Saturday, March 17, 2018

180318 The Tie That Binds

Galatians 6:1-5 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.
Our opening hymn today is usually sung along with the Lord’s Supper and we only sing the first verse. In doing so we leave out an important part of the message of the song. The third verse is usually left out even when the song is used as a part of worship.  
We share our mutual woes, Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows The sympathizing tear.
John Fawcett got it right. We bear our own burdens and we bear the burdens of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Burdens in the Christian life are mutual!
When we think about our mutual burdens it is easy to realize that each one of us has a different level of ability to deal with our problems. We need to do everything that we can…
If anyone stumbles. Let’s look at James 5:19-20. My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
I find myself being led again and again to the book of James. Some have said that James is the Proverbs of the New Testament. It has much solid advice for Christians of all ages and all history.
When Paul writes to the Galatians and refers to someone caught in a sin he is not talking about errors and defenses against doctrine. He is talking about the “little” sins we all fall into on a day-to-day basis. Not deliberately sinning as an act of rebellion but instead falling through weakness. The words “caught in” implies being tricked by the devil, or our sinful nature. I suppose the words “if someone” could be translated “when anyone” because we all certainly will at one time or another be caught in a sin. A person who is born again still has the ability to sin but not the desire to sin. Instead, when we sin it is because we have tripped over the devil or our human nature!
There are many who want to help but need to be careful how they do it…
If you think you’re spiritual. Let’s turn to Romans 15:1-2. We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
Many times people think of themselves as “spiritual” when they are really just judgmental, opinionated and lacking compassion. Such people should be careful not to involve themselves with the problems others have. Those who are strong in the faith have the ability to bear with the failings of the weak. They are able to gently comfort those who have stumbled and then they are able to…
Restore the fallen. Let’s move on to Ephesians 4:11-13. And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
This passage is often referred to when we think of the local church leadership. The King James Version of the Bible, in my opinion, does not place the punctuation marks correctly. The problem is after listing the gifted leaders of the church it then says that they have been given “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” The mistake that this establishes is the implication that the gifted leaders are to do the ministry. The truth is the gifted leaders are to “equip the saints for the work ministry”. It is true that these leaders are to do ministry but they should also disciple others to do the work of ministry thereby multiplying the ministers in the local church. Restoring the fallen shouldn’t be just the work of the ordained ministry. Restoring the fallen should be the work of all believers. We are to be encouragers because we need to be encouraged ourselves. So that as you work towards restoration for others you must also…
Guard yourself. Now let’s look at 1 Corinthians 10:12-13. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
“Guard yourself” is a very important warning. We need to be careful that we are not too quick to judge and condemn others. Instead, we need to remember, “There but for the grace of God go I”. We are all subject to the possibility of falling. Jesus warned that we should pay attention to the plank in our own eye before we try to eliminate the spec in the eye of another.
Pay attention, there is no temptation that comes upon us that cannot be overcome by the power of God. God is faithful, he will “with the temptation” make a way of escape. This is not just an ability to resist the temptation instead it is a way to escape the temptation.
I’m reminded of Joseph in the house of Potiphar. When his master’s wife tried to draw him into sin he turned and ran rather than trying to resist in place. Anytime we are facing a temptation the better part of wisdom is to move away from the temptation as far as possible. We may end up, as Joseph did, in another kind of prison but even there we can be used by God. When we think things are going against us and there seems to be no way out we should remember Joseph in Egypt. No matter what the enemy did to him he remained a tool of God.
We need to guard ourselves and…
Share the load. Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 5:14. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
We have a responsibility, all of us, to admonish, encourage and be patient with all of those in our Christian family. Admonish the idle with a positive attitude towards good activity. If a person seems to be fainthearted we need to encourage them to look to God and all of those others he has helped through the years. Whatever he did for Joseph he will do for us. Whatever he did for Moses he will do for us. Whatever he did for Elijah he will do for us. And when we look to him rather than our problems we will be able to be patient with all those struggling around us.
We must guard ourselves, share the load the way Jesus taught us. We must…
Follow Christ. Let’s look at his command found in John 13:34-35. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
On the surface this just simply seems to say “love one another” but there’s a lot more to it than that. We must remember this is not an emotion but an obedience to Christ’s command. We are to love not as an emotion but as a series of actions. Just as Jesus loved us we are to love one another. How much did Jesus love us? He loved us enough to take our sins into his own body and accept our punishment. We must be willing, if necessary, to lay down our lives for our friends. This will be the surest evidence to the world that we are his disciples. A disciple is one who follows in the footsteps of the master and lives a life just as he did.
It may very well be that the greatest sin of the Christian church is having an unloving attitude. Perhaps the world does not know that we are his disciples because we do not show them that we love one another! This is not a command to love the world but to love our fellow disciples. Along the way, you need to…
Watch your attitude! Let’s look at Romans 12:3. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
We need to have a right way of thinking about ourselves. Paul told the Galatians that “if anyone thinks he is something” when in actuality he is nothing he is self-deceived. I recently saw a church sign that displayed this message, “When I see myself the way I really am no one can offend me”. The author of that quote saw himself the way he really is. We need an attitude of gratitude towards God. Only by his grace do we have any opportunity to live out a Godly life.
Remember, “There but for the grace of God go I!” I need to remind myself of that truth over and over again. God’s grace to us is so great that we need to be continually grateful! Too often we are like the servant Jesus told us about. This servant owed his master an amount beyond our imagination. Jesus said that the man owed 10,000 talents. In today’s currency that sum would represent hundreds of millions of dollars. Having been forgiven his debt the servant refused to forgive a fellow servant a relatively small amount of debt. His attitude should have been one of compassion towards his fellow servant. Instead, he threw his fellow servant into jail where he would have to stay until he could pay the debt. Of course, he would never be able to pay the debt from the jail.
We always have an attitude! It can be positive or it can be negative — we are able to choose which we have. We should not think of ourselves more highly than we really are. So, what are we?
Let’s let the Bible tell us. We were brought forth in iniquity (Psalm 51:5). We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Yet, God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). So that, if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved (Romans 10:9). We can rejoice in the fact that God made a way where there was no way so that we might be saved. You have the responsibility to…
Examine yourself. Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 13:5-6. Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.
Examine ourselves? I fear that we are too subjective to be good judges of who we are. How can we know for sure? Self-examination should be carried out with the Bible in hand. John, in his gospel, said: “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
Coming to a place in our lives where we can really be of help to others begins with our own salvation. In order to rescue another, one has to have a solid foundation. And there’s no other foundation other than Jesus Christ — crucified, buried, and raised into eternal life. Your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ gives you a footing to stand on allowing you to reach out your hand to others around you and share Christ with them. We come to Jesus by the way of the cross! We confess our sins knowing that he is faithful and just to forgive our sins. We confess our allegiance by testifying that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Have you received Christ as Lord? This can be your day of salvation!

All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

180304 The Works of the Flesh vs The Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:16-26 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
In this passage of Scripture Paul sets forth for us a test to measure our spirituality by. First, we are instructed to live the way the Spirit does. Paul affirms that those who live by the Spirit will not gratify the desires of the flesh. This is important in all of our lives. The Spirit of God lives in every believer because it is in one Spirit that we are all baptized into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13). We have already seen that we are not under law but under grace. That grace allows us to live out a godly life. Not by our strength but by his.
When we look at verses 16 and 17 we find a promise of Victory! If we look at the original language, Greek, we could translate this, “If you walk by the Spirit, you will in no way, not a chance, absolutely not fulfill the desires of the flesh!” We are constantly in warfare against the flesh — our human nature! We do not gain the victory in our strength. Instead, we gain the victory over the flesh by the Holy Spirit!
What is it that keeps us active in the fight against the flesh? How do we strive against short temper or bitterness, jealousy, desires, gluttony, lust, or even sadness? If you choose not to struggle against these things you will absolutely be defeated. You see…
We struggle with desires. Let’s look at Romans 8:5-8. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Living according to the flesh is allowing ourselves to be shaped by our human desires. Instead, we are to live according to the Spirit. In order to live according to the Spirit, we must choose to set our minds on the Spirit! We need to confirm to ourselves the knowledge that setting the mind on the flesh is the road to death! Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God. This is true even in the life of the Christian believer! Following the desires of the flesh is a choice not to submit to God. Living in the flesh cannot please God. We must not fight in our own strength.…
As long as we fight them we fail. Let’s look at Romans 8:12-17. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
The mutual antagonism between the flesh and the Spirit never ends in a tie. The Spirit is going to win! If we yield to the Spirit we can join in that victory. Resisting the flesh is not about willpower it is about the Spirit’s power. As we submit ourselves to the Spirit of God the Spirit is free to draw us into the life of Christ. If we are led by the Spirit we are sons of God. If we turn back to the flesh and the way of the world our lives are marked by spiritual death.
Since we were born sons and daughters of Adam and Eve we were born subject to the power of the flesh ruling our lives. All of our fleshly habits are deeply ingrained and work to cause us to experience defeat. However, the Spirit comes into our life to ordain Victory! Our new birth is adoption. An adoption that allows us to say, “Abba! Father!”. This is an intimate relationship granted only to those who put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we are adopted as God’s children we become heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus.
Bill and Gloria Gaither set this theme to music:
I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God,
I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I'm part of the family,
The Family of God.
The Christian life is marked by Victory! Not defeat! We have been brought into God’s family and we share in the victory that he is. He himself is our victory! In writing to the Corinthians Paul asked the question? “O death where is your victory? O death where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
John, in his first little letter, but it this way, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).
The works of the flesh are obvious. Let’s turn to Colossians 3:5-6. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
The struggle against fleshly desires is a common part of our day-to-day life. In the Colossian letter, Paul gives us a similar list to what he put in the Galatian letter. The desires of the flesh that we are to put to death include, but are not limited to, sexual immorality, (This term includes all kinds of illicit sexual activity including adultery, fornication, homosexuality, incest, or worship of idols.) Impurity, (This term it is usually translated as “uncleanness”. In a moral sense it involves lustful, luxurious, profligate living. Having impure motives.) Passion, this is not necessarily always wrong but in this context, it certainly is because it is linked to evil desire. The list in Galatians is much longer. If these terms that represent the flesh characterize our lives there is a question as to whether or not we really know God through Christ. The work of the flesh represents many things and…
They must not be our lifestyle. Let’s look at Ephesians 4:25-27. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.
Here Paul calls on us to live a simple life of faith. We are to be truth speakers that no one can bring a charge of lying against and have it proved to be true. Especially in the body of Christ, we are to be transparently truthful with one another because we are members of one another. If we give in to anger we must do it without sin. Now, how do we do that? First, we are not to let anger control us. We are to guard our tongue when we have a flash of anger. It’s best not to speak at all than to speak out in anger. Second, we are to deal with the matter as quickly as possible. We are not to let the sun go down and still be angry. For me, this means to deal with it within a few hours rather than let it go on and on eating away at our spiritual life. Anger is a tool that opens our life, giving the devil an opportunity to make our work ineffective. When we let the devil in, we immediately begin to experience a kind of spiritual death. That death may involve our relationship with another person or even damage our relationships within the church. It does not necessarily mean that we are condemned to hell however spiritual death will rule wherever anger rules. Rather than having a life characterized by the work of the flesh…
We are to desire the Spirit. Let’s look at Galatians 6:7-8. 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 Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
What we set our minds on and act upon in our day-to-day life will determine what, or who, we are.
One thing for certain when a farmer plants anything he plants the seed that produces the crop he wants. If he wants corn he doesn’t plant beans. What you sow is what you reap. Actually, what you sow is a small portion of what you expect to reap. A single grain of corn will produce a plant that contains hundreds of grains of corn. The Bible tells us that, “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7a) The little bit of trouble we sow will turn into an abundant harvest of trouble.
It’s interesting to me that the flesh is a matter of works — labor. At the same time, the Spirit is a matter of fruit. You see…
It is fruit, not work, that characterize the Christian walk.
We can struggle all we like to resist the devil and he will not be defeated. We realize that we have an enemy who is a roaring lion constantly looking for people he can devour. (1 Peter 5:8) And we know that we should resist but again and again, we find ourselves struggling against him in our own strength and we fail miserably.
We are told by James, our Lord’s brother, that we are to, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) note the sequence of victory! James does not tell us to resist the devil and we will win. He tells us to first submit ourselves to God! In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) First, and foremost, we must establish our relationship with God and allow his power to flow through us. The victory is not in our struggle instead…
We struggle under the Spirit’s banner. Let’s look at Ephesians 1:11-14. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Let’s look back to our opening text, “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23). That is the banner we march under. We have obtained an inheritance that moves us into the Army of God. The Spirit bears his fruit in our life even when we work in the flesh.
We need to make it easier on ourselves by cooperating with God. It is God’s intention that everything we do might be to the praise of his glory. He will bring it to pass we cannot do it ourselves we can only cooperate with him in faith. Then, without our effort, the Spirit will produce his fruit in our lives and we will then find that we can live by the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit. We will not be conceited, provoking one another, enveying one another. The Holy Spirit seals us guaranteeing our inheritance until we actually possess it.
Rather than provoking one another…
We will love one another. Let’s look at 1 John 3:14-15. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
Jesus gave us the commandment that we should love one another. Here, John expands on the truth that the evidence of our relationship to Christ is we love each other with God’s kind of love. When that happens, Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35). Later in his little letter, John tells us, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he is not seen. … And this is the commandment that we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:20-21). It is not by works of righteousness we do that we are saved it is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
There are necessary results in the lives of those who are born again. When a person experiences genuine regeneration he or she will believe in Jesus Christ. They will refrain from a life of continual sin. They will love one another in a positive manner. They will overcome the temptations of the world. They will be kept by the power of God from all the attacks of the evil one. The life that the Holy Spirit has come to live in will reflect the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus promised that we would be known by our fruit (Matthew 7:16). The evidence of salvation is not what we do but who we are. And those evidences will only be shown by the Spirit of God working within. Only God can give new life. Have you trusted in him for your salvation? Today could be the day that you give your life to Christ.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.