Spiritual Freedom and Religious Captivity: thoughts from Galatians 5

prison

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery….You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. (Galatians 5:1, 13)

Here we find a core lie the Galatians had bought into: that we can earn our way to God through religious activity or add something to God’s grace by doing the right actions.

Paul knows that this is a dead end. In fact, he dramatically says this in Galatians 5:4, “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ” (5:4). This has been a theme of the letter, and Paul is telling them that this lie will lead them off track. You cannot earn your way to God and you cannot add to the sufficiency of Christ. So, Paul writes at the beginning of this section of the letter: “Do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (5:1).

On August 23, 1973, Jan Erik Olsson, attempted to hold up a bank in Stockholm, Sweden. When the police showed up, Olsson took four people as hostages and a stand-off with police followed, lasting six days. At one point during the standoff, Olsson called Sweden’s Prime Minister to say that he would kill the hostages. He put one of the hostages on the phone and she said to the prime minister, “I am very disappointed in you…I think you are sitting here playing with lives.” Despite Olsson’s threats, many of the hostages decided they felt safer with the bad guy than with the police. Some hostages actually resisted rescue attempts and later refused to testify against their captor. Now, whenever you hear news of a hostage who identifies more with their captors than their rescuers that condition is referred to as the Stockholm Syndrome. Many years afterwards, one of the hostages said, “It’s some kind of a context you get into when all your values, the morals you have, change in some way.”

Sometimes this happens to us as we consider life in Jesus Christ. We get so confused about what is freedom and what is captivity that we live in a lie. We begin to think, “It cannot be so simple that God takes upon Himself all the cost. I must do something to earn His grace. I must add something to the work of Christ.” But this is just a spiritual version of the Stockholm syndrome.

We have been set free at great cost, and we do not need to return to captivity to find life. Instead, we must face into this core lie if we are going to live the free life that God intends through Jesus Christ.

The Good News of the Resurrected One [The Good News of Jesus]

Jesus Series GFX_App SquareAs we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at Eastbrook Church, we begin a two-week exploration of “The Good News of Jesus.” This first weekend, with our Easter celebration, we turn our attention to the account in John 20:1-10 about Jesus’ empty tomb.

While so much could be said about Jesus’ resurrection, in my message this past weekend at Eastbrook, “The Good News of the Resurrected One,” I brought three specific aspects of Jesus’ resurrection into focus:

  • light overwhelming darkness
  • freedom overcoming prisons
  • life overpowering death

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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I Am Not Stuck

With our current series at Eastbrook Church, “Who Am I?”, we are exploring biblical answers to questions about our identity as human beings.

This weekend I  addressed the ways in which we feel stuck in life, and how a deeper level of being stuck – or existential dissonance – is the underlying cause of that. I talked about two great truths that pin us in their grip, and how the work of Christ opens a doorway into a new way of living out of an unstuck identity.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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Is Jesus Really the Source of Truth? (discussion questions)

3 Questions Series Gfx_ThumbHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Is Jesus Really the Source of Truth?,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is the second part of our series, “3 Questions We All Have About Jesus,” where we are digging into Jesus’ provocative statement: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Discussion Questions:

  1. When did you learn something that changed your life, whether as a child or as an adult? What happened?
  1. This week we enter the second part of a three-week series entitled “3 Questions We All Have About Jesus.” In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Before you begin this study, ask God to reveal His truth to you as you read His word.
  1. The theme of truth is particularly important in the Gospel of John. Read the following verses which mention ‘truth’ and reflect on what they tell us about God, Jesus, and truth:
  • John 1:14, 17
  • John 3:21
  • John 4:23-24
  • John 7:18
  • John 8:31-32
  • John 8:40, 45
  • John 16:13
  • John 17:17
  • John 18:23
  • John 18:37-38
  1. Given everything you just read, what do you think is important about Jesus including ‘truth’ in His statement to the disciples in John 14:6? Why do you think it is important that Jesus includes this?
  1. How have you wrestled with questions about the truth in your own life? Has your knowledge of Jesus resolved those questions? How?
  1. Jesus is described as coming from God the Father “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, 17). Many times Christians are criticized for being arrogant in their claims to truth or in the way they talk about the truth. Do you think these criticisms are valid? Why or why not? What do you think it looks like to be full of grace and truth?
  1. In John 8:31-32, Jesus says, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Based on the surrounding verses in John 8 and your own reflections, what do you think it means to be set free by the truth of Jesus?
  1. What is one specific thing that God is speaking to you through this study about the truth of God found in Jesus? How will that shape your life in the coming week? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray for one another. If you are studying on your own, write it down and share it with someone.

[Response: Throughout this series, we will be looking at tough questions about Jesus. There may be some questions you wish someone would answer about Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. Send us your questions either by emailing them to info@eastbrook.org, writing them on a connect card, or visiting the Eastbrook Church Facebook page.]

Free to Live (discussion questions)

We continued our series, “Free: A Study on Galatians,” this past weekend at Eastbrook Church look at what it means to live in light of new life in Jesus Christ from Galatians 6. Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Free to Live,” which is the sixth and final part of our series.

Discussion Questions:

  1. This week we conclude our series Free: A Study on Galatians by looking at Galatians, chapter 6. Before you begin, pray that God would speak to you through your study of the Scripture. Next, read Galatians 6 out loud.
  2. The first part of Galatians 6, verses 1-10, continues Pauls train of thought begun in Galatians 5:13 about living by the Spirit. How does Paul practically instruct the Galatian believers about life in the Holy Spirit in verses 1-7? 
  3. Why do you think Paul brings together the ideas of carrying anothers burden and taking pride in ourselves in these verses?
  4. Have you ever struggled with pride when confronted with anothers sin or difficulties? What did you do?
  5. With verses 8-10, Paul confronts the tendency to take advantage of freedom in Christ for acts of the flesh (5:19). What does Paul call the believers toward in these verses? 
  6. Why do you think Paul includes phrases like let us not become weary or if we do not give up in the context of doing good deeds?
  7. How would you describe what it practically looks like to sow to please the Spirit (6:8) in our lives?
  8. In the second part of Galatians 6, verses 11-18, Paul summarizes and concludes the letter. He emphasizes  see what large letters(6:11)  the contrast between him and his opponents. What is that contrast and why is it important?
  9. What would you say Paul means by his strong statement in verse 14? What does that truth mean for you in your life?
  10. What is your biggest take-away from this study or the entire series on Galatians. If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray for one another. If you are studying on your own, write it down and share it with someone this week.

Free to Live

Free Series Gfx_Facebook

How do you live when you’ve received your life back? How would you enter into every day if you almost died but were rescued?

This weekend at Eastbrook Church I concluded our series “Free,” by looking at this question through the sixth chapter of Paul’s letters to the Galatians.

You can view a video of the message and the accompanying outline below. You can listen to the message via our audio podcast here. We have had a great response to this series, so take some time to view all the messages from the “Free” series  here. Comment on the series on social media using the hashtag #ebcfree.

Connect with us further at Eastbrook Church on VimeoFacebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

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Spiritual Freedom (discussion questions)

As we continued our series, “Free: A Study on Galatians,” this past weekend at Eastbrook Church we looked at the power of spiritual freedom in Jesus Christ from Galatians 5. Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Spiritual Freedom,” which is the fifth part of our series.

Discussion Questions:

  1. We continue our series on freedom in Christ this weekend as we make our way into Galatians, chapter 5. Before you begin, pray that God would speak to you through your study of the Scripture. Next, read Galatians 5 out loud.
  2. Galatians 5 is built around two major declarations by Paul related to our freedom, found in verses 1 and 13. Verses 1-12 carry forward themes Paul has discussed throughout the letter so far. What would you say is Paul’s main point or points in this first section of Galatians 5?
  3. Once again, Paul makes some fairly dramatic statements about those who rely on legalism or religious performance to make themselves right with God, particularly in verses 4 and 12. Why do you think Paul get so upset by this situation?
  4. With verse 13, Paul begins talking about the everyday way we relate to others as Christians, commonly called ethics. In verses 13-18, Paul contrasts the way of the flesh with the way of freedom. What characterizes the way of the flesh and what characterizes the way of freedom?
  5. Do you resonate with Paul’s description of the conflict between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit? How do you deal with that conflict in your own life?
  6. Paul outlines the ‘acts of the flesh’ in verses 19-21, saying “those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” How do you think this relates to Paul’s strong words that “a person is not justified by the works of the law” (2:16)?
  7. Paul’s words on the fruit of the Spirit in verses 22-26 are well-known. Look over chapter 55 and see how Paul talks about the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. What does it mean to truly by led by, walk with, and live by the Spirit?
  8. What is one practical way you need to surrender more to the influence of the Holy Spirit and less to the acts of the flesh this week? If you are with a small group, take some time to discuss these things with one another. If you are alone, share that with someone this week. Close in prayer.