This morning, we’re continuing our message series entitled “Reclaimed” which is all about becoming who you were created to be. This series begins our focus on the work of the Holy Spirit and His ministry, the third core value of New Hope.
1 Timothy 1:15 (ISV)
This is a trustworthy saying that deserves complete acceptance:
To this world Christ Jesus came,
sinful people to reclaim.
We were each created uniquely and intentionally by God. We were created on purpose and for a purpose. The process of being reclaimed is all about reaching that full potential that we were created for.
God is ready and willing to take any life, no matter how broken or run-down or undervalued it may be, reclaim it, and do something beautiful and amazing both to it and through it. Like any reclamation project, it takes time and sacrifice, it has moments of joys and frustrations, it may be hard to see the finished product in the middle of the process. It is a labor of passion and when it is finished, it was all totally worth it!
God has that same passion about doing a work in your life. He wants to reclaim your life, restoring you to your full potential. Sure, there may be moments that we frustrate Him, but there are also moments when He rejoices over us literally singing and dancing. There may be times when we can’t see what He is up to or why He is taking us through some things. Sure, it may take time and sacrifice, but it will be totally worth it in the end!
All that we have to do is give our lives to God and follow His lead. In churchy words, making Jesus Lord of our lives.
We learned a bit last week about the reclamation work that God did in a man named Saul’s life. He was a devout Jew transformed from leading a movement to stop the spread of the gospel to leading a movement to reach gentiles with the gospel. He later wrote to one of the churches that he planted:
1 Corinthians 15:9-10
I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
Paul personally was faced with a mindset change from the very beginning of his salvation. Not only was he faced with this mindset change internally, but it also followed him externally in most places that he went. This mindset change reached such harsh points of conflict at times that people tried to kill him. In fact, while in Lystra, they stoned him and drug his body out of the city thinking that he was dead.
This mindset change is the conflict of law versus grace. By law, we mean the law of God given in the Old Testament through Moses. This mindset change is the conflict of doing good works to earn and maintain God’s love versus doing good words out of gratitude because you’ve already freely received God’s love. This mindset change is the conflict of religion versus relationship.
Of course, to God, there is no conflict between law and grace. To Him, they are both good, they are both yes and amen! The law is good and Jesus followed it perfectly, the first human to ever do so. To be sure that there was no confusion about this, Jesus said:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
The law is good, however, we are not. The law is good, but it serves to reveal just how sinful we are, just how fall we have fallen from our potential, and just how impossible it is for us to follow it on our own. From this perspective, to us, God’s perfect and good law simply serves to discourage us and condemn us to death.
We’re going to take time this morning jumping around in the book of Galatians regarding this matter. For us to reach our full potential, for us to be reclaimed, we need to change our mindset to see this apparent conflict from God’s perspective where there is no conflict in the matter.
One of the questions that come to mind is why did God take thousands of years from the time that mankind fell into sin to the time that Jesus came and made a final way to be forgiven of sin? Why did God even take the time to give mankind His law and a prescription of sacrifices and offerings to atone for breaking it? Well, Paul gave us an answer to that question:
Galatians 3:19 NLT
Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised (Jesus). God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people.
We far too often focus on the law and not the promise; our sin and not our potential. We keep our eyes fixed down to the ground carefully watching our next step to be sure that we don’t trip over something and fall into sin. However, Jesus has called us to lift up our eyes to Him and to passionately pursue and follow Him into an abundant life of freedom and adventure!
We have a choice to make and it is literally a life and death decision. No, not an eternal one in choosing or denying the salvation of Jesus. It is a choice to die to our old self controlled by the law and to embrace the new life that He gave us controlled by the Spirit!
Galatians 2:19-21 NLT
For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
I love the way that the New Living Translation essentially quotes Paul here about how he resolved this apparent conflict between law and grace in his own life. “I stopped trying and I started living.” We often get so caught up in the “thou shall nots” of God’s law that we move in fear and miss out on the abundance of life that Jesus fulfilled the law to provide for us.
Paul lived such a green-light life for God that the Holy Spirit had to actually intervene and prevent him from travelling into Asia to tell them about Jesus. Instead, Jesus wanted him to go to Macedonia. Can you imagine living a life so passionate for spreading the good news about Jesus to others that the Holy Spirit has to actually slow you down and redirect you?
“I stopped trying and I started living.”
In no way am I promoting living a life of sin and just ignoring and disregarding God’s moral law altogether. In fact, Paul had to clarify this in his teachings often as well.
1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
It’s for this very reason that we perform water baptism by emersion. We buried our old self controlled by sin and we raise up again into our new lives in Christ controlled by the Spirit. We don’t go on sinning to get more of God’s grace. We get more of God’s grace to be empowered to overcome sin. We allow God to reclaim us and transform us into our full potential.
We live life to it’s full, in freedom and not bondage. We live life abundantly, carefree and not in slavery. If our lives are defined by our own efforts, we will end up enslaved. If our lives are defined by the promise of God and the work of the Holy Spirit within, we end up walking in freedom. Paul gave such an example from the Old Testament to illustrate this reality.
Galatians 4:21-26 NLT
Tell me, you who want to live under the law, do you know what the law actually says? The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. The first woman, Hagar, represents Mount Sinai where people received the law that enslaved them. And now Jerusalem is just like Mount Sinai in Arabia, because she and her children live in slavery to the law. But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother.
Don’t try to force God’s promises to happen in your life by your own effort. Abraham did just that and ended up with Ishmael, which exists as the Muslim faith that we know today and hear about in the news often. They believe him to be the ancestor of Muhammad and a great prophet. God’s word never fails and this is what He spoke through an angel to Ishmael’s mother who was running away from Sarah:
9 Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”
11 The angel of the Lord also said to her:
“You are now pregnant
and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
for the Lord has heard of your misery.
12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;
his hand will be against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
toward all his brothers.”
To this very day, his descendants still live in hostility leaving no human pathway to peace.
Forcing God’s promises to happen on our own effort never leads to the actual fulfillment of them and the blessing that they are intended to be. Yes, we cooperate with God and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. No, we do not do it our way in our time and by our effort. That isn’t how God’s promises operate. On our own, we end up enslaved. Through Jesus, we are set free.
7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
Though there is nothing necessarily wrong with religious traditions, themselves, they can be wrong if we do them thinking that our human efforts will somehow earn God’s salvation or help change our lives.
Galatians 5:6b NLT
…What is important is faith expressing itself in love.
Galatians 6:15 NLT
What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.
“I stopped trying and I started living.”
We have to stop looking back at yesterday and dragging ourselves forward weighed down by regrets and failures. Yesterday is just that; it can’t be changed, only forgiven. Today, however, is a new day. God’s love and grace and mercy are all new today. Today is the day of God’s salvation!
The Holy Spirit wasn’t poured out so that we could right our wrongs of yesterday. The Holy Spirit was poured out so that we would stop trying and be enabled to look away from yesterday and onto tomorrow!
28b …I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
Jesus paid the price to forgive your yesterday. Then, He poured out the Holy Spirit on us so that we might forget yesterday and embrace tomorrow. Prophesy, dreams, and visions – all future-focused and for old and young, men and women!
This morning, God wants to lift off of us the burdens of religious mandates and the weight of His law. He wants to take off the weight of our sin and shame and regrets. After all, His law has been fulfilled and the cost of your sin paid in full all by Jesus. It is now a free gift to you and I by faith to all who would be willing to receive it.
The focus now, as well as it was in the Old Covenant I might add, is to love God and to love others. The emphasis is to do and not to “do not”. The goal is to stop trying and to start living. The command is to stop trying by human effort and start allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work.
This morning, begin to follow Paul’s example of how to resolve the apparent conflict of the law versus grace:
“I stopped trying and I started living.”