1. Freedom

    April 25, 2024 by Dale Thackrah


    The concept of freedom is at the very center of what makes the gospel “good news.” Not only have we, as Christians, been set free from our bondage to selfishness, but we have also been released into a freedom that is focused on serving Christ and others.

    The Apostle Paul addresses the topic of freedom in several of his epistles in the New Testament. From those letters, there are at least four aspects of freedom worthy of our consideration:

    Freedom from the Law

    First, Paul’s teaching clearly distinguishes between the Old Testament law, which once bound believers, and the freedom found in Christ. This stark contrast underscores the transformative power of Christ’s sacrifice and the shift in believers’ responsibilities. He emphasizes that believers are no longer under the rituals and regulations of the Mosaic Law, but rather, are now under grace through faith in Jesus Christ. We are called to live by the Spirit and in obedience to Christ.

    Paul often wrote about freedom in his letters to the early Christian churches. He stressed the concept of spiritual freedom in Christ, emphasizing that the constraints of sin and legalistic rules no longer bind believers. Instead, they are free to live in obedience to God and to serve others in love.

    In his letter to the Galatians, Paul declared that, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). He went on to caution against using this freedom as an excuse for sinful behavior, and instead, urged believers to live by the Spirit and to bear the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:13–26).

    Freedom to Love and Serve

    Paul also wrote about the importance of using freedom to serve others and build up Christ’s body. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he taught that believers should use their freedom not to indulge their own desires, but to consider the needs of others and to strive for the common good (1 Cor 10:23–33). Believers are not just called, but are responsible, to use their freedom to serve one another in love, and to build up Christ’s body, thereby fulfilling their purpose as servants of God.

    Scripture speaks extensively about the importance of love and service to others. Jesus summarized the entire law in two commandments: to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:37–40). This demonstrates that love is at the core of Christian belief and practice.

    Regarding freedom to love and serve, Galatians 5:13 states, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” This verse highlights that our freedom in Christ is not an excuse to indulge in selfish desires but rather a call to serve others in love.

    Additionally, 1 Peter 4:10–11 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

    The Bible emphasizes that our freedom in Christ enables us to love and serve others selflessly, allowing the using of our gifts and talents to glorify God and benefit those around us. Paul’s writings on freedom emphasize the transformative power of Christ’s sacrifice and the responsibility that believers have to live in accordance with the Spirit, serving others and building up the church. By embracing this freedom in Christ, believers can experience true liberation from sin and live with purpose and meaning in their lives.

    Freedom in Christ

    Next, Paul teaches that through faith in Christ, believers are set free from the power of sin and death. They are no longer slaves to their sinful nature but are significantly empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a life of righteousness and holiness. This emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit reinforces the concept of freedom in Christ and its importance in believers’ lives.

    The Bible teaches that freedom in Christ is a central aspect of the Christian faith. Here are some other key verses that discuss this theme:

    John 8:36 – “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Jesus himself declares that true freedom comes from being set free by Him, indicating that believers can experience true liberation and freedom through faith in Him, which brings them joy and peace.

    Romans 8:1–2 – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” This passage highlights that through Jesus, believers are freed from the condemnation of sin and the consequences of spiritual death.

    2 Corinthians 3:17 – “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” This verse underscores that the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers brings about true freedom and empowerment to live according to God’s will.

    1 Peter 2:16 – “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” This verse strongly emphasizes believers’ responsibility to use their freedom to serve and honor God, rather than indulge in sinful behavior. This stress on responsibility underlines the importance of living in obedience to God and serving others in love.

    With these passages in mind, Scripture is clear: True freedom in Christ is not just about personal liberty, but also about living in obedience to God, serving others in love, and fulfilling the purpose for which believers have been called.

    Freedom from Fear

    Lastly, the Apostle Paul teaches that believers have been set free from the fear of condemnation and judgment because of their faith in Christ. This means that we can approach God confidently and boldly, knowing that we are justified by faith and not by our works.

    One of the most well-known verses about freedom from fear in the Bible is found in 2 Timothy 1:7, which states, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” This verse emphasizes that as believers, we are not meant to live in fear, but rather in faith, power, love, and a sound mind.

    The Bible encourages us, as believers, to trust in God and find peace in His presence, knowing that He is always with us and will never cease to help us overcome our fears. This points us to the reality that true Christian freedom flows from the transformative power of Christ’s sacrifice, and produces within us a desire to obey God from a heart of gratitude for the grace we have received.

  2. Press On

    February 15, 2024 by Dale Thackrah

    Press On

    “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:12–14).

    Living on this planet can be tricky, even in the best circumstances. The pressures of life, the challenges of relationships, and the process of aging can weigh us down, discourage us, and even pull us into a depressive state. We can focus on our past and present to such an extent that we lose sight of our future. However, we must be diligent in reminding ourselves that we, as Christians, have the Word of God that guides us and fuels us to press on toward our ultimate hope: An eternity with the triune God.

    We All Struggle

    Anyone who tells you that they don’t struggle emotionally, physically, or even spiritually, is not being truthful, which, ironically, means they struggle to speak the truth. I recently went through a season of struggle, doubting my suitability in my current ministry role. For clarity, I wasn’t struggling or questioning my call; I have never been more affirmed or confident in that call, but more about my ability to lead in our ever-changing and growing ministry environment. Did I have what it took to lead a group of people I love to where I knew Jesus wanted me to take them? More specifically, had I followed Jesus to where He wanted me to go, that would indeed allow me to lead others to that same place?

    The Warmth of Truth

    My favorite time of year in Arizona is the Winter, when calm and sometimes cold nights allow me to sit outside by my firepit on my back patio, listen to music, consider the ministry tasks in front of me, and think about God’s goodness. A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about my suitability to lead, and God reminded me of a few things that brought me to that awfully familiar, yet sweet place of repentance. On that calm night, the Lord reminded me of my why; why I serve in his local church and the why of my calling. Not shockingly, the why had nothing to do with me or my suitability, Only his. Here is my list of why I serve Jesus:

    He Became Sin

    “For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).

    Jesus is the only perfect man that has ever lived. He did what Adam (or I) could not do; he lived an acceptable life to God—a life of perfect obedience and perfect worship. He didn’t do that for his sake, but for me and you.

    I serve Jesus because He became sin.

    He Forgave Me

    “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:14).

    If I were to stand before God, on my own merit and works in this life, I would be found guilty and sentenced to an eternity separated from his holiness. But I have been delivered from this fate through the life, blood, and resurrection of Jesus.

    I serve Jesus because he forgave me.

    He Adopted Me

    “In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Eph 1:5–6).

    If I were only to have been forgiven of my sins and saved from an eternity separated from God, I would be content and thankful. However, after being pardoned for my sins in the criminal courtroom of God’s justice, Jesus walked me across the hall into the family court of Heaven, and he then petitioned the family court to adopt me as his son. I am forever a child of God because of what Jesus has done for me.

    I serve Jesus because he adopted me.

    He Called Me

    “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” (1 Cor 7:17a).

    All of us within the body of Christ have a unique and specific role. The Apostle Paul calls each of us to realize and function within our assigned roles (1 Cor 12). For me, that role is as a pastor. He has called me to protect and shepherd his sheep. He has both called me to lead and to follow.

    I serve Jesus because he has called me.

    He Guides Me

    “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you”  (Ps 32:8).

    Before he ascended into Heaven, Jesus promised his disciples that he would not leave them alone. He assured them that after departing from them physically, he would indeed send the Helper, the Holy Spirt:

    “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).

    I serve Jesus because he guides me.

    He Sustains Me

    “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved”  (Ps 55:22).

    I have been a Christian now for almost 28 years. And the one continuous lesson I keep learning is that when I attempt to operate in my power, I end up tired, lost, and lonely. Sadly, I keep relearning this truth over and over again. Even though my faithfulness sometimes wanes, the faithfulness of Jesus in all his promises to me never has. The reality is that I am weaker than I realize, and prone to wander far too often, and yet he continues to remind me of his mission for me. He brings me back and fills me with clarity when I lose direction and focus.

    I serve Jesus because he sustains me.

    My Life is Forfeit

    “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it’  (Matt 16:24–25).

    As Christians, our lives no longer belong to us but to the One who purchased them. Paul states, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:22–23).

    I serve Jesus because I am a slave.

  3. Created To Work

    October 5, 2023 by Dale Thackrah

    Created to Work

    Work can be arduous, physically painful, and emotionally taxing. For this reason, work is despised by many, and avoided by even more. It is often seen as a means to an end within a culture that promotes leisure, self-pleasure, and play. A couple of old axioms I remember hearing since childhood are, “I work so I can play,” and “I don’t live to work; I work to live.” However, a close reading of Scripture would suggest that we live to work; or at least, we should. It is often wrongly concluded that work resulted from the fall of man and is, therefore, part of the curse. In reality, work was given to man well before the fall, and only became toilsome afterward. As Genesis 2:15 teaches, God intended for us to work from the beginning: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work and keep it.” So, because work itself is not part of the curse, it’s important for us to understand God’s purposes for it. Here are a few thoughts to consider:

    We Work for God

    The first obvious motivation to work is to make much of God. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, the Apostle Paul writes, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Paul addresses the topic of work again as he writes to the Colossians, saying, “Whatever you do, work heartily for the Lord and not for men” (Col 3:23). As image-bearers of God, it is also important to note that God, too, worked. We see this first in the book of Genesis through the creation account, entering the seventh day of creation: “And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all the work He had done” (Gen 2:2). So, we work because God works. As King Solomon states, “Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established” (Prov 16:3).

    We Work to Develop Character

    A further dive into the book of Proverbs reveals the wisdom of a good work ethic, as opposed to the foolishness of those who avoid working or are dishonest. In Proverbs 11:3, Solomon writes, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.” In another proverb, Solomon says, “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense” (Prov 12:11). It is apparent from Proverbs that God honors the slow and steady pursuit of work: “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it” (Prov 13:11). Another proverb aimed at the character of working honestly is Proverbs 16:11: “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.” While it’s true that working provides a means to survival and that income and other earthly resources are gained through working, it is also clear that God intends work to provide spiritual blessings: “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” (Prov 13:4). Therefore, it is evident that a good work ethic is both pleasing to God and advantageous to man, while dishonest or lazy work, in the end, will bring ruin to any man.

    We Work for Our Witness

    Returning to the Apostle Paul, we also see work as evidence of a godly life. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul says, “And aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands as we instructed you” (1 Thess 4:11).  Apparently, because it needed to be addressed again, Paul in his second letter to the Thessalonians, had more to say about his own witness of work, as well as how to treat those among them who didn’t want to work:

    “Now we command you, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living” (2 Thess 3:6–12).

    In conclusion, work is a God-ordained, God-glorifying venture that builds character in the Christian, and aids our witness for the gospel to the world. I hope that this very brief look at the subject of work will spark a desire in you to study the topic further. May you be blessed and be a blessing through your efforts to “work heartily for the Lord” (Eph 3:23).