Pentecost 7

Preached: July 15, 2007

Do Good to All, Especially to Fellow Believers
Galatians 6:1-10, 12-14

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who pours out the Holy Spirit on us through his Word and Sacraments. The Word the Holy Spirit speaks to us today is Galatians 6.

Brothers, if someone is also overtaken in some transgression, you, who are spiritual, restore such a person in a spirit of humble gentleness, watching out for yourself lest you as well become tempted. Carry each others burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone deems himself to be something, though hes nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then he will have a boast toward himself alone and not toward another. For each one will carry his own baggage.
Now let the one who is taught the word share in all good things with the one who is teaching. Do not be deceived; God is not made fun of. For whatever someone sows, he also harvests. For the one who sows for his own flesh harvests from his flesh destruction; the one who sows for the spirit harvests from the spirit eternal life. Now let us not become weary while we are doing whats fine. For at its own right time we will have a harvest, if we dont give out. Therefore then, as we have opportunity, let us keep doing good to all, and especially to the household of faith.
As for me, may it never be that I boast except in the cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ, through which the world was crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision or uncircumcision is anything, but rather the new creation [is what matters]. And as many as walk in step with this rule – peace upon them and mercy, even upon the Israel of God.

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints of God:

My supervising pastor while I was vicaring in Australia, told me about his life growing up in a secular home. As best as I can recall our discussion, they were good people and citizens, but they didnt go to church. They didnt pray. They didnt trust in Jesus as their Savior. And yet if someone had said that they werent Christians, they probably would have objected. Were good people, so were Christian, would be their thought. To many people that is all that the word Christian means, simply to be a good person in your daily life.

You, of course, know that what makes a person a Christian isnt how much good they do in their daily life but rather who reigns as king in their heart. Jesus Christ reigns as King in the heart of a Christian. He reigns in us through his Good News of free forgiveness that is ours by faith alone. A Christian is one who believes in Jesus Christ alone as his or her divine Savior from sin.

But here is where we often stop short. Faith in the heart makes a person a Christian, but faith doesnt just stay locked up in the heart. Faith shines out into our daily lives. If Jesus reigns as King in our hearts, he will also rule over our daily decisions and choices, ours words and actions. Faith that doesnt do good is dead. Such a person is not a Christian, no matter how much they know about Jesus.

Through the words he gave the Apostle Paul to write, the Holy Spirit today encourages and strengthens you and me to do good – to do good to all people, especially to fellow believers. Thats the theme we focus on. Dont misunderstand that theme as if we were to show favoritism to fellow believers. Do good to all, it says, whether they believe or not. But we have special opportunities to do good to fellow believers and thats what Paul focuses on.

A. Bearing each others burdens in humble, gentle love

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently (Galatians 6:1 NIV). Here is a special way to do good to a fellow believer. If you see a brother or sister in Christ caught in a sin, talk to them about it. Restore them. That is, make it plain to them that this sin theyre caught in is cutting them off from Jesus. Theyve veered off the road and crashed in the ditch. And when they realize what theyve done and their guilt crushes them, pull them from the ditch, mend their broken heart with the Gospel Good News: Jesus has taken away this sin. Hes paid for your guilt with his blood. You are forgiven. For this is how we bear each others burdens: By taking one another to Jesus, who says, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest . . . rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28, 29 NIV).

Pray about that this week. How can you help your fellow Christians bear each others burdens? Remember bearing each others burdens goes beyond being sympathetic or offering a helping hand in the daily chores of life. Bearing each others burdens realizes that the greatest burden we all bear is our own sin and guilt, and only taking each other to Jesus lifts that burden from us. For his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

Now as you do that, pray also for a spirit of humble, gentle love. Paul writes, Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2 NIV) The law of Christ is the law of love, a love created and empowered in you by Christs self-sacrificing love for you. Pauls wording comes from what Jesus said, I am giving you a new commandment: Love one another! Love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34 NET).

When we see the love of Christ that brought him to lay down his life for us, damned, dirty sinners that we were, that leads us to love one another and carry each others burdens even when thats the dirty work of rebuking anothers sin. When we see the love of Christ that humbled himself to carry our sin to the cursed cross, then we too carry each others burdens humbly.

This is especially important to remember when we are restoring someone caught in sin. For how great the temptation is to puff ourselves up and push the other person down! Thats why Paul writes, But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted (Galatians 6:1 NIV). When we examine our own heart and watch it, we see our own sin. We see that before God we have nothing of ourselves to boast about, nothing to offer him that we havent first received from him. We, each of us, need to walk in daily repentance just as much as that person were correcting and whose burden were bearing.

So dont compare yourself to others as you bear burdens, or think you have to find your worth and value in life by criticizing others and their way of doing things. Thats the opposite of humble, gentle love that bears each others burdens. 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 (Galatians 6:3, 4 NIV). When we look into ourselves, we find that our only pride, our only boast is in the cross of Christ, and well say more of that a little later.

But to sum up the first part, do good to all, especially to fellow believers by bearing each others burdens as you restore one another when caught in sin. Do this in humble, gentle love that flows from Christs love that sacrificed himself for you and made you precious in his sight.

B. Sharing all good things with those who teach you Gods Word

Paul teaches us a second way to do good to all, especially to fellow believers. Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor (Galatians 6:6 NIV). As believers there is a special relationship between us and those who bring us Gods Word, and therefore a special opportunity to do good.

As pastor and people we share with each other all the good things God has blessed us with. I can share with you the truths of Gods Word for our faith and life. What good things those are! You share with me your support by your prayers and words and offerings. Those too are good things.

As I was studying this verse this week, it occurred to me that there is another way as well that you support me as we share in all good things. What is that way? By your coming to hear Gods Word in worship and in Bible class, taking it to heart and practicing it your life. Much of my week is spent in preparing the sermon, when few come its disheartening for me. Yes, thats a weakness in me, since Gods Word is effective whether many or few are present to hear it. But what a joy for me when you come and take to heart Gods message that he allows me to preach! What a joy for me when you come to study Gods Word in Bible class! Yes, your coming to gladly hear and learn Gods Word in worship and in Bible class is a wonderful way to do good to me, your pastor.

So to sum up the second point, do good to all people, especially to your fellow believers by sharing all good things with those who teach you Gods Word.

C. Boast only in the cross of Christ as you anticipate the harvest

Do good to all, especially to fellow believers. Thats not easy, is it? Especially when any outward good, to be truly good, must flow from honest, real love for the true God. In fact, in and of ourselves we cannot do it. And even though the Holy Spirit is working in us, we still easily grow weary and our hearts grow faint.

So Paul points us ahead to the harvest, to anticipate it. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9 NIV). If we give up on doing good or if we think we can pretend to do good and pull a fast one on God, watch out. You might fool people into thinking youre a Christian, but you wont fool God. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked (Galatians 6:7 NIV), Paul writes. God knows our hearts. He knows whether the outward good we do flows from Christs love or not. And he wont be fooled. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature will reap destruction (Galatians 6:7, 8 NIV) – trouble in this life, and especially the unending torment of hell.

But dont give up in doing good. Sometimes it seems as if its worthless. Weve all experienced it. You do good for someone and they repay you with ingratitude, indifference, or even meanness. You keep on doing good and yet life just seems to get harder. Those who follow their flesh seem to have the best of life. Does it really pay to keep doing good? Yes, it does, just as it pays to plant a crop. Doing good pays off. You have Gods word on that: The one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life (Galatians 6:8 NIV). What a harvest to anticipate! Thats what Jesus has purchased for you with his blood and brings to you free of charge through his Word and Sacraments.

Thats why our boast is only in the cross of Christ. All that is good in us he has worked. All the good that we do flows from him. The world hates us for giving all the credit to Jesus. The world considers us cursed, like a condemned criminal crucified on a cross. But so what! You and I have died to the world. We have been crucified with Christ. Our life is in him. He is our Pride, our Glory, our Boast. 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 (Galatians 6:14 NIV). Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313