In Step with the Spirit

In Step with the Spirit

TEXT: Galatians 6

Two weeks ago Pastor Robert taught us about Galatians chapter 4 and spoke about the freedom that the grace of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection brings to people who receive and accept this gift freely.  The Galatians were a church established on this principle. They were a people of Grace. We learned that the churches in Galatia were  becoming confused and fractured because a person or people from Jerusalem – whom we call Judaizers – were polluting this Gospel of Grace by insisting that in order for people to truly follow Christ they first needed to become a Jew – in other words –  become circumcised and follow Jewish festivals and celebrations. When Paul learned of this He was disappointed, angry, and heartbroken over this. He can’t believe they’ve thrown off one set of chains for another! You were free! Now you are enslaving yourselves all over again. 

Pastor Robert then showed us the two ways of living that Paul outlined in Galatians 5: Me-Freedom that shows itself two ways: as slavery to self/sin or slavery to the Law (known as Legalism).  The other way to live is God-freedom

Paul reminds the Galatians that as people freed from self/sin by grace they are now able to live by the Spirit and do not have to live by any of the Mosaic law’s demands – including circumcision. Since Jesus set them free from chains of sin they are now able to live Holy Spirit powered lives. They are free and able to obey the fullest extent of the law – as it says in vs 14 – For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Last week on Pentecost Sunday – the day we celebrate the Holy Spirit entering into the lives of the disciples – three of our youth said they received the gift of grace from Jesus. This was a reminder for all of us who’ve accepted this gift that because we now walk with the Holy Spirit we may now choose to love others and to serve others with humility. Pastor Robert ended the message last week with these self-reflection questions: How do I define freedom? Me-freedom or God-freedom? How might I more and more welcome God’s help into my daily life and walk with the Spirit? 

I want to begin today’s passage by starting with the end of chapter 5:25-26: You’ll notice that the first verse is in a green box and the second is in a red box. As we go through our text you will typically find the words in either a green or red box. The green box will be a fruit of the Spirit. In the red box will be a command to avoid something that is a part of Me-freedom. Please read these two verses with me. (read together)   

25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

The Holy Spirit is definitely part of the God-freedom life when we accept Jesus’ gift of grace so I placed that in the green box. Let’s move on to the red box. 

I’m asking here for some participation from all of you. What’s another word for conceit? (pride). Pride is just about the root of most sin. It is self-centered thinking and it’s in all of us to some degree or another. In fact provoking and envying are a form of pride: the New American Standard Bible translates the word as “challenge.” If you are one that continually challenges brothers and sisters could it possibly be because you believe you know better? Sounds like pride. Envy says, “I want that or I could do that. Why can’t I? I think I need that.” You hear all the “I” statements there? That’s wounded pride talking. Now, Paul mentions these things because they are a part of Me-Freedom not God-Freedom, and pride with all of its variations leads to the breakdown of community: and these three things in vs 26 (among others) tear down a community of faith, and it seems that’s what was happening in the Galatian churches.

Most people think this was a result of the influence of the Judaizers; but, it is possible there were other issues in the church as well. We just don’t know. What we do know is that attitudes of pride were causing divisions and factions to break out which have nothing to do with God-freedom. So here in chapter 6 Paul gives some examples of what it means to be people who “keep in step with the Spirit.” and so let’s start with verse 1. 

Please read both boxes with me: if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit(A) should restore(B) that person gently.   But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. So tell me, in the first green box, what is the fruit of the Spirit described here of the person living with God-freedom (GENTLENESS). I must admit that I’m not the brightest brick on the block and it took me the longest time to realize that Paul IS NOT emphasizing the phrase “if someone is caught in a sin” portion of the sentence. Paul does want to emphasize that it is people living in step with the Spirit who should restore the person caught in sin. Paul simply assumes that having to confront a person caught in sin will be a part of the life of a Christ-follower. What he doesn’t assume is HOW one does this. So three things about this verse: 

  1. I mentioned this: it is those walking in step with the Spirit who should do the restoration. Restoration means to mend the broken. Paul is saying to enter into the process of restoring the broken member to full Spirit empowered function in the community of faith.
  2. God-freedom people go beyond and enter the trenches to be a part of the restoration process of those who’ve sinned. To walk with them. We are not simply to accuse. Me-freedom people do that.  Not people who are walking in step with the Spirit! 
  3. Third, Spirit-filled people do so with a spirit of GENTLENESS. Gentleness? Sounds kind of wimpy. But it is something that is possible only by the power of the Holy Spirit. This definition is from one of the commentaries I read and I find to be helpful: Gentleness is not weakness; it is great strength under control. When gentle Christians see someone caught in a sin, they do not react with violent emotions or with arrogance. Even when sinful actions are scandalous and harmful, the emotions of the gentle person are under control, and the will of the gentle person is devoted to loving the sinner all the way to total recovery.

The second green box may be a bit trickier. Someone tell me what is the spiritual fruit Paul is getting at here? Pause. (SELF-CONTROL) Correct. When Spirit-filled people enter the lives of those struggling with sin they must be firmly rooted in the person of Jesus Christ. The person or persons entering the trenches of restoration with another believer must be in step with the Spirit or they too may fall to temptation. An example of this would be in the area of any addictions. If you are the person to gently restore a struggling person, remain firmly planted in our Savior so that temptation does not cause you to stumble, and you are able to maintain self-control. How does one do that? Two things:

  1. We read in John 15:5 that Jesus says “5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” We must stay connected to Jesus; if we don’t – we die. We must pursue God through spiritual disciplines – not to be saved – but to savor our Savior. To remain in Jesus. What are some spiritual practices that help us remain in Jesus? Practice silence and solitude to listen for the voice of God. Practice the study of Scripture. Practice regular confession of sin. Practice obedience out of a deep love for Jesus and the gift of love He has given us through His death and resurrection. Friends, these things (and there are more) keep us rooted in our Lord, clothe us with humility, and remind us of our dependence on Him for life.
  2. Second, I show this picture here because there are two people supporting the person struggling with sin. In adding another person who is living in step with the Spirit, there is accountability to keep one another from falling into sin. Now, there may be times where having another person is not always possible or a good idea. However, there can always be a person anonymously praying for an anonymous situation. Friends, that is protection and Spirit-power for self-control! I also believe this is part of what Paul says in the next verses. Read it with me…

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Here Paul says that as people in step with the Spirit, Christ-followers are to carry each other’s burdens and I think that includes 

  1. not only restoring broken people gently but also 
  2. aiding through accountability and prayer so that the person entering the trenches maintains self-control. And Paul is very specific about another reason to carry each other’s burdens: tell me what it is.   
  3. That’s right to fulfill the Law of Christ. I believe Paul is referring back to chapter 5 where he states in verse 14 “For the entire law – that is the laws of the OT – is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Remember, the Galatian church was being fractured and divided. In verse 15 of chapter 5 Paul states If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. That’s Me-freedom. That’s the “flesh” at work. That’s not Spirit work. That’s not the fruit of people keeping in step with the Spirit. So here in chapter 6:2 Paul is saying that as God-freedom people the Galatians are to fulfill the law of Christ – to love each other. No biting or devouring one another. No provoking or envying each other. They are to carry each other’s burdens NOT add to them! And – though this is a command – it isn’t about being legalistic – it’s about keeping in step with the Spirit because to carry each other’s burdens brings LIFE to all involved not destruction! It’s God-freedom!

So Spirit-filled people here at Good Shepherd, out of a deep-rooted love of Jesus Christ, we, too, are called to submit ourselves to the Law of Christ – the law of LOVE. Friends, as people in step with the Spirit we are not to point fingers at each other and accuse one another and devour each other as people of the world do. That would be the sinful nature speaking. As Spirit-filled people, we are to enter into the messiness and brokenness of each other’s lives because that’s how the Spirit works restoration in broken people. 

Well, now that we’ve gone through the verse, identifying the spiritual fruit of verse 2 should be easy – what is it? LOVE. Good. Now let’s read verses 3-5 together. 

If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load.

What is the ugly vice in verse 3? (pride) Yeah, once again pride raises its ugly head. You see as people who, out of love for Jesus and are walking in step with the Spirit, we can be very tempted to find a prideful heart growing inside of us. Thanking God that we have not fallen like our sinful brother or sister. Or are not struggling with this problem or that insufficiency. As Spirit-filled people we are called to carry burdens – not compare ourselves with our brothers and sisters. 

Pride is wrong. It exalts self above all else, will not admit any weakness, and it destroys community. It inhibits one’s reliance on the Spirit as THE source of strength. Pride sets a path of destruction and is the enemy of life in step with the Spirit. Before we go to gently restore a fallen brother or sister, we should examine our motives. We should examine our own heart to see if there are sins we need to confess? We also need to ask ourselves questions like: why do I want to be on the worship team? Or, am I leading this group out of a place of humility or pride? Is there something I must confess that is getting in the way of me seeing a certain situation clearly? Am I motivated out of love for others and the desire to help them keep in step with the Spirit? Friends, when we examine our motives, we tune our hearts to the Holy Spirit so that when we engage with people – we do so with a spirit of gentleness and humility. 

Ok. Look at the last line again (read it). So, did you notice what appears to be a contradiction? Verse 5 says each one should “carry their own load” and verse 2 says to “carry each other’s burdens?” To keep it real short I am simply going to quote Scot McKnight in the NIV Application Commentary:

Christians need to help one another in the struggles of life, but each Christian will also have to answer to God individually. Part of that individual responsibility is carrying the burdens of others. Before God one cannot look around at others and thereby find grounds for justifying oneself. 

As those in ministry Robert and I are very thankful that Paul goes on in verse 6 to clarify and say “Nevertheless” –  people who teach a good Word should be supported by those who have been given many resources to draw upon. Obviously that’s my paraphrase of Paul. But the idea is the same. Paul is reiterating to the Galatians that for those who are teaching the true Gospel it is fitting to support them. Even though some are teaching a false gospel, don’t withdraw support from everyone. Share your resources with the good instructors. So, what fruit of the Spirit would fit here (there may be a couple that work – GOODNESS/KINDNESS). Read verses 7 and 8 with me:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

In vs 5 Paul has just reminded the Galatians that each person will give a personal account of their life before God. How well did one keep in step with the Spirit? Just like the Galatians we won’t be able to fool God – our actions and motives will be laid bare. If you planted seeds of Me-freedom and lived according to Me-freedom your life will have led to destruction – either your relationships or your own life or both. If you planted seeds of God-freedom you will harvest life giving fruit! So Paul exhorts the Galatian church and he encourages us through them with the following words: Read with me:

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.

Friends, if we are to harvest abundant life-giving fruit we must seek every opportunity to do good. This verse reminds me of the theme James which states a faith without works is dead. Remember “Doing good deeds” will not save us. We cannot earn God’s favor, but it is a sure indicator that the Holy Spirit is alive and at work in us when we are “doing good” to all. Paul said in chapter 5:6b “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” When our faith is actively expressing itself by loving others and each other, it is an outward manifestation of a life submitted to Jesus Christ and in step with the Holy Spirit.  

I’ve been told that, in the past, Good Shepherd has been very active in the community doing good for their neighbors. I have to admit though that in the nearly 6 years I’ve been here I have consistently heard that we have to do less. We can’t do more. Yet, I read in Galatians that those in step with the Spirit are not to grow weary in doing good. We are to continue loving each other and our neighbors. I think if Paul was here today he’d say there is no such thing as retirement from kingdom work. We do not grow too old to pray for hurting people. We do not become too tired to play cards with the new neighbors across the street.  We do not take a vacation from building relationships with people that look, act, and believe differently than we do. Spirit-filled people answer the call to “Go and make disciples” as long as they draw breath! I think Paul would encourage us to open our eyes and seek opportunities to do good so that the Law of Christ is fulfilled in us as a family of believers here at Good Shepherd. That is the call. Fulfill the law of Christ. Love your neighbor as yourself. Serve one another with humility. 

I’m going to very loosely paraphrase Paul’s words in vss 11-17.  “Let’s be honest about circumcision. Marking your body through circumcision does nothing for your salvation. However, though I’m tired of the conversation, let’s talk about “marks on the body” – my back is marked with the scars of whips and beatings. My ankles and wrists are calloused from jailer’s chains because I preach Jesus Christ crucified. My flesh, my sin, my Me-freedom is dead and I have gladly suffered for it. But here is what matters – God-freedom people actively expressing their faith by doing good to all – mercy and peace to the Church.”

We learn why Paul has been so adamant to root out pride and its varying forms in vss 11-13. Pride. They sought to boast about the people they could convince to become circumcised – but perhaps even more shameful – is that they wished to take the easy way out. The Judaizers taught a false gospel that avoided persecution and brought only self-serving glory from those they sought to impress. They taught a false gospel that kept their own national pride and identity at the forefront – to the detriment of the unity of the Church and Jesus’ call to “make disciples of all nations.” Paul reminds the Galatians that keeping in step with the Spirit means dying to the world and it’s ways and passions as he did. His allegiance was to Jesus Christ and spreading and defending the untarnished gospel of being made right with God by faith alone. So that means dying to the need for anything self-serving: attention getting, the need to impress others, and the avoidance of hardship and persecution. 

And then Paul ends the letter with the blessing “Grace” which – considering the theme of this letter – is probably not an accident. His words show that he still values them. They are still in relationship. He has said some harsh things in this letter but his love for them is strong. Friends, what an example for us as we live Spirit-powered lives together. We are a spiritual family through the blood of Jesus Christ seeking to keep in step with the Spirit. Let us live together in Grace that we might fulfill the law of Christ.  

As I was writing the conclusion to this message I was prompted to include words from Paul to the Corinthian church about love. So to end the message I invite you to read with me Paul’s words in I Cor 13: 

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

Some Music Used

  • Prelude
    • Blest be the Tie that Binds
    • Love the Lord Your God
    • By Our Love
    • Son of God, Son of Man – Rick Bean, piano
  • The Wonderful Cross
  • Is He Worthy?
  • Hear the Call of the Kingdom