Fruit of the Spirit 4: Freedom

This Sunday begins our fourth year in ministry together, and I’m
excited about the future. At this moment, we don’t know exactly what
our future looks like, and that’s a wonderful-but-scary thing. We have
great opportunity before us, but it’s a future that requires faith. But
are we not people of faith?

Therein lies the problem. Somewhere along the line, we (as a church
and as a denomination) stopped being people of faith; we stopped being
missional; we stopped being a people sent into the world to form
disciples of Jesus Christ. Somewhere along the line, we stopped being
about the people out there, and became a club for the people in here.

But if we’re going to survive, it’s going to be because some people
of faith take stand and say enough is enough. We’ve been wandering in
the wilderness too long. It’s time to move forward!

My goal is to
empower people of faith to embrace an unknown future — and for some of
you to say, “We are people of faith. We don’t know what the future
holds, but we are people of faith, faith in the God who has an amazing
history of doing incredible things!”

It won’t be easy. With any change there will be people who resist,
and there will be loss. But if we make the right changes, the gains for
God’s kingdom will far outweigh the losses.

Well, we’re working
our way through a series on the fruit of the Spirit, talking about the
fruit of lives transformed by the Holy Spirit. Today, we’re looking at
(spiritual) freedom.

Imagine that you have been taken hostage. You are being held
captive. You can’t do what you want, and you live in constant fear. You
wonder if you’ll survive or ever be set free.

Imagine, then, one day being rescued. You are free!

How would you feel? What would you do? And, how would you live your life to be differently?

Once we were slaves to sin and death. Once we were in bondage, held
hostage by sin. But, "When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at
just the right time and died for us sinners" (Romans 5.6).

Why did God do that? We certainly didn’t deserve it! We are not
“saved” because we are good people and deserve eternal life. We are
saved because we were ungodly people. God only saves ungodly people!

Romans 8.1-3 and Galatians 5.1-4

Who’s in control?
It’s all about control! Who’s in control? Who’s in charge?

Spiritual freedom involves freedom from sin and freedom to follow God!

Romans 8.6-9

Taking Risks
can’t think of anyplace in Scripture where God ever asked anyone to do
something that was easy! When God has control of our lives, he leads us
to do things that require faith! That’s why we’re called people of

“Do not follow where the may lead. Follow God, instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail.” (Unknown)

Missional Methodism
Methodist movement started out as just that, a movement. In the early
days of the movement in America (also the early days of America),
Methodists went wherever the people were. The world was truly their

In the early days of the movement, most Methodist churches were
located in the cities. But the people started moving out into the
country, and the nation became more and more rural. The Methodists left
the relative comfort of the cities (at the time) and started churches
all over the country, because that’s where the people were.

The Methodist Church reached its peak in 1925, in terms of
percentage of the American population. That was at the same time that
the rural population in America peaked, with 75% of Americans living in
rural areas.

Today, however, 75% of the population live in non-rural areas. But
we stopped going where the people were, and today, 70% of UMCs are
located where 30% of the population lives. We are strategically located
for a world that no longer exists!

Charles Berkheimer wrote a history of Methodism in the Williamsport
District here in the Central PA Conference (“Origins of Methodism in
the Williamsport District”). He wrote …

“Let us
begin with some highlights of the history of Methodism in Sugar Creek.
The building is a living symbol of Methodism missionary and church
building policy. One building was built in 1822—the third building used
by the Methodists on this plot of ground. It was erected here because
this was the central place for Methodists in Sugar Creek. But by 1857
the settlements at Burlington and West Burlington had been made and the
people living there built meeting houses more to their own needs at
that time, abandoning this meeting house as a regular preaching place
after only 35 years. Methodist preachers always went where the people
were. This building served its purpose and others took its place.”

the church folk of the mid 1800s in the Sugar Creek area. They were so
committed to the Gospel and going where the “unchurched” were that they
abandoned their church building after only 35 years. They abandoned it
not because it was structurally unsound, not because it was too small,
or not attractive enough. Berkheimer says they abandoned it to go where
the people were.

So, how do we get back to being missional again?
starts by being people of faith, and walking in the Spirit. Walking in
the Spirit is hard to define; there’s no formula. For me, it means
staying connected to God and the faith community. It means that the
Holy Spirit is my compass! When I get off track, when I get lost, the
Holy Spirit finds me and points me in the right direction, and helps me
get back on track.

Reflection Questions

  1. Have you experienced spiritual freedom?
  2. Who/What is controlling you?
  3. What are you driven by?
  4. Are you walking in the Spirit? Is the Holy Spirit your compass?

Scriptures for the journey …

  • For you have been called to live in freedom … (Galatians 5.13)
  • If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. (Galatians 5.25)
  • Let us not become conceited, or irritate one another, or be jealous of one another. (Galatians 5.26)
  • For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So
    you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. (Romans 8.14-15a)
  • So be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise.
    Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days.
    Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you
    to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life.
    Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you. (Ephesians 5.15-18)

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