After last week….are you feeling free?… have you been exercising your freedom to fulfill your purpose this week? or are you still chained to self-imposed restrictions…? Selfishness? Fear? Or a need to conform?
Today is chapter 6
Let’s read it together…. we will need to reread the last few verses of Chapter 5 in order to give us some context…
From Galatians 5 vs 22-26 Especially vs 26…
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Paul is finished with all the theology, now he is working on the practical working out of our faith…the things we deal with day to day… so I would like to walk through the passage bit by bit this morning to see what we can learn…. It might seem a bit disconnected, but these are real ..practical, individual thoughts….Things that will guide us as we look to walk in step with the spirit…
It is quite amazing how much of ‘practical Christianity’ is about relationships with people… peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness…….. conceited, provoking and envying each other…
And the second thought from these verses here is, how much the way we treat other people, is dependent on the view we hold of ourselves …..
A conceited person…someone who can only see the World through their own eyes…., the person who thinks too much of themselves…….. Ironically they tend to envy others… they tend to provoke other people to get a reaction from them….
And we will see how people walking in step with the spirit treat other people as we go through this morning……
As a person who deals with hundreds of children every day I can tell you that this is my experience…. The child who is in trouble regularly, very often, can only see the world from their own view point, where they are the centre of everything….. they can’t see things from other people’s view point….they do not take other people into account……..… Is this true for adults too?....100%
This also has very little to do with achievement……highly successful people are just as likely to be conceited as those with low life achievement….
Read chapter 6
Ch 6 then starts on a most interesting note…. Of all the things to talk about… ‘Brothers and sister, if someone is caught in sin….’……What??? we are supposed to be Christians… what does he mean? caught in sin?…. Really?
The fact is……. Christians sin…….sometimes their sin is big enough that everyone gets to know about it, it breaks relationships… it happens…
There are explanations elsewhere on how the process of restoration works and this is worth a look at some point…… for now it is sufficient to point out that there will be times when there is sin in our church community that requires intervention…. …. …Is it embarrassing? Yes!!!…for all involved….. do we feel like running away? Yes….. do we feel like condemning? Possibly….
Paul says…this will happen!.. and this person needs to be restored….Christian forgiveness and all that…….. BUT.. what is interesting here is that responsibility for restoration does not fall on the person committing the sin….did you see that?
While clearly before the person can be restored they need to want things to be made right, there needs to be repentance etc…. but if someone in our midst has sinned to the extent that the relationship is broken………… it is the responsibility of those who are walking close to God in the spirit to do their best to get that person to a place where they can be restored….. to point out the sin…. To instruct.. to love….to pray for them…. To lift up and … to forgive…to disciple
God certainly has a way of turning the World’s ways upside down…. I did nothing wrong, but I must go and help this silly person (who is always messing up) to get things back on track again….. I have better things to do…. Of course I am happy to give them a lecture, that would make me feel good…. But Paul says that I must work hard and take on the responsibility of restoration…and I should do it gently???? NOGAL!!
'the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control'
You and I ……we are responsible to each other….but more than that we are responsible for each other….. You can’t just write me off…. You must come along side me and restore me back into fellowship… an equal in Christ….How do you feel about this????
All this and we have not finished verse 1 yet….it goes on.. ”But watch yourselves or you also may be tempted” ….. Paul reminds us that if we expose ourselves to sin… even with the best intentions… we are making ourselves vulnerable to temptation… my immediate response to this is to reflect on how weak we are in the flesh…. I am reminded again about ch5 where we are exhorted to walk in the spirit…this is the safest place we can be…..
Sometimes we feel like we have sin licked…. Other people are weak and fall for sin….. while we are on Earth…(Paul reminds us)…..you are susceptible to temptation….. avoid any sin at every opportunity….. Peter says that Satan prowls around like a roaring lion….
Verse 2 Carry each others burdens… (clearly restoring people is a great example of carrying burdens…)
There is a problem with burdens of course!!… they are heavy… they require sacrifice…. Shew!! I have my own problems.. thank you very much…….. but the heaviness of the burdens is not the most difficult part….
When we are aware of burdens, we, as a community, are actually pretty good at helping out… over the past two years large sums of money were donated by you, to help out those in need…. We arrange counseling service available to those in need… Maurice’s chief job is to be there in a pastoral sense for the people of Medway….. our supper list works well…. Our prayer warriors are amazing……we are good at carrying burdens…
The most difficult part of carrying burdens is actually getting close enough to people….it is having deep enough relationships….. to be aware of what the burdens are that people are carrying….
We are too good perhaps at hiding our own problems….I bet that most of us have things we are carrying on our own… others could help, but we hold our cards close to our chests and deal with these things ourselves….. As Christians in a community like this we have to work to get to know each other…some people are good at it and they work the people on a Sunday morning… they have meals with people or invite folk to coffee dates…. As a church we are planning to start groups to encourage us to meet together again in homes….. so that we can get to know each other better again….so that we can share our burdens….
As if it wasn’t difficult enough…..COVID has made us so much more insular… those difficult conversations require a closeness ….a trust…. A level of relationship we can’t get just on a Sunday morning…..
This is important stuff….carrying each other’s burdens is not just a nice thing to do… or one instruction for good Christians amongst a whole lot of other ….and to emphasize this verse 2 carries on…..”in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”….
Who should be fulfilling the law of Christ? The good Christians?…. The mature Christians? Surely if we claim to be Christians…followers of Christ… the first law we should all be fulfilling is the law of Christ?…….(whatever that is)….. no one can possibly call themselves a Christian and be exempt from it….. we are all responsible for carrying others burdens….
There is no firm explanation about what the ‘law of Christ’ is …. And in the absence of a direct explanation I would think that we can quite comfortably assume that the law of Christ is this….”to love one another as I have loved you…..’
Paul is telling us that the one law that Jesus laid down and it was just discussed in chapter 5…… can be fulfilled by carrying each other’s burdens…
Can we see how life as a Christian …walking in the spirit… is so much about relationships with other people…..???
In verse 3 Paul makes a statement which may seem obvious ……”If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves”… looking around these days common sense, they say, is not so common…. But Paul is not speaking to willfully deluded people…. He is speaking to Christians…. He needs to say it because he believes that many of us, have an incorrect perception of who we are….
The average person overestimates their achievement by 30%....30%...... even worse…. the Dunning- Kruger effect tells us that the worse we are at a task the more we overestimate our ability….. we don’t know how bad we are….there ore we think we’re good….
Paul says that this over estimation of ourselves leads to a destructive pride…. He warns these local Christians to test themselves… to get a reality check….
When a Roman general had won some epic campaign he would be paraded on a gilded chariot, up and down the streets of Rome and the crowds would cheer and call out his name……but I am told that a slave would stand behind him in the chariot too and would whisper in the general’s ear…. Memento Mori….’ Remember that you die’…. That’s a reality check…
These are important things, but Paul urges all of us to test our own actions…. He slips in some very wise advice about how to test ourselves…. He says that we should not test ourselves against others…. We have all been given different talents and abilities, we have different strengths and opportunities….. It is very silly to compare ourselves with others….
we are required to test our own actions…against what measure?? …. Well, a great start is our willingness and success with carrying the burdens of others… this is after all the fulfilment of the ‘Law of Christ” and something we can all do… and we can all do it according to our abilities and resources…… right now…. Am I carrying anyone else’s burden?...maybe two or three people…. A great way to measure….
An interesting point about pride here…. We see pride as bad, a sin, but pride in something false is what is bad…. We have every right to feel proud about our position and our achievements in Christ…. For example…
Verse 6 seems to say that I should get paid for preaching, but Peter is in charge of the finances, so that won’t happen…..more seriously this is a verse which informs us that it is the duty of the people in the church to pay those who have dedicated their lives to teaching God’s word….. There are people who wake up every morning and spend the whole day doing God’s work in this church…it is our duty to contribute towards their living expenses….. Thank you for your generosity….
Verse 7.. If only the World would acknowledge ….and people would use this verse as their guide…. 7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
This has to be one of the most basic, yet unpopular, tenants of life….. People don’t like to hear it and really struggle to see it…..especially when things are not going well..
Too often we hear people complaining about their lot in life, but we have all made poor decisions and the consequences of those decisions haunt us ……or lift us up for the rest of our lives…. we cannot blame anyone else for the consequences of our poor decisions…… Our lives are also in many ways not just a consequence of our decisions but of those around us….. there is a place for bemoaning how other people’s decisions have affected us,…
- A parent who let us down
- A spouse who went into debt
- A child who chose the wrong path
- A business partner who ran off with the savings
- A drunk motorist….
All these people’s decisions have an influence over our present situation….
Equally powerful are
- Parents who sacrificed so much for us
- A spouse who loved us even in our deepest, darkest moment
- A child who gives us hope
- A partner who forgave our indiscretion
- A passer-by who lifted us up
verse 8 then explains the reaping and sowing more deeply……. and it does not touch on any of the above …..it doesn’t deal with the day to day decisions..as important as they are……the verse explains very clearly the one outcome which we are all responsible for …
When it comes to our eternal lives …each of us are individually responsible for what we sow and reap……..if we choose to live lives for our own pleasure only, ignoring God’s claim on us… we live a life for ourselves and the reward is eternal death……and if we choose to hand ourselves over to God and to live for him…accepting his gift of life….. then they will reap eternal life through Jesus…..
We can’t blame anyone else when it comes to our eternal condition….. what happens for all eternity…….you are here under God’s word… you get to decide ……and what you and I sow we will reap….
And for those of us who have already committed our lives to God and come to Jesus…. Paul says there is a reward for us who sow into the lives of other people…. We will receive a harvest…God is no man’s debtor…. The harvest will be great….
In verse 11 we see that Paul needed glasses….
In verse 12 we learn the real reason that some of those in the church are encouraging men to be circumcised and we have discussed this at length…it has nothing to do with theology….. they are wanting to avoid being persecuted for being Christians… for following the truth…. I wonder what you and I do (or don’t do) in order to avoid persecution for our faith?
It might be small things now, but I am 100% convinced that our time of persecution is coming, or is even here…we see it rising…. in small ways now perhaps, but the tide of animosity towards fundamentalism towards the TRUTH is turning and we will be on the end of much persecution…
The present atmosphere of a so called, ‘cancel culture’ has been built on legitimate platforms like race and the fight against racism, which we all agree needs to be eradicated wherever it raises its head… as well as gender based violence which is something obviously heinous….. however growing to the extremes of these issues and beyond….
Right now…you cannot have a different view on COVID or vaccines without being branded with some label ….making you untouchable…… if you express a different understanding of the war in the Ukraine … you are ostracized….called a Nazi….
And then we are finding that this movement is taking on issues which are actually dear to us as Christians…. Followers of the Word….
….. It seems to be that our belief in one truth is seen as bigoted…. People can and do hold the most bizarre beliefs and we will not be allowed to disagree…. This is here already….
The big problem is not going to come in the disagreeing though……. because this we can do quietly…. It is that we are being required to acknowledge and agree with these delusions and if we don’t verbally agree with a lie….we will be persecuted….
One of the latest laws in Canada indicates that Christian preachers may not read aloud verses like Genesis 1
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
While it has not been prosecuted yet….. the experts believe that these laws give authority to imprison non-compliant preachers…. Gender is one topic being promoted… this is just the tip of the iceberg……people are being cancelled in society for making comments or having made some comment in the past,.....on a range of topics……
With that said this is not the main problem for us in this verse… very few of us will actually be jailed or fined….the problem is that we see well known individuals being maligned in social media or being fined and that leaves all of us scared of the possible consequences for ourselves……. if we stand up for what God’s Word says is truth…..the outcome will be that fewer of us will speak God’s truth in society….out of fear…
this is an epidemic which is sweeping the nations… I speak to teenagers who have deleted their social media accounts or refuse to comment on anything remotely controversial or they will be rejected as people…..what are you and I not going to stand up for… what are we going to hide away from in order to avoid persecution….??????
Verse 14 May I never boast….’to boast’… this is different to pride…. Paul has already told us that it is okay to feel pride… but boasting is different…. To boast is to find an opportunity to tell others about what we are proud of…. To crow…to brag …. To make claims….to assert…. To tell everyone how wonderful I am…
And this brings us back around to our original verse of interest this morning …’do not be conceited’… and this is appropriate because these things are reflected through all Paul’s instructions on living a life by the spirit…..
Do not consider yourselves to be more than you are…do not be self absorbed…..rather…. carry each others burdens and consider others first because this is the law of Christ…..
It is so easy to find ourselves caught up in the circular nature…the vortex…. Of self……….. how do we break free?
Paul says that we should hold the cross central to our lives… you want to talk about something? Talk about the cross… why?.. It is the cross which gives context to our lives and why we are where we are….. the cross is the place to test ourselves… the cross is the place where we see love in all its glory(the law of Christ)… the cross is where we learn to put our own needs aside for the benefit of others…..
And this what we do as a community every Sunday…..
Verse 15…you can try to bring about change through human means… but this is useless… we are a new creation and what we do in the body,... to be religious, means nothing…
We have been set free….
We now live by the spirit..
we have been made new in Christ….
We should be very different from those who are still living in the flesh…
Paul has given us some examples in this passage of how different we are as Christians…not because they are a whole bunch of rules, but because these are the fruit of the spirit…
Life as a Christian is free… free to serve…. Free to carry…… let us pray that as God’s people He will continue to work in us that we might be found walking in step with the spirit each and every day for his glory…..