Archive for the ‘Galatians 6:1-10; 14-18’ Category

“Test Your Own Work!”

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

Sixth Sunday in Pentecost, July 4, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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Forgiveness_186There’s a battle ragging around us and even within us; it is the battle of good vs. evil; the battle of the cross against the sinful world.  In our battle of independence against the British Empire, the enemy was easy to spot; they wore bright red coats and they lined up in battle pickets; they suppressed any attempts at revolution with the hail of bullets and cannon balls.  Today we celebrate our victory over that enemy, who has now become our friend and ally.  But the battle that still rages today is against a completely different enemy; an enemy that will never be our ally or friend… an enemy that has been attacking and seeking to destroy us since the very first sin was committed in the Garden of Eden.

This enemy is lurking within our church, and he is even hidden within our own hearts.  He is working to cause division and discord, even while God is working to create harmony and peace!  God is calling each of us this morning to see the enemy around us and within us for who he really is.  Who is this enemy?  It is the devil and our own sinful desires.  This morning God is calling us to attack this enemy and rest in His truth that tells us through the cross of Jesus Christ, God has already provided the victory!  This morning God wants to show us how to rest in that victory.  Please pick up your Bibles (or bulletins) and turn to Galatians Chapter 6, and let’s get started in the first verse.

I. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.  For each will have to bear his own load.” [Vs. 1-5]  Do these words remind you of something Jesus said?  Let me jog your memory: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” [Matt. 7:3-5]  What Jesus and Paul are saying is essentially the same thing.  Take care of yourself first and then you can help your brother who may need your loving care to get right with God!  Of course in both instances, God’s Word is talking about judgment of others, and it is not telling us to put off  helping or doing good for others.

Do you know a Christian brother or sister who has fallen into sin?  Good, then help them get back on the road that follows Jesus!  You aren’t going to help them by judging them, they already know that they’ve sinned; the law is already accusing them.  But you can help them come back into God’s kingdom of grace by sharing His love for them!

“A friend and I were once traveling on a very muddy border road to do a safety inspection on a facility near the border.  We were in business clothes.  I suppose my friend was going a bit too fast for the condition of the road because our vehicle slid and ended up in a muddy ditch.  Neither one of us wanted to get out of the vehicle and do something helpful because, well we didn’t want to get muddy.  A semi-truck quickly pulled up and offered to pull us out of the ditch, on one condition… we had to get out and put the chain on our rear axle ourselves. What he was saying was that he would help us out of the ditch, but we first had to acknowledge the mess we’d gotten ourselves in by crawling through the mud to get ourselves out of the mud.  He was not willing to cover himself with the mud but he would pull us out!  “OK” we agreed; so in the mud we went.  As we were attaching the chain, the truck driver explained that he wanted the chain on the rear axle because the road conditions ahead of us were not good.  He said if he pulled us that way, he might wind up in the ditch right along with us.”

Friends, that’s what Paul is telling us.  He is telling us to go to our brothers and sisters who have sinned with our hearts and minds centered in reality, our own reality, which tells us that we too are vulnerable to temptation!  Yes that person has fallen into sin, but they are still our brother or sister.  God wants us to help them out of the ditch of sin they are caught in, but… we must be careful not to fall ourselves!  We must remember that each of us has fallen into our own sin-filled ditches so to speak and we are prone to do it again.  We would do well to remember this simple saying: “There but for the grace of God go I!”  If we remember this truth, we will be so busy testing and examining our own lives and work that we have no time nor room to look down on a brother or sister.  In this way, God’s Word teaches us that we can’t use someone else’s sinful life as a lens to make our own lives seem more holy and perfect.  This is what Paul means when he says that we should “bear” our own load.

II. “One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.  Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Sprit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.  And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” [Vs. 6-10]

Now, right off the bat I must correct some bad doctrine that is being passed along by some TV and radio evangelists.  Verse 6 is not, I repeat not a proof text that you should give money to your spiritual teachers.  Instead, it is God’s Word encouraging you to strengthen your fellowship and relationship with that specific man of God.  And of course, this is all predicated on the assumption that you are being instructed by a man that has been rightly called and taught by God… one who has studied to show himself approved before God and men.  In short, your teacher should be teaching you nothing but God’s Word; no opinions and no strategies to help you live a more prosperous life.  The teaching that any pastor is called to provide is for your spirit and not for your flesh!  The purpose of God’s Word is to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to you here on earth, and to point you to the day when you will finally rest in His whole presence in Heaven.  Your pastor has been given the good things from God’s Word, and his job is to give you only those good things.  And your part, is to receive that instruction of spiritual truths and live in, with and under each and every one of them.  You have been called by God to participate in every aspect of that truth.  The riches of God’s Kingdom have all been given to the Church, and you have called your pastor to freely dispense them in this Holy House.  The riches are with the Church and your teacher and the need for these gifts is with the student and even your teacher.  God is calling each of us to come into fellowship with each other by hungering for the things that the church has to give.  And what are those things?  None other than fellowship in Word and Sacrament!  This is why you come to church.  You don’t come to church to get your praise on; you don’t come to church to be entertained; and you don’t come to church to catch up on the latest gossip.  You come to church to receive forgiveness, grace, and love so that you can give the same to others!

And as you regularly attend worship and allow God to feed you His Word, you will undoubtedly discover that His Word is changing you and rearranging you.  You will begin to see that through God’s Word and your investment of time He is bringing your heart and mind out of the reality of this sinful world and into the reality of His Kingdom.  His Kingdom in the here and now and His Kingdom that will come!

III. “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor un-circumcision, but a new creation.  And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.  From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” [Vs. 14-17]  Has all of this talk about falling into sin, reaping and sowing, and not mocking God got you afraid?  Good, then you are right where God wants you to be!  Now through the inspired words of St. Paul, God wants to take your eyes off of your fear and put them on the cross!

Paul is asking not just the Galatians, but every true Christian to follow him on the only way path that leads to a life free of worry and fear.  He says, do not boast in yourself or anything that this world holds as important; instead, boast only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!  Boast in Jesus alone who purchased and won you as His own.  It is to Christ and His precious cross that you belong.  And under that cross you will find life, faith, and strength.

CONCLUSION: I will close our message this morning exactly how Paul closes his letter to the Galatian church: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers.” [Vs. 18]  Paul and I are closing our message with grace because God wants each of us to live in that grace.  He wants to remind us that it is only by grace that any of us can look forward to not just living in the kingdom of God, but also seeing it grow and expand!  The battle lines have been drawn, and the battle is still ragging.  It is a war just as real as and far more important than the battle that was wagged and won for our physical independence.  This is the battle for our spiritual independence.  It has been fought at the same place for centuries… the cross of Jesus Christ, which is mounted both on Golgotha and within the pure Word of God! 

It is this cross that changes our way of thinking about both the rule and reign of God in our lives—it is through the cross that the world with all of its differences are brought together: the King, our King, grants life through His own death, and with the death of death, creation is born again… even within your own hearts!

Friends, Jesus is leading each one of us out of the kingdom of darkness where sin, death and the devil rule, into another kingdom where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rule—not with the threat of war but with the promise of peace… peace which comes through grace, mercy and truth!  To God alone be glory… AMEN!