BSSM2 sermon on striving

During the 2nd year of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, CA, our class of 750 students has been given countless opportunities to grow and learn. One such way was by studying our assigned scripture verse for 3 hours, researching the historical background of the verse, creating notes, and then writing a 9-11 minute preach. To top it off, we presented our sermon to a class of about 45 students.
While some of my classmates found the short timeframe to be difficult and wished we were given more time, but I was of the opinion that the shorter the timeframe, the easier. Whatever the case, I would like to share with you the preach I wrote and presented to my class since many of my family and friends were not able to hear it.

“I was assigned Galatians 3:26-29, which says: ‘So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.’

Like me, you may be wondering what this means. It may sound pretty straightforward but let’s unpack Paul’s exhortation to the church of Galatia as I understand it.

Verse 24 says, ‘So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.  Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.’ Put simply – ‘the law was our guardian – it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.’ Verse 25 says ‘and now that…faith has come, we no longer need the law….’

It sounds to me like the Galatian church has forgotten where they stand in freedom and grace since Jesus’ crucifixion.
I believe they have, at least to an extent, slipped back into their old ways of religion under the law, therefore, Paul is writing to them, explaining that Jesus’ death replaced their need for the law; the veil or the “wall” that stood between them and God no longer separates them.
Christ bridged the gap and by the Holy Spirit, they can now approach God however they are: Jew or gentile, slave or free, male or female…as children and heirs of Christ.
Just as parents welcome their children into their arms, and show no favoritism, neither does God.

Paul harps on the law being abolished; works and religion are null and void, and that it has been replaced with faith, son ship, and heir-ship.
We can see that Paul is frustrated that even after Jesus’ crucifixion, the church of Galatia is still practicing the law and trying to succeed by their own efforts/works instead of living in the grace of the Father.
The Galatians were still depending on the law and not moving in the Holy Spirit after Christ’s death.
Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, the law has been abolished and we, through faith, are free to be like children, sons of God.

How would this apply to us today? What does the modern-day law look like?
I believe since the beginning of time, religion has always been rooted in performance, which is what the law was. The Pharisees were the best law-followers of their time and they were proud to be, but they were also the most religious. They took the law and their duties so seriously so that they missed Jesus!! While it is ironic, it is incredibly sad.
They became experts of the law only to miss the One they devoted their lives to follow and study.

How often do we step back into the law? While our modern “law” does not consist of animal sacrifices to atone for sin or staying within a mile of our homes on the Sabbath, we still revert to the law of religion and performance. Religion is working for something we already have. I believe it started in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve picked and ate the fruit of the tree – they worked for something they already had – and it cost them everything.
If we do not understand our identity or inheritance, we tend to work for what we already have.

One example of a modern law is performance and striving.
Striving is working too hard for something we already have.

I grew up on a small farm in rural Pennsylvania where I learned the values of integrity, respect and hard work. The world owes no one anything. If you want something, you work hard and earn it – that goes for everything in life. But somewhere along the way, I learned how to strive. As Kris Vallotton says, ‘your greatest weakness is often your greatest strength overemphasize.’

I was great at putting my head down and plowing on ahead, doing whatever needed to be done. I was proud to be a great worker and of a job well-done. But somewhere along the way, I began to measure my worth by my work ethic. I forgot my identity and authority. Anytime I felt inadequate or inferior, I stepped it up a notch. I worked my butt off to prove my worth, but it was all performance.

In college, I took the maximum amount of classes, worked 40+ hours a week, planned my wedding, tried to have a social life, went to church and Bible studies, and maintained a long-distance relationship with my soon-to-be husband…getting just enough sleep to survive on. Yet somehow, I managed to be on the dean’s list with a high grade every semester. Striving was the name of my game, but I had no idea that I was striving or that my worth was married to my work ethic.
Striving was my default, following me into my marriage, and my relationship with God.
If I felt I somehow didn’t measure up to my husband’s expectations in some way, I would immediately reverted to striving.

Before I knew it, I was in BSSM 1st year, and tried to be everything for everyone, including trying to play both roles at home. Even though my husband worked 10 hour days in Chico, CA (an hour and a half from home), I had 3 part-time jobs, a hectic school schedule, and mountains of homework, yet wouldn’t let him help me with the housework. I was slowly killing myself because my worth was found in my work ethic, not in who I was as a person, friend, wife, or daughter.
The first day of BSSM 2nd year, God showed me my destructive pattern of striving and that I was running myself into the ground. I realized that no one expects as much from you as you do. Especially not God.
I firmly believe that striving is religion, and it is killing believers all around the world! Why do we work for acceptance when we already have it? Why do we strive for favor when it was already given to us? Why do we labor for forgiveness when we have been forgiven since Christ’s death 2,000 years ago?

Seeing that the law no longer works, God sent Jesus to abolish the law and bring His people into a covenant of relationship instead of duty. The Galatians seem to not have understood the concept of grace.

How often do you slip into striving and working instead of abiding in the rest of grace?
If we are bent on living a life of striving and performance, what good did Jesus’ death really do us?
Through Jesus’ death, God tore the veil and extended His hand to the earth. Are we really so proud and ignorant that we slap away His hand that extends grace, and toil in vain to live up to an impossible standard on our own? A standard we set for ourselves nonetheless!

I think we, like the Galatians, can forget our identity as Sons and Daughters of Christ.
How many times have we felt powerless in a situation and forgot that we are powerful heirs to the kingdom? We switch into performance because we forget our identity and worth. Just like Paul, it is also our responsibility to remind others in the Body of Christ, of their power and authority, and remind each other to stop striving and simply grab hold of God’s extended hand of grace.

Christians have great privileges under the gospel, and are no longer confined under the law and performance.
In what ways are we still performing as if under the law?
Clothing ourselves in Christ isn’t an outward manifestation, but an inward, heart change. When we feel ourselves slipping back into striving, we need to stop, put on Christ (change our hearts and refocus on Him), and take another step in faith, reminding ourselves of our son ship in God through Christ.
What heart changes must we make to live fully in faith instead of performance?

God gives us unending grace, acceptance, and unconditional love. It is His joy to extend grace and freedom to us. In return, He gets to have a 2-way relationship with us, unhindered by the law.
To strive and take things back into our hands is telling Jesus his sacrifice was worthless and we are too good for his gift of grace. He doesn’t see our shortcomings as flaws, but as opportunities to grow and learn.
In the same way, a parent is never angry when a 12 month old baby falls. Instead, they pick the child back up, hold their hand, and say ‘try again, sweetheart, I’m right here. You can do it.’ Not, ‘Stupid kid, you walked 3 steps yesterday, what’s your problem now, gosh?’

Striving and performance is not healthy, and it is not kingdom. Do not be like the Galatians who slipped back into the law after Christ extended freedom and faith.
We are not above grace. Let Jesus help you in your mess and process.

I would challenge you to take a few minutes and ask Holy Spirit where you have been striving lately.

And what areas do you need to let go of and ask him to take back the reins?”

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