Three Ways to Respond but Only One Way to Really Live

Galatians: The Longer Reach of Freedom

Followers of Christ experience freedom in various incarnations - freedom from condemnation and guilt, from the best ideas of men, from fear. The enemies of the freedom that Jesus died to give us, however, are legalism and licentiousness. Paul tells the Galatian believers that they will have to choose either freedom or one of the alternatives.

Todd WagnerApr 13, 2008
Galatians 5:5-6

In This Series (6)
Write it Down, Live it Out, Pass it On
Todd WagnerMay 25, 2008
So What's the Big Deal About What You Sow? And How Long Does it Take to Make a "Donkey" of Yourself?
Todd WagnerMay 11, 2008
To Ignore, Impale or Encourage: What it Means to Bear One Another's Burdens
Todd WagnerMay 4, 2008
"Is He in You?" What That Means, What it Doesn't, and Why it Matters
Todd WagnerApr 27, 2008
Three Ways to Respond but Only One Way to Really Live
Todd WagnerApr 13, 2008
Freedom: Defined, Defended and Demonstrated
Todd WagnerApr 6, 2008


Male 1: Hey, how are you doing?

Male 2: Hey! Good, and you?

Male 1: Good.

Male 2: Me too.

Male 1: Any trouble parking?

Male 2: Not when you get here when we do.

Male 1: Cool. Yeah, I know. The parking team wasn't here to reserve those special spaces.

Male 2: For moms?

Male 1: Yeah. You'd think mothers could get it together.

Male 2: I rolled right up to the front door.

Male 1: Me too.

Male 2: I like to get here early, have a cup of joe, unless those coffee boneheads haven't finished brewing it yet.

Male 1: I know. Sometimes I have to buy my own. That's not good.

Male 2: What do you think of the new worship center?

Male 1: You know… It could use some work. I have a few ideas for them.

Male 2: Yeah, me too.

Male 1: I was thinking like a really big cross.

Male 2: Yeah, and recliners…

Male 1: Ooh, interesting.

Male 2: I'll tell you one thing. I hope we never get woodpeckers or termites in that wooden thing they call a ceiling.

Male 1: They'd have a heyday.

Male 2: Family okay?

Male 1: Yeah, they're fine. They just don't want to get here as early as I do.

Male 2: Yeah, mine doesn't ride with me, either.

Male 1: You'll see them rolling in at the last possible minute.

Male 2: Probably sit in the back with mine, I'll bet.

Male 1: That's right. They just can't handle the action down front.

Male 2: I don't understand why my wife and kids don't want to be right down here in front where all the action is.

Male 1: I know. The emotion is so unreal; some people just can't handle it.

Male 2: Plus, it takes a serious church member to understand the intricacies of worship.

Male 1: The nuances…

Male 2: Subtle shifts in the action…

Male 1: It's a science. Some people are just never going to be able to really worship.

Male 2: Go ahead and say it. You have to be really mature to know what's really important.

Male 1: That's right. After you've been here for a while, you either get it or you don't.

Male 2: True.

Male 1: Worship has to be taught.

Male 2: You know that's right. My kids are going to be watching me down here worshiping, and they're going to know that they just don't get it.

Male 1: Then at lunch, I'm going to have to explain everything to them that they could never figure out on their own.

Male 2: Oh no, here comes an usher. Quick, spread out. He's not putting anybody next to me.

Male 1: I'll tell you what. If he thinks I'm going to that overflow room, he's nuts.

Male 2: Phew! That was close.

Male 1: Tell me about it.

Male 2: Well, service is getting ready to start.

Male 1: Come on, hurry up. Let's get ready.

Male 2: Synchronize our watches.

Male 1: You're five minutes fast.

Male 2: I'll get it right on the money, right there.

Male 1: Okay, run the checklist with me.

Male 2: Coffee?

Male 1: Check.

Male 2: Bible?

Male 1: Check.

Male 2: Pen?

Male 1: Check.

Male 2: Pen?

Male 1: Check.

Male 2: Offering envelope?

Male 1: Check.

Male 2: Scorecard?

Male 1: Ah, I knew there was something I forgot.

Male 2: It's okay; I have an extra.

Male 1: Wow, thanks.

Male 2: By the way, what did you score last week?

Male 1: Oh, I gave it a 79.

Male 2: Really?

Male 1: Yeah, you know, pleasant flow, nice message… What about you?

Male 2: 72.

Male 1: Really?

Male 2: Get ready; here comes the worship team.

Male 1: Yep, there they are. Let's see… Everyone smiling, coming in on time. Plus 5.

Male 2: Look at that guy. He's not smiling.

Male 1: Man, they were off to such a good start, and then this guy goes and makes a rookie mistake.

Male 2: They'll be in trouble when they review the videotape next week.

Male 1: True, true.

Male 2: Great vibe, nice music. Plus 5.

Male 1: No, no, no. The song is too long; these lyrics are repetitive. Minus 4.

Male 2: I love this song.

Male 1: Hands? Minus 10!

Male 2: Minus 15!

Male 1: Okay, let's see. Sermon starting on time? Plus 10.

Male 2: I feel the Spirit moving now; we're on a roll.

Male 1: An usher's letting a baby in!

Male 2: Minus 5!

Male 1: And if that baby cries, minus 10.

Male 2: You got that right. Pastor's opening joke… Borderline funny.

Male 1: I'll tell you what. It had better have something to do with the message or it's going to be a big deduction.

Male 2: Hey, Pastor's clothes match.

Male 1: Way to go, Rev! Plus 10.

Male 2: Nothing worse than a non-matching pastor.

Male 1: It's just a complete distraction. The least he could do is wear a jacket.

Male 2: Are you ready to do the sleep count?

Male 1: All right. I have three sound asleep over here.

Male 2: What about him?

Male 1: Oh, no. He's awake; he just always looks that way.

Male 2: Are you sure?

Male 1 and Male 2: Asleep!

Male 2: Minus 15.

Male 1: How are we doing on sermon length?

Male 2: Aw, he's into overtime.

Male 1: Too bad; he was off to such a good start.

Male 2: And his shirt and pants matched.

Male 1: What a shame. I was just beginning to worship.

[End of video]

To you, that's funny; to me, it's just a collection of emails. We're looking at another collection. We're looking at a collection this morning of some verses, just a collection of sentences that, I believe, are sentences that can change your life and change your understanding of what God really wants us to be about when we live lives of worship.

We're in a little book called Galatians. A while back, we looked at the first four chapters in this book. If you did bring a Bible, we're thrilled. Turn to Galatians with me. In the first four chapters of Galatians, what was going on was Paul, the guy who wrote this book as an instrument God to reveal something to us, talked a lot about some ideas that needed some reshaping.

We called those little messages the Long Arm of the Law because the main idea that needed reshaping was this idea that you could somehow perform your way into God loving you. Specifically, if you lived under the law, you would be a person who eventually could earn your way to acceptance by God.

Let me just tell you. Galatians is really about shifting an entire way of thinking. It's about changing your paradigm, moving you away from what is so natural for all of us. That's why I called those messages the Long Arm of the Law because this idea, this way of thinking, keeps clawing its way back into your life. It's this performance-based acceptance.

But there's a whole different way of living, a better way of living, a way that will set you up to live the kind of life and experience the kind of life God intended for you. That's why I'm calling the messages related to the last two chapters in Galatians the Longer Reach of Freedom because freedom can get you further than the law ever can.

What I want to share with you is that we're looking at moving out of performance-based acceptance to really what is acceptance-motivated performance. Because we're accepted, because we're rooted and grounded in God's love, it motivates us to live differently. What we do we do because God has captured our hearts, not because we're trying to capture God's attention or somehow earn his favor.

If I had to accentuate one idea this morning for you and let really let you know one thing I wanted you to walk away with, it would be the understanding that our God is so great, you could never please him. I want you to understand the greatness of God is so otherworldly that you could never please him. If you understood what he's done to mete that infinite chasm of righteousness between us and him, you would want to spend the rest of your life living in a way that you know would bring him joy.

A lot of people dumb God down. They make God into this idea, this person who would eventually somehow be satisfied through what you do. We put together a résumé that we'll one day submit or turn in, that he would go, "All right, that's good enough. Welcome. Join me." What God is saying is, "You don't have a clue about who I am, so I am revealing to you that which will help you understand who I am. You don't need to define me; I'm going to reveal myself to you."

That is why this Bible is an unveiling. It's God revealing to us what otherwise we would never attain to. Man has always had this idea, when he went his own way. One of the first ways he went was to deal with the separation from a holy God by his own efforts and choosing. That's why when God said, "Look, Adam. As long as you're hanging out with me, things are going to be good, but the moment you leave me, the Author and Giver of life, you're going to experience death." I think that was a literal death, an execution.

But God, in his grace, chose not to execute Adam in that moment but to provide for Adam a means through which he could continue to live and be restored into relationship with God. How did Adam deal with his separation from God? By knitting together a covering for himself. The fact that he was exposed in his brokenness before God, he tried to cover up by making for himself a garment of leaves.

God said, "You don't understand. When you offend me, you offend me utterly and completely. To separate yourself from me is to bring about death." God said, as a beginning teaching tool, "You have to understand death will come, but I'm going to model for you grace. It won't be your death that will come. It will be the death of another."

He said, "Your works to cover yourself aren't going to work. I need to cover you." Specifically, he brought together the garment of an animal. Where do you get the garment of an animal? From the animal, and the animal isn't doing too well when he is skinned. In fact, he is slain. Innocent blood was shed. This animal that did not rebel against God was sacrificed to make for Adam a covering that was acceptable to God. Life was lost. "Cover yourself in that blood in order to have yourself acceptable to me."

Man, not long after that, tries to reinstitute his way. He gathers together with other men and he says, "Let's build for ourselves a tower, to where we can attain for ourselves our own heights, to where we can look God in the eye, shake his hand, and say, 'It's good to be here among the heavenlies with you.'"

God said, "Man can never build his way to me. This is nonsense. This is craziness. This is babble." He dispersed people, and he confused the people to live in their brokenness of rebellion, and they wouldn't work together to establish for themselves that which they thought would make them great in God's eyes.

God continues to reveal to them, "Until you get who I am, until you understand the revelation of who I am, you will never know your need. Because you'll never know your need, you'll never rejoice at my provision. Because you'll never rejoice at my provision, you won't long to live a life of worship for me that will bring me joy."

That's all that's been going on in this little book of Galatians. The first four chapters accentuate how legalism and performance under the law is always what we revert back to because it appeals to our nature. "I'm not that bad. I can do enough good that I will be acceptable to perfection." God says, "That's just not how it works."

In Galatians 5, before he really charges ahead as to what can happen when you experience the freedom Christ died to give you, he's just reviewing and wrapping up. In the first 12 verses we looked at last week, we find the fullness of God's message summarized in these couple of verses, verses 5 and 6, where it says, "For we through the Spirit…"

Let me just tell you this. The Spirit in Scripture is not just a general idea. The Spirit is a person. "God is Spirit," the Scripture says. He is Father, he is Son, he is Spirit. The Spirit is a he, not an it. But the Spirit is the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit, who God uses to reveal to us that which we otherwise would not know.

I'll just say that the Bible talks a lot about the person of God, and it says that God is Father, God is Son, God is Spirit. The three are individual, separate person forever, but somehow are all one. God is one. Each of those three persons work together to reveal the fullness of who God is. In our three-dimensional, finite world, we cannot understand how three things can be one.

God doesn't try to explain that. He just says, "It is." What God spends all of his time explaining is how our way is inconsistent with his way, just like he is inconsistent with us. He is altogether good. I want to remind you again. That's why Jesus, when he tells you to pray, a model prayer, not magic words, he says, "When you pray, pray this way:

'Our Father…'" Intimacy… "who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. Holy is your name. Altogether different are you in your character, in your nature, in your essence, in your being. You're nothing like me. You are completely separate from me, even though you are somehow near like a father." Jesus says, "Get that idea firmly entrenched in your hearts when you begin to communicate with God. He is near, and yet he is forever separated from you. He is altogether different than you, and he wants you to be near to him as a father is to a son."

He's sharing this idea that through the Spirit, through the person of God, he has revealed to us that we, by faith in what the Son of God has done to maintain the glory of the Father, are individuals, it says, who are waiting now for the hope of righteousness to come, that we have, by faith, already walked into. We believe that God, through Jesus, has accomplished for us this meeting of our need in a way that would allow us to be brought near to God, and we'd be free from having to perform to be accepted.

He said, "When you understand that God has loved you this way, it will set you free to follow him and to love him and to love him like nothing else can. You're not to live under the law; you're to live under the Spirit of love, truth, and freedom that comes in Christ. For in Christ Jesus," verse 6 says, "it's not what you do do or don't do that matters. The only thing that matters is faith which works itself out in love."

That's the idea. Chapter 5, verses 1-12 is a summary of this broken way of responding to the message of the cross. I'm going to give you three ways. I'm going to show you why the first two are broken. I'm going to focus specifically on why the second one in verses 13-15 talks about, just like legalism doesn't work, the second way of responding to the cross doesn't work. It's not of God. Then there's another way, that we'll find out, that is where God wants us to live, and it will set you free. Are you ready?

Here's why 1-12 is a summary of what doesn't work. First, legalism. Legalism doesn't work. It doesn't get you where you want to go. Legalism does not lead to life. It leads, in fact, to separation, isolation, schisms, and factions. Some people have five pillars of righteousness. Some people have an eightfold path. Some people have other doctrines, habits, rituals, or sacraments. Others have different ideas, and they're all different roads that take us to different places.

We fight, we war, and we argue among ourselves about what it is that makes us righteous. There are different denominational doctrinal issues that we use to chew each other up and to feed each other. We argue about who's right and who's wrong, often warring over these things. God says, "This is not the way to get to me. It's not the way to get to life. When you left me, you left life, and the way to get back to me is not by working. It's by acknowledging that your leaving me has created an infinite gap forever, and unless I close it, it can never be closed."

It is a life of sorrow because you are always under this burden of performance. It zaps the life out of you. You don't do it because you're loved. You do it out of fear of not being loved. It is a fear-based system that leads to discouragement, despair, burden, and obligation. It's a life that produces not goodness but negative goodness. What do I mean by that?

People who are legalistic define their righteousness by what they don't do. "I'm glad I'm not like that. I'm glad I'm not like this person. I'm glad I don't do this. I'm glad that's not part of my history. I'm glad that's not part of my way." In fact, the classic example of this is found in Luke 18:9-14.

A guy who was a lawyer, which means he was committed not to making his money by studying the Constitution but specifically, in that context, was a person who studied the Old Testament law , which chapters 1-4 was there to teach us that we could never attain to it, so that we would cry out for mercy. This guy studied it and prided himself in being better at attaining to it than others were.

Specifically, in verse 11 of Luke 18, he says, "Lord, I'm so glad I'm not like that dude, who's a wretch, who's a thief, who's a common man." He got his little scorecard out, and he had a better grade than others. He was an evaluator, and he created schisms between himself and others that made him feel good about who he was. It never made him good. It was just what he hadn't been or what he wouldn't do in the future. It separated folks, and it brought burdens on him that he and others who he taught these to could not attain to.

By the way, verses 1-12 attack the foolishness of this idea. Paul says, "I wish people who teach this would cut themselves off. I wish they would mutilate themselves." It's a reference to one of the things the law was about, which is this idea of cutting off some extra skin, a certain part of the male anatomy. They would get rid of this dead flesh. Paul said, "I wish they would get rid of this dead teaching, these dead ideas of what honors and pleases God. I wish they would mutilate themselves because their teaching is destroying the body of God and heaping burdens on people."

The second way, that he specifically talks about now in verses 13-15 that folks try and respond to the cross is through what's called licentiousness. The root word of that is this thing called license, which is the idea of being free to do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it. Licentiousness leads to not freedom and not life. It leads to selfishness, and it leads to sin. If legalism is being defined by what you don't do, licentiousness is being defined by, "I'll do whatever I want to do whenever I want to do it."

In fact, if there was such a thing as a Satanic bible, and some people want to offer that there is, just like the central law of God's Word is to treat others the way you would want to be treated, or love people the way you want to be loved, the central law of, if you will, rebellion is, "Who cares about others? Do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it."

The root of this came in the idea that, "Hey, if it's true that God died for our sin and our rebellion, then the worse our sin and rebellion is, the more his grace is magnified." So because you have a Savior, it doesn't matter what you do because no matter what you do, you can't save yourself, so get after it. Do whatever you want to do, and that will do is make the blood more valuable, Christ more forgiving, grace more exalted, God more praised, and so it doesn't really matter.

The problem is that just like legalism leads to negative goodness, licentiousness leads to negative morality. May it never be said that that which God uses to redeem us leads to that which is completely inconsistent with goodness and godlikeness. Licentiousness is where we exploit each other. The idea that we are set free is not that we are free to exploit each other.

There are so many people out there who talk about license and freedom, and people offer us that freedom can be found in doing whatever you want to do. They say things like, "Free sex is what you want. You want to get out of this oppressive mindset of religion. Just go be free to give yourself to whoever you want, whenever you want, however you want."

Let me tell you about the craziness of this. This is why, if I could just share this with you, when God does share with you ideas, when his Spirit reveals to you truth, it's not because he's looking to rip you off, oppress you, and put you under some system to show his strength. It's because he loves you. Everything God says and that he calls you to is because in pursing that, it will mean life to you. Everything he calls you away from is because there's death there. I know it looks like life, but it's death.

"This idea of chasing after the desires of your flesh, the desires of your body and your nature," he says, "is craziness because your body and your nature are designed to crave things now, because you've left me, that are inconsistent with me. That which is inconsistent with me is inconsistent with goodness, life, and peace. I want you to have goodness, life, and peace."

Free sex sounds so good, doesn't it? What they don't tell you about free sex is that when you live in such a way to objectify others for your physical pleasure, when you live in such a way that you live in your freedom to exploit others for your own gain, it doesn't lead to a lot of freedom. In fact, it leads to isolation. People start to fear you. It leads to loneliness in your life. It leads to a lack of self-worth and self-respect in your life. It leads to character flaws. It leads to disease.

It leads to you not caring about what your free sex leads to in terms of bringing forth new life in others. In fact, when new life in others, because of your free sex, gets in the way, you want to bring death to that life because you want to be free. Free sex isn't so free. It's rather costly. God says, "I'm not against sex. I'm against what you do with it."

Licentiousness and this idea that you do what you want, God isn't against it because he's against freedom. He's against freedom as you understand it. Let me remind you of what you said last week. Freedom is not the absence of limitations. Freedom is not autonomy, it's not personal sovereignty, it's not self-sufficiency and power. It is not doing what we want when we want to do it. Freedom is the ability to live our lives in such a way that when we live our lives this way, it brings blessing, life, and fullness to us and to others.

Let me just tell you something. I am prone to legalism and licentiousness. That's why there's this long arm of the law and this long, drawn pull of my flesh. I am prone to evaluate others continually and make myself feel better about myself because I think others aren't doing as well, or to make themselves worse about themselves so I don't feel so bad about myself. I am prone to exploit others for my own personal gain.

That is where I naturally drift, and it's not pleasant for others or for me because when I'm a constant evaluator and a constant exploiter, people go, "Dude, I cannot hang with you." They pull back from me, and it creates loneliness, death, isolation, fear, and insecurity in me and in other people, but it seems so right at first. That's why God says, "Todd, here's where life comes. Here's the right way to respond to the cross. Not by legalism, not by licentiousness, but by liberty, by real freedom, by defining freedom biblically."

Freedom leads to selflessness. I am no longer a slave to my desire and to my nature which pulls toward judgmentalism and exploitation. I am now free to encourage, to edify, and to serve. When I become a selfless person who uses my freedom not to exploit, to push down, and to abuse, guess what multiplies? Security, peace, love. It's not negative goodness. It's not negative morality. It is goodness and morality.

Let me share with you this. In Galatians 5:13, look what it says. "Look, bro. You were called to freedom; only, don't turn your freedom into an opportunity." The idea of the word opportunity there… It's a military term. It means a base or a camp of operation. Don't use your flesh's freedom as an opportunity for evil.

Watch this one more time. You are called to freedom, biblical freedom, the freedom to be who you want to be, to honor God, to please God and be a blessing to others. Apart from what Christ has done in your life, you'll never do that. You might be kind in certain moments, but it's to set people up for getting what you want.

You'll certainly never honor and please God by your best efforts because your best efforts are never good enough. Remember what I said at the beginning? Until you get your arms around the fact that God is so great that you could never please him, you'll never understand how amazing it is that he has done what he needed to do in order to allow you to be pleasing in his sight.

So in 13, he says, "…do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh…" When you see word flesh in Scripture, there are four different ways that it can be used. Sometimes it's the external part of your body that covers the bone, that has a network of vessels and cells and blood has permeated through it, that is your skin, if you will. The idea of flesh can also be an overall term for your body. Sometimes flesh is used of any animal creature, either Homo sapiens or part of the animal kingdom. All flesh would be animals, if you will.

Another way that flesh is used, and the way it's being used here… This is so important. He's saying, "Don't depend on your nature, on your natural self. Don't use your natural man any more as a means through which you are guided through life because you have been set free from being a slave to your way of thinking."

This is really important because what happens is that the world left apart from God is always stuck with the best ideas of men. This is why we have philosophers, men who are lovers of wisdom. What they do is come up with the best ideas of men to introduce a reality and a system of living that would be the wisest way for us to live so that we could experience, to use Plato's term, utopia. "I'm going to use my ideas to lead you toward utopia."

God says, "Look, I'm going to save you having to be a slave to reading every new idea of man to find utopia by telling you how to restore the paradise you lost when you left me." Do you get that? Don't trust in your own nature or the nature of your brightest men. This is one of my favorite quotes by Plato. He said we are like ships making our way on the ocean through a storm at night.

How would a ship typically navigate itself? By stars at night. We know for sure where north is. We can navigate across the horizon when we can't see. We can look at our maps, and based on where we were before, we can know which way to sail. But back in the day, when you were on an ocean at night when there were storms, there was nothing in order to guide you. So he said we are like ships making our way through a storm on the ocean at night, trusting only in the best opinions of men until we find a still more sure word from God.

That is to say, the highest ideal of a philosopher is not to hear the best ideas from Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Oprah, or anybody else. It's to hear from God himself, who would reveal stuff to him through his Spirit and tell you, "This is who I am. This is where you'll find life. This is where utopia, this is where paradise, is restored, back in relationship with me. I am the Author, Creator, and Perfecter of life." Do you get it?

What it's saying right here in verse 13 is the flesh, if you follow it, becomes a base of thinking, a way of reasoning, that leads you away from God. Don't use your flesh as a basecamp for creating a reality because your flesh will pull you toward legalism or licentiousness. You've been set free from the best ideas of men because the Spirit has intervened, and God has revealed to you truth.

Watch… Let me just walk you through, very quickly, some of the things that have happened through the freedom that has been accomplished by Christ on the cross. This is the idea. A great little verse in Romans 8 says this: "He," meaning God, "who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, will he not freely give us with him all other things?"

In other words, if God loves you enough to meet your infinite offense against his infinite holiness by providing his own Son, eternally God, as his perfect, infinite sacrifice to meet his infinite justice that you might be restored in your rebellion, and he's willing to love you by doing that, don't you think everything else he does for has been established with your best interests in mind? So, having been given the Son, don't you know that everything else God gives you is an indication that he's for you and this isn't about him? He delights in you, and what he calls you to is for liberty and true freedom that won't lead to death, isolation, and despair. It will lead to life.

Here we go. Watch. Amazingly, here's what happens to us when we trust Christ and we are set free. We are free from the wages of sin, the curse of sin, and the wrath of God. Look what it says in Romans 6:23. "For the wages of sin is death…" What we earn by going away from God is death, physical separation, and spiritual darkness. "…but the free gift of God is eternal life…" That is both in terms of quantity of life one day because we're restored to God and quality of life now. We're free from the curse of that.

Romans 5:9 says, "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him." We have been set free from the wrath of God. Why? Because the wrath of God has been poured out already on Jesus. If you are in Christ, you're covered. That's what the word atone means. He says, "Step into this ground."

Back in the day, when pioneers would be crossing the plains, sometimes there would be these huge prairie fires that would come sweeping at people as they were making their west. What they would do often, in order to find themselves free from these coming prairie fires that were being driven by high-powered winds, is they would light a fire. If it's a western wind, they would light a fire. As they would see it coming this way, they would light a fire on this ground. They would let the winds catch it and take it and start to burn it.

They have a fire being blown that way, and they have a fire coming this way. What would they do? They would step onto the ground that had already been judged by fire, and as the fire of judgment was coming toward them, it would burn out and stop because there was nothing to fuel it anymore. They were safe because they were on free ground, because that ground had already been judged.

This is the idea of what these verses are saying. It's saying, "Step into the ground that has already been judged and the wrath of God has already been poured out. If you are not in Christ, you are in trouble because the consuming wrath of God is still coming. It will never be satisfied by a bunch of finite billions that are sacrificed because he is infinite. You had better step where there is an infinite, perfect sacrifice, where Christ is. Be there; there is freedom."

Watch this. We're not just free from the wages of sin, the curse of sin, and the wrath of God. We are free from the fear that would come in addressing or approaching God. When I go talk to God, can you imagine this? I don't go, "God, I hope you accept me. I've done these acts of penance in order to be accepted." I come boldly before the throne of God. Why? Because I come in the one who he has accepted and said, "I am pleased with him." I come in his name. Look…

Ephesians 3:12: "…in whom [Christ] we have boldness and confident access [to the Father] ." Hebrews 4:16: "Therefore let us draw near with confidence…" The word confidence is a combination of two Latin words: con, which means with, and fiderie,which means faith. "Therefore let us draw near [with faith or] with confidence [in what God has done] to the throne of grace so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need." I don't have shrink back when I talk to God because God is somehow satisfied in the one whose name I have come.

I have a buddy who this week was talking to me about adoption. He has two biological kids, and he and his wife have adopted two kids from overseas. He said, "Todd, you know how you have learned a lot by being a dad about unconditional love? There's nothing your kids ever need to do to make you love them, and nothing they ever could do to make you not love them." I go, "Yeah, I've learned a ton about God from that."

He goes, "Well you ought to adopt, man, because what's amazing to me is when I am asked how many kids I have, I have four. Two of them don't look anything like my other two kids. They're Asian, and there ain't a whole lot of Asian in me. When people ask me, I have four kids, and I want to tell you. I can tell you as sure I'm standing here; I don't love those two kids any differently than I love these two.

In fact, in some ways, there's a part of me that throws in with those other kids because I willingly went and sought them out, brought them in, and was desperate to share with them every good thing I had in terms of love and provision, to shepherd them and care for them. There's nothing they could ever do that would take away my love. It's amazing to me because I was thinking about this. God talks about how he has adopted us as sons.

I am an adopted son of God, and it just stunned me one day when it hit me, when I was telling somebody else about this, that God loves me as much as he loves Jesus." It hit me, and I go, "Well, no." In my adopted insecurity, I'm always going to find ways to believe that my Father doesn't love me like the biological one, like the one who's begotten, who is who he is, brought forth from his very essence, one with God.

He says, "You can believe what you want to believe, but here's the reality. I love you. You're my son." That has shaped my world, and I don't shrink back when I go to him because somehow my older brother, who loves me, because he's like Dad, has offered to take the wrath I deserve as a disobedient son so I might be acceptable to the Father and brought near to him.

How about this? Freedom from guilt and shame. So many of us are wracked with guilt and shame that make us think our Father can never love us. The Father says, "There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in the Son, whom I love and am pleased with. You come to me in Christ. You are covered by that which has satisfied me. Don't come giving me your résumé. I don't want to see your résumé."

We're free from guilt and shame. Do you get that? Until you realize that God is so great you could never please him, you'll never realize how amazing our salvation is, and then you will never be motivated to live every chance you have, in your body, to please him and to move from performance-based acceptance, which is sorrowful and schismatic, to acceptance-based performance, which is so freeing and life-giving.

How about this? We're free from the power and dominion of sin. Why? Because now we don't just have to consult our flesh, our nature. I don't have to just consult my desires. I am not the sum of my desires. I am the child of the King. I go, "Dad, it's not up to me to figure out what I'm going to do anymore. What do you want me to do? How would you live? I don't need to make my way through this life on my own or trusting in the wisest of others like me. I can speak to you."

I have been taken out of, it says in Colossians 1, the domain of darkness, out of the "do what thou want," "do what the world says is right," mentality. I have been transferred into the kingdom of his beloved Son. I am no longer a slave. That's freedom, to live life-giving, loving, to be an encourager, not an exploiter or an evaluator.

Lastly, how about this? I'm free from meeting the rules, rituals, and expectations of others. Paul says, "I don't worry about what you think about me anymore. I only worry about what God says. Because I love him, I'm going to do what he says, not what others think about what I do." In fact, he goes on in 1 Corinthians 4, in this great little section.

He says, "Look, if you want to regard me… I don't really care how you regard me, but if you're going to have to, I hope you regard me as this: a servant of Christ. If you knew the joy I had in serving my Father, as steward of the mystery of God, the things I'm talking about… In this case, moreover, it's required that all I be found is faithful, which works itself out in love."

Watch this. "I not only care what you think; I don't care what I think." First Corinthians 4:3: "But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted…""I am acquitted by what the Lord says is true of me, as he examines me and finds me in Christ." "Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God."

You don't have to figure out why certain people do certain things; you just have to learn to love others. See, this is the deal. My kids sometimes say to me at the end of a tough day or tough moment, "Dad, I love you. I want you to know how much I love you and mom." Do you know what I say to them? I often find myself saying this, and watch where we go in Galatians. I say, "Listen, I really appreciate that, but do you want to show me you love me? Then love your brothers and sisters.

Quit nitpicking. Quit arguing about stuff. Quit telling her she can't wear your clothes that you're going to wear tomorrow. You're wearing something today. Let her wear it today. We'll wash it and you can wear it tomorrow. Share your iPod. Share your things. Serve them. Don't tell me that they haven't been in the backyard to pick up the mess the dog left. Just go do it. Love them. You want to love me? Then love others that I would give everything I have for. That's how you can show me you love me."

Watch what shows up right here. "Use your flesh as an opportunity," he says, "to serve one another." Galatians 5:14: " For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'" Third John, verse 4. It's just one chapter, so there's no chapter. It's just verse 4. It says, "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth."

Do you want to please God? Do you know what he says? "Love others. Don't tell me how you showed up at certain places and did certain activities that you will turn in as a résumé. Don't tell me what percentage you gave to somehow appease me. Just love people. If you have something they need, give it. Love them." Jesus says, 'He who loves me keeps my commandments.' If you don't love me, don't worry about keeping my commandments.

Know this: I love you enough that I'll just tell you; if you keep my commandments, it'll be well with you in terms of the way you make your way through this world because my commandments are all life-giving. I'm not looking for you to turn in a performance record of how you kept my commandments. I'm just telling you if you love me and know that I performed a cross for you, that my infinite justice would be satisfied by my infinite self, and you know I've done that, then give yourself infinitely to me. Do your best because you're accepted in who I am."

Do you see the genius of this? This is what Jesus said. He was approached by a lawyer. It doesn't mean a person who bills a great amount per hour. It means a person who studied a law that was there, Galatians 1-4 says, to teach us something, that you could never meet it. This guy studied it, and he gave himself to it. He found others who didn't do what he did, so he goes, "Lord, I must be righteous because I'm not like that guy. At least I'm better than him. You have to grade on a curve or nobody passes." He goes, "Guess what? Nobody passes."

What God is trying to say… "You want to know what the law is? The law is to love, but if you bite and devour one another through evaluation and through exploitation, how is that going to make me as a dad feel? You're going to become Christian cannibals, chewing each other up through sexual exploitation, emotional exploitation, relational exploitation, financial exploitation.

You're going to chew each other through saying, 'You're not as holy as I am. You haven't done this. You wear too much of that. Your hemline is not where mine is. You eat foods I don't eat. You drink things I don't drink. You watch what I don't watch." God says, "Encourage each other to listen to what the Spirit says instead of trusting their flesh as an opportunity to watch whatever they want to watch, dress however they want to dress, do whatever they want to do. Remind them to not consult their flesh when making those choices."

Watch this. Galatians 5:16: "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." Walk by the Word of God, the way of God, the will of God. Remember what God says? "Look, the minds of this world, the people of this world, their eyes have been blinded by the Deceiver."

It says, "You have seen who I am, this holy, loving Father, altogether different. Walk underneath my teaching because it's life-giving to you. I don't want you to be burdened by your way, your corruption. Don't consult self. Don't consult thoughts, intentions, and nature. Don't consult feelings and impulses. Listen to me. This is how you use the gift of sex. This is how you use the gift of money. This is how you use the gift of time. This is how you use the gift of voice and speaking. This is how you use the gift of forgiveness."

Then he says these amazing words. In verse 17, he says, "For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit…" The way of the world, the way of yourself, is against the way of God. "…the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please." The Spirit is trying to call you out of death and into life. "…if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law." Live under the love of the Father.

Here's the deal. All that God's saying is, "Look, I hope I have revealed to you that I'm a loving Father and that I lived to set you free, I have died to set you free. I have brought you out of guilt, shame, wrath, and condemnation. You could never please me or satisfy me, but I have set you free from performance. I have performed for you, and all I want you to do now is enjoy what I have restored, which is you back in relationship with me. Don't be a bunch of evaluators. Don't be a bunch of exploiters. Be encouragers. Encourage one another in love."

That means you have to tell people your flesh, your way, your religion will never please God. Guess what's going to happen? When the Spirit of revelation says that, the people who want to believe that their religion is good enough, it will become a stumbling block to them. Guess what's going to happen when you say, "The Spirit says that the way you're using sex, money, materialism, time, and things is going to lead to death"? They're going to say, "That's foolishness."

He says, "Say it anyway because love speaks truth with grace while modeling that life has been yours." Do you see that? Who are we? We are people who love. We don't love randomly, and we don't love, as Oprah would tell you, in order to actualize our godlikeness. We love because he first loved us. We don't ever do it randomly, and we don't ever do it to become better people. We do it because it is a proclamation of how we can experience the fullness of what God intended for us right now, knowing that none of us could ever love enough.

Here's where Oprah and her teachers miss it. We're not just to call each to love and hope that's enough and get along. God say, "No. Your love is never going to be enough, but you should do the best you can to love anyway. Just don't love as a performer. Love because you've been accepted, and respond because you've been set free. It will go well with your soul.

We are made to worship. This world is hurting because all it sees are nominal believers who religiously go to worship services instead of finding Christ-followers who worship him continually by serving one another in love. Don't tell them that you've been to church; be the church.

Don't tell them that you've earned God's love; respond to the love that God has given by saying, "I live underneath the loving Father. I listen to him every way that I can. I don't consult my flesh because my flesh will get me screwed up. I don't listen to my attitudes because my attitudes will take me the wrong way. I live in the freedom and forgiveness of Christ. I stand on burnt, judged ground, and I am free and safe. I have been lifted up in an ark of rest, so I no longer have to fight to keep my head above water. I serve this God who has brought me to this place."

When you and I embrace surrender to the Spirit, guess what's not going to happen? I'm not going to consult my flesh. Should I be insecure or secure? God says, "You're loved." I'm not going to follow when I have an urge to go a certain direction. I'm going to say, "Father, how should I use this body you've given me?"

"Use it this way. Not to exploit others but to encourage others. Live according to my Word, which is given to you by my Spirit, and it will save you from the supposed freedom that leads to death of your flesh." You and I were made for worship. You and I were made to sing. You and I were made to surrender to the Spirit, and we'll experience life.

Father, I pray that today we would experience freedom. I pray that we would be worshipers, not just in some small 40-minute gathering or hour gathering, but I pray that we would live our lives, we'd use the rest of today, we'd use all of this week, we'd use next Sunday morning, we'd use every word we speak, every surrender of attitude toward your way and not ours.

We thank you that the Spirit of life is in opposition to our flesh because a lot of us in this room are living full of scars from listening to our flesh. I thank you that you don't even get mad at us because our flesh desires death. You understand that. I thank you that you don't get mad at us when our mind is craving evil things. You understand that.

I pray that we would have the wisdom to submit to you and say, "Father, show me how to think. Father, may I live, now that I'm free, to know that my flesh is deceptive and pulls me to death, to yield to you, knowing there is freedom to be a follower of Christ now that you have taught me to understand the truth of who Jesus is and what he's done." We thank you, Lord, that we're free from the curse of sin, we're free from the wages of sin, we're free from the wrath of God, and we are ready and free to worship. Help us. Amen.

Let me give you a glimpse of heaven, and let me tell you how you can experience it now and, one day, fully. Here's a glimpse of heaven. Can you imagine it, when you are really released to worship? Too many of us have a vision of clouds, wings, and harps, singing "How Great Thou Art" for ten thousand years, and then, it says, we've only just begun. I'm like, "Oh, man. I am so out. I am so out."

That is not a biblical view of heaven. A biblical view of heaven is being someplace where everybody loves the way Jesus loves. Nobody is insecure. Nobody is exploiting. Nobody is evaluating. Everybody is living as God created us to live, in his image, loving perfectly the way the Father, Son, and Spirit have eternally loved each other, in a perfect place, forever. I'm in for that. It's going to be fun. It's going to be joy. There's going to be no sorrow, no pain, no death, no disease, no backbiting, no insecurity, no lust, no exploitation. It's just going to be good.

He says, "I'm taking there because of Christ. I have paid the penalty of sin on the cross. Because of your yielding to the Spirit and your surrender, you're not living according to flesh. You're living according to the Spirit. You're freed now from the power of sin because you don't have to figure out what to do. You do what I tell you, and you'll start to experience heaven on earth now.

Even though you're surrounded by enemies, and even though you won't do it perfectly, sometimes you'll create a little hell, you can forsake it and move back toward heaven. One day, I'm going to take you from the very presence of sin. I'm going to judge sin, all of it, and everybody who is not in the perfect provision of Christ is going to get swept away.

I'm going to put them someplace where there will be nothing that will remind them of me, where no one dies because even death would be good, and no one loves because that's of me. There's no rock party in hell because music is God's. There's no orgy in hell because sex is God's. There's weeping and gnashing of teeth, just like we experience here when we live according to the flesh."

Guess what? Get on the ark of Jesus, baby. Come to him. Surrender to him. Ask him to be your Savior. Acknowledge that you could never love the way he calls you to love. Take his love for you and then start to live in the revelation of his love now. Amen? If you don't know Christ, would you come? "I'm convinced I need a Savior. I want out of that hell and into that heaven. I want to start to live and be a little piece of heaven right now and bring the hope of righteousness to come, today."

We're going to bring it hard next week for three hours, so come. Get ready to get dirty. Get ready to love, but don't miss out on the rest of today, Monday through Saturday, to love like crazy as you yield to the Father. If you don't know Christ, will you come? If you know him, will you go? Forsake your natural desire and live according to him. Embrace surrender. You're made to love. God bless you. Have a great week of worship.

About 'Galatians: The Longer Reach of Freedom'

Performance-based acceptance vs. acceptance-based performance. Galatians, more than in any other in the Bible, explains the difference between the two. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul makes it clear that we can never perform our way into a relationship with Christ, and that the law was in place as a demonstration of God?s standards, rather than a means for us to earn our salvation. In short, Galatians paints a vivid picture of why we all are in need of a Savior.<br /> &nbsp;Examining chapters 5 and 6 of Galatians, Todd Wagner explains why bondage to legalism and performance is so dangerous to the Christian life. And what being truly free from the need to earn God's love looks like, how we live it out, and how it will ultimately bless us and honor Christ.