The greatest evidence of the Spirit-filled life is love for one another. As Christians, we combat vain competition with one another through humble confession before God. In this message on Galatians 6:1–10, David Platt warns us that self-centeredness and self-righteousness are the enemy of community.
1. Confront one another in your sin.
2. Comfort one another in your struggles.
3. Share your resources generously.
4. Sow your resources eternally.
5. Spend your resources selflessly
Free at Last
Free to Love
Dr. David Platt
January 18, 2009
Free to love
If you have a Bible, and I hope you do, let me invite you to open to Galatians 6. Galatians 6. We’ve seen in Galatians 5 the importance of the Spirit of God. What we’re going to see in Galatians 6:1–10 is the picture of how the Spirit of God fills the church and the community of faith and the Spirit of God creates a bond between us as a people that creates the richest context for relationships; richer than family contexts…blood family context relationships…richer than any other context relationships on the planet. We are not just a club, an organization or an institution or just a religious group. We’re a people united by the very Spirit of God and there’s power in that. There’s beauty in that.
Galatians 6:1–10 Teaches The Importance of Spiritual Community
What I want us to talk about today is spiritual community, and how we’re free to love one another as a result of the Spirit of God in our hearts. There’s one truth that I want us to see in Galatians 6 that really…really is all over Galatians 5 and 6, but we’re going to kind of hone in on it today, and that truth is this: The greatest evidence of the Spirit-filled life is love for one another. The greatest evidence…the greatest evidence of the Spirit-filled life is love for one another.
This is what we saw earlier in Galatians 5 a couple of weeks ago, verses 13 and 14, when Paul said, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Then, he goes on and he starts talking about living by the Spirit and walking by the Spirit, and he says, “The fruit of the Spirit is…” what? It starts with love. “The fruit of the Spirit is love…” This is the first picture that we have in this fruit of the Spirit.
Then, you come down to Galatians 5:26, that’s where I want us to start. Paul says,
Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.
Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
This text and this truth…this truth: The greatest evidence of the Spirit-filled life is love for one another…I believe it’s so important, because so many of the misconceptions and misunderstandings that people have…Christians have…about the Holy Spirit today, usually, when you start talking about the Holy Spirit, the topics that really start to come to the forefront are tongues and second baptisms and prophecies. There’s a place, obviously, where Scripture talks about those things, but what we need to see here in Galatians 6 is that the fruit of the Spirit is love, and we need to be reminded of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 when he said, “If I speak in tongues of men, but have not love, then I’m like a resounding gong. If I have prophecies that I speak, but I have not love,” he says, “then I am nothing.”
The greatest evidence of the Spirit-filled life is love for one another. This is where we need to realize that evidence of the Spirit-filled life, maybe, is not primarily about emotional highs as it is about practical acts of love that we show to one another, and that’s what Paul brings us down…he won’t even let love remain an abstract concept during Galatians 6. He says, “Here’s some concrete, practical ways that we love one another.”
So, what I want us to do is I want us to take this text, and we’re going to kind of split it up into a few different parts, and we’re going to pause after those couple of different parts, and we’re going to respond to God’s Word. Remember, worship is a rhythm of revelation and response. We see God’s revelation and we respond. So, that’s what we’re going to do, and Aaron and these guys are going to help us do that.
Four Enemies of Spiritual Community …
So, here’s where I want us to start. I want to show you four enemies of spiritual community; four enemies of Christian community and the church, a spiritual community. They’re simple, but they are deadly, and if we allow these enemies to have a foothold in the community of faith, then we will become just like any other club or organization or religious group in the world for that matter.
First enemy…enemies of spiritual community. Number one: self-centeredness. Self centeredness. Now, all of these enemies have a pride and self-exultation at the core. Look at verse 26, right before we get into Galatians 6. “Let us not become conceited…” Having
vain glory in ourselves, centered on ourselves, because when we are, two things happen: We begin to provoke each other, and we begin to envy each other.
That word, “provoked”, it’s a unique verb in the New Testament that really, literally, means to challenge someone, like you’re challenging someone to a contest; like you want to show your superiority over them. We provoke one another, or we envy one another. We think we’re inferior to others, and what we’ve got here is a picture of looking at ourselves in comparison to others, really in competition with others. This is what Paul talked about up in verse 15 in Galatians 5. “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” It’s a picture of the way the world approaches relationships.
Then, he says this here in verse 26, “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” Then, you get over to Galatians 6:4, and Paul says, “Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself…” listen to this, “…without comparing himself to somebody else.” Here’s the deal: Competition, unhealthy comparison to other people breeds conceit, breeds self-centeredness. Competition.
This is what C. S. Lewis talks about when he talks about pride in Mere Christianity, one of the classics of the Christian faith. Mere Christianity, the great chapter on pride that he has in that book, he talks about…listen to what he says. He starts by saying, “If you think you’re not conceited, it means you’re very conceited indeed.” So, let’s just confess we’re all conceited. He talks about…that whole chapter, he talks about pride. Humility is the great unattainable. You try, and you try, and you try to be humble and then, when you get there, you’re proud of it, and you have to start all over. It’s just…all right, we’re just there. We’re all…we’re conceited people, and if you think you’re not, then you’ve proved the point. Okay.
Then, he goes on, and he says, “Pride is the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.” This is the picture Scripture gives us. It’s pride. The Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve say, “No, it’s our authority, not your authority over us. We do what we want.” It’s pride that undergirds every sin. Listen to what C. S. Lewis does when he links pride with competition. I think it helps us understand what Scripture’s teaching us here.
Lewis says, “Each person’s pride is in competition with everyone else’s pride. Pride is essentially competitive. It is competitive by it’s very nature. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. It is the comparison that makes you proud, the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”
This is the picture, the result of the sinful nature in us. We’re competing with one another. We think we’re doing well if we’re doing better than the next guy; and we think we’re not doing well if somebody else is doing better than us, and we’re constantly looking around, and we bring this into the community of faith. We bring this into the church.
I…God, if I could just be completely honest, as I’ve studied this text this week, has been uncovering some ugly roots of self-centeredness and pride in my own life regarding relationships with others. I am a competitive person. I come from a competitive family. We can make anything into a competition. We’d sit around the dinner table, and my brothers and I would compete over who can eat the Jell-O the fastest or with no hands, and we’d just make it as complex as possible. You’ve got to make some…we don’t want to just sit down as a family and have dinner; we want to have a competition. Somebody has got to win in this thing. The danger is, when I, when we, bring that into the church and our spiritual lives…now, this is not to say that competition in every sphere of life is a bad thing, and we are battling against sin and Satan and darkness and evil, so there’s a sin, but there is no room for competition in the church.
“Let us not become conceited,” Paul says, “provoking and envying each other.” It’s exactly what was going on here in Galatians. Remember this picture of legalism? “Who’s done more to earn favor before God? What have you done? I’m glad I’m not like that guy over there. Did you see what he did? You know, I thought I was doing bad until I realized what this guy over here was doing.” Now, don’t misunderstand. There’s a healthy way in which we look to others. There’s a healthy way in which we’re supposed to be able to look to each other and see Christ in each other and be spurred on toward Christ through each other. That’s why I love reading biographies that show me a picture of Christ and men and women throughout history. It makes me fall on my face and say, “I want more of Christ in me. I want the joy and the sacrifice and freedom that I see in their lives.”
So, that’s a good thing, but whenever we begin to look at a man or a woman in the community of faith and we begin to, in our hearts and our thoughts, begin to assert superiority over them or think, “I’m doing better than them”, or we begin to think, “Well, they’re doing so much better than I am”, and we look at ourselves as inferior to them, we’re missing the point. When we look at any man or any woman, every man and every woman in the community of faith, we don’t provoke or envy, we love and serve each other period. We’re not in a rat race in the church. “We’re jockeying for position, status.” Leave that behind. Self-centeredness. We’ve got to be careful.
You know where this exposes itself the clearest? This exposes itself the clearest in our gossip in the church. This is the picture. Galatians 5:15, “You keep on biting and devouring each other…” Here’s the reality: Any time you speak about me in a way that does not build up my character, or I speak about you in a way that does not build up your character, then all we are doing is exposing the self-centeredness that is at the core of our sinful nature, that we have been freed from. God rid us from gossip.
I’m concerned about this too. When I look at the…even the Christian world that we live in…the Christian magazines that are sent to me every week, and I look at the headlines and the way churches and ministries are talked about. “Here’s the biggest church” and “Here’s the fastest growing church” and “Here’s the most successful church” or “Here’s the finest Christian ministry.” We use language like that. Why? What’s the purpose? Why are we asserting superiority in one and saying, “Well, these are less over here and these are more.” Who’s getting the glory in this picture? Self-centeredness is an enemy of spiritual community.
Second enemy of spiritual community: self-righteousness. Self-righteousness. This was the underlying issue, remember, in Galatians. Because of the legalism that was permeating that church, people were asserting their righteousness because of what they did, and we know legalists…legalists delight in heaping burdens on other people. “You need to do these things in order to be righteous.” That’s what these Judaizers were doing to the church in Galatia. It’s what Jesus sternly rebukes legalistic Pharisees for doing. In Matthew 23:4, He says, “They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they, themselves, are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” Legalists. Remember, we’re trying to please God, and we’re always trying to tell others about what they have to do in order to please God. “Do these things.”
Self-righteousness…self-centeredness, self-righteousness, third enemy: self-sufficiency. We’re going to talk in a minute when you get to verse 2, carrying each other’s burdens. We’re going to talk about what that means, but suffice it to say at this point, Paul’s implying that we all have burdens. Every single one of us in this room has burdens that we carry and not one of us is intended to carry them alone.
However, here’s where that pride comes in. Pride seeps in and says, “Well, I…I’m going to gather together in this room. I’m going to put up a front, like everything is okay. I don’t need the people around me. I can do this thing on my own.” That sounds…well, it sounds like you’re successful and confident, according to the world’s standards, but it misses the whole point of Christian community according to biblical standards. We do need each other. We are weak. We are weak without each other. That’s the picture. There’s a myth of self sufficiency that dominates our individualistic culture and our individualistic approach to church that we have to be careful to guard against.
Self-sufficiency, self-centeredness, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, and fourth enemy…this may be one of the most subtly dangerous ones: Self-esteem. Self-esteem. Now, I want you to follow with me here. Galatians 6:3, “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
Now, we live in a world that says, “If we want our relationships with others to be good, we need to think highly of ourselves.”, right? This is the whole self-esteem doctrine that, not only dominates the world, but dominates much of contemporary Christianity. It’s important to have high self-esteem, and it’s all over the place. It’s in other world religions. The founder of Buddhism said, “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
Then, you’ve got experts on relationships, researchers on personal growth who say, “If you aren’t good…” Exact quote, “If you aren’t good at loving yourself, you will have a difficult time loving anyone else since you’ll resent the time and energy you give another person that you aren’t giving to yourself.” That’s enough to send you to counseling right there. Another one said, listen to this, “There is overwhelming evidence that the higher the level of self-esteem…the higher the level of self-esteem, the more likely one will be to treat others with respect, kindness and generosity.” So, self-esteem…high self-esteem’s equated with respect, kindness and generosity toward others. If you want to be kind and respectful and generous toward others, then have high self-esteem. Focus on esteeming yourself. Think highly of yourselves. Have a high self-esteem. It’ll make your relationships with others better.
That is not what Scripture’s teaching. It’s not what the Scriptures teach. Scripture says, “If anyone thinks he is something when he is…”, what? “Nothing. When he’s nothing.” Romans 7:18, Paul says, “There is nothing good in me.” Jesus says in John 15:5, “Apart from me, you can do…”, what? “Nothing”. How’s that for the power of positive thinking?
There are many things we embrace, maybe even in the name, and I, in no way, want to be critical of psychology as a whole as it’s related to biblical counseling, but there’s much even in Christian psychology and Christian counseling that says, “We need to esteem ourselves.” That goes against Scripture, because Scripture is saying, “He’s nothing. There’s nothing good in me and apart from me, you can do nothing.” What if…what if the way we love others is not about thinking and about an esteeming and revolving our thoughts around ourselves, but what if love for others is about realizing there is nothing good in you apart from Jesus Christ? Therefore, you need Christ for every good thing in you, and the key to relationships with other people is not a high self-esteem, but a high Christ-esteem. What if value in Christ, and esteem in Christ, and enjoying in Christ, and surrendering everything in us to Christ is the key to loving others? The key to generosity and sacrifice for others?
This whole picture Galatians 2:20 has given us. “I’m crucified with Christ. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. I want Christ to be esteemed in me.” This is the beauty of what Christ does. The Spirit lives in us and produces fruit: love. He does the work. Spirit-filled community is marked by Christ-esteeming in our hearts and in our minds and, as a result, Christ producing love for each other. So, don’t focus on yourself. Focus on Christ, Christ in you. Fix your eyes, your thoughts and your heart’s affections on Christ, and, in the process, you’ll begin to discover what it means to love one another with a Spirit-filled love.
One Essential in Spiritual Community …
Galatians 6:1–10 and Self-Examination
So, these are the enemies: self-centeredness, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency and self esteem. Now, in order to combat those enemies, I want to show you one essential for spiritual community that combats all four of those and that essential is this…combating self centeredness, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency and self-esteem is this one essential: self
examination. Self examination. It’s in verses 4 and 5. “Each one should test his own actions. Then, he can take pride in himself…”, which we’ll talk about that later, “…without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.” Basically, what Paul is saying is, instead of looking at your thoughts and your actions and your attitudes in view of how you’re doing in comparison to the people around you, put your thoughts and your attitudes and your actions before the lens of the holiness of God. Now, you will begin to see yourself rightly.
It’s easy to compare ourselves to each other, but to put our thoughts and our attitudes and our actions before the holiness of God and to have any and every facet of them that is not God-honoring and Christ-exalting exposed, we find ourselves a very needy people. We find ourselves in need of grace and mercy before a holy God and, in the process, we discover a reservoir of grace and mercy to now show to other people. When we see ourselves rightly before God, then we’re freed up to begin to see others rightly before God, and we are not interested in provoking or envying in them; we are interested in loving and serving them. That happens through self-examination. The way you combat vain competition in our hearts and our lives in the church is through humble confession before God. Combat competition with confession. That’s the picture of self-examination.
So, here’s what I want us to do. I want us to take a few moments to spend time in self examination. There’s a reason why, when you look at biblical worship, confession before God is a non-negotiable element in worship. There’s a reason not just for…don’t miss this…confession before God is not just important for our relationship with God. Confession before God is vitally important for our relationships with each other because it’s confession before God that helps us to realize who we are, who Christ is in His mercy toward us, and then, we begin to look at each other very, very differently.
So, what I want to invite you to do for the next few moments is to spend time in self examination, to spend time in worship through confession. I’m going to invite you to pray where you are, to pray alone, pray together, if you’d like, or, if you’d like to, to maybe even kneel, if that would be something appropriate for you to do. However, I want to invite you to take the next few moments and lay your life and your thoughts and your attitudes, your actions, to lay yourself before the holiness of God and ask Him to expose any, every area of your life that needs cleansing, that needs purifying. Any roots of pride, roots where you’re asserting your authority, either above His or above others around you.
Maybe…maybe you’re in this room, and you have never seen your life and perceived yourself in view of God’s holiness. In the next few moments, for the first time, you are going to see the sin in your life exposed in front of a holy God; and if that’s the case, I would invite you to know that holy God is also a merciful God who promises to forgive you of your sin and cleanse you from your sin, redeem you from your sin, through what Jesus did on the cross as a payment for your sin. I want to invite you, maybe for the first time, to trust in Christ and His death and His resurrection to cover over your sin; to say during this time, “God, I need your mercy.”
Or, if you know His mercy, if you’re a follower of Christ and have trusted in Christ, come before Him in self-examination and say, “God, where am I disobeying you? Where am I failing to obey you? What are the sins of omission, so to speak, in my life? You expose them for me and, in the process, transform, not only my relationship with you, but my relationship with others and know, if we do, 1 John 1:9 says, “We confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” You come before…we come before a holy God in this moment, but also, a merciful and gracious God, and we find cleansing and purification there, but we miss that if we don’t take time for self
So, let me invite you to do that now. I want to invite you to take the next few moments between you and the holy God of the universe in self-examination.
Galatians 6:1–10 and the Five Commands for Spiritual Community
It’s interesting, in Galatians 6, how Paul is telling us how to love one another, but the majority of the first five verses of Galatians 6 are telling us how to guard ourselves; and there’s an importance there that we…if we don’t guard ourselves in our purity and our holiness, then we will not know how to love each other.
So, with that the foundation for enemies, and one ascension spiritual community, what I want to show you briefly are five commands for spiritual community. We’re going to split these up into two groups. The first two in verses 1 through 5 and then, the last three in verses 6 through 10; five commands for spiritual community.
Here’s the key, because even when I mention the word “commands,” we’re almost kind of sensitive, maybe a little hyper-sensitive to that word because of what we’ve seen in Galatians to this point, because we’re not slaves to the law. We’re not slaves to commands of God, so how can we talk about obeying commands and not be legalistic. How can we talk about obedience and not be slaves?
This is where the key is. Don’t forget this. The key is Christ never commands us to do anything on our own. He never commands us to do anything that He intends for us to do on our own. Every command of Christ is a call for us to trust Christ to do this in us. Every command from Christ is a call for us to trust Christ, who’s living in us to do this in us.
When we talk about…when we see a command that says, “Love one another”, love is not a work of the flesh. Love is a fruit of the what? The Spirit. He says, “Love one another. I’m going to put my Spirit inside of you, and my Spirit in you is going to produce this kind of love. So, everything I command you to do, I’m going to accomplish in you, and so, live by faith.” It’s that whole picture we’ve seen over and over again in Galatians. So, even when we think about these commands, these are commands that the Spirit of Christ that lives in us wants to enable us to accomplish, enable us to obey.
Galatians 6:1–10 wants us to confront one another in our sin.
So, with that kind of background, the first command that He gives us: Confront one another in your sin. The first command that He gives us in Galatians 6:1. Confront one another in your sin. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” Now, this is huge, but we are not going to spend a lot of time on it and the reason is because I’m convinced that this is one of the most neglected facets of the New Testament church…in the contemporary church today. It’s not always been the case that church discipline and church restoration have been so absent in the church as it is today, but what we’re going to do about a month and a half from now, beginning in March, we’re going to dive into a study of church restoration and discipline in God’s Word. Because…well, I know, even as I mention that, there’s some people who think, “Oh, no, what do you mean? Discipline one another? We’re going to start calling each other out in sin, what does that look like?” There’s, obviously, a wrong way to do that, but it’s unbiblical to avoid that at the same time.
It is not an option for a Spirit-filled follower of Christ to look at a brother or a sister who’s caught in a sin and say, “Well, that’s not my business. That’s their problem.” That’s not an option for a Spirit-filled follower of Christ because we’re in this thing together, and there’s a way to, obviously, restore one another gently in a way that shows the love and the beauty and the grace and the mercy of Christ in our relationships with each other, and we have got to figure out how to do that in God’s Word.
So, that is far more than we’re going to dive into, but just kind of keep that in the back of your mind. It is a biblical command for us to confront one another in our sin. The Spirit does this in the community of faith for a reason. We’ll get to that later. Confront one another in your sin, first command.
Comfort one another in your struggles.
Second command is to comfort one another in your struggles. Comfort one another in your struggles. When you get to Galatians 6:2, and he says, “Carry each other burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”, he’s basically saying almost what he said in verse one, just in a more general fashion. Because there’s a sense in which, if a brother’s caught in sin, then he’s burdened by that sin. He’s carrying the weight of that sin and temptation and oppression in his heart and in his life, and we’re supposed to help each other in that. This is how we help him, by restoring him, helping him climb out of that by the grace and the mercy of Christ…Spirit of Christ in his or her life. So, there’s a sense in which that refers to helping each other in sin, but it’s broader here. “Carry each other’s burdens.”
Like I mentioned earlier, we all have the implication here in Galatians 6 is that we all have burdens. We all have burdens that we are carrying. Maybe it is sin or temptations we’re struggling with. Maybe in the last few moments of self-examination, there are some sins in your life, some things that you just can’t seem to get out from under. You keep going back to it over and over and over again. What the Bible’s saying, “You’re not intended to fight that battle alone.” Not one of us is.
Intended to help each other, carry each other’s burdens, but not just in sin; all kinds of struggle, this could be. This could be physical struggle, could be illness, could be emotional struggle, could be depression and worry, doubt, anxiety that you struggle with; confusion that you’re wrestling with about a decision that you have. Maybe family struggle, maybe it’s struggle with kids, struggle with parents, struggle with your spouse or it’s divorce. Maybe it’s struggles at work. It’s unemployment. It’s financial struggles. It’s all kinds of different things that this could be. It’s grief; it’s pain; it’s loss; it’s desertion; it’s loneliness.
All of the burdens that we bear that are represented all across this room. It is an amazing thought, for me as a pastor, to stand before a room with this many people in it and just consider the number of burdens that are being carried all across this room, and we can’t lose sight of that. We can’t lose sight of the fact that the people who are sitting next to us are carrying burdens and the Bible says they are never intended to carry them alone.
So, here’s…it’s a command; it’s not an option in the church. It’s an obligation for us to carry each other’s burdens, for us to shoulder each other’s burdens. Martin Luther said, “A Christian needs broad shoulders and husky bones in order to carry the burdens of his brothers and sisters.” We are broad-shouldered, husky-boned…whatever that means…people. That’s what we’re intended to be.
I, in my study this week, came across a covenant, kind of a membership covenant from a Baptist Church in England in 1790. So, this is 18th century membership covenant in a Baptist Church. I want you to hear what they agreed to, how they committed to each other. When you became a member of this church, you didn’t just sign a card. Listen to this.
We agree to walk in love toward those with whom we stand connected in the bonds of Christian fellowship. As to the effect of this, we will pray much for one another. As we have opportunity, we will associate together for religious purposes. Those of us who are in more comfortable situations in life than some of our other brethren, with regard to the good things of providence, will administer as we have ability and see occasion to their necessities. We will bear one another’s burdens, sympathize with and encourage one another. We will watch over one another for good. We will studiously avoid giving or taking offenses; thus, we will make it our study to fulfill the law of Christ. These things and whatever else may appear enjoined by the Word of God, we promise, in the strength of divine grace, to observe and practice, but knowing our insufficiency for anything that is spiritually good in and of ourselves, we look up to Him who gives power to the faint, rejoicing that in the Lord we have not only righteousness, but strength. So, hold us up, Lord, and we shall be safe. Amen.
That’s good. I want to join that church. That’s a good church to be a part of. You see the picture here? Sure, it’s not a club, organization, just this religious group; it’s a community that says, “We’re in this thing for each other. I’m here for you. You are here for me. This is what we’re created to do in spiritual community.”
Now, this is why…this is why we constantly say, constantly encourage one another in this faith family to get involved in a small group. We constantly talk about that because, the reality is, this kind of burden carrying that Galatians 6:2 is telling about cannot be accomplished in a theater style room with 2,000 other people once a week. It’s impossible. Others can’t bear your burdens in that kind of context, and you can’t bear others’ burdens in that kind of context. So, it makes no sense to be a part of a community of faith where you just gather together with 2,000 every week, and then go back and do it again and go back and do it again.
There’s a sense in which we are called, commanded to be in situations, relationships, where we can bear each other’s burdens and so, I would encourage you…yet again, I would encourage you, if you’re not involved in a small group, to get plugged into a small group.
Now, at the same time, that doesn’t mean that we can’t take advantage of opportunities when we do all gather together to bear each other’s burdens as well. A couple of weeks ago, we had some time where our folks came down to the front who were carrying specific burdens, struggles that they were walking through, and we had some time where they knelt and prayed over them and realized, “You know, that, for some…that even that makes you uncomfortable. Even some are, maybe, not even physically able to do that.”
So, here’s what I want us to do. I want us to pause, and I want us to take a few moments, and I want us to be the body of Christ to one another. Of course, with Galatians 6:2 and what I’m going to invite you to do is, in just a moment, if you would be willing…if you would be willing, if you are carrying some sort of a burden, maybe it is…maybe it is a sin, and you just can’t seem to get out of, you keep wrestling with; or maybe it is one of those other facets of struggle physically, in your family, emotionally. Whatever it may be, remember that we’re combating the myth of self-sufficiency here. That we are intended not to walk with these burdens alone, but to share them with others.
I want to show you…I want to make sure we don’t miss the connection between what we just did in praying for each other and what we just sang. I want you to look at 2 Corinthians 7:5. I want you to listen to what Paul says. He says, “When we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn – conflicts on the outside, fears within.” So, here’s Paul saying, “I had burdens.” He’s carrying…listen to this, “But God,
who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.” Do you see the connection here?
Paul realized that God was the God of all comfort when he received comfort from Titus, when he received comfort from the church. When we receive comfort for another, we realize that comfort comes from who? From God. So, we pray for each other, and we surround each other and say, “Yes, we’re carrying each other’s burdens.”, and in this way, we bring glory to who? God, because He is the one who comforts.
How does He comfort us? Through the community of faith, through each other. This is why…it’s why Christianity cannot be lived in isolation. It’s why it doesn’t make sense to anonymously attend a church. It makes no sense. We are a community of faith where we will miss God and His comfort and His greatness, worth, if we neglect commands like Galatians 6:2. Bear one another’s burdens. So praise God for His comfort and for showing…He’s showing that comfort through others.
Come back to Galatians 6 now. We’re going to fly through the last part of this passage. Galatians 6:6–10, three more commands that I want to show you. What’s interesting is we come to this last part, and there’s a lot of debate, discussion among biblical scholars who’ve studied this passage a lot more than I have about exactly what Paul’s addressing here, what was going on in this Galatians context that he was addressing, because, when you get to verse 6, most scholars think that Paul is talking about…when he says, “Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.”, most scholars think that that’s a reference to who’s teaching…the one who’s teaching the Word to the church, make sure he’s provided for financially. Many people think that verses 6 through 10 are all about how we use our finances.
When you get to verses 7 and 8, he’s talking about sowing and reaping. It’s the same picture and imagery that Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 9 to talk about giving material possessions, giving material resources. Then, you get down to verse 10, and it says, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…” That phrase, in the original language of the New Testament, was a euphemism in the first century for giving alms to the poor. So, there’s a lot of people who believe this is all about how we use our financial resources; some who don’t believe that. So, basically, the way I understand this text…really, whether it’s referring specifically to financial resources, and Paul’s addressing some things in Galatia at that time, or just resources in general, the same truths apply. So, I want us to think about what Paul is saying for the way we use our resources. Yes, our money, but also our time and our energy and our talents and our gifts, our words, actions, how we use our resources in the community of faith. Three more commands for spiritual community.
Galatians 6:1–10 allows us to share your resources generously.
First one…third one…we’ve had two so far. Share your resources generously. Share your resources generously. This is verse 6, “Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.” Paul is using a word here, “koinonia”, for fellowship in the New Testament, to talk about the relationship between the one who teaches in the church, and the ones who were taught in the church. There’s a sharing, there’s a relationship. In the picture that Paul does give us at different points is, he encourages the church to provide for teachers of the Word; that the teacher of the Word provides spiritual treasure, that people who are taught to find material treasures so that that person can teach the Word and devote themselves to that. I’ll be honest, it’s a little bit awkward, if not even somewhat self-serving, to preach Galatians 6:6; to say, “Well, as your…as the one who’s teaching the Word to you, don’t forget to share good things with me.”
So, that’s not…not the direction I want to take and here’s why: because, well, first of all, this is not an issue in this church context. I praise God and want to take advantage of this opportunity and this text to thank you for the way that you share, even materially, not just with me, but with other leaders in the church. I have praised God continually since the end of this last year. With all of the economic struggles that we have in our country, we, end of the year, over budget, and we gave more last year than this church has ever given in the past. That’s reason to praise God for your generosity and for the community, the fellowship; to thank you, those of you who faithfully give to the community of faith, for your obedience. Thank you for your obedience to this, and maybe those of you who are not giving faithfully to the community of faith to consider how this command might play out in your life and family. However, I want to thank this church body and even take it a step deeper.
What Paul’s doing here is he’s reminding the church of how important it is that the Word is taught. That’s why a teacher needs to be provided for because that fundamental task of teaching and preaching the Word is central to his role as a leader in the church. This is where I want to take another opportunity to thank you…to thank you as a faith family for the way you want the Word. I love preaching to this faith family and enjoy when God gives me opportunities to travel, but it doesn’t compare to a people that gather together who know we’re going to open our Bibles from the start, and we’re going to dive in. We’re going to study the Word and a people who expect me to have been in the Word and who make sure that you provide. Whether you know this or not, you provide so that I do have that time in the Word amidst other responsibilities. You know, you believe this Word is important.
However, here’s the deal. Here’s the deal. I’ll be honest with you. Every…just about every single Sunday, I’ve got at least two hours worth of material. I actually cut to get down. So, I cut a lot. Like, on Saturday night, “What else do I cut?” Sunday morning, “What else do I cut?” Just know, there’s cutting going on to get to this point. So, anyway…but here’s why I do that. Here’s why I do that: because if this church is built on my thoughts and my opinions, my ideas, then we are wasting our time, and we’re wasting our lives in this church,
but if this Word is clearly and accurately represented week by week by week, our lives will be changed for all of eternity, not because of communication ability or words or thoughts or ideas of a speaker or a pastor or preacher, whatever; but, because the Word of God is good. So, I thank you for desiring that, providing for that, not begrudging the time that it takes to do that. I appreciate that from you as a faith family.
Then, if I could just continue to thank you one step further…one step further. I want to thank you for sharing your obedience generously, and here’s what I mean by that. Sharing good things. First thing that came to my mind when I was reading this text, I thought about the way that I hear about your obedience to the Word, whether you’re sharing with me personally through emails, through others, you’re not hearers of the Word; you are doers of the Word, and I feel like Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2 when he says, “I live because you are standing firm in the Lord.” I find life. I experience life when I hear, when I get an email, and I wish…I wish I could respond to all of them. It kills me not to respond to all the emails that say, “Listen to what God is doing. Listen to this.” Just know that I read those, and I fall on my face and worship.
Listen to this email from an anonymous Brook Hills member last Fall. Sharing good things.
Last Sunday, you apologized to us for being too forward, [Do you remember that November Sunday when I just wanted to be a patient, compassionate pastor?] but sitting about the fourth row in, I about stood up and yelled, “Don’t apologize. We needed to hear that.” Do you know what I did that Sunday you told us how rich we are? My wife and I went home, emptied all our clothes onto the bed, got several bags of canned goods and all our son’s baby clothes he’s grown out of, including the toys he doesn’t play with anymore. I took several hundred dollars cash that I was saving to upgrade the front lawn and drove over to the projects downtown, and I prayed. I prayed for the people that I didn’t know who were about to receive what I had too much of. The first house was a man my age, of 30, who had a baby and needed some work clothes. Perfect. I had my clothes to give him and the baby toys and clothes. He needed money for groceries, so I gave him $100. The next house had three boys, all under the age of 12, so I gave them our TV, VCR and two video game consoles. Their mother needed the same groceries, so I gave her $100. The next house had a couple who needed some clothing for the wife and a car payment, so I gave her my wife’s clothes and $100. We prayed with each family and told them we came with God. At the time, I didn’t feel the need to say I was with a certain church, because I wanted God to get the credit, not a building. I got such a rush from this that we got home and got more things together to give away. My wife and I are now serving at Jimmy Hale: Meals on Wheels, and I’m going to start teaching arts and graphics at the Jimmy Hale Learning Center. I don’t need an apology from God for lighting a fire under my feet. My wife and I will continue to serve in and around our community and abroad in other communities. Thank you for breaking down God’s Word to the hearts and minds that need to wake up and smell the coffee.
Thank…thank you for sharing your obedience generously. So, thank you, thanks, thanks. Share your resources generously. That’s what the Bible’s telling us to do. This is what you’re doing.
Sow your resources eternally.
Fourth command: Sow your resources eternally. I’m going to fly through this. Galatians 6:7–8, “A man reaps what he sows.” You sow barley, you don’t reap wheat; you sow sunflower seeds, you don’t reap apple trees. Here’s the reality: We will reap eternally what we sow here. 2 Corinthians 9:6–15. We don’t have time to read it, but go there. Go there, and you’ll see Paul talking about sowing your financial resources, not to the flesh, but to the Spirit. We have, ladies and gentlemen, for better or for worse…we’re just not going to be able to leave that “Radical” series behind as long as we study this book. With our material possessions and our finances, we have a choice; we can invest in that which pleases the flesh and bears earthly fruit, or we can sow to that which pleases the Spirit and bears eternal fruit.
There are still 30,000 children today who are dying of either starvation or preventable diseases. They have not left that sermon series behind and, therefore, neither can we. Now, we are going to sow our resources, time, money, eternally, not temporally?
Spend your resources selflessly.
The final command: Sow your resources…share your resources generously, sow your resources eternally and, finally, spend your resources selflessly. Spend your resources selflessly, and it says, “Don’t be weary in doing good.” Don’t give up. Let us not give up.
Got to mile 18, I was weary. Miles 18 through 23 were, in fact, miserable and I realized, at that point, that I could finish under the time that I had planned if I had my fastest miles, those last three miles. So, I envisioned that finish line, and I said, “This is my chance.” I, at the time, thought, “There’s no chance I’ll ever do anything like this again. This is the worst decision I have ever made in my life. So, either I do it now, or I never meet this time barrier and so, I’m going to do it now.” So, I ran.
I want to encourage you. We live the Spirit-filled life. It will not be easy. We will not always see immediate fruit around us, but I want to encourage you…I want to encourage you to press on and never become weary in doing good. William Carey, 1793, moved to India to reach unreached people with the gospel. For seven years, he worked and toiled and labored and saw no one come to Christ. He wrote home to his sisters in England, and he said, “I feel like a crop is about to come up and it gets washed out over and over and over again.”
However, then in 1800…December of 1800, he had the opportunity to baptize the first Hindu convert to Christianity there in his ministry in the Ganges River. One of his friends wrote… Do you remember, India, the land of a million gods? His friend wrote, “Ye gods of stone and clay, did you not tremble when, in the Triune name, one soul shook you from his feet as dust?” That was the beginning of a harvest of souls that God would bless William Carey and his coworkers with. We may not see immediate fruit of Spirit-filled love, but be confident, a harvest is coming.