The Countercultural Disciple: Impart Life
Pastor Russell Scoggins
Sermon Date: 7/28/2019
Bible Reference: Galatians 6:1-10,14-16
6:1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, 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 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. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever 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 the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.
We’re still in our sermon series The Countercultural Disciple. This series is coming on the heels of the Our Ministries Sunday we had a few weeks ago. We spoke about how our ministries are weakening and in decline. They’re experiencing a decline that is not merely a cyclical dip… but rather a decline that should have us concerned. How concerned? Pretty concerned. Are we 100 years away from becoming as secular and godless of a nation as Europe? It’s a real possibility—and that should concern us. But at any rate, from that conversation we had a couple weeks ago, this sermon series was born. Rather than just talk about and point at the problems and headwinds we are facing, we’re going to start encouraging one another to fight them. We’re going to start encouraging one another to look for new and creative solutions to solve the problems we are facing. This sermon series is a small way in which we begin to do that. With this sermon series, I’m hoping to engage you in the brainstorming process. By brainstorming together, we’re starting the process of equipping ourselves. We’re looking for answers to important questions: How do we, as Christians—disciples of Jesus, live and operate in a culture that is ever more opposed to Christianity? To put a sports spin on it: How do we—American Christians—break out of this operational defense that has become our norm and instead live our spiritual lives on the offense. How do we actively work to win people over to Christ, rather than just hope they’ll walk in the door? Today we consider the theme: The Countercultural Disciple: Impart Life.
As a Christian, a disciple of Jesus, you are equipped to save lives. You play a role in imparting life—that is, you’re equipped to give, communicate, and bestow life on others by means of preaching the very gospel that saved your life and giving the Holy Spirit an opportunity to work in their hearts. But guess what? Our culture stands around us and says, “Stop it. Be quiet. We don’t want to hear your nonsense. We don’t want to hear about your judgemental message.” So… what are we going to do? Are we going to listen to our culture that tells us to keep silent? Or will we stand with Christ? Will we look to him for strength to boldly and creatively stand against a culture that tells us to keep silent?
How do we continue to impart life to a culture that is telling us to keep silent? The text we have in front of us is intriguing to consider as we keep that question in mind. The answer starts with how we treat our own. The text in front of us goes in numerous directions. There was one point where the sermon was going to be about 40 minutes long… but I did a lot of slicing. Meaning: we’re not going to hit all the verses. We’re going to hit the verses that draw out a common thread that runs through them. In these verses we see pride vs. humility and gentleness come up a number of times. That is the common thread we’re going to follow. Alright, “6:1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” I’ve heard the stories. I know you have too. Whenever we are not careful with what Paul has to say here—restoring a person gently—things to terribly wrong. A pastor, or even another brother or sister in Christ, hears about a problem‚ they hear about someone struggling with a sin and they go on a holy tirade and come down hard and fast with all God’s blazing fury on the person that is struggling with something. I have come across far too many people with a story like that and they are no longer in a church.
Now don’t misunderstand me. Am I saying that we should excuse sin? No. That would be an unscriptural line of thought. God tells us to take sin seriously, but he also tells us to be grace filled and patient as we try to lead people out of their sin. The thought, found in these verses, hinges on that phrase in verse 1, “...restore that person gently.” I mentioned it a couple weeks ago, but I’ll mention it again: the attitude that what children need first and foremost is to have the fear of God driven into them is fundamentally flawed—that was probably the parenting advice of the Pharisees (and that should give us pause). I grew up in a house where that was the implied message. Ultimately, that message drove me away from the church, just like it has done for many others. But you know what brought me back? Someone who, in my darkest days, pleaded with me on the basis of love—someone who, in my darkest days, sought to restore me gently—someone who let the very love and concern that Christ has for those who are straying show through in their actions.
Rather in get into specific application on how to go about restoring someone gently, I think it would be more beneficial to keep pointing back to the verses that bring out that common theme that Paul wants us to understand: Pride vs. Humility “2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. ”
Christ carried our burdens in love. Now what does it look like for US to carry ONE ANOTHER’S BURDENS? Here’s what that means. I want you to imagine that struggling with sin is like being stuck in a deep hole in the ground. Now here’s the picture of carrying one another’s burdens. Let’s say that you, someone who is not stuck in that person’s hole, walks up to the hole. You look down and see your fellow brother or sister in Christ stuck in this hole. You have two options: (1) You can stand at the top of the hole and rattle off the list of things that person needs to do to get their life together, or (2) you can hop down into the hole, sit next to the person and say, “Help me see what you’re struggling with. Tell me what’s hurting you. I’m worried about you and I want you to know that I’m here to help you and you have a Savior who is able to help you as well. How can I help you? How can I point you back to your Savior who dearly loves you?”
Paul goes on to speak about how pride and comparison are detrimental to restoring one another gently and carrying one another’s burdens. “3 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.” It makes sense. Think about the Pharisees: they were notorious for this very thing. They were extremely prideful and they constantly compared themselves. And we never see them trying to gently restore someone who is struggling with a sin. We see them doing just the opposite. They pass judgement on and distance themselves from those who are struggling with sin. They didn’t seek to restore the woman who was caught in adultery—they were going to stone her. Jesus sought to restore her. They didn’t attempt to restore the sinful woman who washed Jesus feet with her tears and hair—Simon simply passed judgement on both her and Jesus. But Jesus sought to restore that sinful woman and forgive her sins.
When we approach a brother or sister in Christ about a sin they’re struggling with (we’re not talking about those outside the church right here—that’s something else entirely)... but when we approach a brother or sister in Christ about a sin, we must first point the finger where? Here, at our own hearts. When we fail to do that, we run the risk of approaching them with a spirit of holier than thou and we run the risk of pushing them away from Christ rather than winning them back over to him. Everybody in this room struggles with sin and it’s extremely harmful and detrimental to all involved when we approach others with the attitude that we don’t struggle with sin.
There’s one more place we see that common thread of pride vs humility. Verse, “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.” Where is our pride found? In what should we boast? When we approach our brothers and sisters in Christ about sin, if our attitude is one of boasting in how good we are—if our attitude is one of taking pride in the high rolling holy life that we live, then good luck winning that person back over. In what should we take pride? In what should we boast? The very thing that saved us! Our polished and presentable lifestyle doesn’t save us. The cross of Christ saved you. The cross of Christ saved you, not because you were good and holy, but because you were a sinner for whom Christ died.
Okay, let’s summarize this section because we haven’t even gotten to the question of how this conversation applies to our treatment of non-Christians. So far we’ve only asked, how are we to treat our brothers and sisters in Christ as we deal with problems of sin. The simple summary answer is this: The fact that Christ died for me—a sinner—should guide my every thought, word, and action. We deal with one another with a spirit of humility, concern, love, and patience because that is the same spirit with which Christ deals with us.
Now thinking about our culture—before we get there. I want you to imagine that you know CPR. One day, you’re at the store or the mall—somewhere with a good number of people. Right in front of you, you see someone collapse. It’s clear: they need CPR. By now a crowd has gathered. Nobody else is stepping forward to give CPR. Medical professionals are 15 minutes away. If this persons going to make it, they need CPR—and you know CPR. I would hope we would give them CPR.
But now, let’s make the scenario a little weirder. Imagine that it’s clear that the person you’re attending to needs CPR; however, the crowd that has gathered to witness the scene tries to verbally stop you. “Don’t give that person CPR! What are you doing? You’re going to kill them!” What would you do? You have the power to save the life that is slipping away in front of you. Everyone around you clearly has no clue what they’re talking about. What are you going to do?
As bizarre as that scenario sounds, it happens on a spiritual level every single day. Our culture doesn’t know it, but they preach a message of death. To preach a message of anything other than Christ is to preach a message of death. The message about Christ is the only message of life that exists. That’s why as a Christian you have the ability to impart life. You have the ability to spread this message and let the Holy Spirit work through it. So, as people who have a life giving message, how do we operate in a culture that is telling us to keep silent?
Let me just throw out a few thoughts on the matter…. And hear me out here, these things aren’t prescriptive—they’re not the final authority. I’m not up here telling you, “This is how you must live.” Just like you, I’m up here brainstorming on how Christians can turn things around—how we can live and operate in a culture that is becoming more and more resistant towards us. I’m hoping, with this series, to get you to start brainstorming with me—If we don’t have all of God’s people brainstorming how we can better reach our culture, we’re not going to reach our culture. So here you go, here’s some brainstorming on how we can better live and operate in this culture using what we have talked about today.
Firstly, in this section we had from Paul, he is addressing how believers are to interact with another believer that is struggling with something. Restore one another gently. If you’re going to restore someone, you have to have a state to which you can restore them. With the help of the Holy Spirit, you can gently restore a Christian brother or sister that is weak in their faith—you can be a tool the Holy Spirit uses to bring them back to a place of strong faith. You can humbly and patiently restore a brother or sister in the faith, but guess who you can't RESTORE? You can't restore an unbeliever. There is nothing for them to be restored to. You can't restore them to a state of faith, because they’ve never experienced a state of faith.
If you walk up to an unbeliever and say to them, hey, you have to stop living this way….you have to stop doing that…. God doesn’t want you doing this…. That’s probably the last conversation you’ll have with them. There’s a time to point out sin, but it’s not before they know Jesus. There’s a time to point out sin, but it’s not on social media.
What if…. What if…. Our evangelism efforts were motivated by love? What would that look like? Building on our comments from last week… What if, we were so motivated by the love of Christ that we were constantly looking for opportunities to build relationships with others warts and all? And what if, in those relationships we formed with non-Christians—warts and all, what if we were so serious about loving those people that as we continue to strengthen our bond with them, we couldn’t help but invite them to church—because that’s how deeply we love them. What if, as we assessed the sin that our non-christian friends struggle with, we loved them enough to not be concerned first and foremost with their behavior—because you can attempt to treat and manage behavior all day every day but at the end of the day, treating behavior doesn’t save souls—what if we loved them enough to not be concerned first and foremost with their behavior, but to be concerned first and foremost with their salvation? What if we loved them enough to be concerned first and foremost with connecting them with Jesus? I would think some pretty awesome things might start to happen. Amen? Amen.