So, why did Christ set us free? We were set free for FREEDOM! So stand firm in it, and don't give into anyone who wants to take it away from you! I tell you this because those who are in bondage can't stand the idea that you may have escaped; and they will do anything to pull you back into prison with them.
With the Galatians, circumcision was the thing that took their focus off the freedom of Christ. They were considering that maybe they could get closer to God if they went along with the program. The deceptive part of the persuasion is that it all sounds very Christian at the time. Is there some pressing issue on your mind that makes you feel less spiritual than others? Are you feeling pressured to perform certain Christian duties in the hope that you can improve your standing with God? Are you seeking some sign or spiritual gift in order to prove yourself? This is what circumcision was to them … a token requirement of spirituality.
If you give into this, then the freedom of Christ is not doing you any good at all! Don't you understand? I'm telling you, if you go along with their game and receive their initiation you will find yourself trapped into performing all of their standards! What did you think? Didn't you know that if you grabbed the tiger by the tail you had to deal with the claws and the teeth? Once you turn away from the miracle of freedom in Christ (even in such a small thing) you have set the pattern of living for yourself. All of your life starts to revolve around doing the right thing … which becomes the thing you are obligated to do … which becomes your bondage. And what does any of this have to do with the concept of freedom? Hey, you have cut Christ right out of your actual living. The life of grace is far above the pathetic life of living under the law. If you are trying to make yourself right by trying to do right, you have fallen from a high calling. Justify it to yourself, but a free man knows the difference.
What is the life of freedom? What has the Spirit taught us? To wait for God to do what He has promised. Remember Abraham and Sarah? Remember what they produced when they thought they were doing the right thing? We do not produce righteousness by our efforts, the Spirit brings it about through faith … that is the promise! Live every moment in anticipation of what He is doing. For what we do or what we don't doesn't mean anything, but instead, it is faith that operates through love.
You know, all the talk about obedience made me sick. Why is it that the Galatians were doing so well before those guys got a hold of them? Is it possible that maybe their push for obedience stopped it from happening? It's a funny thing … when you're living in expectation of the miracle of life in Christ obedience is a by-product. Then someone comes along who convinces you that it's not happening unless you are producing some specific fruit or gift. It only takes a little bit of this thinking to permeate all of your thoughts. The men who were preaching circumcision should have had their whole thing cut off! Whoever is troubling you has it coming as well. I don't care what they tell you: I didn't preach circumcision then and there is nothing in my writings to support anybody's formulas. If I did then I would have been perverting the good news of Christ; because it's offensive to the natural mind. If you can get closer to God by something that you do (or don't do) then who needs a Jesus who only came for those who are too far gone to help themselves in any way?
Have you been listening to what I've been telling you? Do you understand what I mean by another message of freedom? Do you know why it rattles my cage? There is no freedom in those other messages! You were called to freedom … and many of you have traded it in for a counterfeit! Do you not know what the Galatians were doing with their stupid move toward circumcision? They were trashing freedom by attempting to turn it into something else altogether. But the thing they were calling freedom was no longer freedom. It was only a shell that was becoming was a place where sin could function! Don't you understand that those who have died to sin don't live there anymore? Freedom contains no place for sin to operate … but Law does. If you are persuaded to commit to somebody's program by doing their thing, then you are only giving sin a place to work in your life. By the way, how many of you thought this verse was a caution to balance freedom? You guys never cease to amaze me!
Don't do it! Don't relapse to the self-serving facade of love, but really serve one another through the miracle of love! Or didn't you know that this miracle fulfills everything the law requires? But if you opt for the sin-conscious existence that picks on each other for not living up to each other's favorite principles, you'll eventually destroy each other! Yeah, if you and I are holding our tigers by their tails all we have toward each other is teeth and claws!
Have you found yourself caught up in an ongoing, desperate struggle to not do evil? That's not Christianity; that's what you get when you are looking to principles or rules to control you. I'm telling you to look to the Spirit who produces life and you will not do its bidding! Don't you understand that there are only TWO sources and they are as different and night and day? The Spirit of God, and the spirit of the world. One is the very essence of life; the other is found in death, for it lacks life. Laws and rules deal with the stuff that makes the evil world tick, so it makes no difference how much you want to produce good and keep from evil … you just can't do it and you know it because you have tried and it doesn't work!
But hear this now: if the Spirit of Christ is your life you are not under the law. You may think you are under the law. And you may live as if you are under the law. But you are not! What is produced by the law is obvious – listen and see if it doesn't sound like the stuff you have seen in operation amongst yourselves since you have been turning away from grace.
Don't you harp on morality and purity because you see the lack of it in your own life? And the insane desire to feel the Spirit's operation is nothing more than living by the senses. How can you be satisfied with Christ when you are always looking for something more? You consult your formulas as one who trusts his horoscope. Your standards give rise to hatred, jealousy, despising and resentment because you compare yourselves with yourselves. You are always disputing and challenging each other, and blowing up when you can't change the other guy. You are constantly creating new reasons to split with one another, but you can't stand it if someone has something you want. Your life is an expression of the simple fact that you are out of control … you find yourself giving into anything that will help you bear it!
Do you think those who do things like this are the ones who inherit the promise to Abraham (which is God's kingdom)? But do you also know that this is not who you are? I warn you: stop taking heed to those who have no part in the inheritance!
Now, the inheritance is what the Spirit produces; and He is the one who has given that unexplained inner drive to care for each other more than your own selves. What? Did you think you did that? No wonder it has become such a difficult task. He is the source of the joy that doesn't make sense, and is the one that makes fear go away. His patience is not a matter of putting up with one another by ignoring each other's faults, but by having taken them out of the way! And what magic do you think causes you to treat each other in a genuine kindness that doesn't care about getting something from it? His goodness is pure for it comes from the only one who is good. Considering the fact that your natural born inclination didn't believe God … how does he now call you of faith? His gentleness comes from having taken the judgment himself! The self-control He produces is made possible by having killed our uncontrollable former selves … truly a miracle!
Do you realize there are no laws against these things? Those who belong to Jesus have already died to what they used to be. Live in this place where law has no bearing. Quit with the rule-based life already … it only causes us to get boastful. You are familiar with the routine. If I do something that I think is better than what you do, I get prideful and arrogant about it. It only produces envy and despising.