Keeping Freedom

As we approach Independence Day in the United States, I like to think about the Declaration of Independence and the inalienable rights that it acknowledges God has endowed for all people. The founding fathers of the United States placed their emphasis on freedom. Even continuing to today, it’s still somewhat of an experiment: Just how free can a people be? The concern is, of course, that when people have too much freedom, it results in anarchy. Just look at a room full of uncontrolled children to see how freedom can go wrong!

Our Scripture passage from Galatians also speaks to this tension. The body of Christ at Galatia had Gentiles coming into the fellowship, which is good, but they were bringing their unregulated lifestyles with them, which was introducing chaos into the body. In a case like this, humanity’s first instinct is to start making rules, setting laws, trying to bring the unruly members under control. But Paul says, this isn’t necessarily the answer. He challenges the Galatian church that it’s not about rules and laws, but rather about freedom.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1

There’s a one-two punch to the Gospel, the coming of Jesus Christ. The first punch is the Cross of Jesus Christ, which deals with sin and judgment and wipes our slates clean. Through this, we are set free from the fear of judgment and condemnation (Romans 8:1). And this is wonderful, but it can’t stop there. We don’t just leave it at freedom. “Woohoo! Eat, drink, and be merry! Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!” No, unmitigated freedom results in licentiousness, which is a problem. We may try to combat the licentiousness with law, but that is trying to introduce an external force to solve an internal problem. The problem of licentiousness is in the heart, and that can’t be solved through regulation or governance. It never has worked, and it never will.

This is where the second punch comes in. God deals with the internal problems of the heart through the infusing of the heart of every Christian with his own Holy Spirit. The fundamental solution to all of the problems in our society and world is not a legal or political one, but rather an internal transformation that comes by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit inside each believer. This is how a people and a nation can be transformed and live in a state of harmony.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Galatians 5:16-18

The law and the flesh feed off of each other. If you really want to go to war against the flesh, you don’t do it with law, you do it with Spirit.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Galatians 5:24

This is the urgency of the mission of the Church in our day. We don’t need more political solutions. We need the Gospel to spread throughout our nation and world. We need the Spirit of God directing people to live together in righteousness and peace.

Each of us are individually called to apply to our own lives the one-two punch of the Gospel — to live in the freedom that comes from being forgiven, and to walk in the Spirit of God and bear his holy fruit. If we can get that into our own hearts and the hearts of our children, the strong hands of rules, laws, and government become unnecessary. Instead, we will have a taste of heaven on earth. This is what the Lord is offering his Church, both now and forever. Accept it today.

Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship

Now Available!

Let’s face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives—to backslide. We all are faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of
the church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship.

Click the image above to watch the video.

Announcement: A New Ministry Call

From St. Peter's, Lake Mary to St. John the Divine, Houston

Below is my letter announcing my call to St. John the Divine Church in Houston, TX:

29 June 2017

Dear St. Peter’s Church Family and Friends,

Grace and peace to you through God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

After a full and fruitful ministry of experiencing and sharing the joy and love of Jesus Christ with you, I am announcing my resignation as the Rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. My last Sunday with you will be August 13, 2017—exactly 16 years. I have accepted the call to be the Associate Rector focused on teaching and formation at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas.

These years with you have been a grand venture in faith. We began our time together in grief as the nation faced the horror of the September 11, 2001 attacks. As a nation, we went to war against terrorism. As a church, we strengthened our faith and resolve in Christian witness knowing that while our country responded in war with military might against the ‘evil doers’ who caused such harm, we engaged in spiritual warfare with spiritual might against the forces of hell itself.

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. –Matthew 16:18

Beloved of St. Peter’s, you are the Rock. Your faith and confession in Jesus Christ is rock solid. I have been continually amazed at how the Lord has used you to tear down the gates of hell. You have engaged in gospel mission to Honduras, hurricane relief in Pass Christian, MS, homeless ministry in Sanford and evangelism and Christian formation in Lake Mary, FL. God has been and is doing great things in and through you to bring about the reign of the Kingdom of God in our time. It has been my privilege, honor and love to be your Rector standing with you in faithful confession on the rock of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

So, in mid-August, my son Chase will be heading off to college at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Brooke, Ashton, Saxon and I will be moving that week to Houston. St. John the Divine has envisioned what they call an “audacious strategy” to develop a “world-class teaching center for faith formation and ministry development”. This is a very exciting challenge for me to serve with my spiritual gifts and calling. The Lord is doing great things, and we are humbled and privileged to be invited to serve in this new context.

I ask for your prayers in this transition and please know that you will always continue in my heart and prayers. I have nothing but gratitude and love for all of you and for God’s abundant life of grace with which we have communed together. We are truly blessed by you.

I am faithfully yours in Christ Jesus our Lord,

Charlie Holt+