Brokenness is a best seller in our society. The moral failures and sins of those around us are consumed by us like Gatorade on a hot August afternoon on the practice field. The demise of the lives of people like homemaking mogul Martha Stewart, Michael Jackson, the “King of Pop,” James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul,” or Tyco CEO, Dennis Kozlowski, are everyday items in the headlines of newspapers and the stories of anchors on the evening news. The sins of people, all kinds of people, both high profile celebrities and unfamiliar names and faces, are hot items in our voyeuristic society. We love to watch the mighty fall and we don’t mind witnessing the downfall of the boy-next-door if we don’t have a celebrity to watch self-destruct.
Witnessing the demise of a life is a passive hobby for many folks today. This passive observation of destruction takes no skill, no commitment, and no investment on our part—we just wait for the morning paper or the evening news and pick-up on the latest stories of self-destruction and public humiliation.
On the morning that I wrote this sermon I heard the story of another life swirling down the drain. Paul O’Leary, former EMSA spokesman was charged on Wednesday with having child pornography on his work computer. The newspaper article said that O’Leary admitted to his boss that he had been downloading pictures of child pornography from the internet. The article stated,”He told them that he knew it was wrong, and that he’s ‘had a problem ever since high school.’”
I have to admit that if I were not working on the section of Scripture that we are studying today I would have probably thought to myself, “Well, there is another pervert off the street.” I’m not proud to admit this to you, it is simply more evidence of my hard heart. I was not so cold and proud on Thursday morning when I heard about Mr. O’Leary’s sin. There is no doubt in my mind that the reason I had other thoughts is because of the Scripture I had been studying all week. Instead of seeing this man that I’ve never met as a pervert, I thought about his family, I thought about a man who knew what he was doing was wrong, I thought about the consequences of his actions on his life and its impact on his family, and I wondered if there would be anyone who would go to him to help “gently” restore him.
My experience with those who have been exposed, those who are suffering under the weight of their sin, is that folks run from them like cockroaches when the light comes on. How are we to respond to those who fall and find themselves suffering because of their sin? Are we to turn our backs and walk away? Are we to wink at their sin and tell them that it’s no big deal? What are we to do? These are great questions, important questions because sin is pervasive, it strikes at every life, and its residue is found on the doorposts of every home and heart. John wrote about the pervasive of sin in 1 John 1:8-10.
8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.(1 John 1:8-10 NIV)
This Scripture shows us, that as the Body of Christ, we are going to be confronted with the sin of our own lives as well as the lives of those that we love. When sin raises its ugly head and takes its toll upon the lives of those around us we are called to head out on a mission. The mission that we are called to is not a “seek and destroy” mission, but a “search and rescue” mission. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today found in Galatians 6:1-5.
1Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5for each one should carry his own load.6Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.(Galatians 5:26-6:1-6 NIV)
In our last study we took a look at the characteristics of the sin nature and the fruit of the Spirit. We don’t have to spend too much time talking about how our sin nature manifests itself in things like drunkenness, envy, fits of rage, sexual immorality, etc. We don’t have to talk about our sin nature from a theoretical standpoint, we know its effect upon our lives, we have felt its consequences, and we’ve suffered from its bondage and addiction.
Here in Galatians 6:1-5, Paul gives us instruction on what we are to do when someone is “caught” in sin. It’s interesting that Paul gives more instruction to the ones helping those who are caught in sin than he does to the one who has fallen. Take a look at verse 1 with me. Paul writes,
1Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1 NIV)
“ If someone is caught in a sin.” What sin? What kind of sin? Was it a serious, scandalous sin that brought a prison sentence or public humiliation? Was it something that most people don’t even consider sin? Is there no civil or criminal law against it? Were they justified in doing what they did? Was it just a moral lapse or an ethical leave of absence? Paul doesn’t say what kind of sin the person found himself “caught” in and I am so glad. All sin leads to destruction and because of this fact it is imperative that the Body of Christ do something.
If you look at verse 1 you can see that those who are “spiritual” are called to do something. Who are the spiritual folks that Paul was calling to action? The Greek word for “spiritual” is“pneumatiko,j” (pneumatikos). The word means,“Part of the man which is akin to God and serves as his instrument or organ, one who is filled with and governed by the Spirit of God.” John MacArthur identifies the “spiritual” folks of the congregation this way.
Spiritual believers are those walking in the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, and manifesting the fruit of the Spirit, who, by virtue of their spiritual strength, are responsible for those who are fleshly…The spiritually and morally strong have a responsibility for the spiritually and morally weak. ‘We who are strong,’ Paul says, ‘ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.’ (Romans 15:1) Spiritual believers are to ‘admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:14).(John MacArthur,The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series: Galatians, p. 177-178.)
There is a way to admonish the unruly, help the weak, be patient with people, and restore those who are caught in sin. Paul says that we are to do it with “gentleness.” If you will remember our study from last week you will remember that within the cluster of the “Fruit of the Spirit” is “gentleness.” When someone is caught in sin they are to be restored with “gentleness.” There is a distinct and definite connection between Galatians 5:22-23 and Galatians 6:1 and it is the gentleness of the Spirit of God. The fruit of the Spirit comes from God and not from us. Therefore, it is easy to conclude that if we are going to engage in a “seek and rescue” mission for the purpose of restoring a fallen brother or sister, then we must walk in the Spirit, abide in the Spirit, and keep in step with the Spirit. We cannot try to reach out and remedy the sin of our brothers and sisters in our own power.
Let me share with you some further evidence why restoration is the work of Almighty God through the lives of His followers. Paul writes,“You who are spiritual should restore him gently.”I want you to notice the word“restore”used here in verse 1. The Greek word means,“To mend, to repair, or to make one what he ought to be.” John MacArthur describes the word in this way,
‘ Katartizo’ literally means to mend or repair and was sometimes used metaphorically of restoring harmony among quarreling factions in a dispute. It was also used of setting a broken bone or putting a dislocated limb back in place.(John MacArthur,Galatians,p. 179.)
The person who has sinned is broken. They don’t need to be reminded of how abhorrent their sin is or how far they have fallen—they need to be mended, repaired, and restored to what God desires for their life.
I can’t tell you the number of folks through the years who have wandered into this church broken, utterly devastated by their sin, and wondering if the sun would ever shine again. Some of those folks today are singing in the choir, others are serving on committees or sitting in Bible studies, and some are Deacons or Elders. Do you want to know how their lives have been restored and their hearts have been mended? There is no doubt that the Word of God has played a role in that restoration process. You can’t question that their commitment to trust God when there seemed to be no hope was an important aspect in their recovery. These things are true, but there is one other component, one vital link to their restoration and it is this: The gentle, consistent, love and nurture of the Spirit of God flowing through the lives God’s people, you who offered outstretched arms of grace instead of fingers of condemnation. Where did you learn this grace, this gentleness? That’s a great question that I think I know the answer to. Go with me to John’s Gospel and let’s begin reading in chapter 8.
3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”11“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”(John 8:3-11 NIV)
The religious folks of the day wanted to stone the woman to death for her sin. She was caught red-handed, guilty as charged, and yet Jesus wanted more for the woman than justice—He wanted her to know the fullness of life that God desired for her. Jesus gently restored her and so should we seek to restore those around us who are caught up in the shackles of sin.
Paul offers us a word of caution as we venture into these “seek and rescue” missions. He writes,“But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” Be careful! Be prayerful! I can’t tell you how many times I have known folks who sincerely wanted to help someone, but ended up getting caught in the same snare as the one they were trying to help.
Many years ago, when I first came to BCC, I was in my office one day when a lady walked in and wanted to know if I could talk. It was early in the morning and nobody else was around as she poured her heart out. She had been a drug and alcohol counselor for 7 years. She was now living with a man who abused drugs and alcohol and she was using right along with him. She cried and wondered out loud,“How did I ever get into this mess? How can I ever get out?”
When I was in high school there was a beautiful young girl who was a Christian and her faith was evident to everyone who knew her. She started dating one of my heathen friends and we all wondered what was going on. We found out that she really liked him a lot and she believed she could change him. She didn’t. He did. She started doing the same destructive things that he was doing until she woke up one day and realized what had happened. This story can be repeated over and over again not just among high school sweethearts who are “unequally yoked,” but among us old folks as well who think that we can change people if we will just try a little harder and pray a little longer. Be careful! Be prayerful!
“ Seek and rescue” missions are not only concerned with those who have been caught in the snare of sin, but they also include those who are weighed down by burdens, troubles, and the hardships of life. Paul writes, 2“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”The word for “burdens” in this verse means,“hardship which is regarded as particularly burdensome and exhausting, heavy loads, burden, or oppressive suffering.”
This morning as we sit in this sanctuary there are as many burdens as there are people here this morning. I look into your faces and I know you are still grieving over your loved one that has gone home to be with the Lord. I know those of you who wish your kids understood how much you love them and that you really do have their best interest at heart. Your eyes are dry from crying and you wonder if it will ever get any better. I know those of you who are carrying a huge burden of financial debt and it wakes you up in the night. I know those of you who struggle every day to stay sober and clean. I know those of you who feel like you’ve blown it because of sexual immorality and the enemy reminds you of your sin day after day. I know those of you who suffer under the weight of sickness and you’ve prayed and prayed for healing. I could go on and on and on…
If you are one of these folks you need to know that you are not alone. God loves you so much that He has readied the forces of Heaven and called His troops to attention so that they might come alongside of you and help you carry your burden. You also need to know that you are not the first, nor the last person who has ever felt the weight of bone crushing burdens. The very man who wrote this letter to the church inGalatiafound great comfort in a young man named Titus who was willing to help shoulder his burden. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 7:5-7 and let’s read together. Paul writes,
5For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. 6But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.(2 Corinthians 7:5-7 NIV)
We, who claim to be followers of Jesus, are called to come alongside of you, pray for you, walk with you, and help shoulder your burden. The sad thing today is that in many churches the burdens of those who are hurting are ignored because people don’t want to get into other folk’s business or they don’t know what to say or do. We’ve come to see the church, and the activities that take place in the church, as the same as the Civic Center or the local sports arena. We believe that the church, like the Civic Center or the sports arena, is a place where we go to be entertained. We just sit back and watch the players while we soak it all in. Oh we’ve got it all wrong my friend.
The church is more like the local hospital than anything else. It is a place where there are sick folks who’ve confessed their need for help. In the hospital there are also caring family members who’ve come from near and far to be with their loved ones who are ill and sit with them through the night if needed. There are also doctors and nurses who have been trained to help and they make their rounds and see their patients. In a hospital everyone has a purpose, nobody is more valuable than anybody else, and all work together.
The same scenario is present in the church. This morning there are those here who are ill, many of us who are hurting and carrying heavy burdens. There are those here who know those that are hurting and they’ve been called by God to come alongside of their friends and family members to help shoulder the weight of their worries. There are folks like our staff members who are trained at helping folks and we pray that God will use us to do exactly that which He desires for us to do. We are all to work together for the glory of God and to lighten the load of those who are burdened down with the cares of this world.
Here is another thought for you. In the church these positions are always changing. Those who are hurting now will be helping at other times. Those who are helping lighten the load will have their own loads lighten by those the Lord sends to help them in their time of need. This is the beauty of the Body of Christ!
Paul warns us once again when he writes,3 “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Paul is warning us against pride my friends. Throughout history there has been a tendency on the part of some to look down upon others because of the troubles they were experiencing. There is nothing that will disqualify you or me so quickly from being used by God as pride. Paul wrote in other letters about how we are to view those that the Lord has placed in our life. In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul writes,
3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.(Philippians 2:3-4 NIV)
In his letter to the church inRome, Paul once again reiterated the importance of not thinking to highly of ourselves when he wrote,
3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (Romans 12:3 NIV)
We must constantly be reminded by God’s Word and God’s Spirit that we live and thrive on His grace alone. For those of us who are experiencing smooth sailing at this time we must realize that it is only the grace of God and not our goodness or our intelligence or any other personal attribute that has smoothed our seas. Maybe our seas are smooth at this time because there is someone whose life is being overwhelmed by swell after swell of sorrow and the Lord desires to use us to help shoulder their burden.
It is interesting how Paul says that by shouldering other’s burdens we are fulfilling the law of Christ. Read verse 2 with me once again. Paul writes,2Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. When you read the Bible you can read about the Law of Moses, the Old Testament Law, but there is no “Law” of Christ. Jesus did say that He was giving us a new command, but never do we find Him giving us a Law. Take a look at John 13:34-35 and you can see the command that Jesus gives His followers.
34“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”(John 13:34-35 NIV)
Jesus doesn’t ask us to do anything that He did not first do. He says that we are to love one another as He has loved us. What kind of love is it that Jesus offers to you and me? It is a love of action. He didn’t say, “Call me if you need me.” He didn’t say, “I will pray for you,” and then walk away. He gave His life for you and me and continues to walk with us through this life.
In 1 John, we read about this command again as the Apostle John writes,23And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. (1 John3:23NIV) Love one another as He commanded us.
Love is a verb in the life of a follower of Jesus. Jesus acted in the lives of those who were hurting and burdened down and we are to act as well. John writes,
7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.(1 John 4:7-12 NIV)
We can sit here all day and talk about love and all of its technicalities and techniques, but those of you who are hurting don’t need to hear about love—you need the loving arms of the Father to engulf your sorrow. You need the loving arms of God’s people to lighten your load. I want to give you the invitation this morning to come forward and allow a brother or sister in Christ to help lighten your load. If you are weighed down with troubles won’t you allow someone to pray for you and encourage you in the Lord this day?
If you are not a Christian, you have never asked Jesus into your heart as your Lord and Savior, then you have a burden that no person can carry. You need the Savior to forgive you for your sin and cleanse your heart. Won’t you come forward and invite Jesus into your heart.