Galatians; A call to freedom; 15. The task of the Spiritual
Galatians – A call to freedom – 15. The task of the Spiritual Galatians 5:25-6:10 Galatians 5:25-6:10New International Version (NIV) 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Doing Good to All
6 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. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.8 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. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
There are effectively two schools of thought as we approach this passage; two ways that the commentators approach how we understand these verses. One set starts in 6:1 and so sees this last part of Galatians as a loose final thoughts of Paul. Almost as if Paul is just squeezing in some final ideas to the book, but never justifying them. The other way to see this passage is as we have read, from 5:25 and in this approach, this whole passage becomes the application of the whole of chapter 5. To me this makes much more sense in the whole understanding of Galatians. So, let’s recap chapter 5 very quickly; you are saved by radical grace, it is not anything you can do to add to that salvation and therefore you come desperate; we saw two weeks ago that until you have nothing to give to God you have done nothing for Him, because without radical grace, we are bound to use God for His blessings or obey God for fear of punishment. Grace shows us we can come as we are to the cross and therefor obey for loves sake and nothing else. Last week we saw how, living by the Spirit, or loving who the Spirit loves – Jesus – we fix our over-desires. Essentially, grace puts everything back in place so that we can find Jesus wonderful. Tonight; we have to continue with that same thought; and let it flow into this passage. If we do, Paul is warning us; church; get grace and hold onto it! The human heart is so tempted to let it go and therefore lose everything again. How do we see this in this passage; well in verse 25-26 we read; 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Live by the Spirit or we miss it; why because 1.The warning of Conceit Paul uses a very interesting word here in this passage; kenodoxos – we translate it as conceit; now we have to ask what is conceit; most of you will be conceit haven’t a clue… Conceit is in English an obsessive pride in oneself. Which is a good word; however, it does miss somewhat the nuance of what Paul is saying here. Kenodoxos comes from two Greek words; keno meaning empty or vain and doxo meaning glory. So, Paul is saying keep in the Spirit church or you will fall into empty glory. Vainglory or empty glory is a desperateness that seeks any affirmation or praise to fill it. The more you read the great philosophers the more you see this recognition of the emptiness of man. Augustine called it a God shaped hole. However, as thinkers have rejected God so the hole has been redefined; now we have the pursuit of happiness. The irony is how the pursuit of happiness leaves us so universally unhappy. And the problem here is the more we live in this state of emptiness the more we (almost) demand of others to be the source of the filling of that hole. Now, I will get to how this works itself out in the church later, however, just to put this out there if you are trying to get your meaning from anything other than God you will have an emptiness about you that will grow as you will get older and inevitably consume you. The next thing Paul warns us is to live by Spirit or we will provoke and envy each other… 2. The warning of Provocation and envy These are the application of vainglory; if you are seeking your meaning from anything other than God you will use people and exploit them. You see if you are trying to get your meaning from anything other than God there is a frantic, almost obsessive hollowness about you. And because of this you can’t fully love people (the way that Paul is going to ask us to do in a minute). And so, your default; the way you are without God is that you use and exploit people. Your friendships are based on what you can get out of them, without God all of your relationships will default to this. Yes, there will be ultraistic moments of selflessness, however, you will use that as a debt that that person must pay one day. We are by nature desperate; and that desperation works itself out in our relationship and interactions with people. Everyone knows that relationships breakdown because of selfishness, yet we all act selfishly. And I want to say; most of the time we are blind to or we justify that selfishness. For example; a friend of ours says something thoughtless and insensitive, and so we refuse to hear their apology and won’t give them forgiveness until they have felt our pain. I mean have you ever been there, when you know that simply forgiving the person will make the issue go away but you want them to feel the pain that you feel; you want justice. You don’t actually want justice; you want revenge. Now we must look at why we are so desperate and unhappy without God. The reason we can’t find happiness and meaning apart from God is that it simply is not there. As C.S. Lewis says; happiness is impossible outside of God because it is simply not there. If you refuse the only food that the universe grows because you don't like the taste; you have no choice but to starve. So, we know this doesn’t work, so what is the alternative. 3. Living according to your eternal destination Paul spend from 6 verse 1 to 10 speaking what it looks like when we actually find our wholeness and happiness from God. There is too much in this little passage to go into detail of what Paul shows us. However, I believe we can cover two main aspects of this passage and get an idea of what living by the Spirit looks like. At least at a principles level. a) Costly restoring of others The first thing Paul states that Spirit life looks likes is that it restores others regardless of the cost. Paul says if anyone is caught in a sin you who live in the Spirit (and the NIV has a great translation here), must gently restore him. Carry each other’s burdens and you will fulfil the law of Christ This is a deeply profound verse. Most of us when it comes to the issue of sin have two approaches (both have the same root) we avoid, or we destroy. If we hear of someone who is caught in a sin we respond either by just ignoring the issue like an elephant in the room. Almost like what happened to my sister in law when she told one of her colleges that she had been diagnosed with cancer, and literally he looked at here and just told her what was on the agenda for that day. She said she felt almost like he had not heard her. We are sometimes like this. Someone comes to us caught in sin and we change the topic; why because if we engage it’s going to cost us. The other way is that we destroy; we take it upon ourselves to make sure that that person knows exactly what they did; and that we measure out the appropriate amount of guilt to that person! Because guilt always helps people change – doesn’t it! We want them to know their problem; and feel it! And we are just the kind of person who can administer that justice properly. We become the arbiters of the justice of God. Now both of these approaches have the same root cause; we don’t have the internal strength to actually carry that person; so we avoid or kill! Both drive the other person away; it never takes them in, and therefore, drive deeper desperation in the other person. You see the approach Paul suggests is restoration through sharing the other person’s load. We have to get our understanding of this right; if there is sin, there will always be a cost to pay; if we offend someone there will be a cost to pay. Many people treat forgiveness as this courtesy. However, there is a cost. If you come into my house and break all my stuff; someone is going to have to pay to restore what was lost. Sin is the same; it always has a cost. However, if we live from the gospel; if we walk by the Spirit; our cost has already being paid for by Christ; therefore, we have an abundance of love to pay it forward and a method of restoration that brings true healing. In this we have the true inner peace and strength to restore people in gentleness and grace; and we have the security to help people up even if they fall multiple times. This happens in and through the cross. This causes us to be a community of grace; not licence which would make sin irrelevant; nor condemning; which would make the cross meaningless. We become pointers of grace; we draw people to the cross and carry the load with them as they walk there. This is a lot harder to do than to say! The next aspect of living in the Spirit is that we b) Live as if eternity matters Paul spends from verse 7 to 10 on this principle of sowing and reaping and doing good. On the surface this looks like we should make the emphasis on doing good. On acting right; and surely, we have spent weeks on fighting this tendency! Church Paul makes it clear, our reward is eternal; it lies in the resurrection; and eternity with God in bodily form. And we will cover this in more detail next week; however, if you are made to live for all eternity in a body form. Not as an angel nor as something other than human then this life and what you do matters. The emphasis of the New Testament is that we are destined for resurrection; bodily resurrection. In other words; you are going to be you for eternity! And get this; because it is truly powerful, if you have been saved, if you are living in the Spirit you are getting glimpses of that resurrection life here and now! Not perfectly, and not fully but, little glimpse of what it is going to be like in the resurrection. Therefore, as Paul calls us to do next not tire of doing good; because it is a taste of what is to come. As we create the community of God’s reign, here among believers, as we engage in Spirit life, as we restore each other and truly love each other out of the abundance of love we experience from Christ on the cross; so we taste more and more of our eternal destination. You and I live in an overlap of the ages; we experience the decay and sin of the world that is passing away; but internally we experience the power, love, wonder and awe of the life to come! So live if that actually matters! We will go into more detail of this next week. However, to close off tonight; how we treat people matters; and we will never treat them as they deserve until we find our fulfilment; our life in one who created us; in God through Christ Jesus! Let’s pray…