Welcome to Christ’s Community Church, this morning we’re continuing our series “Rethinking the Church” and looking at a Scripture from Galatians chapter 6. If you’d like to find your place, grab your Bible, open your Bible app on your phone, or just be patient and I will share it with you. But we’re going to be looking at Galatians chapter 6, verses one through ten. And I’ll tell you, I love this letter to the Galatians, because the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul tells us exactly what the gospel is. The gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ, it’s about being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and it’s about God and his work in his people’s lives.
To give you a little bit of context, in chapter 5, the apostle Paul describes the conflict that we all have between the flesh and the Spirit. He tells us that we all have passions and desires and they motivate us, either compelling us toward God or away from God. So you may have passions and desires to love Jesus, to study the Bible, to pray and serve God; but you can also have passions and desires that come out of your flesh that lead you away from God. These are passions for sin, independence, rebellion, and destruction; rather than to love and serve Jesus. The flesh Paul is describing here is not our physical body, but it’s the seed of rebellion within us, it’s the fall that we inherited from Adam, and it’s our tendency to sin against God. Paul tells us, that the flesh and the Spirit are in this continual conflict, but when those passions and desires are working themselves out through the Holy Spirit within the believer, he says in verse 25 that it leads to a life characterized by…
“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Basically, when we’re led by the Spirit, we’re a reflection of Jesus; and this comes out in our sexuality, our spirituality, and our social relationships, the same way as when we’re led by the flesh it manifests itself sexually, spiritually, and socially in brokenness, dysfunction, addictions and other ways in which we may try to manipulate God, our circumstances, and others.
Now you may have seen the plaque that says, “Lord give me patience… and give it to me right now!” And honestly we tend to be that way about a lot of things, not just patience, but also love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We want it, and we want it now. And really that’s a pretty good attitude to have most the time. You know, why put off repentance for another day? Why put off obedience to God? Why put off practicing a healthy lifestyle? Why put off loving your spouse or spending quality time with your family? If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing now! And honestly these things are all within our control, we can begin doing them today, there’s nothing stopping us!
For the believer, verse 24 tells us, it’s as simple as giving ourselves to Jesus, crucifying the flesh, that “sinful nature with its passions and desires” so that we can be alive to Christ and dead to sin. The apostle tells us, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
This is what leads to lives that are in tune with God, his Word, his will, and his way. That’s where chapter 5 leaves us, but it leaves us asking what does it mean to keep in step with the Spirit? You know, how do we obtain that, how do we walk in that, and how do we live that out day by day? And it really comes down to your passion and desire to be with Jesus, because if you stick close to Jesus, if you spend time with Jesus you’re going to end up like Jesus. I love the passage of Scripture in Acts chapter 4, where it says of the rulers, elders, and teachers of the law… “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). But the only way to grow in your relationship with Jesus, trusting him more, loving him more, is through the Holy Spirit; it’s following the Spirit, being led by the Spirit, and continuing to keep in step with the Spirit. And that’s where Paul takes us, chapter 5 sets this up, here’s the struggle: there’s confusion; here’s the conflict: you’re biting and devouring each other; but we should live by the Spirit, we should stick close to Jesus, and then Galatians chapter 6 tells us how we get there. If you’ll read with me Galatians chapter 6, beginning in verse one. Here’s how we stick close to Jesus; here’s how we’re led by the Spirit; and here’s how we keep in step with the Spirit.
Verse 1, “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” (Galatians 6:1-10).
Paul is telling us how to be led by the Spirit, because it’s the Spirit that brings us closer to Jesus and closer to one another. Fruitfulness in life comes through the Spirit, and so the goal is to always love Jesus. You see, you can’t be in love with Jesus, you can’t stick close to Jesus, and be controlled by the flesh. The Bible says you can’t be in love with Jesus and not be led by the Holy Spirit. You’re either in love with Jesus or you aren’t! First Corinthians chapter 12 tells us, “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit” (12:3). The goal of the Christian life is a fruitfulness that’s gained through intimacy with Christ. That’s what Paul describes here as he lays out four different factors through which the Spirit works in our lives as we stick close to Jesus. The Holy Spirit leads us, guides us, keeps us in step with him, and compels us toward a deeper love for Jesus.
First, he tells us, the Spirit of God leads us through the church, that’s the vehicle, so we need to be in the church. You know, it’s just like wanting to go to the movies, but you’re not going to get there anytime soon if you don’t get in the car. In the same way, spiritually you’re not going to get where you want to be if you don’t get in the church. That’s the vehicle that God has ordained. Verse one says, “Brothers” and he’s referring to the church. In verse 10, he confirms this telling us that the church is “the family of believers” just as it tells us in Ephesians chapter 2, “You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household” (2:19). The church is God’s house, it’s a big extended family where we’re brothers and sisters who love, encourage, support, instruct, and protect one another. God is our Father, he makes the rules of the household, and we love and obey our Dad.
So here, Paul is writing to the church in Galatia and you’ll notice if you read your Bible that most of the time God is writing to churches through his servants, because he’s assuming that if you want to talk to Christians you write to the church, because all the Christians are in church. So he writes to the church at Ephesus, to the church of Thessalonica, to the church at Corinth, to the church at Philippi, to the church at Galatia, to the church in Rome, to the church in Thyatira, to the church at Sardis, to the church at Laodicea, and these are all churches that are mentioned in the New Testament. The assumption is, that if God wants to speak to his people, he writes to the church, because his people always gather together for worship as the Church.
Now unfortunately, today there are a lot of people who claim to be Christians, but don’t go to church, they’re not involved in the church, they don’t participate in their local church. But the Bible tells us that we must be in the local church, we must support the local church, having real live spiritual friendships with people who love God and who love us; people that we can look at as family, men who are like brothers, and women who are like sisters, and that’s the heart of what God says. Within the church, we should know each other to the degree that we can be vulnerable, open, honest, and transparent with one another, because the second thing is that the Spirit guides us.
This means that spiritually we know where the other person is and that love and trust is built in such a way that we can actually be involved in each other’s lives, building each other up, encouraging one another and holding each other accountable. It’s not a form of legalism, but it’s love, because it’s the work of Christ through His Church. And we all need each other at times to guide us and pull us back on track. You know, before a couple has that catastrophic breakup, or before a brother or sister in college starts drinking too much and over extending their freedom in Christ. That’s what Paul is talking about here in verse one…
“If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently” (Galatians 6:1).
Now honestly, when you talk about this it makes people squirm. As a matter of fact, I just read an article written by Luke Gilkerson entitled “10 reasons why accountability in the church is unpopular.” And he said that…
And I believe all of these are true, but accountability makes us uncomfortable, we don’t like people to know our dirty laundry, because we haven’t been discipled, we haven’t been taught the value, and we haven’t exercised biblical accountability in the church. But we need to recognize that the church is a family, it’s not a private matter, it’s a public matter because sin affects everyone. Galatians chapter 5, verse nine tells us, "A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough." A little sin pollutes all of us, it defiles all of us, because we’re in this together. Therefore, none of us are in isolation, and none of us suffer in isolation, and none of us fail in isolation.
What this means is that at some point you and I will be in trouble, we’ll be caught in a sin, and judgment begins in the household of God. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, “It isn't my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning” (1 Corinthians 5:12; NLT). You see, we’ll need our brothers and sisters to come rescue us, to open that trap, and to release us so that we can be free again and back in fellowship. But Paul warns us to be very careful, because this restoration should be done by those who are spiritually mature, those who won’t be tempted to get sucked into the same trap. And therefore, number three, the Spirit keeps us in step with what Christ is doing in our lives.
It’s vital that you’re in a church that loves Jesus and loves each other, because in that church there has to be a willingness among people to open up their lives and be transparent, to involve themselves in the process of restoration, and also to have the ability to distinguish between burdens and loads. As you read chapter 6, it looks like a contradiction; verse two tells us, “Carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). And then verse five says, “For each one should carry his own load” (Galatians 6:5). We’re left wondering do we share the burden or do we carry it by ourselves? But the reality is that there are two different words used here in the Greek text. The word for load is light; meaning it’s a light responsibility. The word for burden is something that is very, very heavy. The issue is, if it’s light we just need to stand up, be mature, and carry it. But if it’s a heavy burden, if it’s going to crush us, we’ll need our brothers and sisters to help us carry it. There’s the great big difference and we need to be able to distinguish between burdens and loads.
It’s the Spirit that keeps us in step with what Christ is doing in his church, as we fulfill the law of Christ, carrying each other’s burdens, and to the best of our ability carrying our own load. That’s how this is realized in the church as verse four tells us, “Each one should test his own actions.” So the Spirit helps us to recognize what is a life responsibility that God puts on our shoulders to help us mature and grow. Something that makes you stronger and builds perseverance, character, and hope. Where on the other hand a burden is totally different. It’s the kind of responsibility that comes on your back and you’re buckling under its weight, because it’s going to crush you, and you can’t possibly carry it by yourself. This is where we need our brothers and sisters to come alongside of us, to get involved in our lives, and help us carry the load. When this happens, the church comes together, people love each other, and they grow stronger together.
For us as a church we need to recognize that at times you may need to call for help, but the rest of the time I should spend my time looking for people with burdens and serving them. You see, some day I’ll need help and they’ll help me and that’s how we mutually benefit one another in God’s church. Here’s how we keep in step with the Spirit, putting to death the flesh, and sticking close to Jesus. We’re in a church with people that love each other, that are involved in each other’s lives, where there is accountability, and when people mess up they are gently restored. Together we’re able to distinguish between burdens and loads, between traps you’ve gotten yourself into and need to get yourself out of, or maybe you need help to get out. But that’s keeping in step with the Spirit and the church.
Number four, the Spirit works to compel us toward a deeper love of Jesus. This happens through the teaching of God’s word. It’s the means by which the church remains healthy, relationships are built, people are transformed from selfish to selfless, and together we all grow up becoming more like Christ. But when the Scriptures are not clearly taught people get confused and that was the problem at Galatia. People came in and began to twist the Scriptures, they weren’t receiving the whole Word of God, and so Paul asked in chapter 3,
“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (Galatians 3:1).
But today we have the whole counsel of God’s Word, we have both the Old Testament and the New Testament, we have the Prophets, the Gospels, the Psalms, and the Letters. We must be a church that teaches the Scriptures and understands the purpose of the Scriptures. We’re called to be free, but we can’t use our freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather we must serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13). James tells us that we should not merely listen to the word and so deceive ourselves. We should do what it says (James 1:22).
You see the Word of God isn’t merely intended to give you information, it is intended to transform you. The goal is for you to become like Jesus, not just to memorize facts about him, but for you to love him and to stick close to him. If we’re going to be the church that God calls us to be, the goal for opening the Bible can’t be for information, but for transformation, because Paul tells us in first Corinthians, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up “ (1 Corinthians 8:1). We must be compelled to come to Jesus, to be with him, to abide in him, and to love him. As we come to him, he transforms us, and our lives are different. Fruit comes out in the form of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That’s what happens to those people that stick close to Jesus. The love of Jesus just comes out.
As we gather together being accountable to one another it’s through God’s word that he speaks and reveals himself, he convicts us of our sins, he reveals himself to us deepening our love for Jesus, deepening our intimacy with each other, and building us into a loving family in the church. And this is how we’re led by the Spirit. This is how we keep in step with the Spirit. This is how we crucify the flesh. This is how we stick close to Jesus and to one another. It’s through these things: you get involved at church, you develop friendships, and together we open our lives where we’re accountable to one another. We’re able to distinguish between burdens and loads, we’re able to help those in need, and all of this is under the authority of God’s Word and the Spirit that guides and leads and controls all of it. It’s the Holy Spirit who works through us. It’s the Holy Spirit who’s at work in the church, gifting, leading, and guiding us. It’s the Holy Spirit who inspired the Word of God, who’s working through the Word of God, and it’s the Holy Spirit who dwells in the Church. That’s all that we need. Second Peter chapter 1 says,
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness…” (2 Peter 1:3).
And yet today the world no longer accepts a belief system rooted in tradition. We can’t do church the way we’ve always done it. I believe if the next generation doesn’t see the power of God working in our lives in real tangible ways, they’re not going to listen to our message, nor will they have any interest in following Jesus. But what the world needs to see a consistency between our life and our faith, and so this message is a rallying cry for the church, it’s a message of freedom and spiritual abundance, it’s about living a life in communion with Jesus, breaking free from earthly limitations and making a difference in the world around us. It’s about you and I in the church seeing and loving people the way God loves them. And most of all, learning to embrace the Holy Spirit, allowing him to release his power within us, and keeping in step with what he’s doing in the Church.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
January 22, 2017
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.