Freed to Love (Post, Desiring God)

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One of the most jarring sentences in the Bible goes like this: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). It jars us because Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13); and he taught that one of the ways to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us and bless those who persecute us is to give freely of our possessions (Luke 6:27–30). But here Paul says you can give everything away and even lay down your life and yet not be acting in love. You can make the final sacrifice and be lost for ever.

A Biblical Critique on All Our Activism 

This means that right wing and left wing Christian political activity must be exposed to a radical biblical critique. On the right we are summoned to work for the rights of unborn humans, a strong defense, nuclear superiority, prayer in public schools, the support of Israel, family values, balanced budgets, etc. On the left we are summoned to work for a more just distribution of the world’s goods, nuclear disarmament, the end of interventionist politics in El Salvador and Nicaragua, ERA, programs to combat poverty and unemployment, etc. The Christian right and the Christian left are summoning us to action—and rightly so! If there is one thing Jesus cannot be accused of, it is indifference to the needs of people.

But there is a radical biblical critique which Christians on the right and Christians on the left must never forget: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” Or to put it very bluntly: you can go to hell fighting for poverty programs and you can go to hell fighting for a prayer amendment, because love can never be defined simply as mere deeds; it always involves the condition of the heart of the doer. If we want to bring the message of the Bible to bear on the problems of the world around us, we need to realize that the Bible is much more radical than the agenda of either the right or the left. It says to both, “Though you give your body to be burned in the service of your agenda and have not love, you gain nothing.” Love can never be equated with anyone’s agenda because no agenda is love unless it comes from a certain kind of heart. We might be impressed with a person who gives a million dollars to build a hospital in Bangladesh, but God looks on the heart and queries the hidden motives of the soul. Christianity is not primarily an agenda for political activity; it is primarily a power that radically changes the human heart.

The Command to Love and the Nature of Faith 

Last week we saw in Galatians 5:6 that the heart which is acceptable to God is not one which depends on its works—whether right wing circumcision or left wing uncircumcision—but rather one which trusts so fully in God’s grace that the result is a life of love. Love is an essential part of the process of salvation. It is not optional whether you love one another. No one can say, “I am saved by faith regardless of whether I love people or not.” For the only faith which saves is “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). Saving faith always gives rise to love and love gives evidence of genuine faith.

Today’s text picks up the theme of love from 5:6 and presses it home with a command in verse 13: “Through love be servants of one another.” Someone may ask, “Why should Paul command us to love if love is an inevitable result of faith (5:6), indeed, a fruit of God’s Spirit (5:22)?” The answer is that even though God is sovereign over his people and it is his Spirit that produces the fruit of love, nevertheless, God’s means of doing his work includes human exhortation. There is no contradiction between saying God brings about love in our hearts and saying that one of the ways he does it is to remind us of love’s importance with commands. But the fact that Paul has waited five chapters before he commands us to do anything, but trust God, warns us not to take this command as a “work of law” to be performed in our own strength to win God’s favor. Paul’s attack on works of the law has not been an attack on commands but on the teaching that we should try to fulfill commands in our own strength to earn God’s blessing. Commands are good and should be seen as a summons to have the obedience which faith produces. The command to love in Galatians 5:13 is a command to have the kind of free and confident heart that by its very nature has to love.

And I have found in my own experience that the Holy Spirit uses scriptural commands and especially the theological arguments for those commands to change my heart. And that is my aim as we look at 5:13–15. I pray that God will apply his Word to your mind and heart in such a way that love comes much more naturally and freely than it has before.

The logic of Galatians 5:13–15 is simple. First, Paul restates the foundation of the Christian life: “You were called to freedom, brethren.” Then, based on that divine call, he gives a twofold command. Negatively: “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.” Positively: “Through love be servants of one another.” Then to support this twofold command he gives a positive and a negative incentive to love. Positively: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” And negatively: “If you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another.” The main point of the text is, “through love be servants of one another.” If you do this, you fulfill the whole law; if you don’t, you destroy yourselves.

Loving Service and True Freedom 

Let’s focus first on the positive command in verse 13: “Through love be servants of one another.” Listen to what happens when you put this command together with the first part of the verse: “You were called to freedom . . . Through love serve one another.” You were called to freedom from servitude; now in love submit to servitude! Here’s the question we should ask: Why is love which serves the needs of others the only way Christian freedom can express itself? Why are the call to freedom and the call to love synonymous? When Paul says, “Don’t use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh,” he means that if you try, you lose your freedom. As verse 1 says, you “submit again to a yoke of slavery.” The works of the flesh and the fruit of love are not two different optional ways to live in freedom. When you live according to the flesh, you are in slavery. But when you serve each other in love, you are in freedom. Why?

Because love is motivated by the joy of sharing our fullness, but the works of the flesh are motivated by the desire to fill our emptiness. The meaning of “flesh” in the book of Galatians is not the physical part of man, but man’s ego which feels a deep emptiness and uses the means within its own power to fill that emptiness. If it is religious, it may use law; if it is irreligious, it may use booze. But one thing is sure: the flesh is not free. It is enslaved to one futile desire after another in its effort to fill an emptiness which only Christ can fill. So when Paul says in verse 13, “Don’t use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh,” he means, don’t surrender the freedom that you have in the all-satisfying Christ to return to the unsatisfying desires for mere physical pleasures or self-exaltation.

So works of the flesh are motivated by a desire to fill our emptiness. But love is very different—it is motivated by the joy of sharing out fullness. “Love does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5). When we love, we are not enslaved to use things or people to fill our emptiness. Love is the overflow of our fullness. Therefore, love is the only behavior that we can do in freedom. When God frees us from guilt and fear and greed and fills us with his all-satisfying presence, the only motive left is the joy of sharing our fullness. When God fills the emptiness of our heart with forgiveness and help and guidance and hope, he frees us from the bondage to accumulate things and manipulate people. People who devote large hunks of their life to surrounding themselves with the comforts of this world testify that God has not filled the void of their heart to overflowing. When God is our portion and we are truly free, then we will serve one another through love. Freedom flows forth in love just as surely as a bubbling spring flows forth in a mountain stream. But the flesh is like a vacuum cleaner: it sucks and sucks and just the moment it starts to feel full, somebody throws the bag in the garbage. The book of Galatians is written to show us how to become a mountain spring that serves the valley with the water of love.

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself 

There is no more fulfilling way to live than to draw daily on God’s all-satisfying grace and let it flow through us to meet the needs of others. Verses 14 and 15 give us a positive and a negative incentive to live like this. First, verse 14: Live like this, “for the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” In spite of all the negative things that Paul has said about “works of the law,” it is not a matter of indifference whether Christians fulfill the law in their behavior. The good news is that love, which is an overflow of God’s grace, is what fulfills the law. All God was after in the law was people who are so satisfied by his grace that their lives are a spill-spout of love.

There is a lot of confusion today about the self-love referred to in this verse: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The most common error is to assume that this is a command to love yourself and that self-love means self-esteem. Both of these assumptions are wrong. Paul and Moses (Leviticus 19:18) and Jesus (Luke 10:27assume that all people love themselves; they don’t command it: “You shall love your neighbor as you (already) love yourself.” And the self-love they assume is not self-esteem but self-interest: all people want to be happy, even if they often don’t know what will really make them happy. We can know this is how Paul understands this verse because of how he applies it in Ephesians 5:2829. “Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church.” In other words, self-love means the strong interest you have in your own health and safety and happiness.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” is not a command to love yourself. It is a command to take your natural, already existing love of self and make it the measuring rod of your love for others. There is not a harder command in the Bible than this one. It means: Want to feed the hungry as much as you want to feed yourself when you get hungry. It means: Want to find your neighbor a job as much as you are glad you have a job. Want to help your fellow student get A’s as much as you want to get A’s. Want to help the person stalled on the freeway as much as you are glad you are not stalled on the freeway. Want to give the poor softball player a chance to play as much as you want to play the whole game. Want to share Christ with your neighbor as much as you are glad you know Christ yourself. 

Use all the creativity and energy and perseverance to do good things for others that you use in doing good things for yourself. Care about what happens to others as much as you care about what happens to yourself. Can you imagine what the church would be like if we were all like that: looking at the person to the right and to the left and feeling the same longing for their happiness that we feel for our own. Not only would the law be fulfilled, this place would be iridescent with joy, and the glory of God would be unmistakably present in our midst. And people would be converted! Let’s be like that in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Tragic Alternative to Love 

For if we don’t, verse 15 gives the tragic alternative: “If you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another.” A church of people who do not serve each other in love will destroy itself. God has been good to Bethlehem to pour out a spirit of love upon this people for 112 years. And my prayer is that we abound more and more in love for one another and for all men (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

And remember, we can only love if we are free. That is, love is motivated by the joy of sharing our fullness, not by the desire to fill our emptiness. Is it a coincidence that verse 15 describes what wild animals do when they are starving, not when they are filled (empty instead of content)? “If you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another.” When you are not filled with God, it is sweet to eat your enemy.

But, brothers and sisters, God has called us to the freedom of fullness which overflows in love, not to the slavery of emptiness which bites and devours and is never satisfied. In Jesus Christ, God offers us forgiveness, daily help and guidance, and hope for the greatest future imaginable. And it is all free, purchased by the death of Jesus, received by faith alone. The secret of love is freedom, and the secret of freedom is utter confidence in the love of God.

Which gives us the clue (returning to our starting point) why a person can give away all his goods and deliver his body to be burned and yet not have love. Such a person may not be acting in freedom. He may not be motivated by the joy of sharing a God-given fullness, but only by a deep longing to fill his emptiness. In that case, he is not acting in love and God is not honored as the all-satisfying source of fulfillment.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Coronavirus and Christ.

He Is In The Storm With You

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When you feel alone, know Jesus is sitting in the boat with you. Call on him to give you peace as the storm rages and seems as if it is going to destroy everything around you. The Bible tells us – “this to will pass”. Hold fast to Jesus.

~ Lisa Blair

We can see our rebirth* come alive during this pandemic. God is at the center of each of our lives. Call on him for your peace that is greater than your understanding. Praise him for each day and expect him to provide his best for you. His best is his love, peace, and security in him.

Wherever you are, he is in the midst of it with you. Hold fast to your faith. He will get through this, but the world will not reappear as was it was; look forward to the new day that the Lord is bringing forth. There is no storm to great to defeat God. ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands, he’s got you and me brothers-in his hands, he’s got the whole world in his hands.’

Scriptures and images – Bible.com

*our new lives, after accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior

Videos – YouTube

He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands, modern version.
https://youtu.be/HHP33AEdALU

This song was originally sung by Mahalia Jackson.
https://youtu.be/UEH7jyt1eoo


Life of the Reluctant Follower

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God continues to work through us as long as we are receptive and obedient, though He never fails to leave the reluctant follower behind.

~ Lisa Blair

What is a reluctant follower? It is someone who hears God’s voice but does not respond with immediate vigor, instead examining the pros and cons of how it will affect one’s life.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,“Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,…They always go astray in their heart” Hebrews 3:7-9, NIV

I think we have all been there, and are learning that obedience is immediate, in the present, now, even if we don’t understand where God is leading us. God’s voice directs our walk and informs our thinking. When He says, ‘follow me’, it is not a request, it is a command. We are His children.

In Hebrews 3:8, the term today, refers to the present, and should not be delayed until tomorrow, the command refers to this moment. God gives no commands about the future, the action requested is in the moment. We are commanded not to worry about tomorrow, but to focus on the day. Therefore, it follows that His command is for the day and requires action in the day, or, today. Obedience to God’s commands should never be sidelined by reluctance.


A reluctant follower is one whose heart is hardened, meaning they have a stubborn heart, are self absorbed, and tend to procrastinate. Why do so many procrastinate? It could be that they are weighing the outcome because they do not know God’s voice, or they do know His voice but are slow to respond. Learning to identify God’s voice is important. Slow response is a form of reluctance.

Isaiah 30:21 NIV says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
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The GW version says, “You will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way. Follow it, whether it turns to the right or to the left.”

God designed our path before we were born, He knows everything about us including when we will heed His voice and when we won’t. He gave us free-will to make decisions regarding our relationship with Him. He offers direction but allows us to choose to be obedient, reluctant, or non-responsive. The thing I have learned over time is that reluctance and non-responsiveness is our loss and we suffer the consequences of disobedience, later regretting not acting when God spoke. Failure produces a continual inner dialogue about failing to act, and a lost opportunity to follow God’s command. Reluctance also places you in situations where the lesson may need to be repeated. In short, you may find yourself in GPS mode where God redirects you to offer another opportunity to follow His Will.

We think we can camouflage our reluctance to respond to God’s command. But, the truth is, God knows everything, sees everything, and hears everything, and as soon as a thought enters our mind countering His command to act, we enter into conversation with Him. We open The dialogue with our thoughts.

Scriptures —biblegateway.com | References—Gotquestions.org; Blue letter bible.org. Sermon Notes for Hebrews 3:7-19. Chuck Smith; biblegateway.com, Commentaries, Hebrews 3:7-19 | Images—Google Images; LAB Photos

God Wants Relationship—He Is Our Heart And Portion

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Why do we struggle to live what we believe is enough, until we reach rough terrain, or old age and realize, God is our strength and relying on self is futile?

~ Lisa Blair

Cuzco, Peru- DMorris

Headstrong/Free-will

God created a headstrong people and gave us free-will. Free-will is the option to choose to live a carnal life or a Godly life. God does not stand in our way, but instead allows us to make the decision to choose Him, and live a Godly, eternal life, or flail about on our own, destined to rot in hell.

As we hunger for true life, we begin to understand that only God can provide the comfort we seek. Once we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, the comfort and strength we seek come through the Holy Spirit, who instantaneously takes up residence in us, and becomes our inner man.

It’s mind-boggling to think that even as Christians, who have surrendered our lives to Christ, still find it difficult to be obedient and dependent upon Him. If you are, or were, like me and so many others, we were raised to be independent, to forge ahead relying on our own decision-making abilities, and take the bull by the horns.

Hearts and Bodies Fail, Death is Inevitable

The truth is, our bodies and minds fail us time and time again. At some point, we become exhausted, and we search for strength and realize we must rely on God, who is our eternal strength. There is no other, especially self that can release the fear, and the weakness felt when our bodies and minds fail, in life and death.

The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. Psalms 18:2 KJV


God is our Rock, in Him, and only Him, do we have strength. When we realize He has given us options, we also realize free-will truly means surrender and not persevering on our own. It means relying on His strength to see us through.

Again, I emphasize, free-will has two sides. God wants us to choose to either accept Him as our Lord and Savior, thus being in relationship with Him and being insured of eternal life/salvation, or remain where we are in sin moving forward blindly.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9 ESV

Complete Surrender

When we fully and completely surrender, there is clarity in understanding that it is attached to obedience and dependency upon God’s Word. What seems confusing to many is that surrender is two prong and relies on total obedience and dependence upon Him. It does not mean we should enter into a catatonic state and wait for God to move us like a chess piece, it means to go to Him in prayer and ask for guidance while planning. It means learning his Word through reading the Bible and strengthening your relationship with Him. Once we begin to move down His path, we understand that we should not stray to the left or the right but to listen to His quiet, strong voice and allow Him to inform our decision-making.

God’s Will and His Way

Quite often, His plans for our lives are different than ours. How many of you have had wealth, prestige, and career opportunities that in your carnal world were exciting and clearly placed you on the path of success? Likewise, how many of you also heard God’s quiet voice saying, ‘stay with me, this is not your path’? God is the source of our happiness, not wealth, not public acclaim, not the clamor of friends, but relationship with Him. Knowing God is your strength is knowing that He alone is your supreme joy and that He is your friend and portion, now and forever.

If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. John 7:17 ESV

Only God can give strength and comfort in the present and on our deathbed. Our flesh will always fail, but God is the strength of our soul and gifts us with eternal salvation. In health and in weakness, we should always attempt to persevere to walk in His Will and His Way, not our own. Without God, our life is only a self-inflicted burden without direction or cause. Without God in life and in death, we remain orphans, naked-without His covering, unprotected, and subject to eternal death. We remain portionless forever.

References – Studylight.org, Barnes Notes, Psalms 73:26

Scriptures- Biblegateway.org

Images – Pixby, Free Google Images, DMorris

What Does, God’s Will Be Done And Not My Own, Really Mean?

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There are times in our lives when we surrender ourselves as a form of selfish need, and times when we surrender because we want a covenant relationship with the Lord. Where are you on the spectrum? It may be time to decide. You are on the precipice of surrender.

~ Lisa Blair
busy.org

Many of us tend to use this phrase nonchalantly. This is not a thoughtless statement or a decision to take lightly. When we express this thought, we are entering a covenant, a pack, with God. From this point forward, there is no looking back. This is the point of surrender.

I have heard this scripture spoken in many contexts during my lifetime. I imagine you have, as well. You may have glibly spoken it during a conversation. As a student of the Word, I now pose the question, how many times have I broken covenant with God? How many times have I uttered this statement and then chosen my own path, made my own decision, or followed others, overriding God’s purpose and plan for my life?

This gives rise to three questions we all struggle with:

1) What does ‘your will be done’ mean?

2) What does surrender mean?

3) Are you ready to commit to the covenant with God?

WHAT DOES YOUR WILL BE DONE MEAN?

When Jesus was preparing to take his place up the cross, after he could no longer take the pain, and wanted to be released from his duty, he cried out,

My father! If it is possible, let this Cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Matthew 26: 39 NLT)

This is the turning point in Christ’s prayer. “Here, Jesus demonstrated the turning point in prayer for all of us. Prayer is not about bending God’s will to get what we want. The purpose of prayer is to seek God’s will and then align our desires with his. Jesus willingly placed his desires in full submission to the father’s will.” (Not my will but yours be done. Learn Religions.com)

When we make the statement, we are in effect, praying. We are committing ourselves to God’s Will for our lives. His plan for our lives was established long ago, long before we were born, perhaps before He created this universe. If we allow God to lead us, He will show us the path to take. Your will be done means you will abide by His will and not your own. 99% of the time, your purpose will be different than His. You are not first in His Will, but you surrender regardless and are bound by the covenant you created when you cried out the phrase.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11 NJKV)

In effect, when you call on God, pray to Him and listen to Him, you are abiding in His Will for your life. Your (totally) surrender yourself, holding nothing back, to His Will and His Way.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO SURRENDER?

Surrendering means yielding ownership, to relinquish control over what we consider to be ours, to relinquish our life, all of it. We surrender what God has given us and how we wanted to use it to become His steward of this life. When we surrender to God, we are acknowledging His ultimate control of everything, including our circumstances, past, present, and future.

Billy Graham wrote: If you want a change in your life, if you want forgiveness and peace and joy that you’ve never known before, God demands total surrender, in so doing, our Lord becomes the ruler of your life.

When we surrender and give up all we are, we no longer seek personal gain, we are delivered from sin, and become useful to God to conduct His work on earth.

When we reach this point in our lives, making moral choices, we must choose to follow our own sinful nature (our carnal life) or seek God and surrender ourselves to Him.

ARE YOU READY TO COMMIT TO THE COVENANT WITH GOD?

Once someone speaks this statement, utters this prayer, recites this scripture, conversion has been set in place, you are on the precipice of changing your life to become God’s tool, His steward, and His servant.

Take heed, think this through before you find yourself amid the war for your soul. It is a choice, do you follow your carnal desires, or surrender them to our Lord and Savior, the head of our lives?

Are you ready to enter into covenant with God and all that it entails? Are you ready to allow God to take you wherever He needs you? Are you prepared to commit?

Internet Resources – Thy Will Be Done. lifehopeandtruth.com; A Message From Billy Graham. billygraham.org; Surrender To God. http://www.allaboutfollowingjesus.org; Total Surrender| My Utmost For His Highest. utmost.org; What Does It Mean To Surrender To God? http://www.gotquestions.org