Galatians 6:1-6

Dave Newmarch – Galatians 6 sermon – Tregear 26.4.2020

INTRO – What lies ahead in our study of God’s word. One more week of Galatians and then 5 weeks on the Holy Spirit. And then we plan to spend 7 weeks on part of Acts. 

Ash described the life we now live in the Spirit as a bit like a boxing match. When we come to put our trust in Jesus and desire to follow him, we also experience the pull of our sinful nature. And so there was that stark, confronting statement, “Crucify the flesh with all its passions and desires.” Don’t let it live, put it to death. And we were reminded that we can’t have pity towards our sinful nature – it longs to take us away from Christ, and encourages US to take control of OUR lives. 

Ash finished his talk last week with v.25 – “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” How does this work itself out in our lives? How do we keep in step with the Spirit in our day by day life. As we live life in our coronavirus restrictions. 

PPT – The Message translation of the Bible translates v.25, “Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.”

And so today in the 7 verses that we will explore, we will look at 4 specific attitudes and actions that Paul highlights. In these 4 attitudes we will note that we are a community, we are to work together, we are brothers and sisters very much responsible for each other.  (that’s in v.1-3) But at the same time, each of us is unique and God has given each of us different responsibilities and so we are to carry out those responsibilities and not be comparing our achievements or capabilities with others. We are not to measure ourselves by what others do but by God’s standards. (5:26, v.4,5)

v.26 – Don’t become conceited, provoking and envying each other – the picture here is of people who compare themselves with others in the church. Conceit is like pride, it’s the opposite of humility. Paul is saying don’t be proud of what you can do and put yourself above others (having a superior attitude) or put others down because they can do things better than you think you can do (so having an inferior attitude). If we have a habit of comparing ourselves with others this can lead to the 2 outcomes that Paul mentions here – provoking and envying others. This provoking others, basically means that it stirs up negative feelings in ourselves and others. The root of it is the dissatisfaction with who we are. We feel the need to compare ourselves with others. “Provoking” is the stance of someone who is sure of his or her superiority, looking down on someone perceived to be weaker. 

And Paul says here that this conceited attitude can also make us feel inferior. It also leads to envying, being jealous of others. “Envying” is the stance of those who are conscious of their inferiority, looking “up” in jealousy at someone they feel is above them.

So how do you relate to others? Ask yourself: (1) Do you have a tendency to “blow up” or to “clam up”? (2) Do you tend to pick arguments with people or to completely avoid confrontation? (3) Do you tend to get very “down on” individuals and groups of people or to get embarrassed and intimidated around certain classes or kinds of people? Another way to answer the question is to look at how you take criticism. Do you get angry and judgmental and simply attack fight back? Or do you get very discouraged and defensive, making lots of excuses, or giving right in? I find myself doing both, with different people. Another way is to ask: Do I often feel “I would never, ever do what this person has done?” or do I often look at people and say, “I could never, ever accomplish what this person does”?

How does the gospel change or help us overcome these tendencies? Well, the gospel creates a whole new self-image (5:26, 6:3-5) that is not based on comparisons with others. Only the gospel makes us neither full of ourselves nor down on ourselves, but rather bold and humble. Do you remember we talked about at the beginning of Galatians. The gospel humbles me, telling me I am a sinner saved only by grace. It also makes me bold, telling me I am loved and honoured by the only eyes in the universe that really count. So the gospel gives a boldness and a humility as I relate to others.  Practically speaking, you have to “use the gospel” by preaching it to yourself in the midst of the situations where you are trying to act in a new way as you walk with the Spirit. If, for example, you find yourself being very defensive around someone, you must use the gospel at that very moment, saying, “What you think of me is not the important thing. Jesus Christ’s approval of me, not yours, is my identity, my worth.”

That works itself out in relationships with everyone. 

This all ties in with v.4,5 of chapter 6. Paul says, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.” Again, I found the Message translation helpful here, 

PPT “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”

We are not to look at others and measure ourselves by their standards. God has made each of us uniquely and we are to do the things he has given us. (Thanks Andrew) We’ll be talking about gifts in a few weeks time as we think about the gifts of the Spirit, but let me just say for the moment, we each have been given different gifts by which we can serve others. The gifts are not given to us to puff ourselves up but they are GIVEN, they’re not ours. But we serve each other. So ask God to help you as you explore who you are and how he’s made you. Ask him to help you to better know yourself; to help you recognise that you are accepted by him and that’s all that matters, so that you can be free to boldly and humbly love others and be accepting of who you are. We are to carry our own load but we are to help carry each other’s burdens as well. Both are true. We need to pray for the love to see how we can lovingly carry each other’s burdens but also recognise that we have a responsibility just before God and ask for his help to do the creative best with our own lives. As we walk in the Spirit we lean on God and seek his power and his direction. 

I remember when Georgina and I were working in Pakistan and we ran the rest house for Christian workers. We had a number of Pakistani Christian leaders come and stay with us. I sometimes used to compare myself with other missionaries who were with our organisation and working in Pakistan and other countries. They were preaching, sharing the gospel, teaching in Bible colleges. What was I doing? Sitting around talking with guests, playing with their children, helping to get their meals, making beds, sometimes cleaning the washrooms. What use was that? I remember one guy who stayed with us. He said to me, “There’s something special about this house. I can feel God’s love in every room, even in the basement.” He compared his stay at Aram to other places he’d stayed at, Christian guest houses – it hadn’t been the same. And then he said he appreciated the way we served them. We didn’t act like the big leaders but were willing to clean the washroom, cook their dinner, play with their children and serve them. God reminded me and again that he had me and Georgina there in that house. He would use us in unique ways. Our responsibility was to walk in the Spirit and be led by him. Who knows how he might use us.

Then back to v.1-3 Three key words “Restore”, “Watch”, “Carry”.

1.Restore – “If someone is caught (or overcome) in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently”. This is a big one isn’t it. Right from the start I think we need to establish that this is referring to sins that have a hold on someone. We all sin; but here we’re talking about sins that we cannot let go of; they have a hold on us. Let me give you an example Eg of me playing Carcassonne; could be anger; cutting words that destroy relationships; addictions; something that has us in its grip ( it’s the fleshly desire we were reading about last week at the end of Chap 5, which is contrary to the spirit) it has a hold on us.

So how are we to help our brother or sister? There are a number of pointers here. Firstly, Paul says, “you who live by the Spirit” – as we do this restoring which will involve some hard talking in most cases, we are led by the Spirit. To use the words of Chap 5 – we need to be keeping in step with the Spirit; be led by the Spirit, walk by the Spirit – the idea is that we are being controlled by the Spirit. We need to cry out to God for wisdom, for the gentle but true words to speak, for the humble attitude that does not just preach or condemn, but reaches out as a fellow sinner and believer; to have the attitude of Christ. Remember when the Pharisees brought the woman who had been caught in adultery. There was no gentleness in their attitude towards her; it was all condemning – “this woman who has been caught in the act of having sex with a man who is not her husband”. In fact they’re ready to stone her to death. Remember what Jesus does – he addresses the crowd and says whoever has not sinned you can throw the first stone. When the crowd has all gone Jesus speaks gently to the woman, but firmly – “I don’t condemn you either; but don’t keep on sinning in this way.” This should be our attitude – with the love that the Spirit gives us, we gently and humbly restore the person. Restore is a lovely word isn’t it – there is no condemnation; no shunning someone, or keeping them out. It’s saying we want to bring you back into the fellowship; into fellowship with God and your brothers and sisters.

Problem for me is I will chicken out of confronting my brother with their habitual sin. It’s easier to leave it; not want to interfere. My thinking is, “Well, I’m also sinful; who am I to confront them?” And so I would stay away from that opportunity to restore my brother. That’s just as bad as the righteous condemning attitude. We need to take a third way, not condemning on the one hand and not just ignoring on the other hand – but gently, humbly with the Spirit’s wisdom and grace, prayerfully bring back, restore our brother or sister. 

2.Watch – “But watch yourselves or you also may be tempted”. What does this mean? It certainly has the meaning that we need to take care that we don’t fall into the same sin. Don’t think that we are so good that we also cannot fall. There is no place for pride that says, “I wouldn’t do what this person is doing?” So there is the warning don’t fall into the same sin that this person has been held by. But there is also the sense of , “Be careful, you too are a sinner, struggling with the sinful nature that is warring inside you. You may need your brother to restore you. So be gentle and be watchful.” Again it’s that proud attitude that Paul warns the Galatians about in v.26 of chap 5. Keep your eyes on Jesus and be thankful for his acceptance of you – and have the same attitude as Jesus to your brothers and sisters.

3.Carry – Last one – carry each other’s burdens. 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens” (6:2a) “and you will fulfill the law of Christ” (6:2b). That’s an interesting way of expressing things, Paul. We’ve been hearing a lot about “law” in this letter that Paul wrote. What is Paul meaning? The “law of Christ” is “the law summed up as love your neighbour.” Why would the law of love be called “the law of Christ”? Because Christ is the ultimate example of this kind of love. We are to love others as Christ loved us. It’s amazing isn’t it how Jesus summed up the law. Jesus said that the whole Old Testament law could be summed up in the command to “love,” it is Christ’s life and death that become the supreme example of what this love should be. When we look at his life, attitude, and all his dealings, we have, in a sense, “a law,” a model of the kind of life we should live. This also means that “bearing burdens” is parallel to “serving one another.” What does this tell us? It means that we are not to let people carry their loads alone. A “burden” or “load” is, of course, anything. It can be a simple responsibility like raising a child. Or it can be a difficulty, a problem. By describing the responsibilities and problems of life as “burdens,” Paul very vividly and practically teaches how a Christian relates to others. To help with a burden, one must firstly, come very close to the burdened person, standing virtually in his shoes, assuming his position, and secondly, putting one’s own strength under the burden so that its weight is distributed onto both of you, lightening the load of the other. 

PPT I always loved this picture when I was a kid and we used to read the Good News Bible as a family. 

So in the picture they’re carrying their own load but also carrying other’s burdens. Notice that no one is turning around and saying to the person behind, “Look it’s ok. I can carry this on my own.” But some of us do that don’t we? (Thanks Andrew) Let us accept the help of our brother or sister and look to see how we can help carry each other’s load. 

That’s all we’ve got time for today So let’s walk with the Spirit each day, each moment of each day. As we keep in step with the Spirit we will experience the harmonious relationships that we were made to live in.

Let’s pray –  Lord Jesus, Holy Spirit, we are brothers and sisters. Though separated by social distancing we have a responsibility towards each other. Unlike Cain we say that we are our brother’s keeper. Help us to care for each other in love; to be concerned for each other’s welfare. Help us not to assert our superiority over my brother or sister and provoke them , nor resent their superiority over us and envy them. Help us to love and serve each other. If my brother or sister has a heavy load help me to bear their load; if he or she is under the weight of a sin, help me to restore them gently and with love. Help us to walk in the Spirit, guided by you Lord Jesus, listening to your promptings Holy Spirit. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen

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