Thursday, September 24

Restoration and Reaping

So here's the last in this summer's series on Galatians. If you have questions please email them to me and I'll address what I can. My prayer is that as we move through a period of secularization we may remain God's People and faithful to the freedom that we have been called too. 

If you needed help to whom would you go? My Facebook profile lies when it says I have 438 friends. Some are duplicates, some are immediate and more distant family, about 35. Preachers and others like them make up another 65.  But two of them are unabashed Dodger fans so they’re suspect.

More than one I’ve friended because it is safer knowing what they are up to than not knowing. Then are those from the previous churches and friends I grew up with. But, if I needed help, restoration, renewal there are probably less than 15 on whom I’d call.
We are at the end of Galatians. Paul reaffirms his teaching on the flesh and Spirit, conceit and selfishness into these final words. He underlines what he has taught us about the ‘Law of Christ’ and it’s superiority over the ‘Law of Moses’.

The law of Christ is Paul’s focus as he ends chapter 5 with a warning against conceit and pride and moves into those who are tripped up by sin. “If anyone is tripped up into sin”, the word means to lose one'ss footing, to slip or fall then it is the duty of those who are keeping step with the Spirit (5.26) to restore them. Let me stop here and use two groups to teach us God’s truth.

Two types of people

Rick gave me a poster that said, “There’s 10 type of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don’t”.  There were two types of people on the mind of Paul as God led him to write to the churches in Galatia. One group were spiritually minded, set on God’s grace and relying on Christ. They had been grabbed by the freedom offered in Christ and refused to let go. Of bigger concern to Paul, were the second group who were selling out to the Jewish cleanliness code. Trying to add their own work to God’s completed work and believing that only ‘law abiding Jews’ could be real Christians.  

This was a prideful and self-focused group. So much so, they separated themselves from the Gentiles who followed Jesus. And their influence even caused Peter and Paul’s missionary companion to ignore these non-Jewish brothers and sisters. 

Robert Heinlein, not a Christ follower, wrote a great statement on self-sufficiency via his character Lazarus Long.
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects” (Heinlein).
A blogger expressed a similar thought more recently when she posted,
“The trait of self-sufficiency was one that I always admired. I…revere that trait because I am an American and admire the iconic pioneer who set out in a covered wagon entirely self-sufficient” (The Living Philosopher)
Paul’s now turns his attention to the responsibilities that, those who have remained faithful to Christ will have to fulfill. Practical actions that Christ’s followers will be doing in order to fulfill the ‘Law of Christ’.

We are expected to restore those who have fallen into sin. The word ‘restore’ used is that of the disciples mending their nets (Matt 4:21; Mark 1:19. It means to set a bone, make usable again, fix and renew, or make whole again. That is the call for the true follower of Christ when it comes to brothers and sisters falling into sin.

The saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I” is true. When it comes to correction or bearing the burdens of others there is no room for conceit. Calvin said it well, “Correct the faults of brethren in a mild manner, and to consider no rebukes…which do not breathe the spirit of meekness(Calvin and Pringle, 1948). To do otherwise sets ourselves up for failure.
There are no Christian amoebas, but there is the Body of Christ. The Lone Ranger Christian doesn’t exist because the call of Christ is a call to “the concept of mutuality” (Longenecker, 2015). There is a need for those who desire to remain true to Christ to do so with a joy and expectation, even if it is hard, time-consuming, exhausting and sometimes thankless. God’s desire is for His people not to think, “I’m better than you and I can prove it” or “you’re better than me and I resent it” but “You are a person of importance in your own right… and it is my joy and privilege to serve you’” (Stott, 1968).

Two outcomes

There are two outcomes designate for those who have been birthed into the world. They come from the normal everyday sowing seeds by our actions, words, and thoughts. One will either reap corruption or eternal life—either the works of the flesh or the Spirit. There is no middle ground no matter how much we want to believe it.

A 40-pound sack of corn has about 64,000 kernels and in Iowa typical fields contain 30,000 plants per acre. In 2008, the state average yield was 171 bushels per acre which means about 15, 390,000 kernels per acre (, 2015). Phyllis understands this because she planted pepper plants this year.

God’s rule about sowing and reaping is simple. Hosea says “If you sow the wind, you will reap the whirlwind” (8:7) and in Genesis 1:11 God tells us that creation has been set up so that “Let the ground bring forth grass, & the herb yielding seed, & every fruit-bearing tree bring forth fruit after its own kind” that is one reaps what is sown. If we sow sin, evil, hatred, etc. we will reap the same and if we sow the seeds of the fruit of the spirit—kindness, patience etc… we will reap those. It is really simple.

Here’s a question to consider. Up till today, what have you sowed? Some of us will immediate think of our failures, our sowing of evil and immorality. Some of us will think of good things we’ve done, our children, community impact etc. The real truth is that we’ve sowed both types of seeds and we will and do reap both evil and good. That is because we are sinners, saved by God’s grace.

Because we are now in Christ we can take steps to sow seeds with much more thought and deliberate effort. We can begin to sow seeds “with our eyes on the future…with the harvest on our minds” (Homan, 2007). Look what Paul tells us about the way we sow, “God is not mocked.” The word comes “from turning one’s nose up at another and sneering at them or treating them with contempt” (Stott, 1968). It is to consider God a fool or believing you know better than God.

The problem with some who claim to follow Jesus is that they don’t give a rip about the seeds they sow. As a result, Trump, Clinton, Sanders, or whoever say nasty, stupid, and demeaning things without a thought as to the harvest. The agricultural truth of the God says, we cannot afford to live with such a nonchalant attitude. Instead, we must learn to be mindful of what, where and for what purpose we are planting.

One Hope

The ability to live such a life is our hope and the one thing we can ‘take to the bank’ is that God’s grace is determined to see that hope take root in our lives. Our hope is in Christ and Christ alone.

When we live out this hope we experience an outpouring of grace. Sometimes it is directed toward us but usually it is aimed at others. Paul says there is support for those who teach and bearing the burdens of others.  There is a view that sees the long game and not becoming wearing of doing good.

To do good, is to fulfill the ‘law of Christ’ to love our neighbor, to “jointly shoulder each members burdens” (Hendriksen, 2002), to restore those who have failed, to recognize how susceptible to failing we are and thus remain humble. It is sowing seeds that normally lead to a regular, everyday harvest, not to glorious adventures or spectacular miracles (Stott, 1968).

With the hope of God’s eternal life as our harvest, the world’s pressuring us to take on circumcision or some other outward ‘proof’ of our faith can be dismissed and unnecessary and harmful. We can instead simply continue on loving Christ and His people as we’ve been commanded. And, by the power of the Holy Spirit we can fulfill Christ’s law of love. Let us pray.

Works Citied,. 'Common Corn Questions and Answers: Corn Production'. n.p., 2015. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.

Calvin, Jean, and William Pringle. Commentaries on The Epistles of Paul to The Galatians and Ephesians. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948. Print.

Heinlein, Robert A. Time Enough for Love. New York: Putnam, 1973. Print.

Homan, Spencer. 'Spencer Homan Sermon on Don't Kid Yourselves (You Reap What You Sow)'. n.p., 2007. Web. 16 Sept. 2015.

The Living Philosopher,. 'On Self-Sufficiency'. n.p., 2013. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.

Longenecker, Richard N. Galatians, Volume 41. [Place of publication not identified]: Zondervan, 2015. Print.

Stott, John R. W. The Message of Galatians. 5th ed. London: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968. Print.

Tuesday, September 15

Bearing Fruit that Lasts Galatians 5:16-26; John 15:1-5

rann Texas is named after Ira and Ann Yates who settled along the Pecos River in far west Texas. In 1915, he traded his grocery store for the land, which came with a mortgage of $16, 559 to be paid off over the next three years. It was a hard, unwanted piece of property but Ira and Ann continued too struggled raising sheep, goats and cattle. In a deal with Transcontinental Oil four wells were drilled on his property and October 28, 1926, at 992 feet, well 1-A came as a gusher (Kepner, 2015). There is a historical marker on the western edge of Irann that reads “You won’t find any oil west of the Pecos River”. That was the guiding principle for the 1920’s among oil explorers (Modisett, 2015).

Be glad people don’t always pay attention to those ‘guiding principles’. The guiding principles of Paul’s day is that there were many gods and that you had to placate with offerings and keeping various rules. There were norms in society that each gender and people were expected to fulfill and if you crossed the lines or tried to do something that was against these principles you paid a price.
Into this world comes Jesus, the Christ. The visible likeness of the invisible God, he comes with God’s grace to remove the rightful curse on our lives by taking the punishment we deserved. He paid the death sentence each of us owed to God because of our sin. And God raised him from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is the sign of God’s satisfaction that the debt, the penalty, our curse, is paid off and removed. It is the promise from God that a new life is possible through Jesus.

But, the Galatians are in the process of selling off this new life in order to take on an old way of doing things. They’ve been tempted to run back to the safe and ordinary, the guiding principles of First Century religion rather than stay the course along God’s will for them. So we come to a contrast between the “Works of the Flesh” and the “Gifts of the Spirit”.

Up to now the comparison has been between God’s grace and the freedom that Jesus offers over against the slavery to the law.). Yet, as I mentioned last week, Paul wants to make sure the freedom we have in Christ isn’t lived out as without regards to the world and other people. In 5:1 states, “For freedom Christ has set us free” and in v.13, “do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Now he addresses those who might want to forget about any restraint on their freedom and how it stands against God’s Holy Spirit.

Walk don’t Run

He begins by telling us to, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” and this sets up the conflict that rages within us. “To walk” indicates an ongoing way of life. It is to walk about in the Spirit, where the Spirit leads, according to the word of God. Negative examples are easy to find, those who say one thing and live another.

But the outcome of living like this is that it isn’t possible to fulfill the flesh, the sins that come from our old nature. Now I’d like to say that such a walk is possible to achieve this side of God’s Kingdom but I’ve yet to find someone who manages it day after day without fail.

When we walk in this way we don’t run into sin. When we walk in this way we don’t run ahead of God’s leading. When we walk in this way we don’t run away from God thinking we’ve got it all figured out. These two, the Holy Spirit and the flesh are dead set against one another. The only answer to our sin is to walk by the Spirit. The question is how?

Work vs. Fruit

I’m not going to go through the list of the works of the flesh and fruits of the Spirit. Most commentators and teachers have tried to categorize, organize, define, and group them so they make sense to our Western mind’s need to see things laid out. In truth, it seems to be a waste of time.
Let’s take a larger view of these two lists. Fruit grows. It happens naturally when a tree is healthy. One may prune and fertilize but even in old trees like those in my backyard, plums do grow.
Work takes effort. It is dependent on what we do. We have to attempt, manage, decide, undertake and expend the effort to bring about the outcome of work. It is totally dependent on our actions and choices.

Works of the flesh are our attempt at living life. Because every one of us are sinners, our attempts fail and the best choices are horrendous compared to Christ’s desire. This list just underlines the outcome of what happens when we decide to live life on our terms.

The fruit of the Spirit is the natural outgrowth of living by the power of and attached to Christ who is the true vine (John 15). Fruit has nothing to do with our decisions, abilities or desires but they rest totally with the sovereign God. Whether we bear fruit depends on whether we’re joined to Christ that means whether we’re saved. It doesn’t depend on whether or not you’ve had your daily devotion today or typed “Amen” on the Facebook link.

When you compare works to fruit you discover that one is God-driven, the other human driven. One is sweet while the other takes sweat. One is natural the other is fallen and unnatural. One provides entrance into God’s kingdom and the other bars our entrance for eternity.


Many folks want to walk in the Spirit but end up working for the flesh. They can post great things on Facebook but their relational life is anything but pleasing to God. They can look find to the rest of the people in a church or at a bible study but in truth their life is one of working and controlling a life that is spiraling out of control.

We are like the Yates trying to pay off huge loans by running sheep on horrible, bare land when right below us is the power of God to transform our lives. But we don’t let go. We don’t go against the ‘guiding principles’ and what our friends think in order to grab hold of God’s promises. I fear that some will miss the life within God’s kingdom simply because they weren’t willing to let go of the works of the flesh. 

What has to happen, is to take the step of walking in the Holy Spirit and stepping away from those things that threaten to drag us into the work of the flesh. And to do this we must be part of the true vine, our Lord Jesus. Let’s pray.

Works Cited

Kepner, Lisa. 'YATES, IRA GRIFFITH, JR. | The Handbook of Texas Online| Texas State Historical Association (TSHA)'. n.p., 2015. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.

Modisett, Bill. 'Remote Yates 1-A Well Ushered In One of World's Great Oil Fields'. n.p., 2015. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.