Watching over oneself and fellow believers
- Psalm 45 (Psalm of Praise)
- Galatians 6:1-16
Dear friends in Jesus Christ,
The story was told of the young girl who fell pregnant outside of marriage. There were indeed days when is was a sin to have sexual relations outside of marriage; these days children born out of wedlock are called “love children”, almost in the way as prostitutes are now called “sex workers”, thieves are called kleptomaniacs and prisons “correctional centres”.
Anyhow, the shame that this girl brought upon her family was not dealt with the right way; instead, she was sent away on a long “holiday” – where she had her baby. She was terribly lonely, but found a good ear in the elderly lady in the flat next to her. This person was a Christian. She gave our young mother the advise to return to her hometown and to go back the church, where she was sure to find forgiveness and restoration.
The girl was shocked. “Back to church!? That’s the last place I’ll go to. It’s them who drove me away in the first place. I would not be able to listen to their innuendo’s and reproach.”
She never returned home, and she never went back to church.
Who’s at fault? Did she dig her own grave and did she get what she was looking for? Or was she lost because her family in the Lord left with her the opinion that God might forgive and forget, but they never? Both!
The sermon this morning follows our series of Doing Good. In doing good, we need to watch over oneself and fellow believers.
The joy of freedom in Christ
Knowing the Son of God
Let’s look at a few verses from the letter to the Galatians to once again discover the joy of being free in Christ – all by grace.
In Galatians 1:16 Paul says, although he thought he knew God through all the things of the law he observed, he did not Christ. The real freedom for Paul came when God revealed his Son to Paul. For Christ, Paul says, he left everything behind for the joy of knowing Him. Then, life started for Paul. He says in Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, NIV)
Making known the Son of God
In chapter 2 the apostle says that it is his calling to make known the Son of God through whom sinners can live in the relationship of Father-son with the living God. He could do this in the freedom that he was trying to convince people to adhere to certain laws and ceremonies, but that they could be forgiven by sheer grace in Christ Jesus.
know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16, NIV)
That’s the wonder of the gospel you and I hold out to lost people. It is not a “be good and you will be saved gospel”; it is a “because God has been gracious in Christ” gospel. Believe in Him and you become a child of the Creator of the universe.
We are sons of God through Jesus Christ
The amazing fact about grace is that God because of Christ did in our stead, makes us heirs of Christ. We are sons of God through Jesus Christ!
If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:29, NIV)
Be once again we’reamazed by God’s grace:
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:4–6, NIV)
We are really free
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5:1, NIV)
A gospel of good works is not a gospel of freedom. Millions of people will go to church today only to return with more burdens, because they will hear a gospel of good works. They do not look upon God as their Father, but God their punisher. All because they will not hear about the freedom in Christ.
The Gospel describes our freedom from religion which would demand of us to be good before or so that God would save us. This is not the case and we need to show more joy for this grace bestowed on us. This grace should never become old hat to us. Of this grace we must never stop telling others, because when this joy overflows in us, the Gospel we tell other will never come to them as “do good and you will be saved” Gospel. it will remain a Gospel of freedom and sonship in Jesus Christ.
Freedom in the Holy Spirit
Being made free, being new in Christ, being made sons of the living God in Christ Jesus, having received a firm inheritance in Christ who has become our brother, calls us to holy living. It speaks of an enormous and humungous change that took place. It is as good as a corpse which came to life.
No-one calling himself a Christian can reasonably do so if this change can’t not be witnessed in the way he lives. It is a complete turnaround of one’s life, thoughts, desires and ideals. Paul was first a persecutor of the church, but he became an apostle for the church. He was enemy of Christ, but he became a friend of Christ. He was lost, now he is saved.
That’s why, by the Spirit of God, he writes:
For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. (Galatians 5:17, NIV)
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25, NIV)
Freedom is a gift, not a status
In Galatians 5:26 Paul writes:
Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:26, NIV)
There is this real danger that Christians start looking down on one another with an attitude of “I am more free than you.” Or, “God made me his child because I think I am better than you.” This can so easily happen when a fellow brother or sister in the Lord faltered and fell in sin. You see, it sometimes tragically happens that the acts of our sinful nature prevails:
sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19–21, NIV)
When it happens is that those without mud on their faces can have an attitude of “I think I’m not as bad as him.” The Bible commands and warns that we should not become conceited. Other words are vainglory or narcism. Narcissus in Greek mythology was the fellow who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. This is spiritually possible: I like myself because I am saved, but I don’t like my brother in the Lord the same way. This verse has the word “become” in it. Even the original describes something that develops over time. It is not something we might realise overnight; it becomes an attitude if we don’t nip it in the bud.
The worst part of it that we set an example in our pride and others might see that as something desirable, so we start envying one another to outperform one another to do things that might look good and civilised, which is not biblical, but looks good.
Help one another up
What does the Bible mean? Remember the girl with the baby? In condemning the sin of out-of-wedlock sexual relations we develop an attitude of “holier than thou”. The Bible does not call us to condone sin, especially if there is no repentance, but the Bible does call us to never distance ourselves from the sinner, more so if the sinner is one of us. That’s why Paul writes:
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1, NIV)
The “restore” in this verse is the very word Paul uses in 2Timothy 3:17 when he testifies about the Word of God which “fully equips” us for every good deed. In another verse, Ephesians 2:12 Paul again uses this word to describe the reason why Christ gave apostles, teachers, pastor and leaders to his church: “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Ephesians 4:11–12, NIV)
The most unchristian thing to do when a fellow brother falls in sin is to distance oneself from him. No, in gentleness the Bible says, we should restore him, or help him up; we should make every effort to equip him once again for service in God’s household. It is not a “holier than thou” mentality, but a “it could have been me” mentality.
Why should we do so?
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2, NIV)
To fulfil the Law Christ took our burdens upon Him. Being restored ourselves, having had this humungous change happening in our lives through the work of the Spirit, being brought from death to life, we need to show the same attitude as our Saviour. We need our hands get dirty sometimes. How many people out there avoid the church because they might think they are not as good as us in here? If only they would know us; if only we would be honest with ourselves!
The church is not a showcase of sinless people, it is a hospital for the eternally sick where the gracious Healer of souls does his work of moulding and sanctification.
If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. (Galatians 6:3, NIV)
Now we understand this verse, don’t we.
Our adversary does not sit still. Be careful when you help the fallen brother or sister up that you are not dragged down. Don’t show so much compassion fir the young mother that she ends up having another out of wedlock child. Be careful to help the person who fell in a money scam and made lots of money, and end up falling for the love of money. Be careful to help the alcoholic and then end up becoming his drinking brother. Always remember: “each one will carry his own load.” There are consequences to all we do, and we can’t put the blame on others when we fall in sin.
The next verse seems it does not fit in the context: “… the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.” (Galatians 6:6, NIV) What does it mean? In the usual scheme of things this could be interpreted that the teacher is supposed to get some sort of sustenance from those he teaches. Here it means this: help your fallen brother, and you get a reward for it. Jesus said: “Do unto others as you would them do unto you.” There is an indescribable blessing in helping others. It enriches you as you pray with your fallen brother, as you help him from the Scriptures, as you help him up in the Lord and restore him. Your own spiritual life goes in leaps and bounds.
Go, try it out. Give it a go and come back and tell others you found nothing out of helping others.
All this is doing good
Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever 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. (Galatians 6:8–9, NIV)
Helping up your brother, caring for him, carry his burden with him and for him is sowing in the Spirit; it pleases the Spirit of God. That’s why caring for one another as good works is good in God’s sight. It is a good thing “to do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Do you want to test your life in the Lord, if it is real? Do you want to sow good works in the Spirit? Do you want the reward of growing in your spiritual life? Do not give up doing good, and start invest time in the spiritual life of your brother and sister. Carry one another’s burden. Allow others to help you to be equipped for service in the household of the Lord.
Do good to all people! If you live by the Spirit, it’s your duty. Amen.
Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 23 March 2014