Take a stand!


“But how can we continue to justify that kind of living when we collide with Galatians 5: 1? “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you” (MSG).  

We can’t justify it at all because freedom and bondage cannot coexist. Neither can uncommon and common. We have to choose which life we want. So let’s choose right now.”  1)”Uncommon: Pursuing a Life of Passion and Purpose” by Carey Scott

It’s not often that I use The Message Bible (MSG), but it’s what Carey Scott’s book, Uncommon: Pursuing a Life of Passion and Purpose used – plus it’s actually quite clear without losing the intent.  So I’m going with it.

This is part 3 of the series – A land flowing with milk and honey.  That may sound a bit odd, but it really is.  The first part of the series is called “What’s the importance of a “land flowing with milk and honey?”, which went into the Biblical meaning of a land flowing with milk and honey.  Part two is titled “The God of milk and honey versus the god of money”, where we look at how we’re giving up on God and on the gifts He has given to us.  This one, still looking at the exodus, although using yeast instead of milk and honey, shows the importance of why we need to take a stand for the God of the Bible.

Before we get into this passage, I want to bring up another thought.

The Passover

Ex 12:1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire—head, legs and inner parts. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’S Passover.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with the passage from Galatians.  But stay with me here – you’ll see.  After all, I said I want to bring up another thought – not another (meaning one) passage.  So let’s examine the Passover passage first.

This is the night that God is going to perform the final plague on the Egyptians, the one that will finally allow the Israelites to be set free from slavery.

We can tell just how important this is going to be by God telling Moses that the calendar was going to be reset – that this month was going to be, from this time forward, the first month of the year.  2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.

Then God gives directions for a sacrifice that is to be made – 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.  The people are to choose a perfect, one year old, lamb on the 10th day of the month – take care of it until the 14th day – and then slaughter it at twilight.  That’s four whole days plus part of a fifth – a fairly long period of time, considering what’s to come.

Next, God gives more instructions – 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire—head, legs and inner parts. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it.  There are very specific things to do, which are a prophecy of things to come, although the prophecy isn’t what we’re looking at here.  The last part of these instructions are an indication that the people are to leave nothing behind, not even scraps of food.  We also see that this night, after spending so many days preparing the lamb, they are to eat bread without yeast.  Not using yeast would take an hour, maybe two, off the preparation time for the bread.  (Two hours is pretty much the minimum time for yeast to do its thing.)  Given the amount of time spent on the meat – maybe not the only reason for no yeast bread.

Finally, we read –  11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’S Passover.  The people are to be ready to leave at a moments notice.

After that, we read about the celebration that is to take place, commemorating their freedom –

Ex 12:14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance. 15 For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat—that is all you may do.

Ex 12:17 “Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. 18 In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. 19 For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And whoever eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel, whether he is an alien or native-born. 20 Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.”

Interesting.  There’s the yeast thing again.  And it’s not just a command to not use yeast – they are to remove all yeast from their houses.  Surely the lack of yeast isn’t about shortening the baking time, since the people are to do no work – they are only to prepare the food.  

 

Yeast defined, from Old Testament Days

Let’s look at a definition of leaven, one that describes how the people used part of a batch of dough from a previous bake and see where yeast comes into the process.  BTW – if you’ve ever made sourdough bread, it was probably from this method.

LEAVEN Small portion of fermented dough used to ferment other dough and often symbolizing a corruptive influence. The common bread of OT times was made with leaven. Such bread was acceptable as wave offerings for the priests and as loaves to accompany the peace offerings (Lev. 7:11–13; 23:17). However, bread made with leaven or honey, both associated with the process of fermentation and thus a source of corruption, was never to be used as offerings to be burned on the alter (Lev. 2:11–12). Unleavened bread was also prepared in times of haste (1 Sam. 28:24) and was required for the Feast of Unleavened Bread that was celebrated in conjunction with the Passover festival (Lev. 23:4–8). This unleavened bread, or bread of affliction, reminded the Israelites of their hasty departure from Egypt and warned them against corruptive influences (Exod. 12:14–20).  2)Bruce, B. J. (2003). Leaven. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1022). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

I know it’s popular to say the lack of yeast is about being in a hurry, but I have to say, when I bake bread (using yeast) the first proof (allowing the bread to rise, from the action of the yeast) takes about an hour – then I knead the dough again (a matter of minutes) – then the second proof lets the dough rise again (about another hour) – and then the bread is formed in a matter of minutes.  Given the prep time for the lamb, haste really doesn’t seem to be the issue.  

It seems that the biggest pointer to the need for haste is from verse 11 – This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’S Passover. 

So it’s not that I’m discounting the haste – it’s that I’m pointing something out for those who have made bread and might wonder about this issue.  It’s also possible that the proofing process took longer back then, because of different yeast.  Even today, some sourdough starters come with a recommendation to allow over-night or even 24 hours for the first rise.  That could be an issue when the need for haste is in the picture.  Having said that, even 24 hours is well within the time-frame of the four to five days for the lamb.  Side note – during the days when I was researching and writing this one, I happened to watch an episode of “Triple D” (Diners, Drive-ins and Dives) where the owner of a pizza place let his dough rise for four days!  Even that really long amount of time could have been met while the lamb was being cared for though.

There’s a reason I point all this out.  It will be made clear in a bit.

To show you where yeast comes into this definition, also see –

Physically speaking, “leaven,” or zumē in Greek, is any substance that produces fermentation when added to dough. This became an excellent metaphor for explaining how one substance (bread dough) was entirely affected by another (yeast). Among the Jews and other peoples as well, it was common knowledge that leaven represented decay and corruption, as did other fermented things. This view of leaven made it inconsistent with the concept of God’s perfect holiness. Plutarch also expressed this long-held belief when he wrote, “Now leaven is itself the offspring of corruption and corrupts the mass of dough with which it has been mixed.” The apostle Paul quotes a similar proverb in 1 Corinthians 5:6 and Galatians 5:9.  3)Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained (p. 322). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Notice that both of these references talk about the corrupting influence of yeast, since fermentation is involved in the process.  If you remember from part 1, honey was to be eaten only in limited amounts – so while it was important for sustenance and represented abundance, too much of even a good thing can be corrupting.  

To me, this seems far more reasonable as an explanation of why no yeast was to be used.  We’ll see in a moment that this line of thought continues with Jesus.

Yeast defined, from New Testament Days

Both of the previous two references also talked about yeast / leaven in New Testament days.  Let’s look at that –

In the NT “leaven” is a symbol of any evil influence that, if allowed to remain, can corrupt the body of believers. Jesus warned His disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees, their teaching and hypocrisy (Matt. 16:5–12; Luke 12:1). Paul urged the Corinthians to remove wickedness from their midst and become fresh dough, unleavened loaves of sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:6–13). Jesus also used leaven to illustrate the pervasive growth of the kingdom of God (Matt. 13:33).  4)Bruce, B. J. (2003). Leaven. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1022). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

We see more on evil influence and corruption – both symbolically referred to when talking about yeast and the leavening process.

The significant aspect about leaven is its power, which may symbolize either good or evil. Usually, though not always, leaven was a symbol of evil in rabbinical thought. Jesus referred to leaven in the adverse sense when He used the word to describe the corrupt doctrine of Pharisees, Sadducees (Matt. 16:6, 11–12), and of Herod (Mark 8:15). Like leaven that works its way into fresh dough, spreading out through the bread until its effects are evident in the entire batch, the ideas of Herod, the Pharisees, and Sadducees were gradually infiltrating people’s minds. These ideas “spread” until they had penetrated and permeated every part of the people’s thinking. Paul applied the same concept to moral corruption, warning that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” He admonished his readers to clean out the old leaven—that is, any evidence of their unregenerate lives—and to live the Christian life with the “unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:6–8, NASB).

This is the first time we see a reference to the effects of yeast being either evil or good.  It makes sense, given what comes next –

There is only one instance in the New Testament where leaven is used as a positive metaphor. Christ used the concept of leaven’s effect upon dough to provide His disciples with a brief, but memorable parable (Matt. 13:33; Luke 13:20–21), wherein leaven illustrates the cumulative, pervasive influence of the kingdom of God on the world. In this case, leaven illustrates how a mere spark of God’s Spirit, love, and hope can work through an entire community, society, and people to catalyze spiritual growth.  5)Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained (p. 322). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

So – let’s see what this all means, before we finally get to the Galatians passage. 

The yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

Mt 16:5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Mt 16:7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

Mt 16:8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

So – Jesus is saying that leaving out the yeast did refer to something other than just saving time while making the bread.

The disciples thought Jesus was talking about bread – given that He was warning them about yeast.  Given that they almost certainly didn’t literally buy “yeast” from the religious leaders, it may be hard to imagine that they would think of bread, rather than the corrupting influence that we just looked at.  The fact that this apparently didn’t even occur to them shows the high regard the Jewish people – including these disciples – had for their religious leaders.  And this is in spite of having heard Jesus had already been through contentious encounters with the Pharisees.  Here, Jesus makes the point quite clearly.

While Jesus had many issues with the Pharisees, seven of which are in Matthew 23, this one is very telling as far as the warning Jesus just gave about the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees –

Mt 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Looking good on the outside – the part the people see.
Looking completely dead on the inside – where God alone sees.

Good from yeast?

Since it was referenced above, let’s look at the one instance where yeast represented something that wasn’t evil –

Mt 13:33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

The difference between this parable and the references where yeast was to something corrupting is that this is about an action of God.  The way yeast works, as long as there is “food” for the yeast, the dough will continue to rise.  In fact, one of the dangers of letting the first rise take too long is that the yeast will consume all of the things within the dough that it uses for “food” – and then when it comes time for the final proof (the second rising) – there will be nothing left for the yeast to “eat” – and the dough won’t rise.  Not good.  The message here is that with the Kingdom of God – that’s not going to happen.  For us, as Christians, the meaning is that we are the dough – the yeast is the Holy Spirit – and the Kingdom of God will spread through more and more of our life, having more and more of an impact on us.  But we will never actually be perfect – there’s always room for growth – and the Holy Spirit, if we allow Him, will continue to work in us as long as we’re alive.

Galatians 5:1

So – finally, Galatians 5:1

Gal 5: 1 “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you” (MSG).  

We’ve spent a while looking at the exodus, slavery, and yeast.

The exodus was God’s way of rescuing His people from slavery.  In their case, and in far too many cases in this fallen world, it was forced slavery.  Forced slavery still goes on today – people are kidnapped and forced to do all sorts of horrible things from forced manual labor and living in horrible conditions to the sex industry.  As bad as they are, that’s not the kind of slavery I’m about to talk about here.

What I’m looking at for this topic is the kind of slavery we allow to come on ourselves.  It starts as something “innocent”, or so we think.  It’s a thrill, or so we think, We can control it, or so we think.  Then it ruins our lives, maybe even in spite of what we think.  It could be nearly anything – work, money, alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography – you name it, we can become addicted to it.  

Those are the kinds of things Paul was talking about in Galatians.

Let’s stick with The Message Bible, since we started there, and the goal is to have something understandable for our lives today.  Sometimes Paul’s writing can get a bit deep in the logical / legal details, which is good, but that’s not what we’re after today.

THE LIFE OF FREEDOM

(Galatians 5)

1 Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.

Here is my title thought – Take a stand!  As one example, this is about letting someone else incorrectly influence our thinking about God.  Allowing them to be the yeast that corrupts our beliefs.  At first we think it’s no big deal – that what we start to believe is “better”.  They / we then convince ourselves that the Bible said this new thing all along.  And then we’re hooked.  We’re slaves to this new thinking – rather than having the freedom for which Jesus died.

And what is that freedom?  The freedom to be saved by God’s Grace – not from a whole long list of things we need to do in order for God to be happy with us.  We’ll look at the slavery part more as we go through Galatians 5.

2–3  I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law.

In Paul’s time, this had to do with following parts (or all) of the Old Testament given Jewish Law.  The most prominent source of argument at that time seemed to be around circumcision.  The Jews wanted the Christians to go through this.  Paul was saying it wasn’t necessary – and to begin to go down the road of the Jewish Law is to begin to lose the freedom of being saved only by God’s Grace.  

One of the things added in The Message is the part about or any other rule-keeping system.  This is one of the reasons I stayed with The Message, rather than go to my normal translation, the NIV.  This is important for us today.  There are all sorts of call for us to “coexist” with other religions.  Unfortunately, the intent is for us to do more than “coexist” with them.  It’s for us to believe in them as well.

You may have seen the bumper sticker at the right.

If you don’t recognize the symbols, here’s what they stand for, from left to right – the crescent moon of Islam, peace sign (remember the 60s?), male / female symbol, Judaism Star of David, depending on the shape of the “i” it’s generally either paganism or Satanism when the i is dotted with a pentagram, ying / yang often associated with Taoism, and the Christian Cross.

There’s only one way to coexist like this bumper sticker would have us do.  And that’s to compromise – to give up some of what we believe – in order to “coexist”.  How much are we willing to give up?  For example – the “t” at the end is the Christian cross – which says that Jesus – the Son of God – came to earth and died for our sins in order that we may be saved.  The Crescent moon with the little star is the symbol used by Islam – which says that God didn’t have (and doesn’t need) a son – that Jesus was just a prophet (and when he returns he will be a Muslim) – and belief in him has nothing to do with salvation.

Just for those two examples, that’s a lot to give up to “coexist”.  That’s not even coexisting!  For a Christian, that’s giving up the very core of our faith.  That’s disowning God.  That’s unacceptable.  At that point, there’s no faith left.  That, referring to the title of this article, is failing to take a stand for God.

Having said that, nothing I write says that we, as Christians, should hate or discriminate against people of other religions at all.  If anything, Jesus said the exact opposite – that we should love them, and Jesus also showed by example that we should talk with them.

Love for Enemies

6:29, 30 pp — Mt 5:39-42

Lk 6:27 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Lk 6:32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

 Good advice, but taken too infrequently.

We see in the next example that Jesus means more than just saying “hi” – or mumbling something unintelligible as we pass by.  While reading this, remember that Jesus was Jewish, and in general – the Jews hated the Samaritans.

Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

Jn 4:1 The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Jn 4:4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

Jn 4:7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

Jn 4:9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. )

Jn 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

Jn 4:11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”

Jn 4:13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jn 4:15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jn 4:16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

Jn 4:17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

Jn 4:19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jn 4:21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Jn 4:25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Jn 4:26 Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

 That’s a rather long and very personal conversation for two people who would have been considered enemies.

4–6  I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.

We start off innocently enough, for example when we tell ourselves that Christianity doesn’t really mean don’t do <fill in the blank>.  Or maybe we tell ourselves that we can be forgiven for <fill in another blank>.  Soon, we forget what the problem was in the first place, having fully convinced ourselves that what we’re doing is OK – and then that it’s even God’s will.  And not realizing that whatever we filled the blank with is completely against His will.

7–10  You were running superbly! Who cut in on you, deflecting you from the true course of obedience? This detour doesn’t come from the One who called you into the race in the first place. And please don’t toss this off as insignificant. It only takes a minute amount of yeast, you know, to permeate an entire loaf of bread. Deep down, the Master has given me confidence that you will not defect. But the one who is upsetting you, whoever he is, will bear the divine judgment.

Maybe we go to one of the “prosperity” Gospel churches – where the pastor tells us that God wants us to be happy, rich, popular, What’s wrong with joy, abundance, and followers hanging on our every word about what we’ve learned in church?  Fruit of the Spirit, right?  Wrong!

11–12  As for the rumor that I continue to preach the ways of circumcision (as I did in those pre-Damascus Road days), that is absurd. Why would I still be persecuted, then? If I were preaching that old message, no one would be offended if I mentioned the Cross now and then—it would be so watered-down it wouldn’t matter one way or the other. Why don’t these agitators, obsessive as they are about circumcision, go all the way and castrate themselves!

Even when the Gospel is preached correctly, someone else may come along and twist it – pervert it – into something else entirely.  We should always go back to the source of God’s Word – the Bible – to see what was really said and intended.

13–15  It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?

What God wants for us is actually quite simple – service with love.  Everything else – the yeast from various sources, ranging from our own desires, to perverted versions of the Gospel message, to attacks from Satan himself – only make it more and more difficult for us to live the life that God intended for us.  All of that yeast has left us in a condition where we don’t even know how to get rid of it.  Then, we’re slaves again.

16–18  My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

We must realize that some things are exclusive, no matter how ugly the world tries to make that word. We cannot be both free and a slave.  As soon as we even begin to walk down a path where we start to become slaves to something – we’re no longer free.  We must choose to examine ourselves, and be sure to stay free, with and through the Holy Spirit.

19–21  It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.

Even though we see some or many of the things listed above appearing in our lives, we seem to think that if we keep going down the same road – things will get better.  That’s addiction.  They say insanity is to continue to do the same things over and over, expecting a different outcome.  That’s slavery.  That’s the yeast, poisoning the freedom that we could have with Jesus.

22–23  But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

The good news is that when we start to follow Jesus, we begin to learn that this really is a better way,  Then it gets to be something we want to do.  We find that living the life God has for us really is the best way.

23–24  Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good — crucified.

Legalism – like following a checklist of things that we’re all supposed to do – that’s not going to work.  Instead of going for what we want for ourselves, we go for what Jesus wants us to do.  I can tell you, even when that involves difficulties on our part, it’s still the best way – because He is with us in those difficulties, as opposed to us walking / running away from Him while we chase our own self-interests.

25–26  Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.  <fn>Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Ga 5:1–26). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

We are not little robots.  We aren’t carbon copies of each other.  Each of us has a custom designed plan from God, to let us know what is the best possible life we could lead.  To the extent that we successfully choose to live a life guided by the Holy Spirit, we will also live out that exciting and rewarding life God planned for us.

Milk and Honey – Yeast – Taking a Stand

So – what do all these things have to do with each other?

For the Israelites that we looked at with the exodus – the land was to be their future home, after they finally trusted God.  For us as Christians, it’s certainly about what happens after this life.  But it’s also about our life here n earth – not that it will necessarily be filled with good physical things, but that God will be with us, again – as we begin trust Him.

And just as Jesus warned about the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Israelites had to be concerned with the yeast of the doubters and troublemakers during the exodus.  Likewise, we have to be careful of the yeast from some of our religious leaders, from much of the anti-Christian stuff coming from schools, news media, politicians, Etc.  

By and large, the Jewish people of Biblical times failed.

Mt 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’’”

The people during the exodus failed miserably.

Nu 14:26 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: 27 “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. 28 So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very things I heard you say: 29 In this desert your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. 30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31 As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. 32 But you—your bodies will fall in this desert. 33 Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert. 34 For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’ 35 I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this desert; here they will die.”

And Jesus has told us that many of us will also fail, with only a few succeeding.  Immediately following that, Matthew records something Jesus said pertaining the the yeast we are looking at here.

The Narrow and Wide Gates

Mt 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

A Tree and Its Fruit

Mt 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Mt 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Conclusion

After reading the articles in this series, hopefully we can see the importance of knowing God’s Truth, so that when someone speaks something different, claiming it is from God – we can tell the difference.

And not only be able to know the difference, but to take a stand.

No – we won’t always succeed, but when we do fail, we should remember that Jesus prays for us in the same way He prayed for Peter –

Lk 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

– and then we can help others take a stand as well.

Here are some other verses to help us both take a stand for Jesus, to stay firm in that stand, and return to it when (not if) we waver –

1Co 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

 

1Co 16:13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.

 

2Co 1:18 But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” 20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

 

The Armor of God

Eph 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Going back to the beginning of this article – 

Gal 5:1 “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you” (MSG).  

And when we take that stand, we will be among those that this verse applies to –

Rev 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

Surely, there is no yeast that’s worth pursuing at the cost of losing this promise from Jesus.

Have you taken your stand?

Series Navigation<< The God of milk and honey versus the god of money

References   [ + ]

1. ”Uncommon: Pursuing a Life of Passion and Purpose” by Carey Scott
2. Bruce, B. J. (2003). Leaven. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1022). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
3. Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained (p. 322). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Notice that both of these references talk about the corrupting influence of yeast, since fermentation is involved in the process.  If you remember from part 1, honey was to be eaten only in limited amounts – so while it was important for sustenance and represented abundance, too much of even a good thing can be corrupting.  

To me, this seems far more reasonable as an explanation of why no yeast was to be used.  We’ll see in a moment that this line of thought continues with Jesus.

Yeast defined, from New Testament Days

Both of the previous two references also talked about yeast / leaven in New Testament days.  Let’s look at that –

In the NT “leaven” is a symbol of any evil influence that, if allowed to remain, can corrupt the body of believers. Jesus warned His disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees, their teaching and hypocrisy (Matt. 16:5–12; Luke 12:1). Paul urged the Corinthians to remove wickedness from their midst and become fresh dough, unleavened loaves of sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:6–13). Jesus also used leaven to illustrate the pervasive growth of the kingdom of God (Matt. 13:33).  <fn>Bruce, B. J. (2003). Leaven. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1022). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

4. Bruce, B. J. (2003). Leaven. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1022). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

We see more on evil influence and corruption – both symbolically referred to when talking about yeast and the leavening process.

The significant aspect about leaven is its power, which may symbolize either good or evil. Usually, though not always, leaven was a symbol of evil in rabbinical thought. Jesus referred to leaven in the adverse sense when He used the word to describe the corrupt doctrine of Pharisees, Sadducees (Matt. 16:6, 11–12), and of Herod (Mark 8:15). Like leaven that works its way into fresh dough, spreading out through the bread until its effects are evident in the entire batch, the ideas of Herod, the Pharisees, and Sadducees were gradually infiltrating people’s minds. These ideas “spread” until they had penetrated and permeated every part of the people’s thinking. Paul applied the same concept to moral corruption, warning that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” He admonished his readers to clean out the old leaven—that is, any evidence of their unregenerate lives—and to live the Christian life with the “unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:6–8, NASB).

This is the first time we see a reference to the effects of yeast being either evil or good.  It makes sense, given what comes next –

There is only one instance in the New Testament where leaven is used as a positive metaphor. Christ used the concept of leaven’s effect upon dough to provide His disciples with a brief, but memorable parable (Matt. 13:33; Luke 13:20–21), wherein leaven illustrates the cumulative, pervasive influence of the kingdom of God on the world. In this case, leaven illustrates how a mere spark of God’s Spirit, love, and hope can work through an entire community, society, and people to catalyze spiritual growth.  <fn>Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained (p. 322). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

5. Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained (p. 322). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

So – let’s see what this all means, before we finally get to the Galatians passage. 

The yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

Mt 16:5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Mt 16:7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

Mt 16:8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

So – Jesus is saying that leaving out the yeast did refer to something other than just saving time while making the bread.

The disciples thought Jesus was talking about bread – given that He was warning them about yeast.  Given that they almost certainly didn’t literally buy “yeast” from the religious leaders, it may be hard to imagine that they would think of bread, rather than the corrupting influence that we just looked at.  The fact that this apparently didn’t even occur to them shows the high regard the Jewish people – including these disciples – had for their religious leaders.  And this is in spite of having heard Jesus had already been through contentious encounters with the Pharisees.  Here, Jesus makes the point quite clearly.

While Jesus had many issues with the Pharisees, seven of which are in Matthew 23, this one is very telling as far as the warning Jesus just gave about the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees –

Mt 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Looking good on the outside – the part the people see.
Looking completely dead on the inside – where God alone sees.

Good from yeast?

Since it was referenced above, let’s look at the one instance where yeast represented something that wasn’t evil –

Mt 13:33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

The difference between this parable and the references where yeast was to something corrupting is that this is about an action of God.  The way yeast works, as long as there is “food” for the yeast, the dough will continue to rise.  In fact, one of the dangers of letting the first rise take too long is that the yeast will consume all of the things within the dough that it uses for “food” – and then when it comes time for the final proof (the second rising) – there will be nothing left for the yeast to “eat” – and the dough won’t rise.  Not good.  The message here is that with the Kingdom of God – that’s not going to happen.  For us, as Christians, the meaning is that we are the dough – the yeast is the Holy Spirit – and the Kingdom of God will spread through more and more of our life, having more and more of an impact on us.  But we will never actually be perfect – there’s always room for growth – and the Holy Spirit, if we allow Him, will continue to work in us as long as we’re alive.

Galatians 5:1

So – finally, Galatians 5:1

Gal 5: 1 “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you” (MSG).  

We’ve spent a while looking at the exodus, slavery, and yeast.

The exodus was God’s way of rescuing His people from slavery.  In their case, and in far too many cases in this fallen world, it was forced slavery.  Forced slavery still goes on today – people are kidnapped and forced to do all sorts of horrible things from forced manual labor and living in horrible conditions to the sex industry.  As bad as they are, that’s not the kind of slavery I’m about to talk about here.

What I’m looking at for this topic is the kind of slavery we allow to come on ourselves.  It starts as something “innocent”, or so we think.  It’s a thrill, or so we think, We can control it, or so we think.  Then it ruins our lives, maybe even in spite of what we think.  It could be nearly anything – work, money, alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography – you name it, we can become addicted to it.  

Those are the kinds of things Paul was talking about in Galatians.

Let’s stick with The Message Bible, since we started there, and the goal is to have something understandable for our lives today.  Sometimes Paul’s writing can get a bit deep in the logical / legal details, which is good, but that’s not what we’re after today.

THE LIFE OF FREEDOM

(Galatians 5)

1 Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.

Here is my title thought – Take a stand!  As one example, this is about letting someone else incorrectly influence our thinking about God.  Allowing them to be the yeast that corrupts our beliefs.  At first we think it’s no big deal – that what we start to believe is “better”.  They / we then convince ourselves that the Bible said this new thing all along.  And then we’re hooked.  We’re slaves to this new thinking – rather than having the freedom for which Jesus died.

And what is that freedom?  The freedom to be saved by God’s Grace – not from a whole long list of things we need to do in order for God to be happy with us.  We’ll look at the slavery part more as we go through Galatians 5.

2–3  I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law.

In Paul’s time, this had to do with following parts (or all) of the Old Testament given Jewish Law.  The most prominent source of argument at that time seemed to be around circumcision.  The Jews wanted the Christians to go through this.  Paul was saying it wasn’t necessary – and to begin to go down the road of the Jewish Law is to begin to lose the freedom of being saved only by God’s Grace.  

One of the things added in The Message is the part about or any other rule-keeping system.  This is one of the reasons I stayed with The Message, rather than go to my normal translation, the NIV.  This is important for us today.  There are all sorts of call for us to “coexist” with other religions.  Unfortunately, the intent is for us to do more than “coexist” with them.  It’s for us to believe in them as well.

You may have seen the bumper sticker at the right.

If you don’t recognize the symbols, here’s what they stand for, from left to right – the crescent moon of Islam, peace sign (remember the 60s?), male / female symbol, Judaism Star of David, depending on the shape of the “i” it’s generally either paganism or Satanism when the i is dotted with a pentagram, ying / yang often associated with Taoism, and the Christian Cross.

There’s only one way to coexist like this bumper sticker would have us do.  And that’s to compromise – to give up some of what we believe – in order to “coexist”.  How much are we willing to give up?  For example – the “t” at the end is the Christian cross – which says that Jesus – the Son of God – came to earth and died for our sins in order that we may be saved.  The Crescent moon with the little star is the symbol used by Islam – which says that God didn’t have (and doesn’t need) a son – that Jesus was just a prophet (and when he returns he will be a Muslim) – and belief in him has nothing to do with salvation.

Just for those two examples, that’s a lot to give up to “coexist”.  That’s not even coexisting!  For a Christian, that’s giving up the very core of our faith.  That’s disowning God.  That’s unacceptable.  At that point, there’s no faith left.  That, referring to the title of this article, is failing to take a stand for God.

Having said that, nothing I write says that we, as Christians, should hate or discriminate against people of other religions at all.  If anything, Jesus said the exact opposite – that we should love them, and Jesus also showed by example that we should talk with them.

Love for Enemies

6:29, 30 pp — Mt 5:39-42

Lk 6:27 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Lk 6:32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

 Good advice, but taken too infrequently.

We see in the next example that Jesus means more than just saying “hi” – or mumbling something unintelligible as we pass by.  While reading this, remember that Jesus was Jewish, and in general – the Jews hated the Samaritans.

Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

Jn 4:1 The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Jn 4:4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

Jn 4:7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

Jn 4:9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. )

Jn 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

Jn 4:11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”

Jn 4:13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jn 4:15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jn 4:16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

Jn 4:17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

Jn 4:19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jn 4:21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Jn 4:25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Jn 4:26 Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

 That’s a rather long and very personal conversation for two people who would have been considered enemies.

4–6  I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.

We start off innocently enough, for example when we tell ourselves that Christianity doesn’t really mean don’t do <fill in the blank>.  Or maybe we tell ourselves that we can be forgiven for <fill in another blank>.  Soon, we forget what the problem was in the first place, having fully convinced ourselves that what we’re doing is OK – and then that it’s even God’s will.  And not realizing that whatever we filled the blank with is completely against His will.

7–10  You were running superbly! Who cut in on you, deflecting you from the true course of obedience? This detour doesn’t come from the One who called you into the race in the first place. And please don’t toss this off as insignificant. It only takes a minute amount of yeast, you know, to permeate an entire loaf of bread. Deep down, the Master has given me confidence that you will not defect. But the one who is upsetting you, whoever he is, will bear the divine judgment.

Maybe we go to one of the “prosperity” Gospel churches – where the pastor tells us that God wants us to be happy, rich, popular, What’s wrong with joy, abundance, and followers hanging on our every word about what we’ve learned in church?  Fruit of the Spirit, right?  Wrong!

11–12  As for the rumor that I continue to preach the ways of circumcision (as I did in those pre-Damascus Road days), that is absurd. Why would I still be persecuted, then? If I were preaching that old message, no one would be offended if I mentioned the Cross now and then—it would be so watered-down it wouldn’t matter one way or the other. Why don’t these agitators, obsessive as they are about circumcision, go all the way and castrate themselves!

Even when the Gospel is preached correctly, someone else may come along and twist it – pervert it – into something else entirely.  We should always go back to the source of God’s Word – the Bible – to see what was really said and intended.

13–15  It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?

What God wants for us is actually quite simple – service with love.  Everything else – the yeast from various sources, ranging from our own desires, to perverted versions of the Gospel message, to attacks from Satan himself – only make it more and more difficult for us to live the life that God intended for us.  All of that yeast has left us in a condition where we don’t even know how to get rid of it.  Then, we’re slaves again.

16–18  My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

We must realize that some things are exclusive, no matter how ugly the world tries to make that word. We cannot be both free and a slave.  As soon as we even begin to walk down a path where we start to become slaves to something – we’re no longer free.  We must choose to examine ourselves, and be sure to stay free, with and through the Holy Spirit.

19–21  It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.

Even though we see some or many of the things listed above appearing in our lives, we seem to think that if we keep going down the same road – things will get better.  That’s addiction.  They say insanity is to continue to do the same things over and over, expecting a different outcome.  That’s slavery.  That’s the yeast, poisoning the freedom that we could have with Jesus.

22–23  But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

The good news is that when we start to follow Jesus, we begin to learn that this really is a better way,  Then it gets to be something we want to do.  We find that living the life God has for us really is the best way.

23–24  Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good — crucified.

Legalism – like following a checklist of things that we’re all supposed to do – that’s not going to work.  Instead of going for what we want for ourselves, we go for what Jesus wants us to do.  I can tell you, even when that involves difficulties on our part, it’s still the best way – because He is with us in those difficulties, as opposed to us walking / running away from Him while we chase our own self-interests.

25–26  Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.  <fn>Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Ga 5:1–26). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

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