July 28, 2019
Pastor John Hering
1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, 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 he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5 for each one should carry his own load.
6 Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who 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.
14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.
Galatians 6:1-10, 14-16
In an instant, your life can change. One minute you’re watching the Rangers play baseball, and in the next minute you see a foul ball come screaming down the third base line and hit a little girl in the head! Or the phone rings and you get terrible news about an accident, or a friend who is emotionally a wreck, or dealing with a tough life issue. (You’re welcome to add your own life-changing experience here, like the one you told me when you were almost hit flying) These are times that challenge us as Christians. What will we say? What will we do? We want to do the right thing. Can we answer life’s questions with gentleness and confidence?
Paul’s letter to the Galatians has the answers. Twenty years after turning Paul from damning unbelief to saving faith, the Lord Jesus led his Apostle Paul to write and feed our souls and give us the words we can use to help others. New Testament believers have always appreciated the Letter to the Galatians because it makes the fact that we are saved by grace through faith crystal clear. You and I are the forgiven, dearly loved children of God for now and for all eternity, not because of the good we have done but because of the good Christ has done. How do we know that? Because “when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). This is our foundation upon which our life is built, especially when trying to live our Christian lives.
When life changes come our way, let us remember the free gifts from Jesus to the baptized and believing. Let’s be quick to give God’s answers to those who ask us about the hope that we have in Jesus. Let us be quick to Keep On Doing Good.
Keep On Doing Good With Persistent Gentleness
Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Perhaps this is one of the greatest appeals to Galatians. It’s simple. It’s practical. Let’s say someone you know and love has been trapped by a lie. Our Kingdom Kids are studying the 8th Commandment today and need to learn how powerful words can be. For example, maybe someone at work lies, repeats that lie; is doing everything he can to cover up that lie; won’t admit the lie; has no peace because of the lie. Or a Christian friend keeps getting himself trapped by his own lust. He keeps going back to the same sexual sin; but denies it; does everything he can to cover it up; won’t admit that what he’s doing is offensive to God; has no peace because of his sin. What do you do? Ignore what’s happened and hope the dreadful situation clears itself up? Paul writes, “if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” Other instructions from our gentle Good Shepherd Jesus come to mind. “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you” (Matthew 18:15a). Showing that fault is done with carefully measured words. Even then, exposing and cutting out a habitual sin can be a painful experience, as if a surgery is being performed. So “restore him gently,” Paul writes. Do it carefully and with generous assurances of the forgiveness that Jesus has earned. Their soul needs to be fed, too. We might well expect rejection, so we are encouraged to use persistent gentleness.
Let’s say someone you know and love has a heavy burden to bear. A disease or disability that may endure for a long time; a loss in her family. Or she’s just plain lonely. Or she can’t find work. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” So you carry that burden to the heavenly Father in prayer. You keep pointing her to the Father’s promises to care for his children. You give her someone she can talk to. Jesus told his disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). That’s “the law of Christ” we fulfill with persistent gentleness to carry one another’s burdens.
How about this one: One of your friends brought you some good instruction from God’s Word. He explained a Bible passage to you. He corrected you. He cleared up a misunderstanding you had. Let’s say that someone was your pastor and that the instruction in God’s Word came in a sermon or a counseling session. Here’s a good response: “Anyone who receives instruction in the Word must share all good things with his instructor.” In other words, material gifts for those who bring spiritual instruction. Your pastors have experienced it when thankful members have handed them an envelope with a handwritten thank you or a special bonus at Christmas. We give our pastors a fair and generous salary so they can spend their time studying God’s Word and sharing it with us in worship and Bible Class. With persistent gentleness let us continue to encourage each other to keep on doing good!
A fellow was trying to explain his Lutheran church to his Roman Catholic co-worker. “We Lutherans believe the Bible,” he said. “It’s God’s Word, completely true. And we believe in Jesus,” he continued, “that he’s God’s Son and our Savior. We believe in grace, that God gives us forgiveness and heaven through faith even though we could never deserve it. And you know,” he said, “we really don’t believe in good works.” How would you rate his explanation? Lutherans do believe the Bible. We do believe in Jesus and in God’s grace channeled to us through faith in him. We certainly don’t believe that the good we do somehow improves our status with God. One of the truths learned from Galatians is that our good works cannot do anything to save us from our sins. Still, we’re all for them, because Jesus is. His apostle urges us, Believers, Keep on Doing Good! Rejoice that you can do good deeds because you are connected to Jesus. We realize that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches bearing good fruit to the glory of God!
We Christians know that good deeds are the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces. Here’s more evidence. The very first good deed the apostle urges is done by those who are “spiritual.” That means that the Holy Spirit who brought us from unbelief to faith also moves us to restore the sinner gently, and carry one another’s burdens. The Holy Spirit who resides inside each of us enables us to share all good things with teachers of God’s Word. Keep producing it, he urges. “Let us not become weary in doing good, … As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Do it gently and persistently, in keeping with the Spirit who then blesses us
Keep On Doing Good With Humble Confidence
Believers, Keep on Doing Good! As I say that, I realize what you also are realizing at this moment. This would be easy, if you and I were purely and always in keeping with the Spirit. When our sinful nature hears about DOING GOOD and sees some of that in our own lives, we easily become puffed up with misplaced pride. The apostle addresses that several times. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” You see, any one of us can be drawn into the sin of feeling superior when that particular misdeed has not overtaken us, as if we were too strong for that sin or somehow better than the poor loser who was caught by it. “Carry each other’s burdens,… If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” The good that we do never really reaches the standard of perfection that God demands. We rejoice in the good fruit the Holy Spirit produces, however sadly, all too often are accompanied by bad fruits that obviously are produced by our sinful nature. But, don’t lose heart, for Paul writes, “may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” There’s a great approach. My arrogance, self-congratulations, those occasions when we too gave in to the temptation to lie or lust or leave the good that needed to be done undone, this is the time to remember our Lord Jesus who took all of that upon himself at the cross. He suffered God’s punishment for those sins. He poured out his blood and died for them. Christ’s cross crucified conceit along with all the other fruits of the sinful nature. In view of the cross you and I are quite humble about our own accomplishments. Yet in view of the cross we are confident in the “peace and mercy” graciously given to the entire church of God. This is our humble confidence.
A two week old baby is brought to the baptismal font. Just prior to the actual baptism the pastor says, “Receive the sign of the cross on the head and heart.” The pastor then explains that the cross stands for something. But the baptism that follows makes the cross of Christ a powerful reality for that little child. All sins washed away because of Christ’s cross. His or her sinful nature crucified because of what Christ endured at the cross. That’s baptism reality. A child dead to God in sin is made a “new creation” in view of Christ’s cross. In fact, all the baptized have been made new and are being made new again and again by the power of baptism — yes, by the power of the cross.
There is our humble confidence—because of Christ’s cross we are always confident that we stand forgiven before God. Because of Christ’s cross we eagerly anticipate the eternal joys of heaven. It is the humble confidence in Jesus that we enjoy and want to share with others. Because of it we get to Keep Doing Good for one another.
So, you know the day will come when changes will happen and people you know will ask you for help. Then you are ready with Paul’s letter to the Galatians to give an answer to the hope that you have. Let us never tire of Doing Good for the benefit of everyone we know. Having our souls feed by the cross of Jesus, may we always boast in cross of Jesus Christ as we strive to keep on doing good. Amen.