Galatians 6 contains Paul’s direction for how we ought to live together. He gives us a series of short commands. Many of these are difficult and would place us in confrontational and uncomfortable situations with others. But they are important and we need to consider what Paul instructs us here:
– “if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness
– Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted
– Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ
– let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor
– One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches
– Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap
– the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life
– let us not grow weary of doing good
– let us do good to everyone”
This is a difficult set of directives. We are to pay attention to those in our patch. If anyone strays, we are to restore them. Not by beating them over the head. Not by publishing their wrongdoings. Not by shouting it from the mountaintops. We are to restore them gently. And while we are at it we need to be careful not to fall to temptation as well. Our role is to carry each other’s burdens – to come along side one another and help carry the load. This is not a solo lifestyle we are called to as Christ Followers. We are to live together in the body – living in the Spirit – and never growing weary of being involved with others in our patch who need our help.
Paul reminds us that the only reason we will ever have to boast is because of Jesus. “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”. All we are is due to Him. And Paul earned the right to declare truth. He carried the marks. “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus”. Do you carry the marks of Jesus? Have you been so much as persecuted for your faith? Too many of us have not. We have never even stood strong for Jesus. We don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. We don’t want to stir things up. Heaven forbid we are politically incorrect and talk about Jesus. Paul didn’t talk about it – he suffered for his faith. Have you? Would you? Will you?
Galatians 5 gives us a look at what our lives should look like as a Christ Follower. Paul tells us that “for freedom Christ has set us free….do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”. We are free. Free indeed. And we need to realize that we have been “called to freedom”. There is no greater gift than the freedom we receive as a follower of Jesus. What we have to be careful of is not allowing freedom to get distorted to the point we think it is a ticket to do whatever we want. That is not what freedom is. It is not freedom from living responsibly. It is not freedom to disobey God. It is not freedom to do things our way. And Paul reminds us this way: “do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another”. Our freedom is to love and serve each other. Our freedom is to live like Jesus – to lead like Jesus – to love like Jesus. Nothing else counts – “only faith working through love”. We have to stay on track. We have to continue to walk with God as we “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh”.
The battle ground is our desire to satisfy our selfish interests. Paul lists them clearly here in this chapter. There is a long list of things that we have to avoid. These are real issues – problems that cause destruction and strife – and as Paul says “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”. The list is long and you will be a unique individual if these don’t strike close to home. But check this out. And avoid them. Clean them up. Put them off. Stop doing them. “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these”. It is easy to say that these are not equal in their impact. That some of these are not that big a deal. It is easy to justify that a little anger or impurity is no big deal. That may be true in your eyes. It is not true in God’s. He sees all these sins as exactly that – sin that must be rooted out and cleaned up. Now. So don’t fall prey to the trap that a little of this or that doesn’t matter. One bad apple does rot the whole basket. Sin left undealt with leads to death. Get rid of these things.
How? By putting on the right things. And Paul gives us the list: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law”. These are the traits that should define us. This is how the world and our Father should see us. Does this list describe your life? Is this the way you would be described by those in your patch? Seem too hard? Well it is if we are trying to make this change alone. But here is the key: “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”. The Spirit that lives in us as a Christ Follower will equip us with the fruits of our Father if we will only put off the other things and focus on the way God wants us to live. We have to “walk by the Spirit” and be set free from our own selfish desires. We can be victorious here. We can live for God as He intends. He has given us the power through His Spirit. The only real question is whether we will take self off the throne and put God where He belongs. Will you?
Paul writes in Galatians 4 about our position with God. It is so important that we understand how God sees us as Christ Followers today. Check out what Paul tells us: “God sent forth his Son…..to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons”. There is that word again – sons – that puts us in a very special place with the Father. We are adopted into the Kingdom by the Father. We become free from the law and adopted as His sons through Jesus. What a promise. What a powerful place we have been given. I am reminded of a song our kids sang when they were young. It began with “I am a promise, I am a possibility. I am a promise, with a capital P. I’m a great big bundle of potentiality”. We have been given a promise – that as people who believe in Jesus – we will be treated as sons of God. Not just god, but the God who created the universe, who controls everything that happens, that gives breath and life and makes the world go round. That God. But wait, there’s more. “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God”. As if being a son isn’t enough, that makes us a joint heir to the kingdom as well. We are blessed to be an heir – to inherit what God has – because of our relationship with Jesus. Does this register with you? He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. The money is all His. Everything is all His. And when we become His sons and daughters – guess what – it becomes ours as well.
That means we should not have a problem staying focused on walking with and serving Him doesn’t it? Do you struggle with losing sight of your sonship and inheritance? I know at times I do. Paul addresses that when he writes “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world”. How is it that we can turn back and return to our former way of life when God has done everything to redeem us and draw us to Himself? What would ever possess us to walk away from the gifts He freely offers to us? From my own experience it boils down to two things – self centeredness and habits. When we lose track of what needs to be the center of our life – God and His Word – and put self in that spot we tend to run into the weeds. We lose sight of what matters. We go off the tracks and walk away from what God desires. Self is a powerful draw and it pulls us the wrong way if we don’t keep it in check. Habits are also a problem. It is so easy to fall back to the things we used to do. We have to replace the old with new habits to be able to live effectively for Him. It isn’t just a simple process. It takes work to stay the course and live up to being “children of promise” as Paul describes us. We have to keep it front and center. We have to remind each other continually. There will be times when we do that when the response won’t be so happy. Paul was getting that from the Galatians. “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth”? But we still need to encourage each other and hold each other accountable to walk with Him. There is far too much at stake for us to be silent. You are a son of the King. You have inherited what is His. We need to live like that!
Galatians 3 is a stab at explaining the law and how it relates to faith. Paul is dealing with the Galatian church and they are struggling with how to deal with the contrast between the two. The law was “added because of transgressions” as Paul writes. It is the way we know that we don’t measure up to God’s standards. It verifies that we need to be saved from our sin. The law is the “guardian until Christ came”. It set the standards that demonstrated God’s expectations for mankind, and shows us just how far we fall short. Here is the reality around the law: “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law”. No one is going to make it to heaven by being obedient and following the law. No one. There are no perfect people. None can meet God’s standards of godliness and holiness. It isn’t going to happen. So that is where Jesus comes in. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us”. Jesus took our place – took the curse of our sin on Himself – and through His death, burial and resurrection has set us free. It is through His blood that we are justified. It is through His sacrifice that we are saved.
So “Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law”. God did not change His plan for mankind midstream. Jesus has been the plan all along. He was there from the beginning at creation. God has provided a way for man to be saved – and that is the blood of Jesus. That alone is sufficient. All we have to do is believe. There are no other requirements. We can’t add to or subtract from what God has set up as the way to Him. “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith”. Want to be sure you end up in heaven with God? The formula is simple. You need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ based on faith. Not works. Not creeds. Not books. Not deeds. Jesus and Him alone. And when we get that done – we become sons of God. It doesn’t get any better than that. To be set apart as a Son of the Father – through the “promise of faith in Jesus Christ”. Sonship is forever. Once we become a son of the King, we will always be that. And the final note – “you are all one in Christ Jesus”. There should be no separation or division. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. There is something wrong on the religious and church front today. We are missing this piece of the equation. We are one in Jesus. Not Baptist, or Methodist, or Lutheran, or Catholic, or any of the dozens of other labels we stick on people. We are sons and daughters of the King. And we should be one. On the same team doing battle together against a very real and common enemy. Are you living that way?
Galatians 2 gives us the story of Paul and his trip up to Jerusalem with Titus. There was a rift in the church and some false brothers came in to stir the pot. Paul is not sucked in to their scheme – “to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you”. Do you stand firm for the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Are you a protector of the faith – unwilling to yield in any way to a false doctrine or teaching? That is what we are called to do – to stand firm and speak truth unwavering in our speech. Unfortunately many will come and try to water down or change truth. We can’t let that happen. We must stand firm.
Some of the brothers began to be influenced by the environment and lost sight of their mission. “And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him (James). They said one thing and lived out another. Does your life line up with your words? Does your walk match your talk? So often we fall into the trap of saying one thing and doing another. That is what is happening here with some in the church. They were not standing firm. They were allowing circumstances to drive their actions – “when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel” – Paul gets in their face. We need to do the same for each other. We will be tempted to waffle and respond or react to circumstances, sometimes walking away from the truth. When that happens to someone in our patch, we need to call them on it like Paul did. Why? “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ”. Because our life and words make a difference for eternity. We can’t let people get pulled into anything other than a relationship with Jesus. Nothing else will save them. Good works is not the answer. It is faith in Jesus that is the only way!
Paul ends the chapter dealing with the sin factor that all of us deal with in life. “For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor”. We can’t fall into sin and tear down what has been built up in us through faith in Jesus. Sin will do that – it destroys our relationship with Him – and moves us away from being in right relationship. Paul tells us the secret to victory in life here: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”. We have to realize that our sinful nature went to the cross with Jesus. And we have to let Jesus live in us. We have to give Him the controls. We need to live for Him by faith. Jesus went to the cross for you and me. He paid the price. He wants us to live victoriously. He wants us to be free from the chains of sin. We have to put off our old self and put on the new. We have to life for Him!
Galatians 1 comes next in our chronological walk through the New Testament. Paul lets the early church know that they are off track: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one”. It has been a few short years since Christ was crucified and already the people are going off course and into the weeds. Does that ever happen to you? Do you desert Jesus and hide your relationship under a bushel? Are you ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ and unwilling to let others know you are a Christ Follower? Do you fail to share the message of the gospel, or try and tone the gospel down and make it less difficult for some to receive? Paul tells the early church, and us, to stop and get our act together.
Why do we fall off the wagon like this? Because we lose sight of who we serve and are trying to please. Paul nails the problem many of us deal with when he says: “am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God…. am I trying to please man”? We forget who we should be living for. Are you living for an audience of One – God Himself? Or are you worried about the approval of man all around you? We can’t please both. Paul says it this way: “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ”. If you really want to please God – then you can’t worry about what mere man thinks or says or feels about you. Those concerns have to be gone. If we are trying to please those in our patch – we can’t be a servant of Jesus. They are mutually exclusive. You can’t have both at the same time. It does not work. We have to make a choice about who we will live for and be focused on pleasing. God or man? Which is it in your life today?
Paul also reminds us of the hope if we get our life in tune with God’s plan. Remember that he was a persecutor of the church and killed Christ Followers for fun. He was zealous about it, and made quite a name for himself. But He was touched by God, saved by the gospel of Jesus, and changed into one who preached the faith “he once tried to destroy”. Is there hope for those who are on the wrong path? Absolutely. Paul’s life is a perfect example of what surrender to the Father can do. He preached, people responded and “they glorified God because of me (Paul)”. God can use us no matter what our past. If we get on His page and walk in His power – we can change the world!