Galatians 5:25, 6:2-10
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one shall bear his own load. And let the one who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
Are You Serious?
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
One of the reasons that I preach from a lectionary is to keep my sermons both grounded in the Word of God, and as free as possible from my personal agenda. After all, I do not select the text upon which I base my sermon from week to week. I determined a long time ago to preach on the historic lectionary, so the sermons you hear are based on the same Scripture lessons as the church was using from before the time of Luther. I also decided that I would preach the Old Testament lessons one year, the Epistles the next, and then the Gospels on the third year of the series. Other than that, I preach on the text that comes up each week.
Why did I begin with that explanation? You may have recognized that the text this morning begins where the text last Sunday ended. I borrowed the first verse of todayís Epistle for the last verse of the sermon text last week. So, the topic is similar and the text contains some of the same verses - well, one. The topic is living out the Christian faith. Our theme is, Are You Serious?
Are you serious about being a Christian, a child of God, a member of the household of God? Being a Christian is a gift, but it isnít something you just fall into or do naturally. It requires your attention, and it has a pattern all of its own. You can pretend, or you can ignore God and His will altogether, but He knows. Paul wrote those words right in the middle of our text, Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. In other words, donít kid yourself, God knows, and calling yourself His child while actually being something else is not going to work. You may fool yourself, you canít fool God, and He doesnít take kindly to people even trying.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. We talked about what that means last week. In our text this week, Paul describes the sorts of things that the people of God do. He tells us what living in the light of the Gospel looks like. Now, keep in mind that the things Paul describes do not earn or merit salvation. That is a gift on account of Christ. The pattern of life that is delineated here simply reflects the person who has received, by grace, the forgiveness of sins, bought and paid for by the very Son of God dying in their place. They understand true humility because they have seen it in Jesus. They know what it is to serve others, because they were taught by the example of the one who lived for them, and then died in their stead.
Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. Jesus illustrated that by bearing your sins to the cross. He demonstrated that it was a divine value, something worth copying. Paul calls it, the law of Christ, not because it is a rule that you must obey. It is not that kind of law. It is a principle of being Christ-like. Jesus did this freely and willingly. We, too, should understand the value of serving, of bearing burdens that belong to others and doing it willingly and freely, not under compulsion. After all, we have seen it done, seen it done on our behalf, and that by our Lord.
There is nothing we might be called on to do that is beneath us. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Christ demonstrated the sort of humility that marks a true Christian Ė and it marks a true Christian because they learned it from Christ. There was nothing He would not bear on the road to the cross, no indignity, no sorrow or pain. He illustrated that point on the night He was betrayed by washing the feet of His disciples, and then telling them that they should also wash one anotherís feet. Jesus wasnít worried about clean feet. He was performing, as their Teacher and Lord, the most humble work of a common servant. So, when someone needs something and you can do it, you are not too busy, or to important, or too big a person to humble yourself.
Our lives are, in fact, to be lives of humility before one another, and of counting each other as more important than ourselves. That living humility is what this passage is all about. It is what walking by the Spirit is all about. If you want to feel good about your works, your intelligence, your spirituality or whatever, then examine yourself. Donít compare yourself to another person, because we each have our own gifts and abilities. If one person is more learned than another, it means that God gave them opportunity and ability. It does not measure the personís worth. It measures Godís abundance in blessings. We cannot compare ourselves to others, except to hold them up as blessed and special. We cannot judge our value compared to another because God does not necessarily judge value the way we do. That is what grace is about.
Paul writes, For each one shall bear his own load. That comes after he tells us to bear one anotherís burdens, so, clearly, Paul intends us to understand that we each have our own blessings and challenges. We cannot compare ourselves to anyone else in beauty or strength or performance or morality, because each of us starts in our own place and carries our own history and weakness with us. When we see the burden another is carrying, we can help, but we canít judge Ė they have their load, and you have yours. We each start in a different place, with different gifts and different pressures. God gave us to one another to help each other get through Ė and everyone needs help, from the humblest among us, to even the pastor. There are no supermen in this crowd, just sinners, forgiven, but still weak and erring at times.
And let the one who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches. Those words are hard to preach without sounding self-serving, so I normally avoid them. Nonetheless, Paul speaks by inspiration. If you want a pastor focused on the Word, you have to enable him to focus on the Word. It is easy to say, I have done enough Ė or I have done all that I can. And it may be true. But the very next words in the text are, Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.
It depends on what your values are. We have had people leave this congregation because they knew that it would require more to belong here than they were willing to give Ė not able, but willing, and they said so on their way out the door. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. As I said, it depends on what your values are. And all of that is truly between you and the Lord. I am not trying to judge anyone, I am merely trying to preach what the Word of God says.
The thing about being a Christian is that it is a lifestyle, not a single event. Some denominations teach people to look for the special event, the special feeling, the moment that confirms that they being among the saved. There is no such thing, no moment or experience that confirms our belonging among the saved. The moment that confirms our salvation for us occurred on the cross, when Jesus cried out, ďIt is finished!Ē We have no other litmus test, no special moment or feeling other than our Baptism to mark us as belonging. What we have is life. We live day by day as Godís people.
It is easy to get comfortable Ė or to get discouraged Ė and to let things slide. We began this congregation with a commitment that every member would attend Bible Study every week - and we offered several to help make it possible. As time has gone on, Bible Study has become less of a priority for many of us. Worship has become less of a priority for some of us. Supporting the congregation and serving within her, even in the few little ways we have to serve, has become less of a priority for some of us. It is human nature. That is why Paul wrote, And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. He wasnít focused on any one thing. They probably didnít have Bible Studies like we do. They supported their congregation in different ways. Paul was focused on the whole thing of just living out your faith. It is easy and natural to grow weary of always being the ones who do stuff, and to lose focus because life goes on day by day, week in and week out for years. Even though it seems like a long pull, it isnít as long as you might imagine, and the reward of grace and salvation is better than we can imagine.
Perhaps you can see why I chose the theme, Are you serious? Of course you are. But it just isnít the decision of a moment, or the commitment of a week or two. The Christian life is all life long, and it takes determination to keep things clear and real. God gives us His Word to remind us and instruct us. He gives us the Holy Supper to refresh us and to cleanse us. He gives us one another to encourage each other and help each other stay focused and deliberate in our faith and life. He gives us His Holy Spirit to guide us and empower us to continue as His people.
Some religious traditions teach that the moment of excitement is the thing. The revival traditions of America are like that. The participants judge their fitness for salvation by how they feel and, well, feelings fade. Its just natural. So every so often they need a revival of some sort to re-awaken those important religious feelings, so they can feel confident of their salvation once again. But our confidence is not wrapped up in us, or in our feelings. Our confidence is entirely grounded in Jesus Christ and the promises of God given to us clearly in His Word. How we feel doesnít assure us. We can have good days, and we can have bad days. God doesnít change just because we are having a down day. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and, yes, forever. The cross of Christ and the promises of the Gospel are our assurance.
If we are serious about our faith, we turn to the Word, and we are reminded to be humble, to trust God, and to love another in word and deed, and others as well. Paul says, So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. In doing good, and practicing humility, we are reminded of Christ, who saved us by His doing good and practicing humility. He died for us, and now He invites us to live for Him by living for one another. The only thing you have to ask yourself is, Are you serious? If you are, our text is the roadmap to living that seriousness out.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
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