone Ranger” Christian.  We are called by God to be His children.  Children are placed in families.  Often we call these families, “Church.”  It is much easier to live out our lives of faith in a group rather than alone.  Walking together as God’s people is much easier to walk by the spirit.  We can encourage, admonish and strengthen each other.

 Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a little book called Life Together that talks about the joys of living out our faith together.

 Bonhoeffer wrote:

 “The Physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer….The believer feels no shame, as though he were still living too much in the flesh, when he yearns for the physical presence of other Christians.”

 Bonhoeffer defines the Christian community as “community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ…What does this mean?  It means, first, that a Christian needs others because of Jesus Christ.  It means, second, that a Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ.  It means, third, that in Jesus Christ we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united for eternity.”

 

 I highly recommend this little book for your reading.  It can help you to see what our life together as a church should be.  We are to be more than just a Sunday time of worship!

 I was able to experience this life together over the past two weeks.  We hosted different groups from different churches who were partnering with LAMB to reach the Burmese Buddhists and Muslims living in Fort Wayne.  These groups stayed at a local church.  The policy of the church was that a local pastor needed to stay with them.  That meant that I spent the night at the church with them.  We started each day with Bible study.  We studied what it meant to be a new creation in Christ. (If you would like a copy of these studies, just e-mail me and I will send you a pdf.)  Next, we went out to some apartment complexes to build relationships and share our faith in Christ.  Then we went to a local Lutheran school to help them get ready for the new school year.  We washed windows, moved furniture and even cut out game pieces for educational games.  It was manual labor, but we were doing it out of our love for Jesus.  We were serving Jesus with our hands.  We ended each day with a time of worship and devotion. It is hard to give into your flesh when you are living in such a spiritual environment.

 How tragic if we left this time and went back to our normal lives and only fondly looked back on this time together!  This time together was meant to strengthen us but also to show us what life can be like.  True, great distances separate most of us.  But God has placed us in local contexts where we can still carry out these activities.  We can still start out our day in Bible study and personal devotion.  We can even gather with others to do this.  We can look for opportunities each day to share our faith with others.  We can carry out our daily tasks, whether in the home or in the workplace as the hands and feet of Jesus.  We can still end our day in worship and devotion.  Some of us have families at home that we can do this with.  Others of us go to empty homes and apartments.  But we can gather as God’s people to experience life together.  If not daily, then we should gather as often as we are able. 

 This is my vision (and I think Christ’s as well) for our church: people gathering daily for prayer and fellowship at our church, in their homes and in our community, all of us encouraging each other, strengthening each other and even admonishing each other all in the name and love of Jesus.  To make this vision a reality, it will take all of us figuring out how to live Life Together for Jesus!

 Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

Jane Miller said...

Posted on 07/27/16 @ 11:12 PM -
Thank you for this sharing, Jim! Many years ago we read Bonhoefer's LIFE TOGETHER and were very much moved by it! So your applying it to this story about the Summer ministry teams was very meaningful! Yours is a very special church and ministry and an example to us all!
In Jesus,
Bob& Jane Miller

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Strength in Weakness

Posted by James Keller on 06/25/16 @ 3:59 PM

10  Therefore, I accept weakness, mistreatment, hardship, persecution, and difficulties suffered for Christ. It's clear that when I'm weak, I'm strong (2 Corinthians 12:10 GW). 

The year was 1982.  I was in the championship match of the city high school wrestling tournament.  Our team had a chance to win the city tournament.  But something was wrong.  I was not wrestling well.  I was losing.  To make matters worse, I was winded.  I didn’t know at the time that I was coming down with Mono. (I would find that out a week later in between matches of the state sectional tournament.) I just knew I wanted to lie down and rest.  But my coach kept yelling at me to move.  I didn’t think I had the strength to move.  But I tried to do what my coach told me to do.  Suddenly I was free of my opponent.  My coach yelled at me, “Take him down. Shoot! Shoot!”  I really didn’t think I could do it.  But I thought if I at least tried and failed, the coach wouldn’t be angry.  Also, if I shot a takedown and didn’t make it, I could rest for a while, curled up while my opponent tried to flip me onto my back.  But I did take my opponent down.  Two points for me.  But I was still losing.  My coach yelled at me again, “Let him up!”  I couldn’t believe my ears.  If I let him up, I would have to work hard again.  But I did what coach wanted.  One point for him.  “Take him down!”  I was sucking air.  I couldn’t see straight.  But I dove at my opponent.  “Let him up!”  I don’t remember how many times I took him down, only to let him up again.  I had no idea how much time was left.  I just wanted this match to end.   I had no idea what the score was.  I couldn’t think.  I felt like I was dying.  But whatever my coach yelled at me to do, I tried to do.  I knew my form was not right.  I didn’t care if I succeeded or not.  I just tried to do what the coach was yelling at me to do.  Finally, the Ref blew the whistle, and the match was over.  I didn’t care about the match.  I just cared about crawling off the mat and resting.  I shook my opponent’s hand; the Ref held up the winner’s arm.

 About halfway through the next championship match as I sat on the sidelines, and my mind gradually cleared up, I realized that the Ref had held up my arm.  I was the city champ!

 My strategy of just trying not to get pinned would have caused me to lose. But by listening to my coach and trying to do what he told me to do caused me to win.  He had the strategy.  I had to rely on him.  Even though my technique was terrible and I was exhausted, by listening to my coach, I won. 

Paul says that when we are weak, then we are strong.  When we are weak, when we are unsure of what to do, when we feel like giving up, we need to listen to Jesus who will tell us what to do.  Even if we don’t think we can do it, we need to follow Jesus.  Even if our technique, our knowledge, our skills are not up to the task, we just need to obey. 

My coach could see that my opponent was just as tired as I was.  He could see that he did not have the strength to keep going.  I was too focused on myself to see that. 

 Jesus sees what we do not see.  He also can and does puts limits on our opponents that we do not know about.  My coach was not able to lend me any of his strength or endurance for the match.  But Jesus promises us that He will give us strength.  Not only will He give us more than strength; He will fill us with the Holy Spirit.  In other words, when we acknowledge we are weak, we then can turn ourselves over to Jesus who will give us His strength to get the job done!

 Go out there and “Take him down!”

 Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

The Pain of Crucifixion

Posted by James Keller on 06/18/16 @ 3:51 PM

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20 ESV).

 I think that we Christians have gotten so used to the word crucifixion that we forget how awful it is.  We wear gold or silver crosses around our necks.  We even hang beautiful wooden crosses in our homes.  We look at crosses as an object of art and beauty.  We think of the cross a symbol of love (which it is).  But we forget that the cross was a symbol of terror back in the day. 

 The Romans had to come up with a means of punishment that was so painful, so feared, that people would obey the government rather than face this kind of death.  The pain of being crucified was so great that they came up with a new word that described this pain: excruciating - which literally means out of the cross.

 So when Paul tells the church at Galatia (and us) that he has been crucified with Christ, what does that mean?  It doesn’t mean a nice word picture or symbolic dying.  He is saying that in order for him to follow Jesus, he went through pain.  Paul had to give up something precious to himself, and in the giving it up, it hurt him.

 Paul tells us what he had to give up, what he had to crucify in order to follow Jesus in his letter to the church at Philippi.   4  although I could have confidence in my physical qualifications. If anyone else thinks that he can trust in something physical, I can claim even more. 5  I was circumcised on the eighth day. I'm a descendant of Israel. I'm from the tribe of Benjamin. I'm a pure-blooded Hebrew. When it comes to living up to standards, I was a Pharisee. 6  When it comes to being enthusiastic, I was a persecutor of the church. When it comes to winning God's approval by keeping Jewish laws, I was perfect. 7  These things that I once considered valuable, I now consider worthless for Christ (Philippians 3:4-7 GW).

 In other words, Paul had to give up everything he had based his identity on in order to follow Jesus.  Paul allowed Jesus to crucify everything that stood between Paul and Jesus, which really was Paul himself.  This was a painful and scary thing to undergo.  Everything that he held on to for security was taken away.  But what did he receive instead?  The assurance that his sins were forgiven.  The promise of eternal life in heaven.  A personal relationship with the God he had feared. 

How did the pain of being crucified compare to the joy of knowing Jesus?  8  It's far more than that! I consider everything else worthless because I'm much better off knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It's because of him that I think of everything as worthless. I threw it all away in order to gain Christ 9  and to have a relationship with him. This means that I didn't receive God's approval by obeying his laws. The opposite is true! I have God's approval through faith in Christ. This is the approval that comes from God and is based on faith 10  that knows Christ. Faith knows the power that his coming back to life gives and what it means to share his suffering. In this way I'm becoming like him in his death, 11  with the confidence that I'll come back to life from the dead (Philippians 3:8-11 GW).

 Don’t hold on to your old way of life.  Yes, you are comfortable in it.  But that is because you are used to it.  As my father likes to quote his father, “You can get used to anything, even hanging, if you do it long enough.”

 When I lived in California, I was quite happy.  I was a preschool teacher and director.  I had a nice house (with a pool) and a growing family (two kids with a third on the way).  But I felt God wanted me to go into the ministry.  I didn’t want to give up the comforts I had.  I had to allow Jesus to crucify my wants and desires (boy did it hurt) so that I could receive what he wanted for me.  Only after the pain of being crucified could I experience the joy of the new life Jesus had panned or me.  That new life includes New Life Lutheran Church and working in the Burmese community.

 When you allow Jesus to crucify your old way of life, you receive a much better way of life.  But you can’t have them both.  One must die a violent, bloody death.  It will be painful, but it is pain with a purpose.  The purpose is to make way for the new life in Christ!

 Go ahead and recite Galatians 2:20.  But say it like you mean it!  Experience the joy of resurrection to a new life in Christ!

 Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

The Six Benefits of Freedom

Posted by James Keller on 06/11/16 @ 12:45 PM

1  Christ has freed us so that we may enjoy the benefits of freedom. Therefore, be firm {in this freedom}, and don't become slaves again (Galatians 5:1 GW).

Our memory verse for this last week talks about being set free.  Galatians 4 ends with Paul talking about the difference between being a slave to the Law and living under the promise of God (Galatians 4:21-31).  Galatians 5 begins with the words of our memory verse.  We are to live as free people.  The Law is meant to point out our sins.  The Law is meant to show us our need for a Savior. 

 

When we have faith in Jesus, faith in his death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and his resurrection from the dead, we are set free.  Galatians 5:1 says that we are set free so that we may enjoy the benefits of freedom.  What are the benefits of being set free?

 

Ephesians 1:7-14 (GW) outlines the benefits of this freedom.
7  Through the blood of his Son, we are set free from our sins. God forgives our failures because of his overflowing kindness.

 

1) We are set free from our sins.  Jesus said that “Whoever sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34).  Jesus sets us free from being a slave to sin.  This side of heaven we will sin.  But we no longer have to let ourselves be ruled by sin.  We can and should ask for forgiveness.  We should live as people who have been set free from sin and its eternal consequences.


8  He poured out his kindness by giving us every kind of wisdom and insight
9  when he revealed the mystery of his plan to us. He had decided to do this through Christ.

 

2) The God’s Word translation of the Bible calls God’s grace kindness.  Grace is God’s undeserved love for us.  We are told that God pours his undeserved love for us into us.  We are filled with God’s love as opposed to receiving God’s anger and judgment.  Our sins made us deserving of God’s anger and judgment.  God’s judgment against sin is death, not just physical death, but spiritual death.  The end result of this death is always dying but never dead in hell.  However, through Christ we no longer receive anger and judgment but rather love and blessings!


10  He planned to bring all of history to its goal in Christ. Then Christ would be the head of everything in heaven and on earth.

 

3)Christ is now our head.  In other words, Christ is our leader.  We take our marching orders from him.  This is actually quite freeing.  We are no longer bound by human standards.  Standards are constantly changing with the winds of time.  Fashions change; technology changes; political landscapes change.  But Christ never changes.  We don’t have to guess what Jesus wants us to do.  That always remains the same.  There is freedom in being able to say, “We must obey God rather than people” (Acts 5:29).


11  God also decided ahead of time to choose us through Christ according to his plan, which makes everything work the way he intends. 12  He planned all of this so that we who had already focused our hope on Christ would praise him and give him glory.

 

4) God has a plan for our lives.  There is a freedom in knowing that God has a plan for you.  You don’t have to wander through life trying to find your way.  God has already planned it out.  This is not a rigid, narrow plan but rather a plan designed by the God who loves you so much He was willing to take your sins upon himself and suffer your punishment so you wouldn’t have to.  Would a God that loves you that much then try to make your life miserable by planning out something you wouldn’t enjoy?  Our response to this plan is to give God praise and bring Him glory.  We praise him by coming together to worship him.  We bring him glory by living the life of freedom He has set us free to live.  But as we live this life of freedom, we always point to God as the one who has set us free.  Our lives should always point others to this loving God who can set them free as well.


13  You heard and believed the message of truth, the Good News that he has saved you. In him you were sealed with the Holy Spirit whom he promised.

 

5) We have God’s Word as a benefit of this freedom.  God’s Word is a great benefit for us.  God’s Word does not change.  God still speaks to us today. 


12  God's word is living and active. It is sharper than any two-edged sword and cuts as deep as the place where soul and spirit meet, the place where joints and marrow meet. God's word judges a person's thoughts and intentions (Hebrews 4:12 GW).

 

God’s Word continues to set us free.  It continues to point out where we are falling short of what we are meant to be.  It continues to point us to Jesus.  It continues to strengthen us to live lives of freedom. 

 

14  This Holy Spirit is the guarantee that we will receive our inheritance. We have this guarantee until we are set free to belong to him. God receives praise and glory for this.

 

6) We have the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the one who gives us the gift of faith.  The Holy Spirit is the one who makes us spiritually alive.  The Holy Spirit is the one who enables us to live lives of freedom.  We are told that this Holy Spirit is our promise or guarantee that we will receive an inheritance. 

 

What is an inheritance?  It is something you receive after someone dies.  That someone is Jesus. He died on the cross.  He left you an inheritance.  The promise of this inheritance is the Holy Spirit.  And what a promise it is!  You not only have the Holy Spirit with you, but He literally lives in you!

 

So what is the inheritance?  Our inheritance is eternal life in heaven with our God!  This side of heaven we are still struggling to live as the free people we are.  We still struggle with sin and often fail in that struggle.  But in heaven we will truly be free people.  The best part is that we will have all of eternity with our Lord Jesus to discover what living as free people really means!

 

Christ’s slave,

 

Pastor jim

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