Galations 10 - Hope 103.2

Galations 10

By Simon ManchesterSunday 16 Mar 2014Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes


St Thomas’ Anglican Church
North Sydney

Galatians – 6:1-18

Well friends we come to the last of a sermon series in the book of Galatians.  This is the 10th out of 10 sermons. This is the New Testament letter where the Apostle Paul is angry with slave traders.  Not the physical slave traders who put people in chains but the spiritual slave traders who trick people into leaving the road of grace and joy and falling into the ditch or the prison of works.

Two thirds of the letter is Paul’s protest to the Galatians.  Why would you leave the road of peace,grace and joy and fall into the ditch of performance? – two thirds of the letter.  This is his frustration – somebody comes along to church and they tell you that there are some rules to keep which will secure your salvation and people fall for it.  The Apostle Paul says – I explain to you as clearly as possible that Christ has secured your salvation and now here you are listening to these heretics.  The old Prayer Book says “Christ death was a full,perfect and sufficient sacrifice” in which we rejoice.  And the more you think about it,the more you do rejoice.

Now there is another ditch on the other side of the road – another prison and that is the ditch of ‘licence’.  I looked up my Thesaurus – the word ‘licence’ and these are some of the alternatives.

Laxity     slackness     anarchy     licentiousness     insubordination     nihilism

This is the kind of idea – well why not have the best of both worlds – we’ve got salvation,why not get sin – it occurs to all of us.  And the Apostle calls this in chapter 5 verse 13 “indulging the sinful nature”.

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Now both of these ditches,friends,are going to continue for every believer at each side of the road of grace until we get to glory.  There is never going to be a day on the road of grace where there is not the temptation and the danger of falling into the ditch of “law” or the ditch of “licence”.  But they are killers.  They may be exciting. 

If you fall into the ditch of law you often have this sense of one-up-man-ship and success.
If you fall into the ditch of licence you often have a euphoric sense of sin but they are killers in the end.

And the reason they are killers is because the ditch of law-keeping moves your trust from Christ to self – that’s fatal.  You can’t save yourself.  You won’t save yourself.  The ditch of licence moves your obedience from Christ to self.  It moves your service from Christ to self.  And that’s fatal once you take on your Lordship for yourself – that’s fatal.

How does a person avoid the ditch of law-keeping?  Paul’s answer in Galatians is God the Son and his wonderful work on the cross and the more you think about what he did on the cross,the more freeing it is.

How does a person avoid the ditch of licence?  Well Paul’s answer is God’s Spirit and the more you seek his help to change and strengthen you,the free-er you will be.  So the gift of his Son,the gift of His Spirit.  And I think friends,and I know some of you well and you know me well – I think a lot of our misery and our ineffectiveness would be avoided if we were to take seriously God’s provisions of his Son and his Spirit.

His Son – to free us from hopelessness
His Spirit – to free us from foolishness

Today we are going to see a little more of what the Holy Spirit does in the believer and through the believer (Chapter 6 of Galatians).  There was a couple here this morning – I think they had never been to church before and they said to me afterwards – “It was so good to have the Bible passage explained”.  I don’t know whether they are believers and I said to them “that’s one of the things we try to do at this church – we don’t think the preacher is any more intelligent than anyone else in the congregation,nor does he have a right to stand up and say what he thinks – we are really trying to get what’s in the Scripture”.

The first of three points is what I am calling Spiritual Teamwork – verses 1-5.  “Brothers if someone is caught in a sin,you who are spiritual should restore him gently but watch yourself of you also may be tempted.  Carry each other’s burdens and in this way,you will fulfil the law of Christ”.

Now what is this about in the context of Galatians?  This is not just a dictionary that we are reading – it’s a logical letter and Paul is still dealing with licence – he’s dealing with the tendency that people have to drift into sinful gratification.  And friends,we will fall and fail,that’s why Scriptures says “I write this so you won’t sin but if anyone does sin we have an advocate with the Father,Jesus Christ the Righteous”.

When however the sin becomes a pattern and a person is beginning to settle down with the sin thinking of moving in,having the sin move in,we who care about other believers need to take some action.  And you’ll notice that this is church teamwork.  The Pastor may do something but every believer is urged to also do something.  That’s why it says in verse 1 “Brothers” – doesn’t say “Pastors” but “Brothers”.  Verse 1 “you who are spiritual” – now you who are spiritual – you may immediately think ‘O that’s not me I am not very spiritual’.  The Apostle Paul is not talking here about being superior spiritual – he’s talking about being changed spiritual.  He’s not asking you to go and find a special spiritual team but he’s asking you TO BE the team – you who have the privilege of the Holy Spirit.

So Brothers and Sisters imagine it comes to your attention that someone in our church has become caught in a bad habit.

Maybe you just observe that their timetable or their priorities are killing their faith –
Maybe you pick up from their speech that their Christian faith is declining –
Maybe they have set up an idol (even the wonderful family) which has become their ‘god’ and the family dictates everything –
Maybe it’s a very clear sin –
Maybe in discussion you have discovered that they have run into some kind of foolishness,sadness or stupidity.

Well Paul’s exhortation here is that we not be too quick to jump on them
We are not to be too slow to do something
We need to think carefully about how we might restore them,how we might help them back.

The word “restore” is literally to re-set a bone.  And we therefore (as Paul says in verse 1) need to be very meek and gentle about this and we need to be humble – we are not above sinful behaviour ourselves.  But in verse 2 we must bear one another’s burdens.  This is a spiritual teamwork.  And the interesting thing is that as you do this,the law of Christ is fulfilled.  See the little dig at the Galatians?

You Galatian heretics think that when you’ve ticked the ritual box of circumcision,you’ve fulfilled the law of Christ or you’ve fulfilled and kept God happy.  It’s the transforming heart; it’s the transforming work of God’s spirit in the heart causing the believer to have a new love for God and a new love for God’s people which is going to be the fulfilling of the law of Christ.

So we are not proud law-keepers saying ‘these are the boxes we’ve ticked – how great we are’ – we are humble servants and you see verse 3 “no one should think they are above this”.  I hope there is nobody who says to themselves “I’m too busy for this – I’m too important for this”.

Verse 4 – “and don’t compare yourself with other people” – that will be a trap if you are going to help someone because (verse 5) we have our own responsibility before God.  We have a back pack to carry.  

An interesting little play here you see – your friend has a burden,a load that is basically crushing them and you get an opportunity to help them –

You and I however have a back pack (a responsibility to be in this spiritual team of caring for God’s people) so when it comes to people with burdens,we need spiritual teamwork.  When it comes to our own responsibility we must one day answer to Christ.

Now friends,I tell you why this is so interesting in case you’ve just drifted off.  I was sitting listening to a sermon once and I realised that my brain had gone off to something – Bali I think! I can’t remember.  I’d never been to Bali but my brain had gone a long way in the middle of the sermon and it’s just possible that there is one or two who could fall into the same trap!  And in case you have drifted away – why this is so interesting is because nothing works out a legalist like when someone else falls into trouble.  The Apostle Paul is dealing with legalists.

What do you do when you see or hear that somebody has fallen or failed?
What does the legalist do?

Well the legalist says “did you hear about so and so?? – Terrible – we would never do that – at least we think that even if we don’t say it”.  And there’s no meekness,there’s no humility,there’s no gentleness,there’s no identification,there’s too much superiority.

Winston Churchill said of a very proud man once who was walking through the House of Commons “there but for the grace of God goes God”.  And you and I need to be very careful that we don’t act like God without the grace of God.

The spiritual man or the spiritual woman who knows themselves to be a sinner (I hope you do) who knows the greatness of Jesus the Saviour (I hope you do) is able to thoughtfully and prayerfully and humbly and gently and lovingly get alongside somebody and think – how would I help them back into healthy walking on the path of grace and faithfulness?

Here are some lessons for us today –

1.  Many are doing this in this Congregation very wonderfully.  There are people who pray,people who make phone calls – they write notes – they send meals – praise God for the spiritual teamwork that goes on in this church family – it is wonderful.

2.  However,if you haven’t considered this you should take it on board.  Have you ever followed up somebody who has been away for a long time?  Have you thought – I haven’t seen somebody for a long time and made the call? 

3.  Would you help a Christian who is getting into a bad pattern?  Do you need somebody to tell you to do it?  because it’s here in Galatians 6.  Have you ever rung somebody or written to somebody just because you want to pastorally encourage or strengthen them?  Don’t leave this,friends,to the professionals.  We will (if we are professionals who are pastoral clergy) fail at this.  Don’t leave it to the professions.  If you have the Spirit of God and you know the grace of Christ,do this.

I don’t know if you know this but when Martin Luther was facing the greatest ecclesiastical court – facing the Catholic Church for his views of salvation by faith through Christ and he went to the famous Imperial Diet of Worms in 1521 – the Court was on in the afternoon.  What would you do if you were facing this incredible Court with the danger of being excommunicated? – which would of course mean a great deal to Martin Luther.  What would you do in the morning if the Court case was in the afternoon?  Well Martin Luther went pastoral visiting!  He went to visit a man who asked him to visit him who was dying.  It made such a big impact on him that he walked into the Court with a big smile on his face – great sense of proportion.

And you know,as well as I do,that getting out of your own little box and going off and taking an interest in somebody else often does more to refresh your Christian life than anything else.

One of the Jungle Doctor stories I remember was called “Boo Hoo the Hippopotamus” and these Jungle Doctor stories were tiny little jungle doctor stories,animal stories which had very profound lessons.  One of them was about a hippopotamus that walked around absolutely pre-occupied and depressed until he saw some little deer drowning in a lake and he jumped in and saved it and was completely revolutionized by the opportunity to do something outside himself.  So think carefully about this.

And for those of you,who are in some spiritual trap,do thank God for the people who seek to help you.  Give thanks for those people (even if it’s humbling) who sort of get involved and try to work out whether you are OK.  We are not independent – Christianity is not independent – Independence is not Christianity.

So here in these first 5 verses is a great answer to ‘licence’ and a great sign of new life and a great work of God’s spirit – its getting people out of the ditch – what a privilege.

The second section is verses 6-10 – Spiritual Agriculture.  Verse 6 “Anyone who receives instruction in the Word must share all good things with his instructor” – One of my favourite verses! Verse 7 “Do not be deceived,God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows”. 

Now again this is not just unrelated mumbo-jumbo.  He has just said in verse 5 that people must carry their own responsibility and now it’s possible that he thinks of the Pastor who is set aside by the congregation to prayerfully prepare and teach and he doesn’t want the message “carry your own load” to mean “Pastor – fund yourself” which would defeat the whole idea of being set aside for pastoral ministry and so he says a word about the pastor.

So these verses which go on to talk about ‘sowing’ – I’m sure they have got a ministry aspect because he comes back to ministry in verses 9 & 10 when he says “Don’t become weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest” and therefore if we have opportunity let’s do good to all people.  So the whole section (verses 6-10) is about spiritual agriculture. 

What we invest in as a church is going to have consequences.  The things that we invest our time and our money in at St Thomas will have consequences. 

If we give ourselves as a church to stuff which is basically frivolous and temporal then there will be nothing much to show for it. 

If we invest in sinful priorities as a church and if our time and our money are wasted,and if we simply indulge ourselves,then the harvest (as Paul says) will be destruction.

If however we invest as a church in spiritual priorities with our time and money,the harvest is eternal – eternally wonderful.

And that’s why we as a church try to support gospel projects.  We get lots and lots of requests as a church and that’s why we support The Russell’s in Nepal because even though he is an Engineer and she is a Doctor,their No.1 priority is to see people saved – Gospel driven – so that there is a harvest for eternity.

And it’s slow. 
Agriculture is slow. 
You sow the seed,
It’s sits in the ground,
You don’t see anything,you are tempted to ‘dig in’ and see if there has been any change,

You notice one of the AFL players who have just moved to the Swans – he said he wanted to join the Swans and not another Club because he wanted success immediately!  Well you just don’t get success immediately with spiritual agriculture.

So there is the Ministry aspect but there is definitely a personal aspect too and I hope you will sit up and take notice of this because it’s very,very profound.  Every Christian has so to speak in their heart spirit and sinful nature.  There are two fields for us to sow in.  We know this well. 

Who will we please? – Will it be Christ or will it be self?
Who will have their way? – Will it be Christ or will it be self?

And all the thinking and all the doing sows somewhere.  And what we sow brings a harvest and the great naivety is to wake up on this particular Sunday and say to yourself “Gee,the harvest of my spiritual experience is discouragement and emptiness and darkness – what could be the cause?”

Well,friends,just look back to the sowing of the last days.  What have you been sowing in?  Because that’s what will come up as harvest.  Nobody sows weeds and then hopes there will be corn.  No-one who sows sin is going to find themselves filled with joy and peace.  So we need to take seriously this principle of “sowing for a harvest” because what we sow inevitably comes up.  And the good news about it is that we can have a very real contribution to our condition by sowing to the Spirit.  It will bear the fruit.  God is not mocked – he will keep the laws of Agriculture going.

So friends,we are not victims of our personalities. 
We are not victims of our upbringings.  There is a very real sense in which we can contribute to our experience.  We can shape our character by our conduct and if you and I will concentrate even in the next day or two of sowing to the Spirit,you will see the fruit and the harvest – slow but sure – this is God’s great provision.

Well there are two spiritual things – Spiritual Teamwork and Spiritual Agriculture.  The third point and last point is verses 11-18 Spiritual Litmus Test. 

The litmus test is very simply whether your Christianity is all outward or inward.  Again if I may quote to you from the great Winston Churchill –
he made a scathing comment once about Clement Atley. 
He was looking out the window with a friend. 
He saw an empty taxi pull up.
 He said to his friend “an empty taxi has just pulled up”
 and then Mr. Atley got out.
And Churchill said “it was still empty when he was inside”.

Now it was a scathing comment really because what he is saying is that there was nothing there.

And as you come to these last verses of Galatians 6 the Apostle Paul is about to show the emptiness of his opposition (the heretics).  He is pointing out that they have no spirit,they have no Holy Spirit,they have no life,they have no eternal life and they have no transformation.

The Apostle Paul often does this as he has got opposition,he will cleverly pull the mask away and show what’s really going on.  If you read 2 Corinthians you will see that the Corinthians,many of them had given up on the Apostle Paul because he wasn’t impressive and he wasn’t successful and he was trying to explain that he was faithful and he was working for eternity.

And in the end in chapter 6 he pulls the curtain away and he says ‘you know the problem with this opposition – they are actually lovers of the world.  That’s the reason that they expect me to be like the world but I’m not like the world.’

And here in Galatians the Apostle Paul pulls the mask away (verse 11) he says ‘see what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand’.  Some people think this is the Apostle talking about his bad eyesight.  You know my eyes were so bad,he says earlier in the letter,you would have given me your own eyes but I think it’s much more likely as he comes to the end of the letter – I am writing this in BIG CAPITALS – I am about to say something significant.  You need to get this.

Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised.  And he gives 3 marks of these heretics.

The first is that they (verse 12) are interested in the look and not the heart.  It’s all superficial.  It’s all surface.  And they are trying to make a good impression – literally they want a good face.

The second mark of the heretics (verse 12) is that they don’t want to be persecuted.  They know that if they talk of the cross of Christ they will get opposition.  When you explain the “cross” to people – if you ever get the opportunity to explain the “cross” to somebody,it is the message of God’s great love but it’s also the message of our great sin. And we really need to explain to someone – I don’t know whether you realise this but things are so bad with your sin that this cost Christ.  And you need is so great – only He could help you.

So the cross is teaching two things – the depth of our need and the greatness of his provision.

John Stott says “the cross seems to say ‘I Jesus am here because of you – it’s your sin I am bearing,it’s your curse I’m suffering,it’s your debt I am paying and it’s your death I am dying’ “.  No wonder people steer clear of the cross.  It would be much easier to talk about something else,wouldn’t it?  And the opposition to Christianity is real.

I was told this week by one of the academics at the University of NSW that less and less Christians are doing the social work courses because the hostility to Christianity and the social work courses at the Universities is so intense there are very few who will go in and face it.

And then I was looking in the window of a Bookshop this week and I saw a book which was sub-titled “Where to Turn When God Is Trying To Destroy You” !!  You can only talk like that when you take the Bible and turn it completely upside down.  The Bible plainly says the devil seeks to destroy -” I,says Jesus,have come that you may have life and have it to the full”.  And the community in which we live says “No – he’ll destroy you”.  The hostility is very real and especially if you talk about the cross.

And the third mark of the false teachers (verse 13) is they want to boast about their scalps – their converts – how many people they can persuade to go through the ritual.

The Apostle Paul,by contrast,says in verse 14,he boasts in the cross. 
He doesn’t boast in what he does but he boasts what Christ did. 
He has got one hero called Jesus Christ.
He has got one lover called Jesus Christ.

And because the work of Christ on the cross has brought him such blessing and such privilege and so many riches,he says in verse 14 “the world is not my treasure any more”.  He actually can look at all the stuff that the world offers and he says – you know it just doesn’t measure up.  And the world doesn’t control him anymore. 

And if,dear friends,you find yourself getting bored with the cross,you need to do some reading in some of the great books on the cross –

Leon Morris
John Stott
Jim Packer

Read their books on the cross and realise the depths of the love of God for you at the cross. 

If you come here today thinking to yourself – I couldn’t be loved by God – the cross is proof.
Have you come here today with lots of sin of the past week thinking – I couldn’t possibly be a real believer – the cross is proof.

Have you come here thinking the past couldn’t be look after and the present isn’t going to be looked after and the future won’t be looked after – the cross says it’s all looked after.  It’s most wonderful,timeless,and depthless.

And the final words of the letter of Galatians are therefore (verse 15) circumcision and uncircumcision irrelevant. 
Hymns and choruses irrelevant.
Ties in church/ no ties in church,irrelevant.

What counts (verse 15) is a new creation.  Have you been re-born?  Are you born again?  That’s what counts.  That’s the only thing that will last. 

Verses 16-17 “Shalom and mercy to those who get this”.  What a powerful thing to say to people who love the Jewish heritage.  Your shalom says the Apostle will come through Christ.  The mercy will come through Christ.

Verse 17 the real wounds says the Apostle Paul – they are not ritual – the real wounds are the sign that I am a new person – see the scar on my forehead says the Apostle Paul – that’s the stoning.  See these whip marks on my back says the Apostle Paul – that’s the flogging.  Those are the marks which I am thankful for because they indicate that I have been made Christs.  A new life receiving new opposition.  Those are the marks that count,says the Apostle Paul – not the marks of dead ritual.

What’s the last word he gives them in verse 18?  You would expect this wouldn’t you?  It’s the word GRACE.  That’s how he began and that’s how he finishes.

And the final tone of the letter before the “Amen” – BROTHERS.  He doesn’t write this because he dislikes them.  He writes this because he loves them.  He wants as many people to be on the road of Christ as possible and he wants to see them avoid the ditch of legalism and the ditch of licence.

Let’s pray –

As I pray this morning I am going to just simply ask three questions and give you 5 seconds to respond in prayer to the Lord:-

1.  On the matter of spiritual teamwork – who have you shown spiritual practical concern for lately? And whom might you show it to this week?

2.  On the matter of spiritual agriculture – what is the harvest today of your condition following the priorities of recent days and what will the harvest be like on the last day?

3.  On the spiritual litmus test – how is your excitement level diminishing for temporal and even personal things and increasing for lasting and cross related things?

Father we thank you for the work of Christ for us and we thank you for the work of the Spirit in us.  We pray that you would help us to live in the light of these great gifts.
In Jesus’ Name we pray – Amen.