The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
July 28, 2019
Galatians 6:1-10, 14-16
What’s Left on Your “To Do” List?
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. 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. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I would be willing to guess that most of us are very familiar with have a “To Do” list. Even if we don’t actually write it out we often times have a “To Do” list in the back of our minds, don’t we? Personally I all but live by my “To Do” list. Every week I have a list of what must get done, what should get done and what I would like to get done during the course of that particular week. And unless my phone rings and something unexpected gets added to my “To Do” list I usually have things pretty well planned out as to what gets done when. It’s on my “To Do” list!
The sermon text that we have before us this morning is once again from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Now when I first began studying this text I was not sure what I was going to do with it. At first it seemed as though Paul was grouping together a number of important yet seemingly unrelated points. Then I think I figured it out! Since Paul was getting to the end of his letter to these fellow Christians he wanted to show them how they could take the central message of his letter and apply it in various aspects of their daily lives. In essence, Paul was giving the Galatian Christians a “To Do” list! With that perspective in mind let’s see how this portion of God’s holy Word gives us an opportunity to ask the question: What’s Left On Your “To Do” List?
Now normally I like to start at the beginning of our sermon text and work my way through to the end. Today, however, I think we need to do just the opposite. Since the final portion of our text— Galatians 6:14-16— gives us the proper motivation that we need to correctly understand and apply the first portion of our text we’ll start at the end.
If you were asked to pick one word that captures the essence of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, what word would you pick? I would pick the word “freedom.” Throughout this entire letter Paul emphasizes that through the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ we have been set free! We have been set free from our greatest enemies: sin, death and the devil. We have been set free from the rules and regulations of the Law. We have been set free to live for Jesus while we are here on this earth as well as to live with Jesus forever in heaven. The glorious freedom of the Gospel is illumed for us in the closing verses of our text. Paul writes, “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. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.”
As we mentioned last week everything that Jesus won for us on the cross became our personal possession at the time of our Christian baptism. Because of our Baptism we are not the same person that we once were. Because of our Baptism we are a “new creation” of God! As God’s “new creation” we now possess and daily enjoy true, inner, eternal “peace”— the “peace” that comes from knowing that all of our sins are completely forgiven. As God’s “new creation” we also possess and daily rely on God’s “mercy”— the “mercy” that is proclaimed to us by the cross. The “mercy” and the “peace” that we have received from God now enables us to say with the apostle Paul, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Pointing to the cross)
With our focus on the cross of our Savior, with our hearts overflowing with the motivation that only the cross of Jesus Christ can give to us now let’s turn and look at the “To Do” list that Paul gives to us here in our text. Let’s start with verse one, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” All too often Satan deceives us into thinking that we don’t have the “right” to confront someone with their sin because after all we are sinners ourselves. As a result of this deception many Christians simply sit back and watch as a redeemed child of God wanders farther and farther away from the Lord until eventually they may be lost for all of eternity.
The Lord shatters that satanic deception by repeatedly telling us in His Word that we not only have the right but we also have the responsibility to confront someone who has fallen into sin. To help us understand this important responsibility we need to look at the original Greek of Galatians 6:1. The Greek word that is translated here in our text as “caught in” very literally conveys the picture of being “overtaken by surprise.” In this portion of Scripture Paul is not talking about someone who goes out and willfully rebels against the God of heaven. No, rather, Paul is here talking about someone who wanders away from the Lord and is “overtaken by surprise” by that roaring lion, the devil.
Have you ever known someone who fits this description? Have you ever known someone who started out “experimenting” with something that they knew was wrong— drugs, sex, shoplifting— and before they realized it they became “trapped” in that sin. Have you ever known someone who allowed themselves to get so “busy” that over the course of time they gradually quit coming to church and Bible class, they quit reading their Bible and saying their prayers at home, they quit receiving the Lord’s Supper? Without even realizing it they can get “caught in” the sin of apathy. If left unchecked this apathy can lead to a point where the Lord says to them what He said to the church in Laodicea, “So, because you are lukewarm— neither hot nor cold— I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). Just as we would not stand there with a life-jacket in our hands and simply watch as someone drowns in a lake so also as Christians we can’t just stand by and watch as someone drowns in their sin. Motivated by the sacrifice of God’s Son we have been given both the right as well as the responsibility to do everything we possibly can to “restore them gently” as Paul says in our text.
Now look at verses 2-5 of our text. There is not one person here today who is not “bearing” some kind of “burden.” For some of us the burden might be guilt while for others the burden might be jealousy and anger. For some of us the burden might be financial in nature while for others the burden might be health related. Loneliness, temptation, dissatisfaction at work, dissention at home— there are multitudes of burdens that can weigh us down as we sojourn through this world. As Christians, however, we never have to bear those burdens alone! The One who died for us on the cross is also the One who gives us the glorious invitation, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The One who washed away the burden of our sin— first through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism and then through the Sacrament of Holy Communion— has brought us into the “family” of believers. So if you are feeling “burdened,” my friends I encourage you to first and foremost kneel at the foot of the cross of the One who can and will help you. At the same time, if you are feeling burdened don’t overlook and don’t underestimate the value of sharing that burden with a trusted Christian brother or a trusted Christian sister. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Now look at verse six of our text. Paul says, “Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.” As we heard in our Gospel lesson for today (Luke 10:1-12; 16-20) in the days of Jesus and in the days of the apostle Paul the “instructors in the Word” would travel around from town to town and stay at various people’s homes. The people who were being instructed in the Word would then “share all good things with his instructor.” Today, since the church operates more on a congregational level we need to apply this text in a way that fits our particular situation. For example, most congregations provide for and support their Called workers through the offerings that are placed on the Lord’s altar.
Consider this: Some of you have been a member of God’s family here at this congregation for a very long time. Over the course of the years you and your children and perhaps even your grandchildren have received countless blessings from the Lord though the ministry of this congregation. Others of you have just recently come to experience the blessings of being part of a church where the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity and the Sacraments are faithfully administered as the Lord intended them to be. But since we all have that old sinful nature that is selfish and stubborn and stingy we need to be reminded of what Paul says here in our text each and every time we place our offering on this altar. In the light of the cross of Jesus Christ our offerings need to be an accurate reflection of our thankfulness for all the good things that we have received as well as for all the good things we continue to receive here in our congregation. That thankfulness will motivate us to see how much we can support God’s ministry instead of trying to see how little we can get by with when it comes to supporting the Lord’s church and still have the church limp along from one month to the next.
The final item on the “To Do” list that Paul gives to us here in our text is found in verses 7-10. Since the picture here is one of “sowing” and “reaping” we might use this portion of our text to ask ourselves the question, What’s growing in my spiritual garden? If we “sow” the seeds of our sinful nature then we will “reap” only destruction. But if by the grace of God we “sow” to please the Holy Spirit then we will indeed “reap eternal life.” And if you ever get to the point where you wonder if it is worth the effort to “weed” your spiritual garden on a regular basis, if you ever get to the point where you wonder if it is worth the time to get rid of those things in your life that are displeasing to your God, remember these words of Paul, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Well, now, that is quite a “To Do” list, isn’t it! Confronting someone with their sin, carrying each other’s burdens, making sure that our offerings accurately reflect the thankfulness of our heart and watching what we “sow” in our spiritual gardens— that’s a lot to do! How do we keep from being overwhelmed by it all? We go right back to where we started: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When we stay focused on the freedom that we have been given through the cross of Jesus Christ then we are going to have a proper perspective on our Christian “To Do” list. When we are focused on the cross then we will see all these things on our “To Do” list not as obligations but rather as opportunities! With that in mind may the good Lord grant that each and every day we joyfully ask ourselves and each other: What’s left on your “To Do” list?
To God be the glory!