Serve One Another

Steve Viars July 1, 2018 Galatians 1:1-18
Outline

I. Celebrate the Priority of Freedom

A. It is the essence of the gospel

v. 13a - For you were called to freedom brethren

Galatians 5:1 - It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

John 8:36 - So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

B. Why this mattered to the Galatians

Galatians 1:6 - I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel…

Galatians 1:9 - As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

Galatians 3:1 - You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?

Hebrews 10:29 - How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

II. Recognize the Challenge of Freedom

5:13b – …only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh

A. The second great danger for followers of Christ

B. What’s your base of operation?

opportunity – aphorme – “a central base from which all operations of a military campaign originated”

Someone has pictured legalism and libertinism as two parallel streams that run between earth and heaven. The stream of legalism is clear, sparkling, and pure; but its waters run so deep and furiously that no one can enter it without being drowned or smashed on the rocks of its harsh demands. The stream of libertinism, by contrast, is relatively quiet and still, and crossing it seems easy and attractive. But its waters are so contaminated with poisons and pollutants that to try to cross it is also certain death. Both streams are uncrossable and deadly, one because of impossible moral and spiritual demands, the other because of moral and spiritual filth. But spanning those two deadly streams is the bridge of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the only passage from earth to heaven. The two streams lead to death because they are man’s ways. The gospel leads to life because it is God’s way (John MacArthur, Commentary on Galatians, p. 145).

1 Peter 2:16 - Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.

C. A typical emphasis of false teachers

2 Peter 2:18-21 - For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.

Jude 4 - For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Romans 13:14 - But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

D. Even applicable to the Lord Himself

Romans 15:3 - For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”

III. Embrace the Purpose of Freedom

Galatians 5:13 - For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

A. The process – through love

B. The action – through love, serve one another

John 13:17 - If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

1 Corinthians 9:19 - For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.

Galatians 5:16-18 - But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

The Judaizers, and some of the immature Jewish believers, considered Paul to be antinomian, a lawless libertine. They did not realize that becoming a Christian involves having Christ’s own nature and Spirit in personal residence and that motivation to obey the commands and restrictions of the New Testament is therefore not external. The Christian has the glorious privilege of living under the internal guidance, restraint, and power of the Holy Spirit, who energizes him to obey the will of God (John MacArthur, Commentary on Galatians, p. 145).

1 Peter 4:10 - As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

Serving together – We believe that God wants us to challenge and equip our members to serve Him, and that He wants every member serving.

Ephesians 4:16 - …from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. 

- The week before last we had a marvelous time together at Vacation Bible School…

- it’s wonderful the way the way the Lord works in the lives of children to have an interest in hearing the Word of God during the summertime…

- and sure, there are games, and crafts, and contests, and snacks and all sorts of activities…

- but we certainly haven’t hidden the fact over the last 31 straight years we’ve offered this ministry that central to everything we’re seeking to accomplish that week is teaching the Bible to the children in our community…

- and the Lord continues to draw them…

- we should also be thankful for the trust that our neighborhood parents are placing in us…

- it’s not easy in this day and age to allow your children to go anywhere out of your sight…

- so 3 cheers for neighborhood parents who allow us to serve their children in this way…

- but we’re also especially thankful for all our many volunteers…

- some of you served in VBS for the very first time this year…and I hope by now you’ve recovered because by all accounts it is an exhausting week…

- others have literally been doing this for decades…and still love serving the with excellence and delight…

- one of my favorite memories from this year’s VBS actually occurred several weeks in advance of the program…

- I had stopped by to get something from my office…when there were several of our – shall we say – “more mature singles” loading Tupperware containers into their cars…

- and so I investigated – [you never know with some of our singles whether contraband might be involved in what’s going down in the parking lot at night]…

- so they opened up their containers and they had been getting everything ready for VBS crafts…

- and here we were—at least a month beforehand – and they have everything organized and sorted and labeled…because they want to serve area children with excellence…giving them and the Lord their very best…

- and I know that for some of them…this isn’t their first VBS rodeo…they count faithfulness not in weeks or months or even years…in their case it’s been decades of serving the Lord in this way…

- now here’s my question for you this am…why?...why did hundreds of busy people carve out all of that time to serve in that way…keeping in mind that’s illustrative of hundreds and hundreds of more people who serve the Lord in all sorts of ways big and small around here week in and week out?...why?...

- is it an attempt to earn one’s salvation?...

- so is the way this works…each month the church sends out a statement of how much we have to serve in the next 30 days in order to get to heaven?...

- so you get 3 nurseries, and one Mulch Madness, and two choir rehearsals…

- or is it the dreaded – scene 5 in the Living Nativity month?...

- if it’s not that – is it the great pay?...

- I was out of town for part of VBS week…so I came back and asked our CFO about the payroll for VBS this year…

- and amazingly – there’s been absolutely no inflationary pressure in what we pay our VBS volunteers at all…it’s still…zero…

- I suppose you could look on the bright side and say – we doubled everyone’s pay (is that even correct mathematically – I was a Bible college major)…

- that’s another no – it’s not to earn salvation and it’s not because of any monetary reward…so then how do you explain it?...

- somewhere along the line – each man and woman has learned the joy and satisfaction that comes from Serve One Another…that’s what we’d like to talk about this am…

- let me invite you to open your Bible to two passages of Scripture…Galatians chapter 5 and 1 Peter chapter 4…[pages 149 and 182 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you)

- our theme this year is Being Careful How We Build

- there’s a lot of 2 x 4’s flying around our various campuses right now and that’s well and good…but we want to be very careful about all of this…

- 1 Corinthians 3:9–15 - For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,   each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

- so we want to be careful how we build…

- this summer we’re looking at the “one-another’s in Scripture” – the kind of relationships we’re formulating in our church and community…

- the Christian life is lived out in relationship – in community…

- vertically – in growing communion with God Himself…

- and horizontally in the relate to one another…

- so thus far we’ve studied loving one another, and encouraging one another, and ministering to one-another, and praying for one-another…

- if we’re building like that…we’re building carefully and wisely for sure…

- now we have the privilege of explaining the behavior of VBS workers…and all the other great servants around here…and the zillions of informal ways big and small that followers of Christ choose to Serve One Another

- read Galatians 5:1-18 and 1 Peter 4:10

- so we’re talking about serving one another…and with the time we have remaining, let’s focus especially on the argument of Galatians 5:13 and find 3 steps to growing in Joyful Service

I. Celebrate the Priority of Freedom.

- even a cursory reading of this passage shows that freedom for a follower of Jesus Christ isn’t just a by-product of becoming a Christian…

A. It is the essence of the gospel.

  • v. 13a – For you were called to freedom brethren
  • v. 5:1 - Galatians 5:1 - It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
  • John 8:36 - So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
  • Galatians 1:6 - I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;
  • Galatians 1:9 - As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
  • Galatians 3:1 - You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?
  • Hebrews 10:29 - How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
  • 5:13b – only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh
  • 2 Peter 2:18–21 - For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.
  • Jude 4 - For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
  • Romans 13:14 - But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
  • Galatians 5:13 - For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:19 - For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.
  • Galatians 5:16–18 - But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
  • Serving together – We believe that God wants us to challenge and equip our members to serve Him, and that He wants every member serving.
  • Ephesians 4:16 - from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

- it doesn’t get much stronger than that…or the way the chapter started…

- so whatever our motivation for serving one another called out later in verse 13 – it’s certainly not just legalistic expectation where we earn our salvation…or we keep ourselves saved out of raw duty or earn some sort of righteousness or merit before the Lord…that’s why Jesus said in…

- now, why would this have been such an emphasis in this particular book?...

B. Why this mattered to the Galatians

- we believe this may have been one of, if not the earliest NT books written…

- conservative scholars generally place it right after the Jerusalem Council discussed in Acts 15…so we’re talking about the early 50’s AD…

- 20 years after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ…

- well, we have plenty of people who will hear this message today who have been part of our church family that long…so we are talking about very young believers...

- and yet Paul is concerned about them…in fact, if you know this book, we would probably say it even stronger than that – he’s disappointed, and perhaps angry…

- there’s very little personal greeting…and by verse 6 of chapter 1 we’re reading…

- I’m not sure what words you would use to describe that, but it’s something other than “glad to hear things are going so well…”

- and when you keep reading, you that verse 6 was just Paul warming up…a few sentences later we read…

- then in chapter 3 verse 1…

- and you might say – what in the world was happening?...and the answer is that after the gospel had been proclaimed, and men and women had believed in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as their only way to be reconciled to God…

- and then were baptized to clearly and publically demonstrate what they were trusting for their salvation…and then organized into churches of men and women following Christ by grace alone, through faith alone…

- then a group of teachers entered the picture to say that wasn’t enough…

- they had to keep all sorts of laws, and dietary standards, and man-made rules…

- so they weren’t really free…

- the problem with legalism – and let’s be careful because many of us have some legalistic tendencies…that’s pretty hard to shake…is that it adds something to Christ’s work on the cross…

- we saw that same thing when we were studying the issue of “encouraging one another” in Hebrews 10…

- that was a group of Jewish individuals who had come out of the temple and Jewish sacrificial system – some as genuine believers and others who just did so for social reasons (their friends and their family members were becoming Christians)…

- but now because the newness was wearing off and persecution of the church was on the rise – some of them were thinking about going back to the familiarity of the OT sacrificial system in the temple…

- it was the same issue – back to mechanics of legalism and man-made works…

- and the writer said things like…

- it does not get any worse than that…trampling under foot the Son of God and insulting the Spirit of grace…

- that’s what legalism does…so that must not ever animate our service in Christ’s church…

- and this is as good a day as any in our American calendar to remind ourselves of this very important spiritual principle – we should celebrate the priority of freedom…we have been “called to that” the apostle says…

- but that’s not the end of the story…because then Paul goes on to say…

II. Recognize the Challenge of Freedom.

- see, our country loves freedom…and in many cases rightly so…it has been purchased and preserved at a great price by many men and women in the past and even today…

- but does that mean that every person acts on our freedoms in a way that honors the Lord?...

- absolutely not…

- for example – consider the freedom of speech…we all agree that is of utmost importance…we want that for ourselves and we want that for others…

- yet, turn on cable news from whatever political and philosophical position you want to evaluate and how long is it going to be before someone is speaking in a way that is absolutely despicable…

- listen to the way people used to speak about President Obama…listen to the way people speak about President Trump…

- these supposed comics and entertainers are using their freedom of speech in ways that are abhorrent…

- see, that’s…

A. The second great danger for followers of Christ

- lawlessness…theologically we refer to that as antinomianism [nomos is the Greek word for law – so an antinomian is a person who lives lawlessly…]…

- it’s unbridled freedom…previous generations often used the word “being a libertine”…

- so on the one hand we have legalism…believing that keeping certain laws will earn your way to heaven…and we all know that is enslaving because you simply can never do enough in your own strength and your sin/guilt is constantly accusing you…

- but on the other hand we have lawlessness…antinomianism…being a law unto oneself…

- but that doesn’t work either…why?...

- because it’s just a different kind of slavery…

- so Paul encourages all of us to ask this question…

B. What’s your base of operation?

- opportunity – aphorme – “a central base from which all operations of a military campaign originated”

- and the argument here is – if you’re not careful, you can exercise your freedom in a way that just becomes enslaving…

- well, I can use my money to buy whatever I want – maybe, but you do that long enough and you’re enslaved to those habits of materialism because that’s where a self-centered lifestyle always leads…

- well I can drink whatever I want…I can smoke whatever I want…I can shoot up whatever I want…

- there are plenty of people in our church family who will tell you – that is not true biblical freedom…

- if you are simply serving your own self-centered thoughts and lusts and desires…that’s just a different kind of enslavement and a different way to offend the blood of Christ and the power of the Spirit of grace…

- perhaps this illustration will help…Someone has pictured legalism and libertinism as two parallel streams that run between earth and heaven. The stream of legalism is clear, sparkling, and pure; but its waters run so deep and furiously that no one can enter it without being drowned or smashed on the rocks of its harsh demands. The stream of libertinism, by contrast, is relatively quiet and still, and crossing it seems easy and attractive. But its waters are so contaminated with poisons and pollutants that to try to cross it is also certain death. Both streams are uncrossable and deadly, one because of impossible moral and spiritual demands, the other because of moral and spiritual filth. But spanning those two deadly streams is the bridge of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the only passage from earth to heaven. The two streams lead to death because they are man’s ways. The gospel leads to life because it is God’s way (John MacArthur, Commentary on Galatians, p. 145).

- now, when it comes to the culture in which we live – for every person who trends toward legalism, there are at least a dozen who trend toward lawlessness…

- can we all acknowledge the tendency and temptation this morning to turn our freedom into an opportunity for the flesh?...

- this is why Peter said -- 1 Peter 2:16 - Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.

- that’s the balance – in response to God’s marvelous work of grace in drawing you to Himself based solely on the finished work of His son…voluntarily chose to exercise your freedoms only in ways that honor Him…

- yes – we have the freedom of speech…

- and no, if you mess up you’re not going to lose your salvation…

- but don’t let that habit of unrestrained gossip, or bitterness, or anger just enslave you again…

- voluntarily enslave your speech in ways that honor God and serve others…

- now please beware…the opposite of this is…

C. A typical emphasis of false teachers

- anybody who tells you that in Christ you can and should simply do anything you want is distorting the gospel in yet another way…

- so what’s the balance?...here it is…

- and for anyone who would say – well, choosing to govern our freedom, or limit or freedom in any way sounds restrictive…well, it’s…

D. Even applicable to the Lord Himself

Romans 15:3 - For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”

- He was certainly free to do whatever He wanted – but He also never “turned His freedom into an opportunity to serve the flesh…”

- so, where does that leave us?...right back at the VBS servants…and everyone else who serves so faithfully around here…

III. Embrace the Purpose of Freedom.

- add the final phrase of the verse…

- let’s think that through carefully…

A. The process – through love

- agape – choosing to sacrifice yourself in order to meet the needs of another person…

- the people who served in VBS didn’t do so out of legalism…I’m earning my way to heaven…

- the church sent me a statement so I’m paying my dues…

- nor was it – I’m free and I just do whatever I want and I can’t think of anything better to do with my evenings for a week than hang out with a couple of hundred hot, energetic, neighborhood kids…

- we have something far better than legalism…and far better than lawlessness…

- it’s freedom governed by growing and genuine love for others…

- can you imagine the difference it would make in our country if Americans only exercised their freedoms in ways that were governed by this principle…

- instead of unbridled freedom…or freedom run amok…freedom that was exercised through love serving one another?...

- what’s would today’s news cycle sound like?...

- and before you say that’s an outrageous question, please keep in mind that a rather sizeable percentage of the citizens of our country claim to be followers of Jesus Christ…

- well, has that gotten around to affecting the way we exercise our freedoms?...

- what about for you and me?...can you imagine having a grate over our “freedom tank” – nothing comes out of here unless it is motivated by sacrificial love for others…

- I won’t say that unless it’s loving…I won’t do that unless it’s loving…I won’t believe that unless it’s loving…

- the bandwidth that would create in many of our schedules would be incredible…because exercising your freedom selfishly eats up an incredible amount of time and resources…

‑ well, what’s…

B. The action – through love, serve one another

- through love, serve…

- doulos…just like our Lord in the upper room when he girded Himself with a towel and washed His disciples feet…and then asked them if they understood what He had just done…

- and please keep in mind what He said at the end of that conversation…John 13:17 - If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

- what does that mean?...there’s a kind of joy and satisfaction that comes from voluntarily enslaving our liberties in order to maximize our ministries that can’t be achieved in any other way…

- selfishness is boring…

- serving one another through love might be hard in the process – they wouldn’t call it serving if it wasn’t…but the joy at the end of the process is marvelous…

- that’s why Paul said…

- see, there’s no legalism there – but neither is there any lawlessness…

- now, I realize you might say – in fact we all might say…but living this way is hard…

- that’s where verses 16-18 fit into all of this…

- the point is that in Christ, we’re not just freed from the law – we’re also freed from the enslavement to worship and serve ourselves…

- another quote from MacArthur I found helpful at that point was -- The Judaizers, and some of the immature Jewish believers, considered Paul to be antinomian, a lawless libertine. They did not realize that becoming a Christian involves having Christ’s own nature and Spirit in personal residence and that motivation to obey the commands and restrictions of the New Testament is therefore not external. The Christian has the glorious privilege of living under the internal guidance, restraint, and power of the Holy Spirit, who energizes him to obey the will of God (John MacArthur, Commentary on Galatians, p. 145).

- so what are some of the practical take-aways?...

- what can and should people like you and me do if we want to be careful how we build in this particular way?...

- this is where 1 Peter 4:10 can help us…1 Peter 4:10 - As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

- around here, serving is a matter of stewardship…we love this phrase – “serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God…”…it is packed with meaning and power for us…

- that’s also why we’ve selected as one of our church family’s 5 core values…

- see, this issue of 90% of the work being done by 10% of the people is just wrong…[develop]…

- [cf. the average evangelical church on Sun am too much like the average college football game on Saturday afternoon…develop]

- might say – where did this “every” emphasis come from?...

- so I would encourage you to do an audit on how you’re doing at the matter of “serving one another…”

- and perhaps an important next step would be to schedule a time for coffee with your deacon, or an ABF/small group leader, or one of our pastors – and just talk about serving and what the next steps might look like for you…

- you could also think about serving opportunities in different ways…

1. our bread and butter week-in and week out type ministries…

- often these are the ones requiring the greatest level of commitment but also provide the greatest amount of impact…

- nursery/childrens’ ministries

- youth ministries

- ABF’s/small groups

- sound/tech/worship…

2. seasonal ministries…

- VBS, Passion Play, LN

3. occasional events

- mulch madness

- helping with the Men’s Restoration ministry duplex

- zillions of other examples…

4. community service ministries

- serving at one of our community centers…

- impact on the NCC…

- could talk about the progression that occurred with the Red Cross

- opportunities to serve our collaborative partners

- possible next steps with each of them…

 

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video