Use your freedom to serve one another through love specifically.
As we finish our journey through the book of Galatians, Pastor Matt encourages us to Use your freedom to serve one another through love specifically.
1. Bear one another’s burdens (6:1-5)
2. Provide for one another’s needs (6:6-10)
3. Boast only in the cross (6:11-18).
Recently, our son Soren has gotten into collecting baseball cards, which, if you know Soren, means he’s memorized a lot of facts about baseball cards. Recently, with Christmas gifts on her mind, my mom, who knows nothing about baseball cards, asked Soren what baseball card he wants most. Soren immediately told her that it would have to be the 1910 Honus Wagner. My mom asked how much it was, excited that she had figured out his Christmas gift so quickly. But her hopes were dashed when Soren informed her that the card is worth over $7M. My mom sheepishly informed Soren that the Honus Wagner was outside of her budget. To which Soren responded that there is always the 1952 Mickey Mantle card, but that would probably be outside her budget given that it’s worth about $5M. And then Soren paused and said, “Grammy, what is your budget?” Ah to be eight years old again. Now Soren and I have talked about this Honus Wagner card a bit and he’s asked me, “dad, if we had the Honus Wagner, should we keep it or sell it? What should we do with it?” It’s a good question and, frankly, neither Soren nor I are quite sure. If we had this unspeakably valuable card, we aren’t sure what we’d do with it.
I think that we can feel that way about our spiritual riches as well. We’re not sure what to do with them. If you’re new to Citylight Church, this morning we conclude what has been a multi-month journey through the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians. And Galatians has taken us into the vault of our spiritual wealth in Christ. Galatians is all about how the gospel of Jesus Christ frees us from everything that truly burdens us, forever. That is worth more than the 1910 Honus Wagner. Listen one more time to the way that the Westminster Confession of Faith describes the riches of freedom that believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have: “Christ has purchased for believers under the gospel freedom from the guilt of sin, from the condemning wrath of God, and from the curse of the moral law. He has also freed them from the evil world we live in, from enslavement to Satan, from the dominion of sin, the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grave, and from everlasting damnation. In Christ believers have free access to God and can obey him, not out of slavish fear, but with a childlike love and a willing mind.” We have an unburdening freedom in Christ that is more valuable than the T-206 Honus Wagner. But I think that if we’re honest, we’re a little like Soren. We’re not sure what to do with it. We’re not sure what to do with the freedom that we’ve been called to in Christ in the right here, right now in the details of our individual lives and our life together as a church.
Thankfully, the Apostle Paul wrote the conclusion of his letter to the Galatian churches to show us what to do with our inestimably valuable freedom in Christ. The conclusion of the letter probably began in Galatians 5:1 – For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. The first thing we do with our freedom is stand firm in it by adding nothing to Jesus to feel ok with God. Paul continues his conclusion in Galatians 5:13 – For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. We stand firm in our freedom and we use our freedom for is to serve one another through love. And now, as we come to the very end of the letter, Paul is going to get specific. Yes, use your freedom to serve one another through love, but do it specifically. No vague serving. Specific serving. And that brings us to the big idea of our final passage in Galatians: Use your freedom to serve one another through love specifically. Use your freedom to serve one another through love, specifically. Our passage will show us three ways to use our freedom to serve one another through love, specifically: 1. Bear one another’s burdens (6:1-5) 2. Provide for one another’s needs (6:6-10) 3. Boast only in the cross (6:11-18).
BEAR ONE ANOTHER’S BURDENS (6:1-5)
Galatians 6:2 – Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. A local church, like Citylight Church, is more than a group of individual Christians. We are a family, we are an attractively different community, we are a culture unto ourselves, a gospel culture. And one of the characteristics of a gospel-culture is that we bear one another’s burdens. New Testament scholar Tom Schreiner defines bearing one another’s burdens as a wide-ranging call to help in the struggles of other believers.
Biblical counselor and medical doctor Mike Emlet has pointed out that to bear one another’s burdens well, we have to know that every follower of Jesus is simultaneously a sinner, sufferer, and saint. Every burden we and our fellow believers carry falls under one of those three categories: sinner, sufferer, and saint. This categorization helps because it helps you know whether bearing another’s burden looks like reminding them of their identity in Christ and not lesser things (saint), consoling and bringing appropriate relief to them in the dark days of some kind of suffering (sufferer), or confronting their unrepentant sin (sinner). Each can be appropriate ways to bear another’s burdens, but we must ask God for wisdom to know which one is most helpful in the moment. But as members of the same church, our eager posture toward one another is to bear one another’s burdens because that’s the kind of family Jesus creates. Since Christ has unburdened us from condemnation and judgment, our eager posture toward one another is: I long to be like Jesus to this brother or sister and unburden them by bearing their burden. In fact, I’m looking for burdens to bear in my church. Think for a moment about your Citygroup or friend group at Citylight. Who is burdened? Is it a saint burden, a sinner burden, or a sufferer burden? How can you help bear it?
There is a specific kind of burden bearing that Paul emphasizes in our passage this morning: sinner burden bearing. Galatians 6:1-2 – 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. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. A healthy church is a gospel-culture where when anyone who is tripped up in any sin, anyone who is living and walking in accord with the Holy Spirit seeks to restore them to spiritual health and vitality with both firm clarity and gentle humility. To be unburdened we need to join ourselves to a local church like Citylight and live in such proximity to one another that our sins become visible to one another or we have the opportunity to confess our sins to one another so that we can receive and give spiritual restoration. The Lord Jesus himself put it this way, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother (Matthew 18:15). Our Lord’s brother put it this way, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Example: Kevin Kurtz and Pete Horning. Now, let me get practical for a moment. Since we are a family, we should all live with an eager posture to bear one another’s burdens, including sin burdens. That’s our eager posture on Sundays and in Citygroups. However, it can really help to start small. Here is a question all of us can consider: who are 2-3 people in Citylight Church that I can ask to be my burden bearer and I theirs? Imagine if we all did that. Citylight Church would make the gospel visible by being a burden-bearing gospel counter-culture.
Paul has a stern warning for those who stiff arm relating to fellow church members in the ways that Galatians 6:1-2 describes. Galatians 6:3 – For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Paul says that there is only one explanation for not relating to your fellow church members in the way described in Galatians 6:1-2: pride (thinking more highly of yourself than you ought). God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. So, if that’s you and you’ve been keeping your church at arms length because you’re proud, don’t panic, repent. Repent and experience the mercy of God and the love of his church. It will be great if you repent. Of course, in bearing one another’s sins we should never make the mistake of believing we can be one another’s saviors. Galatians 6:4-5 – But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load. While we bear one another’s burdens, no one can ultimately be our savior nor can we save another. Each must test his own work to see that their life bears the evidence that they belong to Christ and will stand safe in him at the final judgment. Use your freedom to serve one another through love specifically, first, by bearing one another’s burdens. Second…
PROVIDE FOR ONE ANOTHER’S NEEDS (Galatians 6:6-10)
Galatians 6:10 – So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. While no one Christian or one church has the resources to do all good to all people, as we have opportunity we should do good to all people, especially and with highest priority toward those who are fellow believers because we are family in Christ. While Paul commands us to do good broadly, his eye is on doing good by meeting material needs with financial generosity.
Meeting material needs with financial generosity begins with a three-part mindset shift when it comes to our money. The first mindset shift is this: Everything belongs to God. Everything that there is and everything that we have belongs to God. The second mindset shift is: God is our loving provider and we are his stewards. Everything that we have has been provided to us by God so that we will leverage it to make an eternal impact with His resources. God is our provider and we are his stewards. The final mindset shift is this: The gospel makes us generous. The gospel is the good news that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son to live, die, and rise for our sins so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. Since we possess everything in Christ, we are free to be generous.
When it comes to doing good by providing for one another’s needs, our first priority is the church, the household of faith that we belong to. Family first. A great principle, not law, is tithing; setting aside a tenth of your first fruits (pre-tax) income to give to your local church for the sake of meeting all kinds of needs. One of the reasons why Andrea and I love to give to Citylight Church first is because we know that our giving will go to advancing the gospel, building up God’s plan A for reaching the world (church), and our church distributes money to meet physical needs through our Compassion Ministry and counseling subsidies. The pattern throughout the New Testament is that God’s people give to the church and the church officers distribute the money to meet material needs with financial generosity. We start with the church, but you don’t have to stop with the church. It’s more blessed, it’s happier to give than to receive. We can be even happier. We can live more simply and set aside more money to do good not just to Christian people, but all people with the financial resources that God has entrusted to us. What is your next step?
Now, just like Paul went from broad to specific with burden bearing to sin-burden bearing, Paul now goes from broad to specific with providing for material needs to providing for a specific material need. And I’ll confess that where we’re going could be a little awkward. Let’s not let it be. We are family. Galatians 6:6 – Let the one who is taught (church members) the word share all good things with the one who teaches (Pastors). In other words, God is calling his people to pay their pastors. This is a common theme in the New Testament. 1 Timothy 5:17-19 – Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” 1 Corinthians 9:14 – In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. Citylight Church – your pastors are in the service industry. We are waiters. We don’t prepare the meal. We serve it. The meal is God’s word and we don’t tamper with it, rather we serve it up to you by teaching, leading, caring, and praying for you according to God’s word. And because of your generosity, four of your pastors, myself included, can give ourselves to this work full-time. And as we all grow in generosity we’ll be able to pay more men to serve full-time as pastors so that more disciples of Jesus can be made. You’re making an eternal impact with the Master’s resources.
Why is so important use our freedom to serve one another by providing for one another’s needs? Galatians 6:6-8 – Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 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. We are in constant danger of being deceived by the world, the flesh, and the devil. We are in constant danger of sowing into our desires to sin and wandering from God forever. And instead we want to keep in step with the Spirit and reap eternal life. And God’s means of keeping his people “not deceived” and “in step with the Spirit” are pastors who are paid full-time to give instruction in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict it. Don’t grow weary in doing material good to others, especially the household of faith. You’re storing up treasures in heaven and you will reap eternal rewards. Galatians 6:9 – And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Use your freedom to serve one another through love specifically by bearing one another’s burdens and providing for one another’s needs. What’s your next step?
BOAST ONLY IN THE CROSS
Galatians 6:11-18 brings us into the final passage in this glorious letter. Paul’s secretary, called an amanuensis, would have written the letter at Paul’s dictation, but at Galatians 6:11, Paul took the pen and wrote in large letters to prove the letters authenticity and emphasize the importance of the letter’s conclusion. And in this conclusion, Paul returns to some of the most important themes in the letter: the danger of false-teachers who manipulate people for their own narcissistic ends, the lack of importance of circumcision, and the centrality of grace and our new creation status in Christ. But right in the middle of the conclusion, Paul writes one sentence that frees us to serve one another through love specifically. Galatians 6:14 – But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
We can use our freedom to serve one another through love specifically because we boast in the ultimate service. God the Son served as by not counting equality with God a thing to be grasped. God the Son served us by being in the likeness of man; truly human and also truly God. God the Son emptied himself to serve us. God the Son served us by being tempted in every way we are, yet never sinning. And God the Son served us by dying in our place for our sins so that we can die to living to be served and have a resurrection to the freedom of serving one another through love specifically by bearing one another’s burdens and providing for one another’s needs. You’re free and unburdened because you boast in the cross. Christ has purchased for believers under the gospel freedom from the guilt of sin, from the condemning wrath of God, and from the curse of the moral law. He has also freed them from the evil world we live in, from enslavement to Satan, from the dominion of sin, the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grave, and from everlasting damnation. In Christ believers have free access to God and can obey him, not out of slavish fear, but with a childlike love and a willing mind. You have the pearl of great price. Use it to serve one another through love specifically.