‘Spiritual’ Friends and Churches, Part 2 (Galatians 6:3-6)
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Spiritual Friends and Churches
How to be a part of the solution and a help during difficult times
Galatians 6:3-6–part 2
Here is a difficult question in a true physics degree exam. “Describe how to determine the height of a skyscraper with a barometer.” One student replied this way. “You tie a long piece of string to the neck of the barometer, then lower the barometer from the roof of the skyscraper to the ground. The length of the string plus the length of the barometer will equal the height of the building.” This highly original answer so incensed the examiner that the student was failed immediately.
The student appealed on the grounds that his answer was indisputably correct, and the university appointed an independent arbiter to decide the case. The arbiter judged that the answer was indeed correct, but did not display any noticeable knowledge of physics. To resolve the problem, it was decided to call the student in and allow him six minutes in which to provide a verbal answer which showed at least a minimal familiarity with the basic principles of physics.
For five minutes, the student sat in silence, his forehead creased in thought. The arbiter reminded him that time was running out, to which the student replied that he had several extremely relevant answers, but couldn’t make up his mind which one to use. On being advised to hurry up, the student replied as follows, “Firstly, you could take the barometer up to the roof of the skyscraper, drop it over the edge, and measure the time it takes to reach the ground. The height of the building can then be worked out from the formula H = 0.5g x t squared. But bad luck for the barometer.”
By now, the arbiter was very curious, so he asked him about his other solutions. The student replied, “If the sun is shining, you could measure the height of the barometer, then set it on end and measure the length of its shadow. Then you measure the length of the skyscraper’s shadow, and after a simple matter of proportional arithmetic, work out the height of the skyscraper. Or if you wanted to be highly scientific about it, you could tie a short piece of string to the barometer and swing it like a pendulum, first at ground level and then on the roof of the skyscraper. The height is worked out by the difference in the gravitational restoring force T = 2 pi sqrroot (l / g).”
“Or, if the skyscraper has an outside emergency staircase, it would be easier to walk up it and mark off the height of the skyscraper in barometer lengths, then add them up. Or if you merely wanted to be boring and orthodox about it, of course you could use the barometer to measure the air pressure on the roof of the skyscraper and on the ground, and convert the difference in millibars into feet to give the height of the building.”
But my favorite answer is this–“Since we are constantly being exhorted to exercise independence of mind and apply scientific methods, undoubtedly the best way would be to knock on the janitor’s door and say to him, ‘Sir, I have a very nice new barometer, I will give this it to you, if you tell me the height of this skyscraper’.” The student was Niels Bohr at the University of Copenhagen, the only Dane to win the Nobel prize for Physics. Niels was not only smart, but also thought differently–outside the box.
And today I need you to be Niels–to think differently about spirituality. Paul makes a statement in Galatians 6:1, “You who are spiritual”–it is obviously referring to walking in the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit, dependent upon the Spirit. But what is shocking is what true spirituality looks like, how it works out–what a truly spiritual person acts like.
God is clear here–spirituality is not defined by you, but by God in His Word. It is not looking within, quiet devotion, lighting candles, being mystical, defining your own Christianity or your own ideas about who God really is. Nor is it something we produce. But spirituality is when a born again believer obeys God’s Word by depending on His Spirit in everyday life–that is a spiritual person. Spirituality is not private but public. It’s not focusing on self, but serving–think differently about your spiritual life.
Last week, Paul defined a spiritual person as doing some radical things towards others. Read aloud with me verses 1 to 6 in Galatians chapter 6, “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. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But 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. 5For each one will bear his own load. 6The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.”
Six main indicators of the spiritual church and six main qualities of a spiritual friend in six verses. When you cooperate with the Spirit of God indwelling you, this is what you are like–verses 1 to 2 from last week are plural, focusing on the Church, and verses 3 to 6 this week are singular, focusing on the individual Christian. God desires to transform you into a truly spiritual believer. Verses 1 to 6 is true spirituality–not humming and chanting, but helping and caring. Last week, we saw a genuine spiritual church.
1 PICKS OTHERS UP Verse 1
Galatians 6:1, “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.” A truly spiritual Christian—the one who is currently walking in the Spirit, will see a brother or sister who is trapped in ongoing sin and graciously and carefully seek to restore that caught believer to their walk with God.
Like a doctor who sets a bone, the spiritual believer will help broken Christians. Like a hiker who accidentally gets his foot caught in a crevice, the spiritual Christian will help them get uncaught, so they can get back on the trail of Christ toward Heaven. Spiritual believers don’t shoot their wounded, they provide care. They mend the net, repair the bone, settle the dispute (restore) so those caught in sin might be freed from it.
They pick them up graciously–verse 1 says watching out for unique temptations. You are gracious, knowing if you do this wrong, you are not only dishonoring the Lord, but you could damage a brother or sister. Fixing a bone must be set right and must be done with care. “You” verse 1, graciously remember you are a sinner who is helping a sinner. Paul adds, “each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”
The unique temptations you watch out for is thinking you’re better than the one you are helping, since they’re stuck in sin and you are not. Or the temptation to be harsh to this sinning believer, because they’ve been a drain, a relational nightmare, and now you can make them pay for all the time you wasted on them. Or the temptation of caring and giving so much time to others trapped in sin, that you neglect your own family or neglect your own heart. But if you are truly walking in the Spirit and obedient to God’s Word, then you will seek to pick others up. Second, a genuine spiritual church . . .
2 HOLDS OTHERS UP Verse 2
This spiritual work takes more effort. You and I in this church are to (verse 2), “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Christians have burdens–battles with sin (verse 1), but also sorrow, worry, doubt, failure, loneliness, illness, marriage struggle, health drains and depression. And often we are incapable of dealing with them on our own. We need spiritual bellhops who can carry our burden bags until we can carry them ourselves.
Spiritual believers are always willing to come alongside and bear each other’s burdens when they are overwhelming us. This is the way we fulfill the law of Christ, which is to love one another. Galatians 5:14, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Think differently about spirituality–you and I are not saved by keeping the Law, but we prove to be Christ followers and spiritual saints when we bear others burdens–because that is exactly what Christ did. He bore your burden of sin on the cross and Christ continues to bear your burdens directly, as well as through Spirit-filled Christians.
Now in verses 3 to 6 Paul uses the singular, describing a truly spiritual Christian—you. How can you be truly spiritual? These verses will totally change the way you deal with people, measure maturity, understand godliness, perceive the filling of the Spirit in you and be a true friend. This passage is massively important. A true spiritual friend . . .
3 Considers others as more IMPORTANT than himself Verse 3
“For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (verse 3). Paul states facts here—indicatives. If you’re thinking this, then you’re deceiving yourself. If you think you are something, then you are a self-liar. If you begin to think you are pretty important, you’ll lead your own mind astray. If you think you are a big number, Paul reminds you you’re actually a zero.
Don’t forget, you are a vessel that Christ lives in and works through. Second Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” We are clay pots–the bottom rung of pottery for low level usage and most easily broken. But Paul reminds vessels–Christ, the King, Creator, deserves all glory and lives through you. Therefore, you are nothing and Christ is everything. As you deal with others, remember who you are and treasure Christ in you and others.
Each of you need to be reminded of who you are. When we get all worked up over how others have treated us badly . . . when we get concerned about whether someone notices us or not . . . when we are burdened about not getting credit for that which we have done . . . when we must win the argument with our spouse, since we must be right and they wrong . . . we have forgotten we are nothing and Christ is everything. We are not all that.
Get a bucket full of water, put your hand in, then pull your hand out and see what difference you made to the water–answer, nothing. That’s you. Remember how temporary you are. A month after you die, most of you will only have family remember you, and an occasional friend will slip you a memory. Each year will diminish you until no one will remember you except Christ.
The Lord promised if you are His, in Hebrews 6:10, “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” The Lord will remember—but no one else will. We have forgotten—“Only one life soon past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Remember what is eternal–God’s Word and people. Treasure them for Christ’s sake, care for them for Christ’s sake, love them for Christ’s sake.
This is exactly what Paul meant in Philippians 2:3 to 4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Paul continues in the same chapter, verses 6 to 8, to describe Christ’s humility–that our Lord was willing to become a man, a slave, obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. And that Christological description was all written in order for Paul to say, if Christ would humble himself to that depth, then can you not humble yourself in order to get along with others in order to maintain unity in your Philippian church? If Christ would go that far, how far should you be willing to go in order to love others in unity?
In the Galatian churches, the salvation issue was tearing the churches apart. There were those who are clinging to salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. Others were drifting into law-keeping, festival-attending, and circumcision. And a few dogmatists were teaching Christians had to be Jews in practice first to be saved. While the sound doctrine of righteousness comes by faith had to be upheld, Paul did not want the Church to tear itself apart. Nor for those who hold sound doctrine to think, verse 3, “he is something when he is nothing, [for] he deceives himself.”
Do you know what destroys considering others as more important than yourself? It is when you think of yourself as so important, you don’t think about others at all. How much of your life is invested into thinking about yourself, living for what you want, doing only what you like, satisfying yourself–where observers would say it’s all about you? Selfish people don’t serve others, enjoy others, or maintain unity with others because they’re too busy prioritizing themselves.
How we treat others greatly depends on how we think about ourselves. People who have a high opinion of themselves are usually unwilling to carry anyone else’s baggage–they’re too self-centered. It’s only what they do for me. Serving others is beneath them, or they are just too busy satisfying themselves. Others, caught up in their own abilities, gifts and talents are also fooling themselves. A stewardess once told heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali to buckle his seatbelt, and he popped off, “Superman don’t need no seatbelt.” She looked at him and just as fast retorted back, “Superman don’t need no airplane.”
Paul was not exaggerating when he says you are nothing, because we really are nothing in and of ourselves. John Calvin said it this way, “We have nothing of our own to boast about, but are destitute of every good thing.” If we are anything at all, it is only because we are created by God and redeemed in Christ. According to the book of Revelation, those are the two things we will be praising God for all of eternity. The Lord created us and the Lord redeemed us.
Think differently–those who are spiritual are not self-consumed on their journey. They do not withdraw to the wilderness, nor wait for an experience. No, those truly in the Spirit consider themselves nothing, while they see Christ as their all and consider others as more important them themselves. A true spiritual friend . . .
4 Doesn’t COMPARE himself to others Verse 4
“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” (verse 4). Whenever a church is battling over doctrine or direction, people not only divide up, but they begin to list all the reasons why their position is the right one. They begin to boast. I knew of a man who stood up in a hostile church meeting and boasted, “I am the keeper of the by-laws,” a massively arrogant statement. He died two weeks later.
Boasting and bragging are not good. Instead, we should simply embrace the normal understanding of the Bible, the apostolic truth which came from Paul in this letter, and cling to Christ and not our opinions. Your trust, your boast is in Christ and not in you nor in others. Your ministry, your boast stands or falls on the basis of whose glory it is for and in whose strength was it given. Whether you are helping others caught in sin and bearing others burdens for Christ, it can only be evaluated by looking at your heart, not the approval of others.
Your boasting is in regard to yourself and not others. The moment we compare ourselves with others, we are off-center and messed up. If you think you are better than them, you are self-centered, proud and sinning. If you think you are worse than them, you are self-centered, proud and sinning. You are unique–each of you were given a unique combination of spiritual giftedness by the Holy Spirit at salvation–a unique heart for God, unique abilities and talents, a unique personality and unique experiences. We are truly as unique as a snowflake. Comparing yourself with others is only motivated by pride–am I better or worse? There is no need for it–even as friends, celebrate Christ and your differences, but don’t make comparisons as to who is better and who is worse.
So Paul says in verse 4, “But each one must examine his own work.” When you desire to assess your spiritual life, don’t compare yourself to others, but do compare yourself to Christ and His Word. To think biblically about your walk with God, compare your spiritual life to what it could have been and should have been. Romans 12:3, “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
Each has been given a measure. It is important to test yourselves before the Lord–sharpening your gifts, dealing with your sin bents and more. It is best done with close friends and it is best done only occasionally so you don’t grow ingrown eyeballs with too much introspection. The spiritual person thinks differently. They examine their own heart and look at Christ’s character and example–but they avoid comparing themselves with others. A true spiritual friend . . .
5 Is RESPONSIBLE for his own walk and ministry Verse 5
“For each one will bear his own load” (verse 5). You are a part of an army. You are working together–but you are a soldier. 1) You’re restoring those who go astray, 2) you’re bearing the burdens of your fellow soldiers, 3) you treat those soldiers as more important than yourself, and 4) you are not comparing yourself to the other soldiers, because you have a specific job to do.
But you can’t be leaning so hard on others you refuse to carry your own load. Every soldier has a pack to carry–his supplies, food, his weapon, his kit, his gear and his equipment for his unique role. Paul says in verse 5, Carry your own pack, soldier–you have a job to do. And when you do it, we’re more prone to win as an army–especially when we don’t have to carry your load.
I told you some weeks ago, I love backpacking, and when taking junior highers up to the High Sierras, I was carrying an 85-pound pack with extra gear, in case one of the kids got hurt or sick. But what I didn’t tell you was how tired I was with two miles to go, up painfully steep switchbacks, when one of the junior highers gave up—he said he couldn’t do it. He would not continue–until I took his 32-pound pack off and had him walk with no pack, which then I carried in my hand, painfully, until we arrived at our High Sierra campsite.
This is why Paul says, “Each one will bear his own load”—any time you don’t carry your own load, you make it harder for another soldier and affect the entire army. Each man has particular responsibilities to his Savior, his wife, his children, his family, his work, his church, his finances, his future, his witness, and more. You cannot pursue your ministry and ignore your family, and you cannot ignore your ministry and invest only in your wife. You are responsible. Carry your own burden—now.
The burden of this verse, verse 5, is different than the burden you bear in verse 2. These burdens are not contradictory, but complementary. These two verses balance mutual accountability with personal responsibility. The verse 2 burden refers to a heavy load, like cargo being loaded onto a freighter–a church. It describes a weight that must be shared because it’s too heavy for one person to carry. But the verse 5 burden is describing a soldier’s pack–a lighter weight that each individual is given and can carry. There is a weight that each of us must carry–the weight of our own personal responsibility before God. What might some of that be?
God has given you a unique set of gifts–stewardship, circumstances for your situation in life. You will not have to answer for what you might have done with someone else’s gifts. But you, and you alone, will have to answer for the way you carry the responsibilities that God has given you. Do you know what a sexton is? In older times, a sexton was the church janitor, church graveyard digger and church bell ringer. So now you understand what Martin Luther wrote, “A faithful sexton is no less pleasing to God with his gift than is a preacher of the Word, for he serves God in the same faith and spirit.”
This is true because God will not judge sextons on the basis of their ability to preach (or preachers on the basis of their ability to repair the church). God will judge us all on the basis of our calling, our gifts, and our obedience. So do your own work–do it without comparing yourself to anyone else. And do it well, for one day you will answer to God–both for what you have done and for what you have left undone. Like a slave, Paul says in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”
And the sweetest blessing of living under a sovereign God, who “causes all things to work together for good”–Who “does as He pleases”–who “works all things after the council of His will” . . . is this. There is always enough time each day to accomplish God’s will for that day. There is always enough energy each day to accomplish God’s will for that day. Think differently about spirituality–it is not humming and meditating. It is being responsible to live according to your biblical responsibilities. And ending this paragraph, a true spiritual friend . . .
6 Will SUPPORT his church and its teachers Verse 6
“The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him” (verse 6). This almost seems out of place, until you realize this–in order for elders to lead a church battling with doctrinal strife, for men to be freed up enough to feed the flock and train leaders and shepherd God’s people, they have to be supported financially. In order to maintain unity, there needs to be a crew who together care for the entire flock, and not merely their small portion, especially in the midst of overt attack.
So what do you do? Paul says in verse 6, “The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.” This is the spiritual man and the spiritual woman who are giving, supporting, and encouraging the shepherds of their church, especially those who teach the Word.
This is exactly what the Bible teaches in 1 Timothy 5:17 and 18, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,’ and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” Then in 1 Corinthians 9:14, “So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.” And in 1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.”
The spiritual man and woman are not those who have completed their AWANA vest. The spiritual believer doesn’t use a special inflection when he speaks the name G-O-D! No, the spiritual believer is filled with the Spirit and seeks to faithfully give to the church in order to support its teachers, so the church can be bathed in God’s Word. It’s so the Word can guide the church, not divide the church. A spiritual man and spiritual woman give to God’s Church–and they do so regularly, sacrificially, and generously. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:6 and 7, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Those elders who work hard at preaching and teaching are to be financially supported by the church. You are to support them generously–not so they become rich, but so that they can minister without being overly burdened by the need to provide for their needs. They still need to budget, plan and clip coupons, but they should not be straining under the weight of trying to provide for their family or their future.
The ministry of shepherding, leading and especially preaching is a costly labor—it’s work, it’s war, it requires discipline, desire and unique gifts. Pastors are never to be greedy, nor lazy. On the other hand, churches are not to control their pastors by finances. A minister must be freed up to spend his time preparing to teach God’s Word. It is much easier for him to throw himself into this work when he is not distracted by financial concerns. But to be spiritual, you are to support some of your pastors and teachers. As Martin Luther explained, “It is impossible that one man should be devoted to household duties day and night for his support and at the same time pay attention to the study of sacred Scripture, as the teaching ministry requires.”
The spiritual Christian uses their money, as if it belonged to God, since it does. And they use it according to heavenly priorities and not this world’s. They invest into eternity by supporting the Word of God being accurately taught and the Gospel being unashamedly proclaimed as by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, so that God’s work here and around the world can be accomplished for His glory. Jesus said it best in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Do you think differently? Are you spiritual? Where is your heart today?
A Are you truly a SPIRITUAL person?
Give yourself a score according to Paul’s definition of spirituality–not spiritual is 1, super spiritual is 10. Spiritual people restore one another from sin, bear one another’s burdens, consider others more important than themselves, are responsible for their own lives, do not think too highly of themselves, and generously share financially with one another. Score?
B Are you embracing that you are NOTHING?
Do you take Christ and His Word seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously at all? That would mean you desperately demonstrate that you love His Word and prayer, seeking to live filled with the Spirit with a heart that is tender and fully His. But it would also mean you have tough skin, because your life is no longer about you.
You are not easily offended, you are not worried about getting credit or being noticed. And you certainly do not see yourself or your children as always the victim. Are you pursuing being nothing and Christ being everything?
C Are you RESPONSIBLE for carrying your own load
If you came to our church wounded, don’t start serving right away. Please allow the Lord, His Word and His people to minister to you, equip you and love you. But if you have been here over six months to a year, it’s time to bear your load. Start serving, start giving, start caring for others.
Life in the Spirit is not experienced in isolation or with just your family, but as you serve in the family of God. This is foreign to many church attenders, who have no connection to leadership, ministry, shepherding, or discipleship. But the choice to be a spectator and not a participant is foreign to Christ and the New Testament.
D Are you IDENTIFYING your own load?
Have you discovered what God made you good at–the way you put Christ on display? Have you learned what He made you to do . . . your purpose in this generation . . . the “good works God has prepared beforehand that you should walk in them”? When you do, it’s like finding your place in the jigsaw puzzle–discovering what part you are in God’s engine, the organ you are in God’s body, the brick you are in God’s building.
Once you do, you will you stop making comparisons and become comfortable in your own skin. There is no other David, Sarah, Peter, Paul, Barnabas or Esther. We can learn from them, but you cannot be them. There are no other Spurgeons or MacArthurs or Luthers–just you. Learn your giftedness by serving and asking believers about it. Get in touch with your heart for God’s purposes. Reflect on your God-given abilities and providential experiences, and pursue becoming that man or woman God desires you to be. When you begin to identify your own load, you become much more free to help others.
E Are you FRUIT-bearing, or deed-doing?
The Holy Spirit bears fruit, the fake Christian does deeds. Love, joy, peace, faithfulness, self-control–all come from the new nature. But actions, deeds, our efforts spring from a heart of stone, the unregenerate heart. Which one are you? Christ came to justify you–but also, at the same time, to transform you. Has He?
He came that you might have life. He came that you might “have all you need for life and godliness.” He came to give you “every spiritual blessing in heavenly places.” He came to work through you, spiritually, so you would see Him as everything and you as nothing–not compare, be responsible and give to His purposes.
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