Fresh Manna Tuesday, October 30, 2007© by Pastor Tim Burt
Galatians 5:13 (NLT) “For you have been called to live in freedom—not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love”
When I was a young Christian just learning the Bible and trying to understand this new world of God that my eyes had been opened to, I had a goal. It was a naive goal. It was an unrealistic goal. It was in truth, an impossible goal. I actually thought that. I thought that it was an impossible goal yet I wanted to pursue it. My goal was to live perfectly for God. I would learn all His ways and never sin. I was going to conquer every sinful area of my life and get rid of them. It was the least I could do. I was motivated. I so loved Jesus and felt so thankful to Him for giving His live for me. I wanted to do this for Him. I somehow wanted to pay Him back for what He had done for me. I loved Him and I wanted to prove it.
I immediately got into trouble. I sinned. I watched a movie in a hotel that I shouldn’t have. No it wasn’t porn. It was just an inappropriate R-rated movie. It was filled with profanity, sexual verbiage and some sexual scenes. Prior to Jesus I loved almost any kind of movie including the inappropriate ones. Now my heart convicted me yet I’d still watch them and feel horrible and repent after. After one of these occasions I was on my knees praying and asking God to forgive me – for the twentieth time. God spoke to my heart and said, “Tim, you can’t turn me on and off like a light switch. We can’t have fellowship that way. You are pushing me away whether you realize it or not. And, if you continue this way, it will harden you heart over time. You’ll become callous to this sin.”
I could have cried when I heard the Lord say this. I’d think about the pain and suffering Jesus went through out of His love for me and then I couldn’t turn off a movie? No, I was using my freedom in Christ, to serve my sinful nature. I’d sin knowing it was wrong and then ask for forgiveness. That was using my freedom in Christ to serve my sinful nature. Something had to change. I’d think, what about my goal – to live perfectly for God –learning all His ways and never sinning? That dream was quickly falling by the wayside.
I later learned and worked to draw strength from what I read in Galatians 5:16-18 (NLT) “So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict. But when you are directed by the Holy Spirit, you are no longer subject to the law.”
This was telling me that as long as I lived on the edge of playing with and doing what I knew was wrong, my life would be “sin conscience” – full of do’s and don’ts – “the law.” I would never defeat the feeling of “the law” nor win overcoming my fleshly sinful desires. I discovered that God’s freeing strength from the desire of sin came to me when I thought about the purpose and love of God for my life -when I would think about winning family, friends, and co-workers to the Lord. When focused on that, I’d soon want to pray about and for them. From there my life and thoughts increasingly focused toward good things. Inward strength and godly desires replaced the fleshly desires and temptations. I would start using my time wisely and it would fulfill today’s Fresh Manna verse: “For you have been called to live in freedom—not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love.” Instead of using my quiet time in a hotel for selfish sinful ways, (I was in hotels because of my job back then,) I would find strength and desire to want to read my Bible and pray for others, and even go out looking for someone to share Jesus with. I would experience “freedom to serve one another in love.” I got involved in a Bible study. I was increasingly using my time more wisely. I eventually took on leading a Bible study. This helped me use my time even more wisely. Renee and I started working in children’s ministry to teach four and five year olds God’s Word. That took even more of my time. Working with those children became about eight of the most precious years of my life. I loved those kids.
Every time I purposed to serve others by sharing Jesus, teaching Jesus, or helping people because of my love for Jesus, I gained strength and areas of sin which previously held me in bondage, dropped off. I wasn’t just giving time and love. I was getting it! I was getting it from the friends in the Bible Study, the kids did, those I was disciplining, and more. The freedom to serve one another with love set me free from the freedom (which was really the bondage) to satisfy my sinful nature.
I realized how futile my goal of living a perfectly sinless life by working it out in my own strength was. I couldn’t just will myself to not sin. The strength to stop sinning came out of a sincere love for Jesus and by experiencing the “freedom to serve one another in love.” It came from the Holy Spirit as I followed His direction and let my love for Jesus permeate my every thought and action. The question that at one time became a fad, “What would Jesus do?” was a good thing. The thought, “Jesus I love you – what can I do for you?” is even better! It is the source and activator of my strength over sin!
In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt
Published by Pastor Tim Burt
Copyright© 2007 Tim Burt, All rights reserved.