“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” – John 8:31-32
When I was a teenager, I felt that abiding in God’s Word was enslaving. I believed that if I didn’t read a certain amount, pray the right prayers, and live a perfectly moral life, then I could not be a Christian. My problem was not that the Christian life is enslaving (because it isn’t), my problem was that I had a poor understanding of what made me a Christian.
Our human nature desperately wants us to think of God as a demanding boss, rather than a loving Father. If we see God as a boss, we live our lives trying to earn His favor through our good deeds and holy lives. And then when we think we’ve accomplished that job, we believe that we deserve to be paid for our work. Usually the “payments” we expect are things like a pain-free or hassle-free life, status, wealth, exemption from temptation…we want things done our own way, because “we deserve it.”
In reality, God is our loving Father who has adopted us, through no merit of our own, but purely by His grace. By faith in His Son’s perfect work on the cross, we are made sons and daughters of God! We no longer have to earn God’s favor; instead, God favors us through His Son Jesus Christ. That is so freeing, and it is such Good News!
In that light, abiding in God’s Word is no longer enslaving. In the book Thank, Praise, Serve, and Obey, author Will Weedon says, “In Christ, we are free to have the eager eyes of children watching our ‘older Brother’ and ‘dear Father’ and learning to do what they do, to follow in the patterns they teach us, and thus to allow the habits of godliness to form us and shape us.” Assured of God’s love for us in Christ, we grow as His child through His Word.
That happens in many ways. It happens when we read our Bibles and other devotionals and spend time in prayer on our own and with our families, and we grow together as the family of God when we open His Word on Sunday mornings in church. This is also the time of year when many other opportunities for you to grow are made available at church. I encourage you all to consider where you can be involved, not because you are a slave being coerced into service, but because you are a valued member of God’s family in Christ! Here are some of the activities starting this fall:
- Adult Sunday School: This fall, we’re offering three classes for you to choose from:
- “Autopsy of a Deceased Church” – Preventative medicine has strong support in the medical industry. Early testing can detect minor health issues before they become major medical challenges. Even the not so comfortable procedures can ward off potentially life-threatening maladies. It’s just good medicine. This fall, Pastor Peter will host an 8-week adult Sunday School class using Thom S. Rainer’s book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church. Even though the title is a bit unnerving, the book is a helpful preventative medicine tool for healthy congregations to remain healthy as well as providing direction to ailing congregations. Should you be interested in this class, please notify Pastor Peter so that a copy of the book is reserved for you. – 9AM in the Fellowship Hall
- “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World” – Mary Ann Ward is teaching the Women’s Sunday School class this fall, using this book that examines these well-known sisters and personal friends of Jesus to encourage us in this busy world. – 9AM in the Quilting/Confirmation Room
- The Joy of Piety – A focus on “wholesome Christian piety” has been a major part of how many Free Lutherans describe themselves. Certainly, we believe in living a life that is pleasing to God, but many people today cringe at the word, because it has been used to describe a more legalistic approach to the Christian life. So what does piety mean? And what are the things that mark the life of a Christian? Pastor Micah will lead this class as we examine the joys of a life lived in Christ. – 9AM in the Overflow Room
- Midweek Bible Study: Join us on Wednesday, September 11, at 6:30 pm as we begin a study through the Gospel of John. John is usually the first book in the Bible that I recommend to new Christians to read. It is jam-packed with powerful truths and Gospel promises that every Christian needs to hear. If you can’t make it every week, please join us when you can!
- Volunteer opportunities: There are lots of opportunities for you to serve our congregation this fall, and that’s one way we grow in the Lord also! If you’re interested in helping with Sunday School, Kids’ Club, After School Program, the nursery, our music ministry, quilting, or general fix-it projects around the church, let us know in the church office so that we can direct you to the right person to talk to! Maybe you have an idea about a way you could serve others here at St. Paul’s. If so, let me know. I’d love to hear it!
I love summer and I’m sad to see it go, but I’m excited to get into our fall schedule and spend this time abiding in God’s Word with you!
Your Brother in Christ,