Thursday, February 11, 2016

You reap what you sow

There is a Greek word for community and its associated attributes.  It is Koinonia.  It is about belonging, being a part of, giving when you can, receiving when you need—it is the essence of the Christian community.  It is the heart of the Christian family.

In the midst of a letter rich with admonishments about not being bound to the law or other rules, regulations, or observances as part of being saved; Paul says that we need to be bound to one another.

Everyone needs to carry his or her own load except when they can’t carry the load.  Then we who can are called to help.

Everyone is to use what God gave them to navigate this world, but if someone is coming up a little short, we don’t just walk on by, we lend a helping hand or ride or meal.  We help carry each other’s burdens.

Today we worry about this thing that we might call and entitlement mentality.  “I am entitled to the things that I need or think I need or can get you to believe that I need.”

Most of us see this as the bane of a good work ethic and a strong nation; but here is the thing.  We should have an entitlement mentality.  I am entitled to a good life.


God wants you to have a good life as part of this whole salvation package.

Now there’s the rub for many—for so, so many.  Many want the goodies without this following Jesus stuff.  This following Jesus attitude that we should have gets in the way of living just for me and getting my stuff.

Paul tells us to carry our own loads.  Take your gifts and talents and make your way in the world.  You can do it.  You are equipped, except when you are not.

In those cases we should look for others in the Christian community to help us carry our load.  We should be on the lookout for those who need help.

If we look to the earliest Christian community, the one depicted in the second chapter of Acts, we see people meeting needs and people having their needs met.  Some might be thinking that this is going to be the socialist sermon.  I don’t know if I want any part of that.

Jesus and Paul spoke to us as individuals and as the church.  I am not going to try to take what I have learned and try to make it fit government, but we as the church are to look out for one another.

Everyone should be giving it the best that they have trying to make their way in this life but nobody should be left to homelessness or hunger or alienation.  Koinonia—Christian community –is about inclusion.

What Paul has to say next may strike a nerve.  We do our best to help all humankind, but especially, other believers.  Paul makes this distinction.

We do more for those who are in the family of faith.  That does not mean that we ignore the needs of others.  What it often means is that sometimes we only meet their greatest need—to become a part of the family of faith.

You have heard me preach for about 18 months about connecting the disconnected.  Why is this important?  The people that I am talking about claim Jesus as Lord and Savior.

God will not be mocked!  We reap what we sow.  Read Proverbs 11 if you need examples.

If we who live in freedom from sin in death sow goodness and charity and faith and love and kindness and gentleness and are truly led by God’s Spirit; we reap abundance.
We reap abundant life.

If we take than same freedom and live only for our selfish desires, we should expect a crop of weeds.  Our harvest is going to be pitiful, and we should not be surprised.

Paul spent 5 chapters beating these Galatian believers over the head with this wonderful thing called freedom.  Now we need to note that freedom has a warning label.  Freedom comes with some danger.

First is excess.  In our freedom, we can feed our selfish desires and know that the blood of Jesus has set me free from sin and from death.  I might be living for myself but Jesus has still claimed me as his own.

Second is infringement.  We can take our freedom and do whatever we want and that might just ignore that in so doing we are hurting other believers.

There is some danger in freedom.  We may become narcissistic or capricious.  What is the antidote?

It is more of an inoculation than an antidote.  It is living in community.  It is carrying our own loads while being on the lookout to carry another’s load from time to time, and willing to receive help when we need it.

It’s community.

Society would tell us that there is always an in-group and an out-group.  In community, there can be only communion.  There are no outsiders.

Christian community involves each of us individually growing in and enjoying our relationship with God through Christ.  Paul says, test your own actions.  Are you following Jesus or your own selfish desires?

Are our eyes fixed on Jesus or what our neighbor has that we want?  Are we using our freedom to covet what others have?

Christian community involves each of us collectively growing in and enjoying our relationship with God through Christ.  That means if we see someone drifting away, we don’t just say, “Too bad for him.  That could mean more for me.

” We don’t shrug our shoulders and think, “Bad luck girlfriend.  We’ll put you on the prayer list after we are through gossiping about you, in a Christian way.”

We are charged to gently bring them home.   Bring them back.  Restore them.  Take care when you do this that you don’t go down the same slippery slope that the people you are reaching out to have gone, but go call them home.

Christian community says, “We are all in this together.  We are brothers and sisters in Christ.  Let’s live in community.”

As I consider the verse that says essentially, you reap what you sow; I have to contemplate so many who have reaped separation from the body of Christ.  So many are disconnected from the family of faith.

They have sown selfishness.  They desire to go their own way when Jesus has said, “Follow me.”

Jesus calls us to come to him and he will give us rest, but so many want to go it alone.  So many remain disconnected from the body.

So many think, “I’ve got this.  I believe in Jesus and Jesus wants me to do my own thing.”  We are warned that it is easy to be deceived in our own thinking.

In community we have a sounding board for every decision.  The Christian community says, “Yes, you do need some time alone with your Lord.  Go into your closet.  Climb on top of that mountain.  Go out to the middle of the lake and just be still and be in the presence of God; but come home.”

Come home and carry your own load, help others with their load, and lead others back home when they go astray.  This is family and while we care for all people, we are counseled to care for family even more.

Paul told these Galatian believers that sometimes this will be tough but stay the course.  Stay the course.  Continue to do the good that we do in response to our salvation—in response to God’s incredible love.

It will be worth it.  Every promise of God will come true.  Some you may reap now for sowing the seeds that the Spirit of God has given you.  Some you will reap in eternity, but stay the course and it will be well worth it.
So what are we to do?

If you haven’t noticed, there is less theology in this chapter and much more discipleship.  Paul is still making his case against letting anyone persuade you that laws or circumcision or festivals must be added to the blood of Jesus to receive you salvation; but he helps us in our response.

Do good.  Do what is good every chance you get.  Do good with everyone, but especially with other believers.

We are to do good to everyone whom we encounter.  For those that live outside the Christian community, the greatest good is to share the gospel and bring them into the family of faith.  Cumberlands use the term Covenant Community.

We are to do good to everyone whom we encounter.  For those that have professed Jesus as Lord but resist living in community, we are to call them home.  We should gently restore them to living God’s way.

We are to do good to everyone especially those who live in the family of faith.  We are to go the extra mile, carry each other’s burdens, and be willing to receive help when we need it.  We are to carry our own load using the gifts and talents that God gave us but we are always on the lookout for those straining under their own load and we help them.

Our modern minds often think this always involves money.  It doesn’t.  Everyone that I know in the family of faith who tithes meets their needs and has something extra to bless others beyond the tithe.  In the family of faith those who live faithfully seldom need monetary help.

But we have many who need other help.  We still have many living on the verse of the day and not the whole of God’s word.  We still having many drinking only milk when it is time to be eating steak and potatoes.

I am talking about reading God’s word by chapters or books, taking time to meditate upon what you have read, and the result being a hunger for more.

Let me break this down into nuts and bolts instead of meat and potatoes.  We need more small group Bible studies.  If you hear more of God’s word read aloud on Sunday morning than you have read all week, you need to be in a Bible study—a small group Bible study.  Three, four, or five people make a good study group.

But I go to Sunday school and to Wednesday nights.  Those are good but not sufficient to really grow in God’s grace.  You really need something more that doesn’t meet in this building.

You need to study and connect and pray with a few believers outside of this building.  Here’s the kicker, they don’t even have to belong to this denomination or congregation.

Helping one another is more than money.  It is often testimony.  Some have trouble trusting in God with all of their heart and leaning not on their own understanding because it sounds like philosophy or wishful thinking when believers should know it as the truth.

We who have trusted God through trials and tribulations must share our stories with other believers.  Sometimes carrying another’s burden is to help them with their doubt.

“Been there. Done that.”  That’s not a compelling testimony.  Sharing the depth and breadth of your struggles in some detail, to include how hard it is to let go of your own understanding and trust in God alone, makes for an effective testimony.

Helping one another is more than money.  It is often setting aside our superman veneer and sharing with the family that we need help too.  Confessing not only to God but to one another that we need help can be real help for someone who thinks God only helps those who have it all together.

Helping one another is more than money, but sometimes it is money.  But within the family of faith the godly use of money should be shared by all.  We must not become a slave to money or dept or impulse spending.  We must know not only the wisdom of the tithe but the mastery of money that we see in the Parable of the Talents.

We must teach and coach and mentor each other to be the master of everything that God has entrusted to us so we can use it to produce good fruit.  We can sow seeds that produce righteousness and life abundant and eternal.

We are all in this together.  We are made to live in community.  We carry our own load and help other’s carry their burdens when they need help.

This does not take us to our salvation.  This is how we live as a new creation.

We have come to the end of Paul’s letter to the believers in Galatia.  Here is where we have been.

Chapter 1 – No other gospel.

Chapter 2 – Crucified with Christ.  Christ lives in me.

Chapter 3 – Seed Syntax.  Everything has been leading us to Jesus.

Chapter 4 – Servant-Slave Symbolism.  Paul used every  analogy he could think of to remind us that we live free because of Christ.

Chapter 5 – You were running a good race…  Who cut you off?  Stay the course with eyes fixed on Jesus and the Spirit will produce fruit in you.

Finally we are reminded that we reap what we sow.  We sow trust in God alone and we reap assurance.  We sow trust in the blood of Jesus alone and we reap freedom.    We sow unselfishness and we reap community.

Our harvest is community, Christian community, the thing we know as Koinonia.

We are made to live in community.  We carry our own load and we help others when needed.  We are not governed by selfish pride and will accept help when we need it.   We are made to live in community.

So let us live as the family of faith that God has provided for us.  Let us live God’s way in true fellowship and communion with him and with each other.

Let’s do good to all but especially within the family of faith.


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