Human beings are longing for abundant life. There is inside each of us a kind of restlessness. We long to feel whole, to be at peace. Yet it seems the harder we try the worse things become and the more frustrating life becomes. The peace we seek is always just out of reach, or so fleeting that we gain just a glimpse and then it fades again. So, we try all manner of earthly things to find the wholeness that only God can provide. If we have given our lives to Jesus Christ we know He has promised to give us this abundant life, this peace and yet sometimes we still fail to find it. We continue in sin and the death that it brings steals our fulfillment and peace. Allegorically, we are like Lazarus. We have been raised from the dead by Jesus, yet we are still trapped by the grave clothes: the old habits and coping mechanisms we learned before we met Jesus. In Lazarus case, Jesus commanded those nearby to remove the grave wrappings and unbind him. Today, we will look at Pauls instruction to the Galatians to do the very same thing. In Galatians 6, Paul calls on the spiritually mature to help those trapped in sin to regain their freedom. First, we will look at the context of Pauls teaching. Then we will focus in on the practical aspects of restoring a person trapped in sin.
Overview of Galatians:
4:8-11 Idolatry or Law vs. Knowing God
What did he just say? Daves Paraphrase:
v 1 Church, if someone is trapped in a sin, you who are spiritually mature should gently correct them, watching yourself so as not to be tempted to sin also.
v 2 Help to carry each others heavy loads and fulfill Christs command to love.
v 3 If you think you are too spiritual for such work, then you are really not spiritual at all and you are deceiving yourself.
v 4 So, examine your own life to see if it is spiritual and dont measure yourself in comparison to others.
v 5 For each person must carry his own backpack.
v 6 Those who are taught the Word of God should help their teachers by paying them.
v 7 Dont be deceived, God is no fool. You will always harvest what you plant.
v 8 People who live to please their sinful, ungodly impulses will harvest death (e.g. broken relationships, addictions, demonic oppression, etc.). People who live to please the Holy Spirit will harvest eternal life (heaven, good relationships, a heart full of gratitude, a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, etc.)
v 9 Dont quit doing good, because you will reap a harvest, if you stay with it.
v 10 So then, let us do good to all people and especially to the family of God.
Do we restore those who are caught in sin?
The legalist would say, No. Those people trapped in sin are unspiritual and unworthy of my time and effort. Besides the obvious fact that they dont measure up makes me look pretty good. (v 3, 4)
The truly spiritual person says, I am no better than that person. God loves them just as much as He loves me. I have struggles with sin and I have needed a lot of help to get free. God, I am available to help others. (v 1, 2)
What are we supposed to do first?
Be gentle. (v 1) People are ashamed of themselves. If you are too blunt with them, they are likely to hide rather than confess.
Be careful not to sin ourselves. (v 1) In between planting and harvesting is a time delay. (v 7, 8) As we are helping another we may see them apparently getting away with some pleasant, but sinful behavior and our flesh will begin to long for it and press us to give in to the same sin. Also, we can be tempted to be judgmental.
Assess our own capacity to be of service. (v 3) Paul has directed the spiritual ones to restore (heal) those who are trapped by sin. How do you know if you are spiritual? Just a few verses back Paul describes the person who lives to please the Spirit of God (Gal 5:22, 23). If your life is characterized by these qualities then you are qualified. You will never arrive, but we learn to follow the Spirits lead.
Which burdens are heavy loads and which ones are backpacks?
Heavy Loads (examples)
1. Addictions: This word covers all kinds of idolatryfalse worshipthings we look to in order to feel full or satisfied outside of Gods design. We misuse drugs, sex, alcohol, money, affirmation, etc. Addiction is false worship. Looking for a drink of wow or peace or a sense of well-being outside of God. True spiritual drink is found in real worshipwhere you really express your love to God and His manifested presence comes and you feel Him. Stuck people need help learning how to do this instead of turning back to their old habits.
2. Unforgiveness: We need help letting go of injustices we have suffered and allow Jesus to be the judge of the other person(s).
3. Anger: Anger is not sinful all by itself. But what we do with it can be very sinful indeed. We often use anger to intimidate and manipulate other people. God intends for anger to be an immediate, short term response to injustice, to give us energy to address it. However, we often get attached to the rush of adrenaline and feeling of power.
4. Lying: Deceiving people is a way to control them, so we can get what we want or shield ourselves from pain. In doing so we abuse people, we are to love them not manipulate them. We also distort reality and begin to lose track of truth and fiction in our own heads.
5. Demonic Deliverance: Habitual sin draws demons. The metaphor we often use here is rats to garbage. If you pile up spiritual garbage the spiritual rats will be drawn to it. Learning to say no to sin and to the demonic voices that will tempt you to return to it takes work. Some help from a more mature believer can be very helpful.
Backpacks (examples): These revolve around the subject of personal choice.
1. Repent: The decision to turn from sin, not just the external behavior, but the underlying beliefs that fuel the behavior.
- If a failure to enjoy God as the satisfier of deep longings lies beneath every form of personal distress, and if sin is at the root of every obstacle to enjoying God, then repentance, a turning from sin, should be central to our understanding of how change comes about. Understanding People, by Dr. Larry Crabb.
2. Believe: No one can believe God for you. (Heb 11:6) And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
3. Obey with perseverance: (James 1:2-8; Gal 6:9) Planting does not equal harvest until the seed has had an opportunity to grow and mature. If we keep turning back before the fruit has come we will not receive what God has promised.
How do the spiritual ones help? (James 5:13-20)
Encouragement: Change can be frightening. If we have grown accustomed to a sinful coping mechanism, we may recognize the need to give it up, but we cant muster the courage to let it go. No one can choose for you, but they can certainly cheerlead.
Coaching: Hands-on teaching of the how tos in close proximity. This kind of hands-on how to requires a lot of coaches.
Healthy pressure (sometimes referred to as accountability): A person you can confess to (if you choose to be honest) and seek guidance from for true repentance. The one receiving the confession must be able to keep appropriate confidences; if you cant, dont do this work yet.
Model relationship: Learning how to submit to God, truly worship Him and love people is a life-long endeavor, but here alone is where abundant life is found. Having people in our lives who can show us how is of tremendous value.
Who are the spiritual ones? (Gal 5:22, 23) How do I find them?
Their lives look like Pauls list.
Hang around this place enough to spot them.
They can deal with ambiguity. We are in the process between being saved and being perfect in heaven. So, we need grace to learn Gods ways.
Pray for Gods hand of provision.
Those caught in sin need to find the spiritual ones and the spiritual ones need to be willing to work patiently to strengthen and restore those caught in sin. I want you both to know you can do this. I read a big book on healing broken lives and hearts. This psychiatrist wrote hundreds of pages on how to do this and concluded, if he could convince people that he really cared about them and they were willing to work at difficult changes they got better. Paul said that in ten verses! Save yourself the reading and just follow Gods instructions with the help of trusted Spirit-led people. If you do you will change for the better and move toward abundant life.