September 23, 2012

The Spirit-Filled Church

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Galatians Scripture: Galatians 6:1–5


The Spirit-Filled Church

Galatians 6:1-5
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Pastor Randy Smith

I recently read an article entitled: "The Harvest is Great, but the Laborers are Grumbling." It ties our recent sermons in Galatians 5 with what I want to discuss this morning from Galatians 6. The author goes on to say:

I hate sin in the church. I deplore the inroads the world has made into it. The obvious ones make us look like we've cloned the world's values: materialism, pride, the sins of the flesh. But the one most prevalent in the church today is the one that cripples the local church most - division. This sin concerns most of the letters in the New Testament. Divisiveness is what the false teachers brought to the Early Church, and divisiveness is having a heyday in the North American church today.

In the past five years my wife and I have crisscrossed the continent from [New England] to California and from Florida to the Pacific Northwest and have seen divisiveness in most of the 75 churches we have served in. We see it most often in: The worship wars: "Why don't they sing the right kind of music?" (Translation: "My kind.") Who really leads the church: The pastor? Board? "We don't like the pastor's leadership style." Wrestling with change: "We've always done it this way." And acts of the sinful nature.

Usually the real issue is power. Each person wants a rightful place as one who knows what needs to be done. After all, we often think we have been around long enough to have some influence with others. So we create an issue, if not a crisis. Paul, in Galatians 5:19-20, reminds us that the acts of the sinful nature include, "sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like." A divisive spirit is listed with sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft. Dissension keeps nice company".

(Donald L. Bubna)

Throughout the past few weeks we have been studying the deeds of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians chapter 5. We have learned that only Christians have the capability to walk in the Spirit because only Christians have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them. The Spirit produces (verses 22-23) "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness [and] self-control."

Yet even Christians still have some remnants from the old self which is commonly called "the flesh." There is a tension in our lives as these two natures battle each other (Gal. 5:17). So whenever we are not walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) by abiding in Jesus Christ the flesh will dominate and produce a grocery list of its own fruits (verses 19-21) that deliver misery to our lives and fail to glorify God.

Up until this point we have centered our discussion on defining these two natures, explaining how these two natures operate, analyzing the fruits these two natures produce and providing ways we can be victorious. Today's passage from Galatians 6 will give us some application as to what an environment looks like that walks either in the flesh or in the Spirit. I have kept it in the context of the home in our recent sermons. Paul centers his comments on the church.

1. Evidence of the Flesh (5:26; 6:3-4)

First point, what does a church look like that is walking in the flesh?

The root sin of all fleshly deeds is pride. Perhaps the greatest indication that we are not walking in the Spirit will be the desire to put ourselves first. We will want the praise from others to go to us and not God. We will want to find our joy in actions that God condemns. We will want to be served rather than serve God. And we will be unable to contain the then obvious tendency to tell the world not of God's greatness, but ours. In the Bible this is called "boasting." Interesting, Paul uses the word "boasting" twice in the span of four verses.

The first occurrence of the word is found in 5:26, "Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another." When a church has people living in the flesh they will reveal their pride by being boastful. Oftentimes, according to verse 26, it will go in one of two directions. Either they will challenge one another to prove themselves the best. Or they will realize they are not the best and envy the attainments or gifts of another. Both of these responses will produce a church that is competitive, jockeying for personal supremacy. And it goes without saying that when we seek to be number one, we believe the church exists for our glory and God Himself will not be glorified. And I can promise you that this is not the leading of the Spirit!

It becomes, "What's good for me" and not "what's best for the Lord and others." Grumbling, slander, pity-parties, divisiveness, backbiting are some of the fruits that will be demonstrated. Jesus Christ gets lost in the shuffle when people turn from selfless to selfish. And this is the rebuke that Jesus had for the church of Ephesus. Since they became number one in their own affections, He said they had left their "first love" (Rev. 2:4).

I did a wedding last night in South Jersey. The people there passed along some kind comments at the conclusion of the ceremony. Most of the comments were along the lines of: "Thank you, pastor" or "that was very uplifting." Yet there was one lady who really connected with the message. She was so encouraged the Gospel was presented and mentioned how much she appreciated the concentration on the Scriptures. It was great to speak with someone who really loved Jesus. While I knew very few people, I felt an immediate bond with this sister in the Lord.

Beloved, we must get it into our minds that we are all on the same team, fighting for the same cause, receiving our marching orders from the same Book and in full submission to the same Lord. Only when we all walk in the Spirit and all share this attitude will the Lord be able to use us. We do not need competition, but cooperation. And the more we die to self and live for Jesus, the less we will be consumed with ourselves and care only to see our great Savior glorified. This is the problem in today's churches now just as it was in yesterday's churches back then - we think too highly of ourselves and too little of Him. And the irony behind it all is the more we think of Him, the less we will think of ourselves!

I believe that this is what Paul is referring to when he mentions the second occurrence of boasting in chapter 6, verses 3-4: "For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another."

So boasting, a prideful deed of the flesh is wrong because it kills church unity. It is also wrong at its spiritual core because betrays everything we should know about ourselves. Paul said in verse 3 that at our spiritual core we are essentially "nothing." 1 Corinthians 3:7, "So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth." Therefore if we think we are something evidenced by our boasting of ourselves we gravely deceive ourselves.

A mark of the unredeemed is thinking of themselves more highly than they ought. A mark of the redeemed is a right estimation of themselves as seen through the eyes of God. A mark of the unredeemed is "self-esteem," the desire to use others and get them to love you as much as you love yourself. A mark of the redeemed is "God-esteem," the desire to as John the Baptist said become less as Christ through our lives becomes greater (Jn. 3:30). That's why unbelievers fight for greatness, but believers can agree with the apostle Paul, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh" (Rom. 7:18).

You see, when we are honest with ourselves and verse 4, "examine" ourselves not against other people but with God as our standard, we realize exactly who we are. There is no room for boasting. You say, but there are good things that I do and that much of me that has conformed to Jesus Christ. Rightly so! Then you should boast, as Paul says in verse 4, but that boasting should be in the Lord for what He has achieved in your life! 1 Corinthians 4:7, "What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?"

Paul put it like this in verse 14 of chapter 6: "But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

So it goes like this: Those in the flesh are filled with pride which leads to boasting about self which results in church disunity. Those in the Spirit are filled with humility which leads to boasting of Christ which leads to church unity. We are all hardwired to boast. The only question is in whom are you found boasting? We are all hardwired to esteem. The only question is in whom is your greatest object of esteem? If you have rightly examined yourself with God the answer to these questions is simple!

A church walking in the flesh. Could few things be more tragic?

Never go to your church or meetings held there,
If you do go, be late, it's no one's affair.

If the weather is bad, either too hot or snowing,
Just stay home and rest, for there'll be others going.

But should you attend, be sure and remember
To find fault with the work, each official and member.

Be sure to hold back on your offerings and tithes,
The bills will be paid by the rest of the guys.

And never take office if offered the post,
But eagerly criticize work of the host.

If not on a committee you're placed, be sore!
If you find that you are, don't attend any more.

When asked your opinion on this thing or that,
Have nothing to say, just turn 'em down flat.

Then after the meeting, shine out like the sun
By telling the folks how it should have been done.

Don't do any more than you possibly can,
Leave the work for some other woman or man.

And when you see faithful ones work themselves sick,
Then stand up and holler, "It's run by a clique!"

Source unknown

2. Evidence of the Spirit (6:2, 5)

So (on that pleasant note!) what does a Spirit-filled church look like - our second point? I suppose Paul could have given many examples. He didn't say it was their style of worship or the extraordinary display gifts that churchgoers often claim to measure the Spirit's presence in a congregation. The Corinthians fell for that one, touting their charismatic three-ring circus only to be rebuked by the Lord. No, to the Corinthians the Lord said if we "do not have love, it profits [us] nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3). Don't miss this; love is the mark of a Spirit-filled church. In the same way to the Galatian church the Lord said the mark of a Spirit-filled church is love, seen in the desire to, verse 2, "Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ." Love in action!

It should not surprise us as we have studied Galatians that love is the dominant mark of a church being led by the Holy Spirit. Consider event the immediate context: 5:6, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." 5:13, "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." 5:14, "For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" 5:22, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love."

As we just discussed, selfishness exalts self. But as we see here, love exalts Christ and love is seen and Christ is exalted when we put others above ourselves. And when we put others above ourselves, we will demonstrate a sacrificial-serving, Christ-imitating love. And we will show it, verse 2, by bearing the burdens of others. Just as Jesus did ours on the cross when He died for our sins!

Probably for most of us we can barely bare our own burdens! The thought of carrying the weight for someone else is a command that few people can receive without being led to greater despair! We are so consumed with our own affairs that there is little time or energy or concern for the affairs of others. But here is the potential problem. Too many of us have buried ourselves with the trivial and temporary matters of life that should never have become a burden in the first place.

Yet when we walk in the Spirit everything changes. One, we are able to concentrate on the things in life that really matter. Our burdens like clothes and weather and being liked by others are now removed. Two, our focus shifts and the concerns for others become our own. With our focus taken off ourselves, we have more energy and time and concern to meet the needs of others. And three, we are given the Lord's strength for our efforts. Overwhelmed with our own issues apart from the Lord, empowered for other's issues with the Lord. When we do it in the Lord's grace, the "yoke is easy and [the] burden is light" (Mt. 11:30).

Two thoughts of clarification: First, I do not deny that we are to all cast our cares upon the Lord (1 Pet. 5:7), but the ways the Lord often carries our burdens is on the backs of others in the church. Second, there is a difference between a burden and a load. Some people are too prideful to ever share their burdens, wrong! But others think issues from a hang-nail to hurt feeling need to be church wide concerns. There are the people who just create drama everywhere they go, wrong as well! Not everything needs to be a crisis or emergency! This isn't love. This is taking advantage of others and sucking the life out of the church, making it ineffective to deal with the real burdens that God desires. Burdens are issues that are crushing us that require the assistance of others. The Greek word ("baros") refers to a weight or heavy load. Loads are the routine difficulties that we all encounter as we live in this fallen world. The different Greek word ("phortion") was often used of a man's backpack. Verse 2, "bear one another's burdens." Verse 5, "each one will bear his own load."

3. A Specific Example (6:1)

Let's move to the third point and provide a specific example. There are many ways we can show love by bearing one another's burdens, but Paul gives an example that probably few of us would have chosen. What are the greatest and most dangerous burdens we bear? It is the times when we become entrapped in sin. And these are the times when the church, if they truly love one another, need to step in and provide assistance.

Look at verse 1: "Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted."

Let's simply take this verse at face value. If someone is "caught in a trespass" (cf. Jn. 8:4). We are not the sin police, but if it we are made aware that another in the church has been "overtaken" or "entrapped" in a sin, it is commanded upon us to go and "restore" the individual. The Greek word translated "restore" ("kataritzo") was used in the day for the setting of broken bones or mending a net (Mk. 1:19).

The person might think we are unloving to confront them. The reality is we are unloving if we do nothing and allow them to shipwreck their faith. The person might think we are judging them. The reality is if the Scriptures are violated it is not us, but the Word of God judging them. The person might think we are being prideful. The reality is we come in full humility as a fellow sinner seeking only to bring them back to Christ.

How do we do this? We pray. We make sure that the offense is defined in Scripture and not our own legalistic imaginations. We remove the plank from our own eye before we ever seek to remove the speck from a brother's eye. Only then as Jesus said "will [we] see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. (Mt. 7:5). We, verse 1, make sure we are "spiritual." This does not mean a "super-saint," but rather someone who is walking in the Spirit approaching with the right motives and, verse 1, right spirit of "gentleness." We come aware of our own weaknesses, lest we, verse 1, be tempted to fall into the same sin for which we are confronting another or self-righteousness. We point them back to Jesus Christ. And we don't "hit and run." We bear their burdens to help them out the sin. That means we provide things like counsel, encouragement, accountability and prayer.

I am afraid that too often the church does take its cues from the world. And then when you look at the environment of a church it looks very much like the world. But what we learned today is that the church is to reflect the beauty and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. As He continually lived in the Spirit so should we. And when we live in the Spirit, we will put the needs of others above our own. We will love others not just in word, but also by carrying their burdens. We will refuse to sit back and watch our brothers and sisters destroy their lives with sin. And we will seek to be part of promoting a church that does not exalt the evil one through complaining, division, gossip, and jealousy, but exalts Christ through gentleness, unity, righteousness and love.

other sermons in this series

Oct 14


Harvesting Peace and Harmony

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Galatians 6:11–18 Series: Galatians

Oct 7


Sowing and Reaping

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Galatians 6:6–10 Series: Galatians

Sep 16


Crucified Yet Deadly

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Galatians 5:24 Series: Galatians