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Freed to be Alive

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
June 12, 2024 9:00 am

Freed to be Alive

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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June 12, 2024 9:00 am

Stop and feel your wrist, or put a finger under the edge of your jaw. If you do it right, you’ll be able to feel your own heartbeat—proof that you are alive. So if that’s the case, then what does the Bible mean when it talks about our need for spiritual life? Pastor J.D. tackles that subject as he continues the series called, Freedom in the In-Between.

Summit Life
J.D. Greear

Today on Summit Life, J.D. Greer talks about spiritual freedom. Welcome to Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. If your hands are free at the moment, stop and feel your wrist or put a finger under the edge of your jaw. If you do it right, you'll be able to feel your pulse. Pretty convincing proof that you're alive, right? So what does the Bible mean when it talks about our need to be spiritually alive? How can we know if we are?

Surely it's more than a metaphorical pulse check, right? Pastor J.D. Greer tackles that subject today as he continues the teaching series called Freedom in the In-Between.

Remember, you can always catch up on any teaching you've missed by visiting our website, He titled today's message Freed to Be Alive. Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther Walt the half mile or so between his home and the castle church there in Wittenberg, Germany. And he nailed up his ninety five theses that claim that salvation came by faith alone and not by the works of the law.

And in so doing, he changed history. As you can see from that quote, Luther believed that faith works together with the Holy Spirit to bring about spiritual change in our hearts. If there is a secret, so to speak, of Christian growth, that is it. Faith through the power of the Holy Spirit. I told you before a few weeks ago that Christians in churches like ours aren't really quite sure what to do with the Holy Spirit. We know that he is in there.

We're just not sure exactly what he does. And we often relate to him the way that most people relate, for example, to their gallbladder. I know that it's in there. I know that it's important. I'm glad it gives me, I guess, golf or whatever purpose golf has in me.

But I don't really relate to my gallbladder. And that's how people feel about the Holy Spirit. It's like I'm glad he's in there.

But what does he do? We'll see Paul in Galatians Chapter five is going to show us what role the Holy Spirit plays in our spiritual development. Now in Galatians five, Paul is going to show us that the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential for spiritual growth. And he's going to show us how we are supposed to access his power and his presence in our lives.

Now, let me give you a warning real quick. This is a very familiar passage if you've been in church at all. It's where Paul lists out the fruits of the Spirit. And the problem with familiar passages is that quite often they go right in one ear and out the other. And you can miss what's really being taught here. So I want you to try as much as possible to put all the things you know about this passage out of your mind.

And let's just read it fresh, OK? We're going to start this discussion about the fruits of the Spirit actually back at the end of Chapter four, because Paul begins his discussion there about how the Holy Spirit brings about change in our lives. At the end of Chapter four, Paul returns again to the story of Abraham, as he's done throughout the book of Galatians, as an example of the right and wrong ways to pursue spiritual growth. Now, Abraham, of course, was the biological father of the nation of Israel. But when we first encounter Abraham in Genesis 12, he's a childless old man in his 80s who is married to a sterile old woman in her 70s. And that is when God appears to them and promises them that they will give birth to a son who will father a nation, who will bring salvation into the world.

Now, that's a pretty big promise for a childless octogenarian. Yet Abraham believes it. And when Abraham believes it, two things happen, Genesis tells us. First, Abraham's faith was credited judicially as righteousness. Genesis 15, six says that when Abraham believed the promise, he was justified. That is, righteousness was credited to his account.

Second, Genesis tells us he, Abraham and Sarah's old sterile bodies were infused with reproductive life. And Paul finds in this the perfect illustration for how you and I are saved today. In Galatians three, he explained that just like with Abraham, when we believe God's promise that Jesus, who was Abraham's great, great, great, great, great grandson, when we believe that he brought salvation into the world, just like God promised that he would, then our faith is credited judicially as righteousness and spiritual life is infused into our old dead sin-sick hearts. So it's the same way that Abraham was saved. That's the way that we're saved. Now, at the end of chapter four, Paul's gonna pull out another detail from Abraham's life that illustrates the mistake that he sees the Galatians making. Here we go, verse 21.

Tell me, tell me you who want to be under the law, don't you actually hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons. One was by a slave and the other was by a free woman. But the one by the slave was born as a result of the flesh, while the one by the free woman was born through promise.

All right, here's the story that he is referring to. Abraham and Sarah, when they believed the promise that God would give them a son, here's the detail you gotta get in your mind. They did not get pregnant immediately. In fact, if you go back and read the book of Genesis, there was a 25-year gap between when God made the promise in Genesis 12 that they would have a son and when Sarah actually got pregnant. Now, 25 years is a long time to wait for a son when you're a newlywed.

But when you are in your 90s, it probably feels like an eternity. And so sometime in that 25-year process, think about 15 or so years in, Sarah decided that it was time to help God out a little bit. So she brings out her household servant, Hagar, who was young and beautiful, and she says to Abraham, she said, listen, God has promised us that we'd have a son who'd give birth to a nation, and clearly that is not happening with me.

So maybe you should have one with her. Now, listen, what is she doing? She hadn't quit believing the promise. She still believes that God's going to give them a son.

She just thinks that it's on her to make it happen. In other words, she is attempting to fulfill the promise of God through a scheme of the flesh. So she brings out her beautiful servant to Abraham. Interestingly, Abraham doesn't make much of a counterargument.

He's like, okay, if you say so. He seems to have more issues here than lack of faith. But shortly thereafter, Hagar gets pregnant by Abraham, and they call their son, Abraham and Hagar's son, Ishmael.

Ishmael will himself grow up to father a great nation, but not the nation of promise. And this, the apostle Paul says, is exactly what the Galatians are doing when they try to turn to the law to bring them closer to God. He said you are attempting to fulfill the promise of God through a scheme of the flesh. You're trying to help God out. Like Sarah, you haven't stopped believing God's promise of salvation.

You just think it's on you to accomplish it. And Paul's gonna draw two really important lessons from this story of Abraham and Hagar. The first one is this. God is much abler to accomplish his promise than we are. In verse 27, Paul's gonna quote an Old Testament prophecy about Sarah from the prophet Isaiah, in which Isaiah says this.

Look at this. For Israel rejoiced childless woman, that's Sarah, unable to give birth, burst into song and shout, you who are not in labor. For the children of the desolate woman, that's Sarah, will be many more numerous than those of the woman who has a husband, which is a reference to Hagar. In other words, barren Sarah will ultimately be more fruitful than beautiful Hagar. Now you would never think that, of course, looking at the two of them. One of them looked like the ideal picture of motherhood.

She was perfect for great potential for childbearing. The other had no potential at all for childbearing, but God chose the one with no potential to accomplish his promise. And Paul says that is the good news of the gospel. God doesn't need any potential from you to work miracles in you. It's like the prophet Zechariah said, it's not by might, not by power, it's by my spirit, says the Lord.

Which means you might think that you have no potential, but it's not about you anymore. It is about Christ in you. This reminds me one of my favorite promises about the Holy Spirit. It's in Luke chapter seven, when Jesus was talking about his favorite preacher. According to Jesus, who was the greatest preacher ever to live? That's what starts with J rhymes with on the Baptist. John the Baptist is a great guest. John the Baptist was Jesus' favorite preacher. He loved John the Baptist. Well, evidently John the Baptist was preaching somewhere. And so Jesus was talking about him and he said to his disciples, surely I tell you, there's nobody born among women who is greater than John the Baptist.

He's the best of the best. Then he turns to them and he says, yet I tell you, I tell you the one who is least in my kingdom is greater than John the Baptist. Now least in my kingdom, least in my kingdom means has the least potential, right? It means you have the least spiritual gifts. It means you're the least talented. It means you're the least impressive when we look at you, right?

Least in the kingdom. There is somebody listening to me right now who is the least in the kingdom of heaven, right? Right, I mean, right now you're thinking, I think it might be me and God in heaven is going, yup, it's you. You're at the bottom of the pile. Jesus is saying, even if that were true, even if that's true of you, and even if you're correct about that, you have more potential in ministry than John the Baptist.

Why? Because you have something John the Baptist never had and that is the Holy Spirit permanently fused to your soul and that therefore it is no longer about the abilities that you bring into ministry. It is only about your availability. It is not about you anymore. It is about Christ in you.

That means it doesn't matter what you bring into this place, whether you come from the most jacked up background or your resume is a litany of failures, maybe you're a high school dropout or you've been in prison or you've had an abortion or you're a divorcee or you've been fired from your job or you've had an alcohol problem. Maybe all of those things are true of you all at once. God can still bring about his promise through you no matter how spiritually barren you feel because it's not about you. It is about Christ in you. You plus Christ equals everything, all right? Yeah, yeah, you should say amen right now. I'll say it myself, amen, all right? You see, if God can make something out of Abraham, whom the Bible describes as as good as dead, then he can make something out of you. Granddaddy Abraham has proved that God isn't done with any of us. You're listening to Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. We'll get back to today's teaching in just a moment, but I wanted to make sure that you knew that you can find Pastor J.D. on YouTube. I don't know about you, but it seems like YouTube is quickly becoming the number one choice for media in my house, and there's so much to watch, and that includes Pastor J.D.

's content. When you subscribe to his channel, J.D. Greer, you'll automatically be notified when we post new episodes of the Ask the Pastor podcast and Summit Life TV so that you can watch along as Pastor J.D. preaches. And we're always posting new YouTube shorts to give you bite-size, gospel-centered content throughout your week. Once again, subscribe to Pastor J.D. 's YouTube channel at j.d.g-r-e-e-a-r. You won't regret it. And don't forget about all of our other social media platforms as well.

Facebook, Instagram, and X. Lots of great content available, so go subscribe today. Now let's get back to today's teaching. Once again, here's Pastor J.D. Second, Paul says, what we learn is that those who are saved by grace will always be hated by those seeking salvation by the law. Verse 29, but just as then, the child born as a result of the flesh persecuted the one born as a result of the spirit, so also the same is true to now. Ishmael's descendants would become the sworn adversaries of Israel all throughout the Bible.

In almost every book of the Bible, they are the enemies of Israel, and that continues all the way down to this day. Interestingly, Muslims around the world proudly claim Ishmael as their spiritual father. And Islam is a religion that from start to finish teaches you that you are saved by obedience to the works of the law. It's how well you do and how much you do that determines whether Allah will receive you. Paul predicts that any who rely on obedience to the law whether we're talking about Judaizers in Paul's day, the Catholic church in Martin Luther's day, Muslims in our day, or even legalistic Christians in our own churches today, he predicts that they will hate and resent those who rely solely on the promise of grace for salvation because the gospel of grace says to them, all your striving, all your zeal, all your knowledge, all your works does not bring you one wick closer to God. You are powerless to do anything that accomplishes your salvation. Salvation belongs only to God and you can only receive it as a beggar by faith and receive it as a gift from him.

And see all that leads us into chapter five. For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm then and don't submit again to a yoke of slavery. Why did Christ set us free? He set us free for freedom. Freedom for what?

What's he talking about? It's the freedom of love. When you love to do something, you don't need a law to command you to do it. Last week, we talked about the dilemma of the great commandment. The dilemma of the great commandment is that we're being commanded to do something, to love God with all of our heart and love other people as much as we love ourselves. We're being commanded to do something that by definition cannot be commanded because if you love something, you don't need to be commanded to do it. And if you don't love it, then no command can actually change that. You don't ever need to be commanded not to eat or touch vomit.

You don't need a command to do that. You find it disgusting. If you encounter a pile of it out there on the sidewalk as you're leaving today, you don't try to see how close you can get to it because, ooh, I just wanna be close to it, but I don't wanna touch it because that'll break the law.

No, you don't do that. You think it's disgusting, so you naturally stay away from it. So you don't need a command to make you do what you hate to do. On the other hand, I never have to be commanded to eat prime rib. I love it.

You put it in front of me, it'll be gone in a matter of seconds. You'll see what God is wanting to do is free us so that the desires of our heart are in line with what He wants. He changes our hearts in the gospel so that we love Him, so that obeying the great commandment feels to us like freedom.

And how does He do that? He does that by faith in the gospel. So Paul says, stand firm in that faith. That's where the power is. And don't go back into the law.

Don't go back to Hagar. Scholars point out that the phrase stand firm right there is an explicitly military term. Paul is talking about fighting, fighting to stay in the faith. What he means is that unless we are actively keeping ourselves in that faith, we're gonna drift back into works righteousness or the idea that we are the ones that have to bring ourselves closer to God and we're the ones who produce spiritual life in our hearts. Martin Luther in reflection on this said that we gotta constantly preach the gospel to ourselves because our hearts are hardwired for works righteousness.

We're like a car that's severely out of alignment. The moment that you take your hands off of the wheel consciously, you will always drift off into the ditch of works righteousness. And so you've gotta constantly fight to keep yourself in the understanding that God's acceptance of you is a gift that He gave to you in Christ. Paul says, verse two, take note. I, Paul, am telling you that if you get yourselves circumcised, Christ will not benefit you at all. In other words, if you go back to trying to do something yourself to get closer to God, you're actually cutting yourself off from the power of grace.

You're turning back to Hagar. You're removing yourself from the power of the promise. In other words, he's saying you circumcisers are cutting off a lot more than you realize.

Verse six, for in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision or uncircumcision accomplices anything. What matters, all that matters is faith, working through love. That's it, that's what God is producing in you. He wants to produce in you a new heart that loves the right things. Now you ask, well, how is it there for though that faith actually in the gospel actually does produce love?

There's really two reasons. Number one, it's because it restores God to us as Father. You see, as long as you think of God mainly as a judge, you're never really gonna love Him. God wants you to learn to relate to Him as Father and the only way you can do that is for Him to remove Himself as judge and the way that He did that was by judging Jesus in your place so that there's no more judgment left for you.

The gospel restores God to us as Father. By the way, let me really quickly here deal with a myth that a lot of people seem to believe about God. They believe that God wants us to be scared of His judgment because then if we're scared of His judgment, then we'll be coerced to behave. It's like heaven is the carrot that God holds out in front of us and hell is the stick that He has behind us and this is the way that He motivates us to obey. Martin Luther called this the damnable doctrine of doubt, doubting whether or not God is gonna judge us.

He said, it is true. It is true that when you're scared of God's judgment, it will produce a surface level obedience, but underneath that thin veneer of obedience is gonna rage a heart of resentment and unbelief and anger toward God. He said, there is no way that you will actually learn to love God when you're scared of His judgment. Real love for God can only grow in the security of the love of God for you. That's what Paul is saying is true about the gospel.

God doesn't motivate us with the carrot of heaven or with the stick of hell. In fact, if you wanna know the gospel, the gospel is that God took the stick of hell and beat Jesus with it and then gave us the carrot of heaven that He deserved and gave it to us as a gift that we can only receive. The second thing is God puts His spirit of love inside of us. He puts His spirit of love inside of us and that spirit is so full of love that it just starts to exude out of you. Paul's point is you can't experience the gospel.

You just can't experience the gospel and not become a person overflowing with generosity and love. This might be a little cheesy, I admit it, but a friend of mine told me about his seven-year-old little girl who came to faith in Christ. And he said about a week or two later after she had prayed this prayer and asked Jesus to come into her heart, she comes to me and she's had this look on her face and she said, dad, I'm really confused. And he said, well, yeah? She said, well, daddy, how tall is Jesus?

And he said, I don't know, he's a grown man. He's probably about my height. Well, daddy, I mean, I'm a lot smaller.

How tall am I? He's like, you're like three foot six. Daddy, if Jesus is as big as you and I'm me, shouldn't He just kind of stick out everywhere if He's in my heart? And my friend said, he goes, I knew I had my moment right there.

And I was like, yes, He should. He should kind of stick out of every, but just not like you're thinking. It's just love for God and love for others will just become part of your life that will start to characterize you because Jesus Christ cannot be inside of you. His spirit cannot be in your heart without other people just seeing it everywhere. So Paul says then, verse 16, I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. Flesh right here is a kind of a confusing word in English.

In Greek, it's the word sarx. We translate it flesh, but don't think of it as Paul saying the body is bad and the soul is good. The reason I know that is because in the list he's about to give us of what the flesh, the fruits of the flesh, he's gonna list a bunch of things that have nothing to do with the body and have everything to do with the heart. And in another place, Paul is gonna tell us to actually use our bodies to glorify God. So he's not saying that the body's bad, the soul is good. Flesh or sarx, it simply means that part of you that is not yet brought underneath the control of the spirit, the part that the spirit has yet to fill with resurrection power and renew. And he says that part of you was always gonna be at war with the spirit part for the flesh desires what is against the spirit and the spirit desires what is against the flesh. These are opposed to each other, they hate each other so that you can't actually do what you wanna do.

You've always got a war going on among you. Now he says the works of the flesh are obvious. He's gonna give us a list of 16 different things here that characterize our flesh.

They're kind of in three or four major groupings. The first three have to do with sexuality. He says sexual immorality, that's a Greek word porneia and it just means any sex outside of a man and woman in a marriage relationship. Moral impurity, that is the word akatharsia and it refers to things that are unnatural outside of God's original design for sex. Promiscuity, agelcia, that just means things that are out of control where you can't control your sexual desires. The next two words that he uses are about religious corruption, idolatry when you love something else more than you love God.

Sorcery is when you do things to try to manipulate God to be on your team whether that's good luck charms or word of faith teaching or whatever it is. Then he gives us eight words, eight words that describe our relational conflicts, hatred, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy. Then he ends off the list with three words that refer to, let's just call it substance abuse where you feel like you need a hit of something in order to stay alive. I gotta have that dopamine release or I just feel bored and empty. So that might be drugs, it might be alcohol, it might be pornography, it might be likes on Facebook or impulsive shopping or you name it.

I just gotta have something because without that I don't actually feel alive. I'm warning you about these things as I warned you before that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. That we're practiced there means not occasional lapses where you fall back into it but it means a life that is defined where you pursue those things, where you just got to build a life around pursuing these. If you delight in these things and if you are pursuing those 16 things you have no part in the kingdom of God. The fruits of the flesh.

We want to run far away from them. This has been a convicting message titled Freed to Be Alive. Don't miss tomorrow when Pastor JD Greer gives us the nine things that describe the character of a Christian.

You're listening to Summit Life. Okay, so Pastor JD, we've been in the book of Galatians here for a while now. Can you tell us why are we studying it right now?

You know, that's a great question, Molly. And what you find is that throughout history people don't change. And the same things that they had questions about and struggled with are actually the same things that we have questions about. In Galatia around the year 50 AD the church faced a choice between what Paul called two different gospels. And one gospel was anchored in the self. I can change myself. I can fix what's broken in my life. The other gospel was one where you look to and depend on God's grace, His Spirit, and His power.

Those are the same two choices we have today, Molly. Even in churches. Galatians is a book about the Holy Spirit. It's a book about justification by faith and the connection that has to the fullness of the Spirit and the difference He makes in your life. And that's why we're providing a Bible study by our friend, the late Dr. Tim Keller that will help you get even more out of it than what you're hearing on the air. So reach out to us.

Just go to We would love to give you a copy of this book. We'd love to send you a copy of Pastor Tim Keller's study through the book of Galatians called Gospel Matters. None of the ministry that we do here would be possible without your generosity.

These featured resources, like Pastor Tim's seven-part study in Galatians, these are our way to thank you while simultaneously investing in your relationship with God. To give, call us now at 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.

Or you can give online at That's I'm Molly Vidovitch. Be sure to listen again Thursday as Pastor J.D.

shares a study into the true character of a Christ follower. That's right here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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