Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, July 3, 2016
Do Good to All - July 3, 2016 - Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 09) - Text: Galatians 6:1-10, 14-16
This morning we come to the end of Paul’s letter to the Galatians and a splendid letter it has been. All along we have pointed to Paul’s purpose in writing this letter. His purpose was to 1) establish his apostleship, 2) to refute the Judaizers, those people who were teaching a confusion over the Law and the Gospel, telling the Gentiles that they had to follow the Old Testament Ceremonial Law in order to be saved, and 3) to prevent the Christians from falling into the bondage of legalism, again telling them they had to keep the Law in order to be saved. This morning we read Paul’s words of encouragement to be helpful to one another and his words of closing. The questions we might ask of our text are, “what is it that God wants us to do?” and “how can we do it?”
Paul begins by encouraging us to bear one another’s burdens. A part of bearing someone’s burden is to correct them when they err. Concerning our correcting someone Paul says that we are to be gentle in correcting someone who errs. Paul says, “1Brothers, 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. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (v.1,2). Notice that he does not say to “let it go.” Notice he does not say, “that’s okay.” What he says is to be gentle in correcting. This is difficult for us today because we do not like the word “sin” or the word “forgiveness” because both tend to make us think, “who are we to use these words.” As an example, when someone hurts you and says “I am sorry,” what do we say? More often than not we say something like, “That’s okay.” But sin is not okay! We should say, “you are forgiven,” but we think, who are we to announce forgiveness to someone. Paul reminds us that we are God’s children, charged with the words, “forgive as you have been forgiven.”
Yes, we are not to think more highly of ourselves for being able to forgive our neighbor. We are not to think that we are better than the person who has hurt us and is asking for forgiveness. Rather we are to think, “but by the grace of God, there go I”. We are to take a sober look at our own life. Paul says, “3For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5For each will have to bear his own load.” (v.3-5). As we look at our own lives we see how blessed we are that the Lord has preserved us from sin. When it comes to sin we can always find someone, at least in our own eyes, who looks like a bigger sinner. We can also find someone who is less a sinner. Our problem is that when we make a comparison we tend to compare ourselves to the wrong person. When it comes to our sinfulness we always like to compare ourselves to someone we think is a greater sinner. Yet, if we are going to make a comparison we are not to compare ourselves with others, but to Jesus, the sinless Lamb of God. Then, when we compare ourselves to Jesus, we can see our sins and our need for forgiveness. It is only as we make a careful look at our own lives that we can begin to work at bearing the burdens of others.
What is it that God wants us to do and how can we do it? God wants us to do the works of service He has prepared in advance for us to do. In our text Paul gets specific. Paul says, “6One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. 7Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (v.6-8 ). Paul says that we are to do good especially in sharing with our instructor. Paul is specific in saying instructor, or literally, the one who catechizes. The instructor is the one who has the Word. He is the one who shares the greatest gifts with you. It is through the Word that you are given all God’s good gifts and blessings, especially the most important gift, forgiveness of sins, because without forgiveness we know we do not have eternal life. It is only as we are given faith and forgiveness that we have the assurance of heaven, which is the greatest gift. So, Paul says that you are to share your benefits with him who distributes these gifts and blessings and this is not charity. In other words, we should not want to be credited for what we should be doing. Our motivation should not be human credit, rather we are to do what we are doing as if we were doing for the Lord. Our motivation is not a thank you, but that the Lord is glorified. God knows what is in our heart. He knows what is our motivation. He knows if we are working for a thank you or if we are working for His glory. Here we could go out on a tangent and talk about Jesus remind us not to let our left hand know what our right hand is doing and so on, but that will be for another sermon.
Paul talks about these works of service as either sowing in the flesh or sowing in the spirit. If we sow in the flesh we will reap corruption. In other words, if we concentrate and put too much effort into this world and the things of this world and not enough in the world to come then we are left with nothing, because we will inherit this world, eternal death and not heaven, eternal life. On the other hand, sowing in the spirit, concentration on and putting effort into the world to come, reaps heaven. In other words, Paul is stressing the importance of making regular and diligent use of the means of grace, of our being in the Word, our being in divine service at every opportunity, our being in Bible Class and Sunday School, our having personal and family devotions, our reading our Bibles. Now, here we could go out on a tangent and talk about Jesus’ visit with Mary and Martha, and other times when Jesus stress the importance of being ready for the world to come rather than concentrating on this world, but, again, that will be for another sermon.
This does lead to Paul’s reminder that faith is demonstrated in actions. Paul says, “9And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (v.9, 10). As I have said before, you do not have to tell anyone what your priorities are. People can tell by what you do. You do not have to tell God what your priorities are, He can look in your heart. Too often we find ourselves speaking about the importance of our faith yet we allow the “more important” things of this world to busy us out of faith. Every Sunday morning in our own church here and in churches around the country and around the world we can see the empty pews where people are not here because they have something more important to do than be in divine service and although they may protest that this is not the reason they are not here, because of something more important, if that is not the case, then they would be here! The fact is, we act according to our priorities. One of Satan’s greatest strategies is still being used today. In his book, Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis writes as a senior devil instructing his junior devil in the art of temptation. He writes that the greatest victory is not the lie that there is no god, but the lie that there is plenty of time. And even today the devil would have us believe that there is plenty of time. There is plenty of time to work on our faith as he involves us in so many things that we do not have time for our relationship with the Lord. Now, here we could go out on a tangent and talk about the story of the rich man who built bigger barns and said, “today I will eat drink and be merry and tomorrow I will worry about my soul,” and that very night his life was taken from him, but, again, that is for another sermon. What is it that God wants us to do? First and foremost He want us to be given the gifts He has to give so He can work in us to do the works of service He has for us to do.
But there is more to it than just doing works of service. There is the question of “How does God want us to do it?” He wants us to do works of service without boasting. Or, at least without boasting in ourselves. Paul says, “14But 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. 15For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God” (v. 14-16). Paul reminds us that he boasts, but only in the cross of Christ. What is it that motivates us to do works of service? Only the cross of Christ. Christ gave His all for us. Christ gave His life on the cross so that we might have life. Where would we be if Jesus had been to busy to die on the cross? Jesus came to give His life. His focus was clear. His course was resolute. It is His life, death and resurrection which brings us peace, true peace. Certainly we can be motivated by the Law. I could preach a lot of good guilt inducing sermons and I am sure that I have done so. And actually, we should admit that we like to hear Law sermons because they tend to make us feel justified in our sin. And if you do not believe we like law motivation, then look at the amount of e-mails you receive that use the law and guilt as a motivation to “keep the e-mail going.” But, Law motivation only goes so far. The greater motivation is the Gospel motivation. Certainly, and unfortunately, it takes longer to get one motivated by the Gospel, but the lasting effects are so much greater. The two scenarios are these. One way of getting a person to do something is through guilt and fear and guilt and fear are good motivators. This method of motivation is used quite often in our world today. If you do not pay your electric bill, your electricity, your lights, your air conditioning, everything will be turned off. Fear motivates payment. The other method of motivating is the Gospel. This method is a gentle, because method. We look at how good our God has been to us and are motivated to respond. It is much like a child who gives a hug or says thank you even without being prodded. How does God motivate you? Do you respond out of guilt and fear or out of love?
God wants us to respond with works of service. God wants us to do this out of love for Him. With that in mind maybe we need a plan of action. How can we move from being motivate by guilt and fear to being motivated by love? We can begin by being in the Word, by making a regular habit of reading our Bible. This too takes work and determination, because there is always going to be the temptation to skip one day, then the next day, then the next and so on. It is the Word, the message of God’s great love for us, seen in the cross of Christ, which will stir in us to respond with works of service. And as we respond with works of service we will reap the rewards of more gifts from God. Remember, you cannot out give God. The more you give back to Him, who gives to us first, the more He gives back to us. And finally, it is these works of service which demonstrate our faith. As I said earlier, our priorities are seen in our actions.
Paul’s letter to the Galatians is God’s Word to us. God’s Word to us through Paul might be summarized in this way. We are sinful human beings. This is our nature from conception. We are also saints. It is not that we will be saints, but we are saints made so by God’s grace through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Because of what Jesus has done for us we are motivated to respond by living our lives to His glory. First, we are loved by Him and given all His good gifts and blessing and then, as the Holy Spirit works in and through us, we do the works of service that God has for us to do, and we do them with our hearts and lips pointing to Christ and saying, To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.