Freedom from expectations: Running to be free (Chasing Freedom 3:3)

I have tried to do it all.

I have tried to do it perfectly.

I have tried to wow the world, or at least just my husband.

And every time I come up short.

Expectations are probably the number one struggle in this life for most of us – our own expectations, expectations placed on us from others, floating cultural expectations, made-up expectations. You name it, someone or something expects it.

The difficult reality is that without belief we will not be able to manage all the expectation. This is Biblical fact. Goodness, it’s hard enough to manage expectation even with the hope of Christ.

Paul lays out this reality for the Galatians in Galatians 3:10-14:

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

It is so easy to run from belief in order to be free.

Belief to unbelievers often feels too much like expectation – following rules, making commitments, organized nonsense.

There is expectation in life. Yes, it’s a thing. Without belief, these expectations are my doom. The Greek word for curse in Galatians 3:10 is kataran or a curse, doomed one, due to condemnation.

The curse Paul talks about in Galatians says, yes, I will never measure up to any expectation, not a single one.

Galatians 3:11 says:

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law…

The irony is that in facing the expectations head on, in looking the law in the eye, living in belief of God, instead of closing our eyes to all the expectation and running away to hide in unbelief, if we just open our eyes, we would see the beautiful Truth of redemption:

In Christ, the law looks a lot less like expectation and a lot more like crucifixion.

Christ Jesus came into the world so that we no longer live under this curse. Those expectations? Every single one – whether they are appropriate, inappropriate, or somewhere wonky in the middle – is intended by God to remind us of freedom.

When someone puts an expectation on me, when I see, hear, or feel an expectation rising up within my soul, now, because the curse has been lifted in Christ’s crucifixion, I respond with freedom.

Freedom to live in Christ, to love in Christ, to carry out my vocations and roles honoring others, serving in His name.

Every single expectation is in my freedom.

Cooking dinner for the seventieth night in a row – freedom in Christ! I do it because I like food, and I love my family, not because I have to.

Talking nicely to someone I don’t like – freedom in Christ! My eternity is secured whether I talk nice or not, but life is better when I do.

Giving time or money – Freedom in Christ! I could keep it all, spend it all, or Ebenezer it all, but something in my heart just won’t, because God gave me people and people matter more.

It’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. Freedom doesn’t look perfect, but it doesn’t cease being freedom. I have it, whether I use it or not, feel it or not.

Today I am praying for that Spirit of Faith and Freedom in you.

…so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

Let the Holy Spirit well up. Write it on your wrist, your hand, or wherever you can see it as a reminder. Every time you feel the weight of expectation, of “not enough,” say it out loud:

Freedom in Christ!

And then go about your business. Do what needs to be done in your home, your family, at school, at work, at church, in life, but knowing that curses are for unbelief, expectations are the law- pointing us straight to our freedom in Christ.

He lives! And so I do to. I live in belief, and truth in love, because that’s Him in me, that’s real freedom.

Spirit, speak freedom into our lives. May expectation only point us to Him, every time, to live free and full, and abundantly, eyes wide open, in love, in care, in giving…

Freedom in Christ!

 

Discussion questions:

What expectations get to you – at home, at work, in friendship and relationships, at church, as a citizen, anywhere?

How does freedom through Christ Jesus change expectations for the believer?

How can we help one another live in freedom in our vocations and roles, while being faithful to the Word of Truth?

 

Freedom in Trust: Tearing off the masks (Chasing Freedom 2:2)

What kind of masks do people wear?

I can barely deal with backstabbers, with people who have chameleon qualities, acting one way around one person and another way around another. Please tell me I’m not the only one.

What kind of falsehoods do people put on to make us believe that they are trustworthy and then later we find that they are the furthest from someone we’d want to put our trust in? Why are some people so good at this, so convincing? What issues do we have deep within us that we are so easily fooled?

In Galatians 2:3-10 we see the contrast between the way the Church on earth was meant to be and what happens because of sin in the world. Do not be mistaken: The church is always worth being a part of, but Paul introduces us to one of the hardest parts of life in a community of believers – false brothers:

But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

There are all kinds of people in this story, but it comes down to people who are trustworthy and people who are not. You would think it’s clear-cut, but it never is. People who wear masks don’t also wear sandwich boards that say, “False brother here!” (Bummer.) Instead, the masks serve a purpose: they easily fool.

Some false brothers, people pretending to be brothers in other words, pretending to be affectionate, to only want what’s best for everyone, slipped into the church in Paul’s time and demanded circumcision. What demands do people make on others in the church, today, that seem unfair? How can we spot a “false brother” in our midst without setting off Cold-War-style panic in our local congregations?

The today’s text in Galatians gives us three clues:

False brothers offer false gospel.

It’s important to remember that the Gospel never demands, it invites. Paul calls out the “spies” for bringing a form of gospel that brought slavery, not freedom. Where are the suggestions of our brothers leading people? Deeper into the Word? Filled with peace and grace in the Gospel of Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, or filled with fear for acceptance by God or by man?

True Gospel reaches a hand into the pit and pulls us out from the muck; it does not stand above the pit and point out our issues.

Psalm 103:1-4 proclaims this Gospel truth:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy... (emphasis added)

False brothers sidle up to power.

Galatians 2:6 points out the distinction –

…those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.

These false brothers were looking for power wherever they could find it, real or “seeming” influence. That screams falsehood if I’ve ever seen it. People sliding on over to bend the ear of anyone that seems important enough. Yikes. Lord, may we not be fooled.

The Jerusalem leaders, thankfully, came through with wisdom and humility rather than power – a mark of true leadership in the Lord. See the leadership’s response in Galatians 2:9:

…and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me…

The leadership perceived grace – true Gospel, entrusted to Paul and entrusted to Peter, indeed entrusted to all of God’s people.

False brothers forget that it’s a group effort.

If we’re identifying true Gospel v. falsehood, it’s pretty easy to tell who’s a team player. The person who constantly brings up their agenda, their desires, their needs, rather than others’, while may simply be immature, probably shouldn’t be given a giant measure of trust with ministry, leadership, or care in the church, but rather be put in places where teaching can still occur regularly.

Paul and Barnabas are blessed to share the Gospel with the Gentiles, Peter and others are blessed to share the Gospel with the Jews- all entrusted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ (v. 7). Different contexts, ministry together. In Galatians 2:10, Paul identifies that they all have a common goal – remembering the people who need an extra measure of care. That looks, sounds, and feels a whole lot like real Gospel.

False brothers will find their way in, but in Jesus’s words:

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16 

It’s a challenge, but we cling tight to the Word. Somewhere along the way we just have to trust. Trust God to be in control and guide us. Trust Christ to fill in the gaps where we are unsure. The best way I have found to combat this struggle is this:

Look for where freedom can be given in our fellowship, rather than following fear.

More freedom, less fear among the faithful. Always in and by the power of Christ Jesus, our Lord.


Discussion questions:

What demands do people make on others in the church, today, that seem unfair?

How can we spot a “false brother” in our midst without setting off Cold-War-style panic in our local congregations? How do we deal with even these people gently and with grace?

Practically speaking – how do we identify areas of fear in our local congregations? If you have any ideas on how to alleviate fears for people and bring more freedom into our congregations, please share!

Who are You, Lord? (Chasing Freedom 1:1)

Welcome to Chasing Freedom!

The first time I sat down to write about Galatians, I did so for my own benefit. I did it because I felt drained. I felt locked up by time, by wantonness, and by contentment that felt just out of reach.

Somehow, somewhere, God led me to Galatians 5:1. I encourage you to write it out somewhere, anywhere, and let it be the song of your breath for the next six weeks as we study:

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. 

I began writing out the truth of God for myself, asking questions like:

What does God think about freedom?

Why does He value it enough to sacrifice for it?

Where do I get it?

What makes us feel so enslaved even when we’re free?

And finally, the words that are still written across the pages of my Bible to this day,

In what ways are we held captive that God never intended?

The Apostle Paul knew freedom. He tasted it for the first time on the road to Damascus. Read Acts 9:1-5:

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

Who are You, Lord?

Doesn’t that just change everything?

To understand freedom, real freedom…not this freedom that the world offers, that feels amazing for a second and then disappears like cotton candy does the moment it first touches your tongue, but freedom that settles deep, that endures through the struggle, and raises its fists with you on the mountaintop – that freedom, from God alone, seeping into our lives, begins with this question:

Who are You, Lord?

With Paul, in this study we’ll come head to head with our search for freedom, particularly in six shapes:

Chasing approval – we want people to like us, we want to be seen as ok, good enough, worthwhile

Chasing unity – we want to get along, avoid conflict, for everyone to have the same opinion, wouldn’t that be easier? Freeing?

Chasing foolish – we want to feel good for the moment, we like our plans, our ideas, and we chase after them even if it hurts, we try to meet expectations for ourselves that we would never apply to anyone else

Chasing knowledge – we give half our hearts so we don’t get hurt, we muscle through changes by the skin of our teeth, we seek to know more, but miss being known

Chasing self – we try to do it our way, handle it all ourselves…if we let the Spirit lead, we might step into a pit; love, joy, peace, and all that sound great, but we feel vaguely uncertain how they ever work in our actual lives

Chasing “a little bit better” – we thank God for redemption, but wonder if He’s actually capable of restoration

These may seem harsh. There will be some that you don’t struggle with. Some you struggle with more than others. Some you don’t even know what in the world I’m talking about yet. It’s cool, because we aren’t chasing freedom. Instead, we’re asking the question:

Who are You, Lord?

alongside Paul and letting God bring the freedom to us.

In fact, this is Paul’s entire argument for the book of Galatians. When Paul planted a church in Galatia, in the middle of modern day Turkey, and then was called to move on, I’m sure he prayed over those believers like nobody’s business. I’m sure he poured his heart into them, because that was what Paul did. Take a peek into the character of his ministry in 2 Corinthians 6:11-12:

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us.

Paul knew free. Note, he spoke the Gospel in freedom. He loved affectionately in freedom. He suggested that freedom was a little bit brighter in affection together.

So when the Galatians were giving up their freedom, handing it over on a platter to some people who thought they needed to do more, be more, Paul began a letter to tell them a little more about freedom, to outline it for them. From justification to sanctification, I love that my study Bible points out that the book of Galatians is about finding a solution. Don’t we all just need a few more solutions in life, rather than rolling around in the problem?

Everything Paul presents, he presents so that the Galatians remain in the only thing that ever offers freedom, the foundation of all freedom we find in our life – from relationships, to expectations, to planning, to walking, running, or crawling in faith and life.

We can trust and believe in God’s Word, through Paul. Galatians 1:1-2 presents to the church in Galatia why they should listen to Paul and where his authority comes from, and these are the same reasons we are going to trust this book for the next six weeks of our lives, why we’re going to let Paul’s/God’s Word work in our hearts and our minds also. Read Galatians 1:1-2 below:

Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers and sisters with me,

To the churches in Galatia:

Who is Paul sent by? Who does Paul’s Word belong to in inerrant Scripture?

Yep. Jesus Christ. Son of God. Winner of our freedom. Lover of our hearts and souls.

Paul doesn’t need any other credentials to teach the Galatians, or us. Jesus lives and speaks through His Word and His people.

Paul has been there. He chased freedom on the Damascus road, thinking he could find it in success, in reputation, in ambition, in man’s approval.

What did he find?

Only Jesus frees.

He frees Paul. He frees you. He frees me.

I’m so excited to learn and grow with you all over the next six weeks! I’m excited to hear more from Paul, more from our Lord, and to open many pages and passages across the Scriptures these next weeks to sit in the freedom won for us.

Who are You, Lord?

I am your freedom.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)

 

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Discussion Questions- if you feel so led, answer one or more of the questions in the comments, or use with your group:

 

What do you “do” in any given day? How do you share the Gospel in the daily places and pieces of your life?

If someone asked you “Who is the Lord?” how would you answer?

Look up the following three passages and note: Who was called? by whom? What were they doing when they were called?

Matthew 4:18-22

Luke 5:27-28

John 1:43-51

Get the full outline for Chasing Freedom here!