January 6, 2013

The Burden-Bearing Heart (Galatians 6:1-5)

Preacher: Bryce Morgan Series: When Jesus Isn't Enough (Galatians) Topic: Galatians Scripture: Galatians 6:1–6:5

When Jesus Isn’t Enough (Galatians)

The Burden-Bearing Heart

Galatians 6:1-5

(One Body: Love One Another)

Pastor Bryce Morgan

I. A Critical Heart Procedure

This morning we are returning to our ongoing study of Paul's letter to the churches of Galatia. And as we begin this morning, I'd like to invite you to think about your “heart health”. I know that almost all of us in this room have a friend or relative who has experienced, or maybe you have personally experienced, some kind of condition or concern related to the health of your heart.

And in most of these cases, there was a cardiologist involved, a doctor who is specially trained to deal with the proper function of the heart. In certain cases, a cardiologist has to perform what we might call a “critical heart procedure”, something like a bypass or a heart transplant.

Well, this morning we need to consider the work of the Divine Cardiologist. God wants you to take care of the 'blood pump' in your chest. But He wants us to be even more concerned about and attentive to the heart that represents who you are, who I am, on the inside. And through His word and His Spirit, God wants to regularly put you under His knife and perform the “heart procedures” that only He can perform.

Has God worked on, is God working on your heart? Let's look at what our main passage this morning can teach us about true “heart health”. Let's look together at Galatians 6:1-5.

II. The Passage: “Bear One Another's Burdens” (6:1-5)

Let me read through these verses, and as I do, consider what they teach us about the kind of heart health that God wants to bring about in our lives. Chapter 6, verse 1...

Brothers, 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. [2] Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. [3] For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. [4] But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. [5] For each will have to bear his own load.

So let's do this: let's talk a little bit about what Paul has just been talking about in chapter 5, and then we can talk specifically about the heart issues that Paul touches on here.

A. Review: The “Biting and Devouring” Heart

You may recall that the majority of this letter focuses on one major issue Paul must address.

That issue was the introduction of and growth of a dangerous and destructive teaching in the Galatian churches. These churches were indirectly being told that Jesus is not enough; that his work on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead were not sufficient in making us right with God. And that indirect implication was coming from the direct message that these non-Jewish disciples needed to first be good Jews before they could consider themselves good Christians.

These churches were being taught that they were, in fact, obligated to keep the Law of Moses if they wanted to be accepted by God. This meant not only observing all the moral laws, but also things like circumcision and all the dietary rules.

But when we looked at chapter 5, specifically verse 15, we discovered there was another issue plaguing these churches. These brothers and sisters were beginning to “bite and devour one another”. A few verses after that, in verse 20, Paul warns them about the fleshly fruit of “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions”. Notice his final instruction in chapter 5, verse 26: Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Clearly, there is a pride, there is a partisan spirit at work in these churches, that will spiritually consume them if left unchecked.

B. The Burden-Bearing Heart Is...

But that's exactly what Paul wants to do in verse 1 of chapter 6. He wants to address this unhealthiness by prescribing, by emphasizing what is healthy. Now, I want us to see that the main exhortation, the main instruction in this section is the one we find right at the beginning of verse 2: Bear one another's burdens. I think everything else in these fives verses is anchored to that command.

And so what I'd like to do for the next few minutes is simply consider what these verses teach us about the characteristics of a burden-bearing heart. We will talk about what it LOOKS like to bear one another's burdens, but so much of what Paul touches on here directly address our hearts. Again, God does not simply want our behavior to conform to His standard (he does want that). But ultimately, that happens as God conforms our hearts to His Son, Jesus.

And when it comes to true “heart health”, the Bible is clear that the topic of how we treat others, especially among God’s people, is one of the most important indicators of the condition of our hearts. I John 3:14 sums this up beautifully: We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.

So let's talk about five characteristics we discover here. First, the burden-bearing heart is...

1. Informed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. (v. 1)

The key phrase behind this point is found right in the middle of verse 1: “you who are spiritual”. Do you see that? As we talked about when we studied the last half of chapter 5, when our society uses the word “spiritual”, they are referring to anything religious, mystical, philosophical, or having to do with the inner life. But that’s not how Paul uses this term.

No, the person who is “spiritual” is the person who is, chapter 5, verse 16, “walk[ing] by the Spirit.” That's “Spirit” with a capital “S”! Paul is talking about the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God. So when he addresses “you who are spiritual”, he is saying, “any of you who are living by, or at least claim to be living by the power of God's Spirit through faith”.

Brother's and sisters, how wonderful it is to know that, when it comes to changing our hearts, and the kind of life that heart-change brings about, it’s wonderful to know that it's not about how much willpower we can muster or how much self-improvement we can bring about. How wonderful it is to know that God's own Spirit, God's own power is at work within us.

But look at what that means practically according to the entirety of verse 1. We see there that the burden-bearing heart is...

2. Gentle, not judgmental, in light of a brother or sister's sin. (v. 1)

Paul proposes a very common scenario here: “If anyone is caught in [overtaken by, trapped by] any transgression”. That has happened to all of us, right? The wording seems very generic here. But in these churches, in this context, Paul may also have in mind those who were being led away by the false teachers about whom Paul was warning them. And these people may have been causing divisions in the church because they were deceived.

Whatever the circumstance, Paul is calling these believers to bear the burden of that brother's failure, not add to it. Notice again the second half of verse 1: Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. What exactly does Paul mean there? Well, in the context, I think he's warning us about the common temptations we all face when we learn about another person's sin. We are either tempted to ignore the sin, or we are tempted to gossip about the sin, or we are tempted to use their sin to inflate our own sense of righteousness.

But none of these is the right response. If we are walking in the Spirit, then we know what the harvest of the Holy Spirit should look like in our lives. Chapter 5, verse 23: [The fruit of the Spirit is]...gentleness...Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.

The word translated “restore” here is a medical term in Greek. It's the word used to describe setting a broken bone or dislocated joint. Brothers and sisters, God wants us to be ready to heal, not judge one another. If I learn about a brother or sister struggling with sin, I want to come alongside that person and help them bear the weight of their weakness and shame.

A burden-bearing heart is a gentle heart. But that gentleness partly comes from yet another characteristic we read about here. Look at verse 3. We see there, thirdly, that the burden-bearing heart is...

3. Honest about its own condition. (v. 3)

Verse 3: For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Notice the kind of self-deception Paul is addressing here. It's the belief that I am “something”. What does Paul mean by that expression? Well, clearly, the kind of “something” such a person believes himself or herself to be is the kind of “something” that doesn't bear the burdens of those struggling with sin.

Being such a “something” must lead a person to believe that somethings are beneath them; maybe that such people are too unrighteous for righteous people like themselves.

However this self-deception works out, Paul want to set the record straight. When it comes to that kind of “something”, we have to know we are really “nothing”. None of us is righteous in all we do. None of us is better than another. None of us invulnerable to sin's attacks.

Listen, a burden-bearing heart, a heart that is ready, with gentleness, to help shoulder the weight of a brother or sister's struggle, that heart is one humbled by it's own “nothingness” because of sin. If you are more tempted to ignore, gossip about, or judge those struggling with sin, you better carefully consider whether or not you wrongly think you are “something”.

But as Paul continues, he goes on to elaborate on this idea in verses 4 and 5. What we see there is that, number four, the burden-bearing heart is...

4. Aware of its spiritual responsibilities. (vs. 4, 5)

The kind of heart that Paul is warning about in these verses is suffering from the same self-deception mentioned in verse 3. But in verse 4 we see the roots of that self-deception are being fed by the dangerous soil of comparing ourselves to others.

If I am consumed with a sense of self-righteousness, then the failures of others will simply feed my deception. We might say or think to ourselves, “It's awful what happened to Marty. I always had my suspicions about him. I'm so glad I'm not in his shoes. Hopefully, he'll get his act together, or else, leave.”

You see, instead of leading me to bearing in gentleness, when I have that kind of heart, the struggles of others will lead me to boasting in judgment.

What should we do instead? Well, Paul tells us in verse 4: But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. The word Paul uses here for “boast” is not always a bad word. It can also be translated “rejoice in”.

And so Paul is saying, “If you want to rejoice in where you are spiritually, do that based on a careful examination of your faith and practice, not on your comparisons to and judgments of others.”

A disciple who is ready to bear the burdens of struggling brothers and sisters is a disciple who understands what God has called him or her to do personally. And that person knows he or she is accountable to God. That's what Paul means in verse 5: For each will have to bear his own load.

We might say that the burden-bearing heart is one that is sobered by the reality that all of us must bear our own load of personal accountablity before God. I may not be ultimately accountable for your sin, but I will be accountable for whether or not I helped you shoulder those struggles; whether or not I helped bring healing and not judgment or indifference.

But there's one more feature we find in this passage, one we skipped over at the end of verse 2. We see there that the burden-bearing heart is...

5. Eager to obey the commands of Jesus. (v. 2)

Remember how Paul expressed this in verse 2: Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

For a church that was so eager to follow the Law of Moses, Paul desperately wants them to understand what it means to truly fulfill the Law of Christ. Christ came to fulfilll the Law of Moses, and He did so in order that we might fulfill His law. What is the law of Christ? Well, look back again to chapter 5. Look at verses 13 and 14 of chapter 5:

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. [14] For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The Law of Christ is the law of love. Paul emphasizes that same point in verse 6 of chapter 5: For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6)

Rememeber the “new commandment” Jesus gave His followers on the night before His death? He said, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)

The Galatians were being led astray about the idea of obeying God in order to be accepted by Him. But a desire to follow God’s commands was not wrong. No! A desire to obey all that Jesus commanded is what drives the burden-bearing heart. It is that Spirit-inspired love that should inspire us to care for one another, especially in our struggles against sin.

III. Bearing Because He Bore

You see, we don’t obey Christ’s commands in order to have peace with God. No, we obey because we already have peace with God. We empty ourselves in love because we have already been filled with His love. And that’s only true because of the burden-bearing heart of Jesus Christ. Listen to what Paul writes in another letter, in Romans 15:1-3…

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. [2] Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. [3] For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”

Jesus took our reproach. He took our condemnation. As I Peter 2:24 expresses it: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. The most critical heart procedure God can ever perform is done with the scalpel of the cross. The transformation of your heart always begins with the gospel, the Good News, of Jesus.

Do you bear other’s burdens of sin because Jesus bore your burden of sin? I pray that all of us would be encouraged to do that very thing, and that this burden-bearing heart of Jesus would characterize our church more and more in the coming weeks. Let’s pray for that.


other sermons in this series

Jan 27


Jan 20


Jan 13